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l June 2003 l

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 2 l

P E R I S C O P E

Is Azad Kashmir disputed?

Ejaz Haider


Were India to now rake up the Kashmir issue in its entirety, the carefully constructed edifice of its diplomacy will come crumbling down like a house of cards. In the event, Pakistan should have no problem with this new Indian formulation.

 

On May 2, BBC aired its programme “Question Time India,” discussing Pakistan with a panel of Indians that included India’s minister of state for external affairs, Digvijay Singh. At one point, responding to a question, Minister Singh said New Delhi did not accept the Line of Control and would not agree to turn it into international border. He said the dispute also involved “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”.

 

At a recent unofficial conference in Geneva, a former Indian foreign secretary put forward a similar position when he sought to press the point that Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas were also part of the dispute and Pakistan must understand and accept that fact. When talks begin, the issue of Pakistan’s “occupation” will also come up, he said.

 

Now, India’s serving foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal has chose to put his best foot forward on the issue, saying the entire Kashmir belongs to India and therefore there is no question of New Delhi accepting the LoC as an international border. Secretary Sibal is also reported to have said that India would raise the issue of “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” during the talks.

 

What should Pakistan make of this?

 

It does look like some people in India are trying to make these statements for effect. They possibly cannot be serious. But what if they are? Should Pakistan worry? Quite to the contrary. Consider. 

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The UN resolutions that speak of Kashmir (the entire region) as disputed and call for a plebiscite to determine its future have long been allowed to fall by the wayside by India. Having done that, it was only natural for New Delhi to emphasise that Kashmir’s accession was an irreversible and complete process and the region was not disputed. Officially, Pakistan has never accepted that formulation. To that extent, it remains wedded to the plebiscite mechanism contained in the resolutions, and which requires that Pakistan concede to the world body its part of Kashmir when the time for any such determination is ripe. Clearly, Pakistan should have no problem with an Indian formulation that seeks to drag Azad Kashmir into the dispute, especially if it rubbishes India’s stand on the sanctity of the Line of Control. But there is more.

 

While New Delhi kept referring to Azad Kashmir as “PoK,” the fact is that, having disparaged the plebiscite mechanism it had got itself when it took the issue to the United Nations Security Council, it could not use that option to get Pakistan out of the area “occupied” by the latter. The other, military option, could not work. Therefore, India slowly moved away from that maximalist position and willy-nilly accepted Pakistan’s “occupation”. This Indian position crystallised further, albeit indirectly, after the Simla Agreement, which New Delhi says has brought Kashmir squarely into the bilateral realm. Besides, India has continued to refer to this subsequent agreement, saying that it overrides the earlier UN resolutions. Also, in 1972, the then CFL (ceasefire line) was converted into the Line of Control after the two sides delineated and demarcated it. While the Line has been changed at places since then following small, occasional border skirmishes, the basic Indian contention about its sanctity is on official record. India took the same approach on the LoC during and after the Kargil conflict to highlight Pakistan’s perfidy.

 

Tied to this has been India’s contention that Pakistan is a revisionist power, which contrasts sharply with its (India) own position as a status quo power. This, too, is on official record and part of numerous writings by Indians. If India now chooses to bring into dispute Azad Kashmir, it will be rubbishing its own neatly constructed categories on the issue. Further, it will, as a necessary corollary of that approach, have to refer to the UN mechanism to stake a claim to the area now under Pakistani “occupation”.

 

In the event, New Delhi will also have to accept, categorically, Pakistan’s locus standi as a party to the dispute. Again, this would be a departure from its policy of subtly trying, over the last few years but more so since Kargil, to make Pakistan irrelevant by emphasising “cross-border terrorism” — to move the issue away from the right of self-determination — while attempting to handle Kashmir through the internal track. The latter was, and is, meant to not only present Kashmir as an internal issue but also to deny Pakistan any negotiating space while conceding to talk about the issue in terms of Pakistan’s alleged support to the insurgency.

 

Clearly, were India to now rake up the Kashmir issue in its entirety, the carefully constructed edifice of its diplomacy will come crumbling down like a house of cards. In the event, Pakistan should have no problem with this new Indian formulation.

 

The writer is news editor of the Friday Times and foreign editor of the Daily Times — courtesy of which this article appears here.

 


Copyright © 2002-2003 Shyam Lal Watt Foundation

All Rights Reserved


Jammu & Kashmir News - May 2003:  l Militants vow to oppose Pakistan ban  l  Peace process should be sincere: Sonia Gandhi  l  Mufti favours opening of transit point at Uri  l  Hizb ban has not stopped infiltration: Army  l  UJC throws weight behind Geelani  l  Give up rigid stand, Lone to Hurriyat  l  J&K groups, Al Qaeda have ties: US  l