Pakistan’s adventures in Kashmir

Col J P Singh, Retd
Indo-Pak rivalry is one of the longest unending international rivalries of the modern times. Kashmir is the bone of contention. The tensions have waned and waxed with no significant thawing of relations since partition. After Modi’s private visit to Nawaz Sharif’s  Lahore residence and re-installation of BJP-PDP coalition govt in J&K, expectations regarding the possibility of resolution of disputed Kashmir arose amongst Kashmir watchers. But the recent developments disillusioned them when “Pakistan gave terror a pass, says Kashmir is the core issue” were the media headlines after two foreign secretaries met in Delhi on 26 April 2016. Rather than discuss and resolve terror, 26/11, Pathankot, Masood Azhar and other contentious issues, Pak foreign secretary trumpeted Kashmir over and over again. Indo-Pak relations seems to be stuck in weary pattern of one step forward, two steps back. To a layman peace talks with Pakistan mean nothing because nothing concrete comes out no matter where and when you meet and what you talk or offer. Most disillusioning from Pakistan was startling conclusion after JIT’s adventure into Pathankot  wonderland, “it seems that far from being conducted by Pak based terrorists, the deadly assault was actually perpetrated by India itself on its own territory, on its own strategic installation, to malign Pakistan in the international community”. Also many a time  in the past Pakistan has stated that RAW was running the terrorist camp in Azad Kashmir to launch attacks in India and Afghanistan to give a bad name to Pakistan. In this background, what do we expect from a rouge neighbour. No civilized diplomat can deal with a rouge negotiator. Hence India is pitted in a situation ‘damned if you talk, damned if you don’t’. Unless India offers Kashmir on the platter or makes changes in the game (hope they will be made), Alice’s adventures in the wonderland will continue. Kashmir haunts our interlocutors every time everywhere. It is no secret that when the peace process is stalled, the resentment grows and the tensions rise in the valley. Taking advantage of social unrest in the valley (NIT & Handwara type), Pakistan comes out with a new twist to Kashmir issue.
Pakistan fantasies that it can exercise control over Kashmir by getting J&K divided on communal lines. Most of the districts in Jammu, situated on the left bank of Chenab are Hindu majority in the Muslim majority state while most of the districts on the Western side of Chenab are Muslim predominant. Hence Pakistan feels that a division or discord on the communal lines can take her closer to her goal. Muslim majority Valley is perceived to be willing to be out of Indian Federation and be autonomous and under Pak control. This was Sartaj Aziz’s fantasy called ‘Chenab Formula’, elaborated in his book ‘About Dreams and Realities’.
In March 1999 Pak Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz met Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh in Colombo. The meeting revolved around a proposal which was to be implemented over 4/5 years span. The proposal inter-alia suggested plebiscite on regional / district basis, division of Jammu province along Chenab River on communal lines, maximum autonomy to Kashmir and adjoining areas and annexation of remaining areas of Jammu province and Ladakh by India.  This proposal was similar to the Dixon Plan along which a possible solution to the Kashmir dispute was recommended by UN appointed Australian Jurist Mr. Dixon after all his efforts to have a fair and impartial state wide plebiscite held failed. He gave two alternatives to Indian and Pak prime ministers. (i) A plan to hold plebiscite area wise and allocation to India or Pakistan of each area according to the results of the voting, or (ii) A plan to allocate areas certain to vote for accession to either Dominion and voting for the remaining uncertain areas of Kashmir valley.
Consequent to Singh and Sartaj meeting in Colombo from 17 to 19 March 1999, Sartaj is said to have told Singh that when two premiers met in New York before the Lahore Summit, Vajpayee didn’t say Kashmir is integral part of India whereas Nawaz Sharif told Vajpayee that to resolve Kashmir both sides will have to go beyond their stated positions by adding that “you can’t expect me to move 90 % without any movement from your side. We have to find that midpoint somewhere”. Reacting to Sartaj, Singh asked how should they proceed to which Sartaj proposed Chenab Formula saying that he saw some common ground in district or region wise plebiscite / voting for ascertainment.  Under such formula, the Hindu majority areas East of Chenab can go to India and Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir to Pakistan. Narrowing the problem to Kashmir valley, for which the maximum autonomy formula put forward by Kashmir Study Group might be the best option. To this Singh is said to have replied saying that it would be difficult to accept the principle of voting for some areas or to go back to Hindu majority versus Muslim majority but these are matters of details. He asked 4 to 6 weeks to revert back for another meeting. Sartaj felt happy and briefed Nawaz Sharif. Both felt that atleast some light is seen in the tunnel.   The light dimmed because of Kargil.
In his book, Sartaj says since India was not prepared to accept the concept of Hindu majority versus Muslim majority, he pushed the idea of non acceptable communal formula by sugar coating it as ‘geographical formula’ by suggesting division along Chenab. It meant the same since most of the Muslim majority districts fell West of Chenab and the Hindu majority districts fell East of it. (It needs to be noted that immediate fall out of this plan, if accepted, would mean merger of some areas of Udhampur, Doda, Reasi district and some areas of Jammu district including  Akhnoor and whole of Poonch & Rajouri into Pakistan or their merger with Muslim Kashmir). This would be second division of India, even worse than the era when British embarked upon carving out Pakistan in Muslim majority areas of undivided India.
Later Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, foreign minister during Gen Pravez Musharraf rule felt that envisaged division of the state with some areas going to India and some to Pakistan won’t be readily acceptable to the people of J&K or even India and Pakistan. He found it difficult to believe that India would have accepted the Chenab Formula since a similar proposal called ‘modified Dixon plan’ on the division of J&K had already been rejected by India during Swaran Singh-Bhutto talks. (Chenab Valley Autonomous Hill Development Council’ resolution comprising of erstwhile Doda district stands passed in the Legislative Council of J&K since August 2009. This was despite empowerment of the region by trifurcation of Doda).
As per Kasuri, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Gen Musharraf had virtually reached an agreement over Kashmir. It was a non territorial solution but could not give it a practical shape because of personal feud between Musharraf and Chief Justice whom the former sacked. Musharraf formula included (i) gradual demilitarization of both sides of LoC and Kashmir valley, (ii) maximum self governance on both sides of LoC, (iii) a joint governing mechanism for Kashmir by Pakistanis, Indians and  Kashmiris, (iv) and more importantly a porous line of control (ie making LoC irrelevant by opening six to eight places and to allow trade to flourish). As per Kasuri almost all actors were on board. Two sides had agreed to full demilitarization of both sides of J&K with autonomy to Kashmir. The accord was to be signed during a visit by Dr. Singh to Islamabad, scheduled for March 2007, but never happened. According to Kasuri, “we agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy for Kashmir and the deal could have resolved the sub-continents thorniest security and political dispute.
Why Chenab is in the forefront of any Pak proposal is because implementation of Chenab Formula helps Pakistan establish  control over Chenab and meets the water needs of Sindh, Baluchistan and North West Frontiers Province. Islamabad believes that control over Chenab can help preserve the unity and integrity of Pakistan. These three provinces are against the river water policy the Punjab dominated govt in Pakistan is following. This also helps those in Kashmir who talk in terms of autonomy, self rule, joint governance, dual currency, demilitarization etc. It is for the readers and analysts to think about Pak plans and how to safeguard against sinister political designs within and river control, if any.


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