Kashmir after Simla and now what next!

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By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Reading former DG-ISI General Asad Durrani’s book  ‘Pakistan adrift’, my optimism regarding possible solution of Kashmir issue got reaffirmed notwithstanding the hyper observation of ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ coinciding with Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the occupied state.

I have repeatedly said that blowing of hot air on both sides of the divide would not help resolve the problem that has caused deaths in thousands of innocent people, rape of women and mayhem of children seeking the right of self-determination. Indeed, as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in London—“Humanity is bleeding in Occupied Kashmir’’. Regretfully, the blood of the innocent does not wake up the deep international empaty.

I also believed that recurring fireworks on the Line of Control (LoC) are climatic. These fluctuate in number with the melting of the snow. Unfortunately for India casualties fall in the category of co-lateral damage. However, increasing human rights violations have been worsening the tragic scenario. Repression seems to have been adopted as a state policy to silent the popular resistance with a muted world obliging in utter disregard for human rights.

The Simla Agreement signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 was much more than a peace treaty seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war (i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs)

Indian Occupied Kashmir was completely at halt on Prime Minister Modi’s visit. Despite his best efforts to appease the local population with development packages and job employment, ruthlessness of the security forces could not quash the popular crescendo of “Azadi”.

In the given scenario new government in Pakistan has been left with no choice but to join the Diaspora in raising its voice for a peaceful solution. As soon as he assumed power Prime Minister Khan did take an initiative by offering his hand of friendship to India with a cold response from Delhi. Apparently policy planners in Delhi feel that they can crush the Kashmiri uprising and get away by imposing constitutional changes that strengthen the case of disputed territory as its ‘Atut Ang’.  Increasing number of skirmishes on the LoC can be ignored as long as they are seasonal affair but then one dreads a nuclear conflagration in case there is another Mumbai. All our friends are wary of the situation. Often both the countries are advised to cool down and resume the stalemated composite dialogue.

Pakistan President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi shaking hands in Simla. Ms. Benazir Bhutto stands right in this historical picture.

Pakistan’s most trusted friend China has no doubt stood by us through thick and thin yet Beijing hopes that Pakistan and India will seek channels for resumption of dialogue, appropriately resolve any differences, improve bilateral relations and together cooperate to secure region’s peace and stability.

Chinese advice reminds me of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit to China soon after her assumption of office in early 1989. It was nostalgic of her father martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s that I had as well the pleasure of accompanying in 1974 to Beijing when both of its great leaders–Chairman Mao and Prime Minister Zhou en-Lai–were alive. The great warmth and unprecedented reception extended to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was a clear manifestation of Chinese affection for Bhutto Sahib who had taken Pakistan’s relations with China to unsurpassable heights of friendship deeper than the seven seas.

Bibi had been to Beijing with her father in 1972. She knew the depth of relations that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had achieved with the Chinese leadership painstakingly striven during his six visits. Her trip besides being nostalgic was an opportunity to pick up the pieces and revive ties with China to the same height that SZAB had left.

Premier Bhutto had more than two hour long one- to- one meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng. They covered vast areas of bilateral relations, Pakistan’s role under Benazir’s leadership in global and regional politics. Being a senior leader, Li Peng gave her his world view of the possible future course of currents and cross currents in global politics. His advice to Benazir Bhutto served as a guiding principle for her foreign policy. She also had more than 90-minute long meeting with Supreme leader aging Deng Xiaopeng.

In the unwinding session that Bibi had with me she shared what transpired between the two prime ministers. Chinese Premier Li Peng stressed upon her to concentrate on economic development. He was aware that Kashmir was the core issue between India and Pakistan. He advised her never to allow the situation to reach a point of no return, China’s policy vis-à-vis India was best to emulate.

China has a border dispute with India and been to war with it in 1962 and last year there were serious skirmishes on Dhokla.  Notwithstanding all that the China has developed trade and commercial ties with Delhi growing each year more than the previous. Li Peng told Bibi not to ever allow situation to drift in a manner that would retard trade and economic relations. Finally, about Kashmir, he assured full Chinese support to Pakistan’s point of view. However, adding that “don’t talk of war” pursue negotiated settlement.

Li Peng’s advice became a guiding light for her. As Prime Minister she left no stone unturned in developing economy and making sincere efforts for the resolution of Kashmir dispute with India. She stoutly opposed that thinking that supported physical external support. She did not want to give India an excuse to market Kashmiri intifada as a secessionist  movement supported externally. Her instructions to me as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK were to mobilise international support for the people of Kashmir on gross violation of human rights. She believed that if any external physical support was found in aid of peaceful Kashmiri freedom struggle–it would subvert their genuine cause. As compared to her dictator General Pervez Musharraf believed in low intense aggression and cross border infiltration.

In the obtaining scenario when all political parties expressed solidarity on Kashmir, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson’s Bilawal Bhutto’s optimism that that day is not far when people of Kashmir would free themselves from the Indian stranglehold is definitely very inspirational.

It is time PTI government seeks out of the box solution through a proactive foreign policy. Simla agreement signed by Bhutto sahib and Indira Gandhi in July 1972 accepted Kashmir as a disputed territory. They agreed to resolve it bilaterally without prejudice to UN Security Council’s resolutions.

Simla Agreement has withstood all the pressures, vagaries of hostility and sustained peace to this date nearly for 47 years.  Both the countries need to revisit Simla now as way forward to break the deadlock. No harm in untangling the knot through Simla spirit and General Pervez Musharraf’s four point formula.  It is time to show the same quality of visionary leadership that led to Simla Agreement without outside involvement or mediation.

(Author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)