Published On: Mon, Dec 21st, 2015

“The dialogue process and digging out the past”

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

The media reports that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed his ministers and aides not to make anti-India statements that can affect the recently resumed peace dialogue, if true are a serious development and the wisdom needs to be incremented. There is a misunderstanding in many circles in India that Pakistan is a small country and beset with myriad internal problems. It would be easy to overawe it.

Size and population may have been a problem with a non-nuclear Pakistan in the past but a nuclear Pakistan has neutralized Indian size and war capability for ever. The two countries would never go to war, unless both decide to be wiped out as a civilization. Pakistan has a unique feature of power sharing arrangement and military leadership features one of them. It is a well-disciplined force and unlike political regimes is free from all shades of corruption. Critics may find it different but in fact Army features as the main balance and hope in Pakistan.

Therefore, the direction given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that “There will be statements only that encourage the dialogue process rather than digging out the past. The Prime Minister has asked close aides and cabinet members to promote peace,” should be understood in its right perspective and needs to be reciprocated by the Government of India without delay.

There are many in Pakistan, in Kashmir and around the world who would regard it as one-sided and a major concession offered to Indian Government. It is not so. In fact clause (IV) of Tashkent Declaration binds both countries in this regard. It provides that, “The Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan have agreed that both sides will discourage any propaganda directed against the other country and will encourage propaganda which promotes the development of friendly relations between the two countries.”

Government of India has expressed a similar desire at the two hundred and twenty-seventh meeting (227th meeting) of UN Security Council on Thursday 15 January 1948 and said, “…we would like to exhaust every possible resource for avoiding war, particularly war with the people of a neighbouring State with whom centuries of common living, culture and tradition incline us, in spite of ephemeral recent happenings, to continue to develop the ties that bind us together.” In 2015 the nuclear status of the two countries and the unease of the people in the pending disputes, makes it compulsory that war is avoided at all costs, unless madness of any kind drives them to commit suicide. It is unfortunate that India has allowed a favourable space to such madness as seen in Dadri. The cow was used as a ruse by radical Hindus to lynch 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi (Muslim). The madness is on the increase.

“Digging out the past” should not be misconstrued either. It has been used in relation to propaganda and not the unresolved historical facts, that  is, outstanding commitments of the two countries.  The vine of peace process can scale the walls in India and Pakistan to everyone’s surprise if Government of India returns to drawing board and starts with the basics. The first basic is the terms of the admission of her armies into one part of the State and urgent need to honour them. The second set of basics are the pending decision to have a free vote on the provisional terms of admission of Indian soldier through a free and fair vote under the supervision of the United Nations.

Government of India and the establishment in Delhi needs to revisit its shallow understanding of the Kashmir dispute and carry out a reality check. As a start, India has to accept that the State is currently distributed on either side of cease fire line, India and Pakistan have accepted commitments to carry out the duties outsourced to them by the UN and as required under pledges made to the people since August 1947, when the Govern of Kashmir addressed a Stand Still Agreement to India and Pakistan.

Government of India has made a serious error of judgment by violating the terms of admission and in not honouring the UN restraints placed on its soldier in Kashmir. Its soldier has earned the notoriety of engaging himself in a war with the people of Jammu and Kashmir (Valley in particular) and he has been slated at the UN and various other forums as a violator of human rights. The domestic courts have found him guilty of violation of human rights, which include disappearances, custodial killings and killings by staging fake encounters. These forces face serious charges of gang rape that took place in Kunan Poshpora. Delhi has to face the accrued criminal and civil liability in Kashmir.

Past needs to de disassociated from propaganda and has to be faced with courage if it carries an undischarged commitment made to a people. Prime Minister of Pakistan needs to be assisted by the Kashmiri leadership, people of Kashmir and all peace loving people in the two countries, to continue to dig out Kashmir from all artificial coverings laid on it by the Government of India. The people of India and the people of Pakistan should move forward to assist the Government of Indian to return to the drawing board to resolve the dispute of Kashmir in the manner which she (India) has argued at the United Nations.

At the two hundred and twenty-seventh meeting (227th meeting) of UN Security Council on Thursday 15 January 1948 India has stated, “We have come, therefore, to invoke the assistance of the Security Council in persuading the Pakistan Government, where we so far have failed, and in thus helping to save the lives and honour of thousands in the Jammu and Kashmir State. Freed from the scourge of invasion, and with normal life restored, this land of beauty and its hard working and self-awakened people will thus be enabled to carve out for themselves, by a free choice of their own, the economic and political destiny that awaits them.”

After suffering the death of a generation, over 100,000 people the earlier argument that India wanted to save lives in Kashmir in 1948 has no merit. However, since Pakistan has moved at the UN General Assembly towards a negotiated settlement on Kashmir and wishes to continue on a peace process, Indian Government has to return to the drawing board of its commitment made at the UN on 15 January 1948.

Past between India and Pakistan is littered with many rights and wrongs. It is a wise direction from the Prime Minister of Pakistan that his cabinet and aides should support peace process and should not ‘dig out the past’. It is equally important that the dignity of the past arguments on Jammu and Kashmir is respected and not disturbed. One such important part of the past on Kashmir is the question asked of India by Mr. Noel Baker the UK representative to the UN. He asked, “I should like to ask a question of the representative of India who has just spoken. What are his proposals for stopping the fighting in Kashmir now, and did I rightly understand him to say that he was quite ready to suppress the revolt in Kashmir and to drive out the tribesmen without anybody’s help?”

The revolt so described in February 1948 by the UK representative at the UN Security Council, has not abated since 1990. India needs to accept the reality and move forward from its position of February 1948. The reality in December 2015/January 2016 is different. Dragging her feet on the resolution of Kashmir is not going to help India. We hope that a return to drawing board would help India and Pakistan in co-operating with each other as a bilateral mechanism and in co-operating with UN Security Council in developing specific proposals to implement the UN mechanism on Kashmir. UN Security Council Resolutions and the seven principles listed in the UN Document S/667 dated 10 February constitute the basis of a just settlement.

This part of the past which constitutes the dignity of the argument on Kashmir needs to be dug out, again and again. If India has rightly described the people of Kashmir, “This land of beauty and its hard working and self-awakened people,” at the UN, we have a duty to defend the dignity of their past, present and future argument.

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