T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Fourth Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

August 2002

I N S I D E


Spotlight               S H Zaidi

Top of Page        KPS Gill

Special Report     S Roughneen

Fundamentals     Praveen Swami

Periscope            B Raman

InsideTrack          H Bashani

Himalayan Blunder                 W Hussain

In Black & White G Peiris

Statecraft             B Raman

Bottomline           N Kaushik

 

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 I N S I D E   T R A C K

 

Collin Powell Visit And Realities On Ground

Hamid Bashani


The US Secretary of state Collin Powell trip to India and Pakistan is the latest leg of a marathon Diplomatic offensive spearheaded by the United States to ease bristling tension between nuclear capable archrivals over the Kashmir issue. There is saber- rattling and situation on ground is as complex and unpredictable as it was months ago during the visit of Deputy Secretary of state Richard Armitage and defense secretary Donald Rumsfield. This time, however, Colin Powell shows higher degree of optimism based on his hard work and enormous time he spent over the telephone talking to the Indian and Pakistani leaders. 

There are serious differences on the issues of cross border infiltration and forthcoming polls in Jammu and Kashmir.  The government of India rules out any possibility of de-escalation and normalization of relation with Pakistan without making sure that Pakistan has exercised its full leverage on militants and infiltration across the line of control has been completely stopped. Although the government of India initially admitted a drop of almost a third in incursion by Pakistan based militants in Indian Part of Jammu and Kashmir between may 27 and June 23,but in the last week of June declared it a temporary phase and said that the infiltration is continuing without substantial change. 

New Delhi blames General Musharraf for his failure to honor his commitment and tackle the problem of infiltration, which it thinks was completely under his control. New Delhi believes that on the question of cross border terrorism and infiltration, General Musharraf has a lot of room to play with ambiguities and continue the policy pursued in the past. India Ďs deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani has taken relatively a tougher stand on the issue and said that it was not enough to just stop infiltration across the border; Pakistan must completely dismantle the training camps and terrorist infrastructure from its territory, if it was serious to normalize the relation with India.  

During The visit of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on July 18th, India re-affirmed that it did not propose to make further moves to de-escalate the military standoff with Pakistan until it took steps to permanently stop what it says is a steady flow of cross-border infiltration. Indiaís External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra drew Straw's attention to the killings of 29 innocent people in Jammu and told him that Islamabad needed to show that it was acting on its commitment to the international community to plug intrusion and cross-border terrorism. Apparently, India intends to maintain this position on the issue of infiltration and the infrastructure for militants in the jurisdiction of Pakistan.  

Pakistan on the other hand, says it has already taken all necessary steps to control the problem and no cross border infiltration at the line of control was going on. It even goes a step forward and asks for any neutral or UN observers to verify the charges of cross border infiltration. Pakistan insists that it has fulfilled it commitment and the time is right for de-escalation and a dialogue with India, where all issues between the two sides, including the core issue of Kashmir should be addressed in a meaningful and purposeful manner. The US State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, upheld Pakistan statement on July 19, and affirmed that there had been a ďsignificant decline in the infiltration along the Line of ControlĒ.

Despite the US support Pakistanís claim that it would not let the territory under its control to be used for terrorist activities, is negated and contradicted by militant outfits on ground. The United Jihad Council, a Muzaffarabad based umbrella organization for several militant groups, is fully functional in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir. A dominant constituent of the united jihad Council and powerful militant group, Hizbul Mujhideen maintains its offices and openly launches the campaigns to raise the funds and recruitment for its operations. A top-ranking militant has recently told the Reuters that they have enough fighters; munitions stockpile and supply to operate without Islamabadís support for next five years. Pakistan calls it free-lance militancy and maintains that there are some indigenous Kashmiri groups operating in the semi-autonomous territory of Pakistan administered Kashmir, and they are not under Pakistanís control.  

Pakistanís argument is unconvincing in view of fifty-five years history of relationship between Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, which proves nothing but a clear record of Pakistanís strong administrative and political grip over the territory. It has repeatedly exercised its complete supremacy by deputing joiner army officers to dismiss and arrest elected Prime ministers and presidents of Azad Kashmir. It has also appointed several army officers on top jobs including preset president of Azad Kashmir, who was the serving general at the time of his appointment. The situation becomes more complex when Pakistanís statements do not match with the actual activities on the ground.  

On July 18th at a public meeting held in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, to commemorate the passage of a resolution of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan by the Muslim Conference, a top APHC leader Ghulam Mohammad Safi shares the stage with Pakistanís federal minister for information and media development, Nisar Memon, and glorifies the fundamentalist terrorist outfits by calling them holy worriers and stresses that Islamabad should also project the "militancy" in held Kashmir as a legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris and not show any "apologetic approach" in this regard. In this public meeting, the Federal Minister insists that there was no change in Pakistan's Kashmir policy and it would be "unjust to dub the freedom movement as terrorism. The statement not only contradicts the US/Pakistan stand on terrorism and negates president Musharrafís claim of a new and different approach toward the militancy in Kashmir, but also raise serious question of credibility and exposes double standard policy and a state of confusion existing within the establishment On the issue of Kashmir elections, Pakistanís policy is still highly influenced by militants and pro-militancy factions of its civil and military bureaucracy.  

Since January this year, the main focus of militant outfits has fundamentally changed. In the new political scenario the militants are concern about their survival and they are only fighting a war of their own existence. They can clearly visualize the catastrophic effects of election on their existence and therefore desperately trying to derail the whole political and diplomatic process. Hizbul Mujhideen has a started its campaign to sabotage the forthcoming assembly elections and has asked the APHC to either launch an anti-election campaign or quit. As the time for forthcoming poll is approaching, the rift between the militants based in Pakistan administered Kashmir and 23 parties conglomerate, Hurriyat Conference is deepening. Militantís frustration grows when they see no room in future political set-up of Kashmir if the election is successfully held and rectified by international community. Contrary to its past policy and practices, this time the government of India has shown unprecedented flexibility on the issue of permitting the NGOs to monitor the election. Chief election commission, Mr J.M Lyngdoh has issued an open invitation to all interested national and international human rights watchdogs and people working with concern NGOs to monitor the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. It leaves no room for APHC to accept the dictation from Muzaffarabad based militants and continue its policy of boycott under the fear of rigging and unfairness. This situation puts the militants and the APHC at odds and leads towards ultimate split, leaving the militants as political orphans and the APHC without substantial power base.  

There is clear possibility that finally under the enormous pressure, some influential constituent members of the APHC will contest the elections, and trigger a process of division in the conglomerate. The APHC has been under the great influence of militants, which through their activities have been providing the favorable conditions to APHC to expand and keep its influence in Kashmiri politics. Pakistan has been extensively interacting with the APHC to take a position on different issues in Kashmir since 1993.  

Currently, Pakistan completely depends on the APHC for its diplomatic and political maneuvering on Kashmir and insists that the conglomerate is the unchangeable representative of the people of Kashmir. This policy is leading Pakistan into exactly the same situation as it faced in Afghanistan due to its unconditional support to Talibans and ultimately experienced a catastrophic failure. Pakistan would be unable to sustain its policy of opposing the Kashmir elections specially when India has shown flexibility and willingness to work with international community to bring the required credibility in the process. There is a great confusion in the APHC and Pakistanís policy on election in Kashmir. First of all, election is not a privilege or special constitutional arrangement for the people of Kashmir. It is their fundamental democratic right to choose a regime for their day-to-day administrative affairs. The exercise of this right do not in any way jeopardize the right to self-determination or any other democratic right they may have through regional or international agreements, resolutions or laws. In fact, this debate was closed on March 30,1951 when UN security Council adopted a resolution that the election for a Kashmir Constituent Assembly is not a substitute for a free and impartial plebiscite to be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations as envisaged in its resolutions which were agreed to by India and Pakistan. Since 1951 several elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir with full participation of people and leadership including some top figures that are currently leading the APHC. If this repeated process could not become a substitute for the right of self-determination and did not change the disputed status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, it would not do so because of the forthcoming polls. Second of all the right of self-determination do not apply only to the 6 million people living on 53700 square Miles Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. This right applies to the 12 million people living on 85,000 square Miles of former state of Jammu and Kashmir; including Pakistan administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Bultistan.  

Pakistan has conducted several elections in Kashmir under its administration, including the latest in July 5,200I. On the other hand, no elections were ever held in Gilgit-Bultistan, and the people of these areas were never given a chance to exercise their democratic rights including right to vote, but this situation neither adversely effect their right to self-determination nor it changed the disputed status of these areas.  Thirdly, the government of India has no reasonable grounds to believe and insist that the election process could be a substitute to the exercise of right to self-determination. All recognized democracies of the World are bound by their constitutions to conduct the election regularly without undermining the universally accepted democratic rights of their people, including the right to self-determination, and India is no exception. The government of India has a constitutional obligation to conduct a free and fair election not only in Kashmir but also in all over the India and has no legal moral or political grounds to ask its people to surrender their democratic rights in exchange of elections or for any other right granted by constitution of the country or international treaties and resolutions. 

The election in Jammu and Kashmir would be held within the framework of Indian constitution. This election cannot be used to address the extra-constitutional political and diplomatic issues including the Kashmir issue. India must learn from its mistakes and admit that it is not possible to control the people through military might and use of Repressive means, and it is equally impossible to trick and force them to submission. India has no need to be defensive and shy on the question of right of self-determination. As a well established democracy, instead of playing tricks and dance around the question of right of self determination and election, it must take a progressive and constructive stand on the issue and ask the people of Kashmir to first put the question of right to self-determination in its correct historical, legal and political perspectives, and make sure that there is a political process on place and peaceful conditions are existing, completely free from sectarian and religious influence and hatred,  before asking to exercise this right At the same time for the APHC election is a golden opportunity if it really enjoys the degree of popular support it claims, especially when the government of India is willing to provide opportunity to make sure that the election would not be stolen.  

A democratically elected APHC would have more rights and stronger reasons to fight for the democratic right of self-determination than the APHC, which has never gone through a recognize democratic process to prove its representative character and credentials. There is no contradiction between the right of self-determination and right to vote. Both are inalienable democratic rights, and the exercise of one does not undermine other. Those who harbor the fear that the election process will undermine the right of self-determination are ignoring the fact that a free and democratic culture is a prerequisite for a free exercise of the right of self-determination, and election is the only venue and prerequisite for a free and democratic culture. On the name of Kashmir issue, and under the pretext of struggle for the right of self-determination, the people of Kashmir should not be deprived of the democratic rights they are already enjoying or may enjoy in future as the result of a free and fair elections. 

In fact, election is in the best possible interest of all concerned parties. The APHC and its well-wishers must change their policy of boycott and concentrate their energies to engage in political process and diplomatic efforts for transparent elections and dialogue for political and peaceful resolution of the issue.

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