Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on his Kashmir visit. This follows the peace initiative of home minister Chidambaram. Recently the home minister announced his intention to initiate a quiet dialogue for a Kashmir solution with all shades of opinion in that state. His suggestion was widely welcomed by various Kashmir leaders. Only the Hurriyat’s hard-line proponent Syed Ali Shah Geelani debunked the offer. "The statement of Chidambaram is meaningless unless India publicly admits the disputed nature of Kashmir and agrees on the tripartite talks aimed at giving right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir," he said. He added that all the three parties - - India, Pakistan and Kashmiris -- should participate in the talks. They should, he said, aim to finalize implementation of the UN resolutions guaranteeing the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier on July 26th Geelani had said that if not UN resolutions the government should come forward with an "alternate solution" to the dispute that reflects the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. “The bottom line for a solution to the Kashmir solution is the United Nations resolutions but if New Delhi suggests an alternate solution that goes as per the wishes of the people, Kashmiris may consider it.” He urged Pakistan to stick to its stand regarding implementation of the UN resolutions as these were "the pillars of our case."
Geelani’s views deserve attention. Not only is he the most candid separatist leader who puts his cards on the table, he is also the biggest hurdle to achieving consensus among the separatist leaders.
What Geelani has said makes sense. One is not sure though if he realizes why what he has said makes sense. His criticism of the Indian government for periodically parroting the statement that there existed no Kashmir dispute is unexceptionable. It is rather ridiculous to claim that there is no Kashmir dispute when half the territory claimed by the Indian government is occupied by another nation which also claims the entire territory to be its own.
However it is the government’s stand on the UN resolutions on the Kashmir plebiscite that is most mystifying. The UN resolutions are the lynchpin of Geelani’s approach.
For over half a century the Indian government has adopted a negative and defensive posture on UN resolutions on the Kashmir plebiscite. Why? Nothing could be more favourable to India than these UN resolutions.
There have been 14 UN resolutions on Kashmir. The first was on 17 January, 1948 and the last on 21 December, 1971. Despite the periodic updating the core provisions of the original resolution remained intact. These were that all Pakistani troops and personnel must vacate the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir; the state must revert to its original status before hostilities started; Indian troops may operate in the entire state until a state of normalcy is restored; after which Indian troops must also withdraw leaving only a token Indian force sufficient to maintain law and order; then, and only then, would a free and fair plebiscite be held under the aegis of the UN Commission appointed for the purpose; and in that said plebiscite the people of the state might vote for either joining India or Pakistan. In August 2006 Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary General, clarified while visiting Pakistan that UN resolutions on Kashmir were not under Chapter 7 of the UN charter and therefore not self-enforcing as they were on East Timor and Iraq. The UN Kashmir resolutions required the cooperation of both India and Pakistan for implementation.
Thus if in the future UN resolutions were to be implemented and a plebiscite was to be held according to its terms the following events would have to take place.
- First, all Pakistani troops would have to vacate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
- Second, Indian troops would have to occupy the whole of Kashmir until terrorism ends.
- Third, China would have to vacate the territory illegally ceded to it by Pakistan in order for Kashmir to revert to its original status before hostilities started in 1948.
- Fourth, if all these conditions get fulfilled the bulk of Indian troops would withdraw except for a token force to maintain law and order.
- Fifth, the plebiscite organized by the UN Commission would allow Kashmiris to choose joining either India or Pakistan . The option to choose independence would be denied to them.
Does anyone in his senses believe that Pakistan could fulfil even one precondition of the UN plebiscite without its government being overthrown by its own people? And yet, India through all these years has stoutly opposed these UN resolutions! Was this due to deliberate subversion or monumental stupidity?
However, Geelani has also welcomed any alternate solution by the government which reflects the aspirations of Kashmir people. What could that solution be except what I have been suggesting for decades? Let the different areas of Kashmir be allowed self- determination giving voters the right to choose India, Pakistan or independence. In order to avoid a repeat of aggression and war over Kashmir this would have to be accompanied by the precondition that India, Pakistan and Kashmir, whatever the status of Kashmir’s different parts, must be joined in a common community. Former President Musharraf had suggested something vaguely similar in spirit except for the all important provision that India and Pakistan must be members of a joint community. Minus this provision Musharraf’s plan became a non-starter. Today Pakistan grapples terrorism. It faces an identity crisis. It might be open to a more radical approach.
It is possible that Geelani and other Hurriyat leaders might also accept this plan. Geelani held a negative and rigid view when I suggested this plan to him in the company of Abdul Ghani Bhatt and Abbas Ansari over a decade ago in a Sundernagar guest house in New Delhi. Perhaps the implications of the UN resolutions had not dawned on him. Perhaps subsequent events after that meeting have led him to believe that the bulk of the people in the Valley would prefer independence to joining Pakistan. Whatever.
The time for the Hurriyat leaders to come out of their closets and speak boldly and frankly has arrived. If they reflect they have little choice except this plan if they seek self determination. The Hurriyat leaders might recall that before he died Pandit Nehru with the help of Sheikh Abdullah attempted to make Kashmir the bridge between India and Pakistan. Nehru had realized his earlier mistakes. Will the Hurriyat?