Pakistan president Musharraf spoke about a Kashmir solution to journalists last fortnight. The BJP's reaction to his remarks was pathetic. These self-professed peacemakers on Kashmir want to close the door to prospects of real peace. Oh, but one forgot—aren't they now in opposition and not in government? The MEA as usual was plodding and unimaginative. Media pundits were predictable. Their comments seemed to echo private briefs given by South Block.
K. Subrahmanyam in The Tribune was the honourable exception. He pointed out reasonably and accurately that Musharraf had made no proposals. He had voiced aloud thoughts to initiate a public debate on a Kashmir solution. By doing so, he showed more political savvy than his counterparts in Delhi. No Kashmir solution is possible without breaking fresh ground. No fresh ground can be broken unless people are persuaded to accept change.
How must then one react to Musharraf's remarks? This columnist has no choice. Musharraf's new Kashmir formula is this columnist's old Kashmir formula. It's merely couched in diplomatic language to provide a practical starting point for realising its aims. It is a formula that has been flogged to death in these pages—much to the annoyance, I suspect, of readers and the editor. To quote from a May 14, 2001, Bull's Eye:
"The Indian government should declare its acceptance of simultaneous self-determination of all five segments of Kashmir. Each segment could opt for merger with India or Pakistan, or independence. But there should be a precondition. By prior agreement, whatever the result, India, Pakistan and Kashmir would form a community with common defence, common market and free flow of labour and capital."
The idea is not to lose the Valley but to reclaim Pakistan. Equal partnership as in the European Union would keep Pakistan's sovereignty intact. Musharraf talked of seven Kashmir segments, not five. He ruled out plebiscite and implied a joint decision by governments. But for independence to be formalised, ratification by the people of that region would be imperative. That entails a referendum before or after the decision. The referendum could open the door for Kashmiri Pandits to return honourably to their homeland.
Musharraf talked of joint control or independence for the region. Why not both? Joint defence between India, Pakistan and a future independent Kashmir would inevitably extend to the whole region. By logical extension, it would include nuclear defence. The possibilities are endless. A door would open to undo the harm wrought by quislings who masquerade as fighters for independence.
(Puri can be reached at email@example.com)