July 05, 2020
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"Kashmir Can't Be Resolved Bilaterally"

Pakistani foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan

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"Kashmir Can't Be Resolved Bilaterally"

Now that the talks have failed, what exactly do you want India to do?

India has to come with an open mind that this needs a resolution and to accept that Kashmir is a dispute. Naturally it cannot be resolved in one meeting. It takes time, it moves step by step. Other issues are also important like trade, Wullar barrage, Siachen, terrorism... but peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir are the two foremost. Particularly now when both are nuclear powers with advanced delivery systems. Like the world powers were taken by surprise by the nuclear tests, the possibility of a nuclear conflict can't be ruled out and the world has to wake up to it. Passing resolutions does not help. Both the countries are locked in a conflict in Jammu and Kashmir and this is the world's major flash-point. The world has to realise that and should try to use their good offices as third parties to resolve the J&Kdispute. Pakistan and India do not have a record of resolving any dispute on their own. In the Indus Water dispute, the World Bank offered its good offices and in the Rann of Kutch dispute in January '65, the international court helped resolve the differences.

So, what is the point of this effort?

Well, efforts have to be made. India has to come with an open mind.

What do you mean by 'open mind'?

When India says that Kashmir is part and parcel of the Indian Union and it can't be negotiated, then it is a closed mind. When the Indian PM says it is difficult to sell the public any deal....

What is the "due importance" you want to be given to Kashmir?

The two foreign secretaries should address J&K in a working group. Similarly, they should have a working group on peace and security. These should not be lumped together with other issues.

You want the first round of talks to be devoted to just two issues?

Yes and with an open mind so that there is a forward movement. India will also have to take steps like troop reduction—there are 600,000 right now—human rights violations must stop, political oppression must stop, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference should be accepted as the legitimate leadership of the Kashmiris and political leaders be allowed to travel freely.

There is a feeling that Pakistan wants to show that the talks have not succeeded, which then opens up a chance for third party mediation.

We have tried the bilateral track for 50 years. One has to take some example from the past. You can check all the files in the foreign offices of the two countries to see if it has worked. There is absolutely no example. We are human beings, it is the golden jubilee year of the two countries. The bilateral process is only reinforcing a failure. It is not wise to pursue it when we have failed for 50 years. We need third party encouragement, observations, assistance, then we might be able to move forward. Jammu and Kashmir is a flashpoint which can erupt. We've had two wars on it in 1947 and 1965.

Can the talks be revived in the near future? Why didn't the prime ministers do something? It needs political handling.

I have been saying this and that is why I am termed a hardliner—there have been four meetings of I.K. Gujral as prime minister with Nawaz Sharif, he met me once as foreign minister, the foreign secretaries have met three times and now this meeting. In all there have been nine meetings since last year. But the result is zero. Unless the Indian prime minister takes a bold measure nothing can happen.

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