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Musharraf unveils his Kashmir solution

A file photo of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf

A file photo of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf  

Special Correspondent

His book, "In the Line of Fire," presents four elements of his "out of the box" idea

New Delhi: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's "out of the box" solution to the Kashmir dispute has four key elements, which he presents in his 368-page book, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, published by Simon & Schuster under its Free Press imprint on September 25.

The first element is identification of the geographic regions of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that need resolution. This means specifically addressing the question whether all five regions or `provinces' the Northern Areas and `Azad Kashmir' comprising the Pakistan part, and Jammu, Srinagar, and Ladakh comprising the Indian part are "on the table for discussion or are there ethnic, political and strategic considerations dictating some give and take."

The second component of the Musharraf solution is demilitarisation of "this identified region or regions" and curbing "all militant parts of the freedom struggle." This would give "comfort to the Kashmiris who are fed up of the fighting and killing on both sides."

The third is the introduction of "self-governance or self-rule in the identified regions." This would enable Kashmiris to "have the satisfaction of running their own affairs without having an international character and remaining short of independence."

The fourth element is setting up "a joint mechanism with a membership of Pakistanis, Indians and Kashmiris overseeing the self-governance and dealing with residual subjects common to all identified regions and those subjects that are beyond the scope of self-governance."

"Partial stepping back"

"I have myself spent hours on many a day pondering over a possible `out of the box' solution," explains General Musharraf in the chapter titled "International Diplomacy" in Part Six of his book. He adds: "The idea that I have evolved which ought to satisfy Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris involves a partial stepping back by all." He clarifies that "the idea is purely personal and would need refinement and selling to the public by all involved parties for acceptance as a via media."

The four elements in the Musharraf "via media" solution need some explanation. The first element seems to imply that, with Pakistan not pressing its claims on Jammu and Ladakh regions or "provinces" and India not pressing its claims on the Northern Areas and `Azad Kashmir,' the focus should be on the hotly disputed zone, the Kashmir Valley. From the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, India has been opposed to any such sectarian or religious "regionalisation" of the Jammu and Kashmir problem. The second element calls for the demilitarisation essentially of the Kashmir Valley or at least parts of it. The third element implies a high degree of autonomy, "self-rule," essentially for the Kashmir Valley. This too goes against the grain of the secular Indian position that all the regions or "provinces" of Jammu and Kashmir should have the same degree of autonomy. As for the fourth element, the joint mechanism, it would mean for the Kashmir Valley a degree of autonomy or "freedom" going far beyond the 1952 Delhi agreement between Prime Minister Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, which was of course meant to provide Jammu and Kashmir a much wider degree of autonomy than that enjoyed by any other State of the Union but was never fully implemented.

Give-and-take hinted at

General Musharraf does not spell out in his book how far his "out of the box" solution is prepared to go in accommodating India's claims on the part of Jammu and Kashmir held by Pakistan by making changes to existing arrangements, but there is a hint that "some give and take" is possible.

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