26 May 2014

Assessing the K-solution Progress possible if the pre-conditions are met

Gen VP Malik

A few days ago, S. K. Lambah, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Af-Pak Special Envoy, addressed a seminar organised by the University of Kashmir. He spoke about a seven-point (some media reports have condensed them into five points) J&K solution (K-solution) on which New Delhi and Islamabad have been working 'quietly' for many years. These points, according to him, are (1) No redrawing of the current territorial disposition in J&K (2) Free movement of people across the Line of Control (LoC) (3) Progressive removal of trade barriers in specified locally produced goods (4) End to hostility, violence and terrorism (5) Minimum deployment of military on both sides of the LoC (6) Self-governance on both sides, and (7) Respect for human rights and reintegration of militants into society.

The seven-point K-solution has not come as a surprise to India's strategic community. But since negotiations on this subject have been kept under wraps and have not been shared in political circles, the timing and place of its articulation, when the UPA-2 government was about to exit, surprised many. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had once stated that he was close to an ‘important breakthrough’ in the talks with Musharraf. Lambah’s repeated assertion that he was speaking in his personal capacity, therefore, convinced no one.

I heard about such a proposal nearly a decade ago when an academic friend, part of the Prime Minister's inner circle on Kashmir, had unofficially asked my opinion on such a K-solution. Despite experience of the Kargil war and considerable cross-border violence in J&K and outside, I did not reject it outright. I do believe that it is the prerogative of statesmen to find solutions to complex political problems, sometimes out of the box. However, these solutions, in my opinion, are possible only when the opportunity and timings are right, or made right. My response was that both India and Pakistan will find it extremely difficult to pave the way towards such a solution. I pointed out that although Musharraf had assured Prime Minister Vajpayee in January 2004 that he would ‘not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner’, his assurance had remained only on paper. I also expressed doubt if the Pakistan Army in its self-interest would let people in Pakistan forget the two-nation theory, or allow long-term peace with India.

In his Srinagar address, the Af-Pak Special Envoy said that 'the efforts to seek a bi-lateral K-solution have gathered momentum' and 'the process has survived and sustained itself despite brutal and high visibility assaults'. This claim requires analysis and justification.

Let us start with Pakistan. Despite decade-long discussions on this proposed K-solution, its most important premise and pre-condition on ending violence and terrorism across the border has never been met. Every year has seen acts of violence and terrorism, both in and outside Kashmir. Among the prominent ones have been the Mumbai train bombing in 2006, bomb blasts in Ahmedabad and Delhi and the 26/11 Mumbai incident in 2008, the Pune blast in 2010, and the Hyderabad, Srinagar blasts and the Samba terror attack in 2013. Ever since 2005, about 5,400 people have died in terror incidents in J&K and 825 people outside J&K (and Northeast) due to Islamist extremism. The trend of a sustained decline in terrorism-related fatalities since 2001 got reversed in 2013, with J&K recording 181 fatalities as compared to 117 in 2012. The LoC ceasefire too has become fragile on account of head hunting and retaliation.

In July 2009 at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Manmohan Singh’s government made a surprise shift in its Pakistan policy by foregoing terrorism linkage with the composite dialogue. Instead of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Baluchistan was recorded in the bilateral document. Soon after a second electoral mandate, the Prime Minister appeared over keen to befriend Pakistan to be able to make history in India-Pakistan relations. As the K-word was not mentioned in the joint document, many strategists wondered if this significant climb down was to promote the end-solution on J&K.

The change of baton from Musharraf’s military dictatorship to elected governments in Pakistan has permitted no progress on the K-solution endeavour except to continue the movement of some local goods and passenger buses across the LoC. In fact, soon after Musharraf’s exit, the Pakistan Army under Ashfaq Pervez Kayani lost no time in disassociating itself with the K-solution proposal. In 2008, the proxy war against India was extended to the Indian establishments in Kabul.

No meaningful effort has been made by the elected governments to prosecute the 26/11 perpetrators or to check ‘hate-India’ rhetoric of the extremist ideologues. In fact, Nawaz Sharif, the present Prime Minister of Pakistan, had last year described Kashmir as a ‘flashpoint’that could lead to the ‘fourth India-Pakistan’ war.

Lately, the proliferation and increased influence of Taliban and other extremist groups in the Af-Pak region and the possible spillover of militants into Kashmir has created further impediments for the K-solution proposal. Many analysts believe that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, a major ISI-backed Taliban may be expected in the region.

Yet another development affecting the K-solution is from China — Pakistan's strategic partner and ally. Already in occupation of the Shaqsgam valley and having PLA presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Kashmir, China seems to be challenging India's sovereignty over J&K. It has positioned itself as the third party in the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.

In India, Parliament's unanimously adopted resolution of February 22, 1994 emphasising that 'the state of J&K has been, is, and shall remain an integral part of India' makes it mandatory for a government to take all political parties into its confidence before any K-solution can be formalised. Now we have a new government, which according to sources, is willing to engage and make peace with Pakistan, but with a clear policy that the continuing use of proxy war and terrorist violence against India will entail a significant cost. Many political leaders in the new establishment are known to be averse to accepting the unilateral status quo. But considering the overall interest of the people of J&K, they may not be so averse if the pre-conditions mentioned in the K-solution are met in letter and spirit. That, at present, appears very far away.

The K-solution proposal in the India-Pakistan dialogue reminds me of a quote from Thomas Kempis who once wrote, “Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing”.

The writer is a former Chief of the Army Staff

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