Former diplomat Satinder K. Lambah — the Prime Minister’s special envoy in the backchannel diplomacy with Pakistan — said on Tuesday that the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir would have to be open for free movement of people and there could be no redrawing of the borders between India and Pakistan.
Speaking on the ‘Discussion between India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir — a historical perspective’ at an event organised by the Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir, Mr. Lambah said that a possible outline of a solution would have to be drawn to achieve progress. “After three wars and long periods of disagreement, it is essential that any agreement must ensure that the Line of Control is like a border between any two normal States. There can be no redrawal of borders”.
Mr. Lambah added: “Alongside, in accordance with the normal acceptable behaviour between nations, it is imperative that the people of J&K on either side of the Line of Control should be able to move freely from one side to the other. This is particularly essential as on both sides of the Line of Control live not only the same ethnic groups but also divided families”.
Having worked with six Prime Ministers on matters relating to Pakistan for 35 years, Mr. Lambah claimed that backchannel diplomacy continued even after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. “The process has survived and sustained itself despite brutal and high visibility assaults — from the Parliament attack to the Mumbai terror attack — and through political transitions in both countries. This process was based on two pillars — respecting the ceasefire along the Line of Control and a disavowal by Pakistan of the use of terrorism as a State policy [and] allowing the use of its territory by non-State actors. These continue to be essential prerequisites”.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reiterated that the Kashmir problem was essentially a political issue. He said that only a solution acceptable “also to the majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir” would be sellable and for that both India and Pakistan would have to climb down from their stated political positions.
Mr. Abdullah claimed that the transition of power from General Pervez Musharraf to Asif Ali Zardari had a negative impact on the India-Pakistan dialogue process even as the transition from the NDA to the UPA had not affected its continuity.