Published On: Mon, Jul 13th, 2015

Wrongs of Track II diplomacy on Kashmir

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

On Friday, 10 July 2015, Kashmir lost one of its gregarious sons at an age of around 91. Sardar Qayyum Khan, one of the tallest political figures, would be remembered for a generation of different politics as compared to the one that grips the territory today.

I have known him since January 1974 and found him a special human being of many noble elements. He would be best remembered for a full innings of power politics since 1956. History of Kashmir would have been quite different today if he had accommodate the views of K H Khurshid on the merits of the jurisprudence of Kashmir case and avoided to play local Muhajir card to weaken and discredit Khurshid. Politics in Muzaffarabad continued to thrive on a local muhajir divide for a long time, until the Kashmiri youth decided to challenge the current cease fire line and thronged across. As a consequence the existing local muhajir narrative seems to have failed to keep its sting.

I shall be writing a separate piece on this loss. At this point I would wish to express my most sincere condolences to the bereaved family (Sardar Attique Khan), Muslim Conference, his well-wishers on both sides of cease fire line and abroad.

At a time when Kashmir politics is dominated by the revelations of former RAW chief A S Dulat and people are adjusting their responses to every single piece of formally documented narration, Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers have met on the side lines of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summits in UFA, Russia. It is a welcome sign that the two leaders raved courage to put behind the recent pronouncements against each other’s interests and decided that instrument of dialogue is the only way forward.

There is uproar against the aggregate merits of the five-point joint statement issued by the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan on this meeting. It is being debated differently in India and in Pakistan. It has not been received well in Pakistan, Kashmiris living in the Valley and in other parts of the world. General opinion in Pakistan remains that Nawaz Sharif team was not well-prepared on the occasion and if there is any failure at worse, it should be counted against the Government and not the Kashmir policy supported by Pakistan at the UN General Assembly in September 2014.

People of Jammu and Kashmir have no reason to feel discouraged because Pakistan is constitutionally bound to support the right of self-determination in accordance with article 257 of its constitution. In addition to this Pakistan has assumed responsibilities in respect of the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir and has assumed responsibilities at Muzaffarabad and Gilgit under UNCIP Resolutions. There is however a point of serious concern on the statement made by PM’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on 10 July 2015 that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have agreed in their meeting in Russia to address the issues of Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek through Track-2 diplomacy.

The meeting between the two Prime Ministers was requested by Indian Government and it is difficult to accept that Prime Minister of Pakistan would seal the right of self-determination currently supported by the transparent and verifiable mechanism under United Nations in such a manner and relegate it to a non-transparent Track II mechanism dealt by people, mostly retired military and spy agencies. Track II diplomacy over the years has been a luxury engagement of retired bureaucrats, military officers and senior spies from both sides.

People of Jammu and Kashmir and their leaders would not be comfortable with any such Track II arrangement which demeans the status of their right of self-determination and the people of Pakistan would not endure any Government in office if it strikes a deal and cascades from the heights of UN mechanism, down to a point where RAW chief or Indian National Security Advisor has an opportunity to write another book of revelation after 25 years. We can’t afford a delay of another 25 years to find more about behind the scenes story.

Members of Nawaz Sharif Government may risk the attraction of article 6 of the constitution of Pakistan if it is seen to be frustrating the UN mechanism on Kashmir, violating the article 257 of the constitution of Pakistan and reneges on the constitutional arrangements with PaK Government under UNCIP responsibilities. Prime Minister of Pakistan who is the chairman of PaK Council and his six nominees would carry personal liability in regard to any such violation and is likely to attract article 6 of the constitution.

Track II diplomacy is weird and non-transparent. Government of Pakistan is in no position to grant any such concession to Government of India. The matter has to be taken back to parliament to seek further clarification on article 257 and on responsibilities accepted under UNCIP resolutions. There is a strong opposition in Pakistan and the military leadership too has made itself known on the right of self-determination. Therefore, it is not likely that Nawaz Sharif Government would have decided in a requested meeting a bilateral and Track II take on Kashmir.

Nawaz Sharif Government has already sinned against the right of the self-determination in June 1997 joint statement. It can’t continue in office, if seen to be sinning again on the question of Kashmir. It was for the first time in the joint statement after talks from 19-23 June 1997 that the Nawaz Sharif Government made a serious error of diplomatic judgement and disturbed the ‘core’ status of Kashmir.

Kashmir was included as one of the eight outstanding issues in the joint statement. Right of self-determination (Kashmir dispute) became an include among other issues. If Pakistan Government has accepted to relegate Kashmir to Track II diplomacy, it would not be acceptable to the people of Pakistan and opposition parties. Above all Kashmiri leadership, already stripped naked of their trustworthiness by A S Dulat, would not be ready to strike any deal with Delhi or Islamabad behind the scenes and be later exposed by these retired spies in their memoirs.

Nawaz Sharif is being ridiculed by many as a Kashmiri and is criticised by others for having many Kashmiris in the Cabinet. Unfortunately, none of these ministers of Kashmiri origin have any reliable touch with the Valley or understanding of the jurisprudence of Kashmir case. Therefore, they may err in sincerity and good faith, as they did in June 1997. Kashmiri leadership and the people have a duty to step in and highlight the disagreement on any compromise.

It is important to point out that while explaining the Indian position in the merits of the joint statement of June 1997 on 25 June 1997 in Delhi Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider said, “When we talk about the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, there is a juridical element in that. We make the point that parts of Jammu and Kashmir are under Pakistani occupation by military force and that is something that we would certainly discuss”. Indian foreign secretary added that, “We have said that there is no dispute in our part of Kashmir but there are issues relating to POK”.

Nawaz Sharif Government endured this clarification without any due counter statement and further failed to move on setting up working groups decided to address the eight outstanding issues. Nawaz Sharif Government had two years and four months from June 1997 to October 1999 to seek any kind of compliance from the Government of India. It did not and only earned the blame of disturbing the ‘core’ status of Kashmir dispute and made it one of the includes in eight issues.

We cannot stop the two Governments from any Track II diplomacy on Kashmir as we did not know about the secret talks of Kashmiri (Hurriyat) leaders with Delhi and its agencies, until A S Dulat punched a hole in the curtain. However, it is our duty to ensure that UN mechanism and transparency is not compromised. We need to ensure that Track II talks on Kashmir do not disturb the work outsourced to India and Pakistan under UN mechanism on Kashmir. The two need to go concurrent and the general public should have a right to know about the developments on both fronts.

People of Kashmiri need to be reassured about the composition of the Track II mechanisms on both sides and if the retired officers of military, RAW and IB are to represent the Indian side it would mean granting immunity to those erring officers who have remained engaged in violation of human rights in the Valley. These officers have lived on the practice of buying their way into Kashmir and puncturing holes in our community cohesion. Entrusting them any adjudication and duty to fairness would be a mistake.

It is equally important that a second Track II is also encouraged between the people of all the three administrations of Kashmir and the diaspora and a reporting back to the common man and woman is put in place. United Nations, India and Pakistan should support and finance this Track II among the people of Kashmir. Wrongs of Track II diplomacy on Kashmir need to be corrected.

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