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Volume 4, No. 8 - June - July 2005

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Recent comments on Kashmir by Pakistan’s dictator have been canonised in the media as ‘new thinking’ that marks a significant departure from previous stances. Addressing a visiting delegation of Indian MPs, General Musharraf commented, “borders are irrelevant”, and that religious trifurcation cannot be a solution to the Kashmir conflict. He also added that demilitarisation and international guarantees in Kashmir could help resolve the dispute with India. He also made the usual ambiguous statements about “self-rule” and Kashmiri public opinion being kept in mind while carving out a final solution. 

Just as the gullible Indian press swallowed Hu Jintao’s nebulous commitment to India’s UN Security Council permanent membership bid, Musharraf’s above-mentioned statements have been hailed as a major shift in Pakistan’s position and a way toward lasting peace. No sooner had Hu’s visit ended, PLA units made deep forays into Arunachal Pradesh (still claimed by China, though Sikkim has finally been recognised as Indian territory), and Pakistan triumphantly claimed Beijing’s assurances that the latter had not committed to accepting India’s permanent membership bid. The rising tide of terrorist attacks and bomb blasts in the valley are likewise belying the hyped ‘new thinking’ of the Pakistani establishment.

How often have India’s liberal media fallen for the bait and then bitten the bitter reality? If Musharraf has indeed changed his mindset, why have the media not critically explained the reasons for his tergiversation? How did the architect of Kargil now become a peacenik for whom “borders are irrelevant”? One pressing question is what role the Americans have played in pushing the General into making these seemingly conciliatory statements? Is a military attack on Iran on the cards, especially in light of Musharraf’s own confessions that the Bush administration has Iran high on its agenda? If Iran is going to be invaded, it means that US troops will be not only on Pakistan’s northwestern border (Afghanistan) but also on its southwestern border (Iran). Is this the pressure that is working on Musharraf’s mind?

Terrorist activity in Kashmir valley has not fallen significantly. Musharraf’s call for more ‘demilitarisation’ as a way to peace is clearly in contradiction to rising jihadi violence. As to borders becoming irrelevant, Musharraf is hard-selling the bus and train diplomacy that allow ‘people-to-people’ contacts between PoK and the J&K. As infiltration across the LoC is increasingly under the scanner, Islamabad is keen to promote ‘legal’ channels of infiltration and ex-filtration like ‘Sada-i-Sarhad.’ Self-rule is, of course, old wine in Kashmir. The General is at his usual chore- hunting with the hounds and hiding with the hares.

There can be no qualitative change in J&K as long as Pakistan stokes Islamic fundamentalism through mujahideen and ‘moderate’ stooges like Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Hurriyat Conference. Once these two forms of rabid intolerance are plugged, the first steps toward rehabilitation of the valley’s battered Hindu minorities can begin. After that, one can imagine a genuine peace.

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