A peaceful solution must include India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, says A.G. Noorani

The right of the people of Kashmir to a plebiscite is an inherent right and came even before U.N. resolutions. It was a pledge Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru made in a telegram to Pakistan’s Liaqat Ali Khan, lawyer and author A.G. Noorani said on Tuesday.

He was speaking at an international workshop, ‘Kashmir Looking Beyond the Peril,’ hosted by the Institute for Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis Wing of the hallowed National Defence University here.

The two-day programme focussed on Kashmir as a matter of the people’s right to make a choice and not as a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Noorani said time had not solved the issue and India produced alienation, while Pakistan produced the gun. Even if militancy subsided, the alienation had not, and the use of force to settle the matter would be counter-productive.

A peaceful solution must include India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, he said, adding he would not use “hideous lingo” like Indian-Occupied Kashmir or Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and would refer to both parts as East and West Kashmir.

He said no Indian government could agree to cessation of Kashmir and survive a day and no Pakistani government could accept the Line of Control (LoC), and the Kashmiris wanted self-rule.

After the Agra rebuff from the then President, General Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had nothing to offer Pakistan but only sweet words. But in September 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gen. Musharraf were ready with a formula which fell apart in 2007, Mr. Noorani explained.

It was a non-territorial arrangement, with neither side giving up its stand. The LoC would become lines on a map and people were free to move — there would be a lot of exchange. The self-rule would extend to the northern areas and Gilgit Baltistan, and troops would be withdrawn, he said. The Chief Ministers from both sides would review this interim arrangement for 10 to 15 years and the greatest gainers would be the people. “The solution lies in seeking a congruence of interests.”

The former High Commissioner to India, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, said India was the larger country and satisfied with the status quo. Even if the world was less interested in the issue, Pakistan had no right to forget Kashmir and it had an obligation to the people, he said.

Lt. Gen. Javed Iqbal, president, NDU, said Kashmir remained a critical factor in the way of achieving sustainable peace and harmony in south Asia. One-fifth of humanity living in this region had long awaited a conflict-free setting and it was important that scholars and experts renewed a search for approaches to a peaceful and viable solution consistent with the Kashmir people’s aspirations.

“Kashmir is no real estate,” said Sherry Rehman, former minister of the Pakistan Peoples Party. Pakistan was willing to discuss sustainable solutions while the Indian taxonomy of conflict was embedded in old political idioms that diplomacy must be coercive. India should have a cogent, forward-looking policy towards Pakistan, she said.

The Indian media, too, came under criticism for not promoting peace. Senior journalist Zahid G Muhammed of Srinagar said the Indian media were an “agenda-setting media” while some in the Pakistan media were status-quoists.

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>>Mr. A.G. Noorani’s clarification: “My main thrust was the irrelevance of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP)’s two resolutions on Kashmir. In this context, the Kashmiri people's right to self determination existed before and after the obsolescence of the resolutions. Self determination is not synonymous with plebiscite or secession as the report itself mentions I ruled out secession.”