Published On: Mon, Dec 28th, 2015

Modi-Sharif meeting and Kashmir

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

It would be an unnecessary drifting away from the proceeds of Prime Minister Modi’s stopover at Lahore on Friday 25 December, the Christmas Day, birth day of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and on the wedding of Sharif’s niece, if we hesitate to accept that it was a surprise visit and not a well-orchestrated diplomatic move.  Modi does not carry a no-holds-barred freedom to divert his flight at will but is under oath as a servant of his people. The US, the UN, China and all across the world have welcomed the visit and expressed hope that the improved ties between the two neighbours will benefit the entire region.

In India the visit is named as innovative diplomacy, and in view of the characteristic style of Modi’s earlier political conduct The New York Times has put it down to a ‘diplomatic dance’. At India-Pakistan level one would say that the leadership has decided to deal with each other in a more constructive and less emotional manner in the service of their respective people and peace in the region. On the Pakistani side it should be a reassurance that India can’t assert its size and might, unless Pakistan signs off all her disputes and grievances with her. A no objection certificate (NOC) is important for India to be accepted without a risk and a discomfort as member at the UN Security Council or in any other formation in the region or at the international level.

Prime Minister Modi with undue regard to regional interests and good neighbourly relations resorted to dangerous narrative in his reference to Pakistan. The language used against Pakistan, references made to the fall of former East Pakistan and appearing in hawkish war mode did not pay any dividend. Political and Military leadership in Pakistan remained on one page in their handling of India and kept the course, to the point that Prime Minster Modi undertook the bold step to stop over in Pakistan on Friday 25 December 2015 to wish Prime Minister Sharif a ‘Happy Birthday’.

Nothing should chip away from the merits of the Modi-Sharif meeting except that BJP, Congress and other political parties in India shall have to work hard to edit the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha political narrative which has not changed since 9 September 1947. It was surprising that on the night Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Lahore for a meeting with Nawaz Sharif, Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary on lien from the RSS said that “The RSS still believes that one day these parts… will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created… as an RSS member, I also hold on to that view.”

Ram Madhav told Al Jazeera that “The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) still believes that one day these parts, which have for historical reasons separated only 60 years ago, will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created.”  The statement opens up a new conflict with Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.  This is an enemy version and reconciles with the version of an article published in The Hindu Outlook on 9 September 1947, in which the Secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha  proposed among others to remove the Government, declare the Indian Union a  Hindu State, prepare the country on the basis of a war with Pakistan, impose conscription and recruit all young Hindus to the army and treat all the Muslims as fifth columnists and declare the professing of Islam as unlawful.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Hindu Mahasabha  (HM) in particular and other radical Hindu groups in general shall have to learn from history and now from Prime Minister Modi that ‘Hindu India’ has to co-exist with Muslims in India and the Muslims of Pakistan, to be comfortable in the rest of the Muslim world around the globe. Constitution of India and the world sitting around on earth would not accept India to be a land of Hindus only. It may be duly referred as ‘Hind’ and not as ‘Hindu’. Therefore, the dream of an Akhand Bharat is unhelpful and represents an aggression to others in the neighbourhood.

Kashmiri leadership and the people of Kashmir have not fallen behind in welcoming the Modi-Sharif meeting at Lahore and giving due regard to Modi for taking a constructive first bold step on a long journey. There have been reservations and concerns in Kashmiri circles, in regard to the side effects of such an ‘innovative diplomacy’. It is duly argued that such cosmetics might help India to cool down or distract Pakistan on its commitment to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They look at the new phrase “Bilateral Comprehensive Dialogue” which is likely to begin on 15 January 2016 with suspicion and mistrust.

Whatever the hidden interest there might be, it is clear that we are about to embrace 2016.  It is very difficult for India to subdue the people of Kashmir anymore and equally unlikely that the Government of Pakistan would walk away from her position on Kashmir reiterated at the 69th and 70th sessions of UN General Assembly.

There is no merit in Indian stand that the talks on Kashmir would involve only the future of areas of Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the cease fire line. Kashmir is disputed and is pending a reference to the free and fair vote of the people under the supervision of the United Nations. In 1955 India made its first attempt and challenged the presence of US personnel in the UNMOGIP and sought their replacement by a neutral country. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold declined to take any action and publicly declared that UNMOGIP members owed their allegiance to the United Nations. Out of 48 UNMOGIP Observers 18 were American nationals. US also maintained that the 18 US nationals in UNMOGIP were agents of the United Nations.

There is no merit in Indian recourse to the constitution of Constituent Assembly in 1954 and the adoption of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution in November 1956. UN Security Council had placed the National Conference and India under notice in its Resolution of 30 March 1951, that “such a constituent assembly and that the area from which such a constituent assembly would be elected is only a part of the whole territory of Jammu and Kashmir”.  UN Security Council Resolution further warned the National Conference and Indian Government that, “any action that assembly might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State or any part thereof would not constitute a disposition of the State in accordance with the principle set by the UN Security Council Resolution”.

Pakistan succeeded to re-introduce Kashmir at the UN Security Council in early 1957 and the UN Security Council Resolution co-sponsored by five countries namely US, United Kingdom, Australia, Colombia  and (pre-Castro) Cuba was adopted by 10 – 0 in favour. The Resolution reasserted the call for a plebiscite and declared that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly’s vote in 1954 to reaffirm the State’s accession to India was not internationally binding.

V K Krishna Menon spoke for five hours and set a new United Nations record for the longest continuous speech at a single session. Delegates were impressed by his ‘stamina and bravura’ but they rejected the Indian stand and voted 10-0 in favour of the resolution.  Although the Soviet Union reiterated Moscow’s position that the Kashmiris had settled the issue themselves, the Soviet Union abstained in the voting, possibly because of Indian concern that a veto might open the way to General Assembly consideration of Kashmir.

Government of India should not overdo its ambitions in Kashmir. All options available within the State and at the UN have not been exhausted by the people of Kashmir. Pakistan as a sovereign country and a party to the dispute has her own options. These include bilateral intra-State, trilateral and international options. There are many other options which have not been tried and once the people of Kashmir or Pakistan decide to exercise these options, Indian Government would be faced with a “between deep sea and the devil” like situation. It is interesting to point out that US Embassy New Delhi telegram 271 to the State Department, August 01, 1956, FRUS 1955-1957, VIII, 94 had recommended that “no pressure short of war would force India for relinquishing the Valley”. Options in the life of nations keep inter-changing and surfacing. Though we do not recommend the option of war but Indian army is engaged in a war like situation with the people of Valley. It cannot be ignored any further.

I wish to end my column on an energising note that the High Court of Kashmir has directed the state government to respect state flag and hoist it on the buildings housing state offices and official vehicles. It has granted the Petition of Abdul Qayoom Khan – a retired government official – and has restored a circular issued by state government circular no 13-GAD of 2015 dated 13-3-2015 directing constitutional authorities to respect the state flag. Government under pressure from BJP partner had withdrawn the circular hours after.

High Court has said that the Flag is not a mere piece of cloth of a shape, design and colour. “It reflects pain and agony suffered by people to realise the dream of freedom. It’s every strand is soaked in the blood of martyrs, tears of thousand who join their funeral procession and all those left behind without a source of sustenance.” Regarding petitioner’s plea for asking government to celebrate its own republic day, the court has said that it is for the State Government to decide whether the day is to be celebrated or the manner in which it is to be celebrated.  It proves that Kashmir has been misread by the successive Governments in Delhi.

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