Kashmir: Search for a Solution

Internal consensus in India, Pakistan and J&K is a must for reaching to a mutually agreed formulation



Last week, this column looked at Kashmir leaders’ visit to Pakistan at different historical intervals, and their urge for involvement of all parties for a meaningful solution to Kashmir tangle. I have no access to what moderate Hurriyat leaders discussed at Delhi before leaving to Pakistan. It is also too early to comment on how much ground they have covered in Pakistan while dialoguing with different shades of political opinion. But what happened during 1962-64 Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan is largely now in the public domain. Reflections on that visit hold importance for variety of reasons and this space is exclusively devoted to capturing that significance.
Sheikh Abdullah was released unconditionally on April 8, 1964 and after Eid celebrations reached Delhi on April 29, at the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru to make preparations for Pakistan visit. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah presented Nehru with almonds, honey, saffron and flowers - all from Kashmir. To Abdullah, two pressing problems facing the sub-continent were Kashmir and communalism. He described Jawaharlal Nehru the last of the stalwarts who had worked with Gandhi, and said that after Nehru a solution to these problems would become difficult. In Delhi several important things happened as part of home work for the Pakistan visit. It was realized by all, and more by Abdullah, to garner support outside the Congress party. As pointed out in the previous column, India was singularly lucky at that point of time in having towering leaders, apart from Nehru, who had the courage of convictions even to differ with Nehru on several matters facing the nation. The Congress party, even at that time, had people within it who were close to Hindu right-wing line on Kashmir. Almost 27 Congress MPs issued a statement arguing that you can no more talk of self-determination in the case of Kashmir than in the case of, say, Bombay or Bihar. The Hindu right- wing, sought to thwart Nehru on new Kashmir initiative. One Jan Sang ideologue, Balraj Madhok said: “To talk to Abdullah would open floodgates of treason for anti-national elements in Assam, Goa, and Kerala who are waiting for the signal from Kashmir to raise the banner of separation.” Considering this huge tirade against Nehru and Abdullah the great Swantanra Party leader Minoo Masani urgently wired C Rajagopalchari (Rajaji): “Understand Nehru and Lal Bahadur endeavoring to find solution with Sheikh Abdullah but are up against confused thinking within congress party alongside of Jan Sang, communist combination stop. If you think telegram or letter to Nehru from yourself encouraging him to do the right thing assuring your personal support would help please move in the matter.” Rajagopalachari who was according to some people the wisest man of India did not write to Nehru but instead preferred to write to Lal Bahadur Shastri encouraging him to proceed on and find a solution to Kashmir. This, then is the real challenge not only when Nehru was at the driving seat but even today, not only in India but in Pakistan, and in Kashmir as well. This means that any consensus reached can easily be overturned by an extremist group having no role in the parleys.  The politics surrounding Kashmir makes peace negotiations a two level game. According to some experts not only India and Pakistan have to negotiate terms with each other, they also will have to negotiate their own positions with opposition factions. This is the reason why General Musharraf’s formulations are now no longer acceptable to democratic government in Pakistan. A former foreign secretary of Pakistan termed Musharraf formula as a single window clearance and hence not based on wider consensus in their country. There is also the obstacle posed by Kashmir diversity. Assuming that moderate Hurriyat reaches to some settlement on Kashmir, will it be possible for them to get all voices in Kashmir on board without claiming patent rights. Further, it was only after some push came from the opposition that Mr Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, was made to make a statement on Kashmir which came to be known as Burkina Faso declaration, on November 4, 1995. The declaration was all about restoration of autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In a conference at Jamia Milia, Delhi, I heard  Mr Prakash Karat of CPI (M) claiming  that their party pushed the Prime Minister to issue this statement, though on a foreign soil. The point under discussion is how essential internal consensus is whether in India, Pakistan or Jammu and Kashmir for reaching to a mutually agreed formulation.
                   Meanwhile, in Delhi, Prime Minister Nehru arranged a meeting of Abdullah with informal group of advisors - foreign secretary Y D Gundevia, the high commissioner to Pakistan Mr. G Parthasarthy, and Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Mr Tyabji. Abdullah was categorical that he wanted a solution which can: (1) promote indo-Pakistani friendship (2) not weaken the secular ideal of the Indian constitution (3) not weaken the position of minorities in either country. In fact Abdullah asked the team to give him more than one alternative which he can take to Pakistan.
On May 24 Abdullah touched down in Rawalpindi and repeated all that he said to the committee of Nehru’s advisors. He stressed that any solution to Kashmir must not foster defeat either for India or Pakistan, must not weaken India’s secularism and must satisfy the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. During a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh, Abdullah took angry exception to the involvement of Peoples Republic of China in any settlement of Kashmir dispute as suggested by his onetime colleague, Ghulam Abbas. Ayub Khan writes in his memoirs, Friends, Not Masters, (page 149) that Kashmiri leaders had brought the absurd proposal of confederation between India, Pakistan and Kashmir with them which he rejected. However, when Sheikh Abdullah, some time after, was shown the book at Kodaikanal jail, he immediately, according to Inder  Malhotra, wrote back to Ayub that Pt Nehru never forced us to put before you any particular proposal. “No, we are not made that way” wrote Abdullah.
Meanwhile, Hurriyat leaders have returned from the Pakistan and have expressed satisfaction on their visit. Exactly in 1964 Sheikh Abdullah described his visit to Pakistan a peace mission of exploratory nature. Speaking in Srinagar, Abdullah said; “Just one visit to Pakistan will not do. I may have to shuttle between New Delhi and Rawalpindi. He claimed that I do not want to plead for Nehru but after Nehru I do not see any one tackling the problem with same breadth of vision.” In 48 years much has changed but major contours of the problem have scarcely undergone any change at all. Even today the conditions laid down by Abdullah hold relevance in order to move in right direction for a durable settlement of the problem.
May I conclude with the famous line of Ali Sardar Jafri  Guftagu band na ho, baat se baat chale.
Author is grateful to eminent contemporary historian Ramachandra Guha for sharing some valuable references.

Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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