If Modi Govt Inspires Consensus On Kashmir, Pak’s Claims Can Rest

In 1994, it was domestic political consensus which ensured a common Indian political voice on Jammu and Kashmir.

5 min read
PM Modi & map of Kashmir. Image used for representational purposes.

Jammu and Kashmir is never too far from controversy. Think: US President Trump’s recent ‘Kashmir mediation’ comment.

However, once the claim was categorically denied by India, there was no reason for us to believe anything to the contrary. The fact that nothing was mentioned by the US in any communiqué, puts the Indian denial in the right perspective.

On Mediation: The Past, Recent Past & Present

The only official third party for mediation on Kashmir, at any stage, was the United Nations, and a UN Security Council resolution stands to that effect. However, India has been categorical in conveying that the UN’s mediation role has been ‘overtaken by history’ after Pakistan attempted to force the issue through aggression twice, in 1965 and 1971. A third attempt — the involvement in which is continuously denied by Pakistan — continues to thrive since 1989 through a proxy war.

Unfortunately, many seem to confuse potential mediation on Kashmir with mediation to prevent military confrontation.

Some More ‘Firefighting’

In the recent stand-off after Pulwama, there are claims that India altered its stance by ‘accepting informal mediation’ by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, to reduce tension and dilute the possibility of a larger conflagration.

Such ‘mediation’ has been witnessed in the past too. On that note, what comes to mind is the Robert Gates shuttle diplomacy of 1990, following Pakistan’s high-profile military maneuvers in the form of ‘Exercise Zarb-e-Momin’.

It had nothing to do with resolving the Kashmir issue. On the other hand, it meant to offset a possible military confrontation between India and Pakistan.

In July 1999, it was President Clinton’s intervention that forced Pakistan’s withdrawal and prevented India from extending the Kargil War to recover all territory occupied by the Pakistan Army. This could be, again, termed as ‘firefighting’ to avoid escalation of the local war into a general war.

Modi-Trump & Kashmir ‘Mediation’: Lost In Translation

PM Modi would’ve been fully justified if he simply expressed his concerns for peace in the subcontinent to President Trump, and informally suggested that the US could help reduce tensions if Pakistan stopped sponsoring violence in Kashmir. That is probably what he did, and the ‘K’ word could have possibly entered the discussion with regard to the tension.

President Trump, with his lack of understanding of the history of India-Pakistan tensions, could well have presumed that it was ‘mediation’ that was being sought.

That aspect is anyway behind us.

Context of Imran Khan’s Intro To ‘Kashmir’ During Meeting With Trump

What's more important is to understand the context of PM Imran Khan’s introduction to the Kashmir issue during the dialogue with the US President. It must be an element of naiveté with which he must have perceived that, after keeping India out of the Afghanistan deliberations the possibility of third party mediation in J&K could even be pursued. Considering the fact that India was not even willing to consider talks with Pakistan unless there was complete pullback from sponsorship of terror, the whole idea of mediation on the J&K issue seems reasonably preposterous.

India has rarely spoken about the Simla Agreement or projected that Pakistan is a signatory to it.

The world needs to know that India could have sought a number of concessions from a defeated and divided Pakistan. Yet, the spirit of triumphalism was severely curbed by India and the introduction of the proviso of bilateralism in the conduct of Indo-Pak relations gave Pakistan a sense of dignity. This aspect needs greater reiteration in international circles.

Is UNMOGIP’s Presence Legitimising Pak’s Stance On Mediation?

Pakistan may well claim that history has overcome the provisions of the Simla Agreement, but it remains a signatory to the same. It may perceive the Indian claims of the UN resolutions having been overtaken by events of history as ‘unrealistic’.

In recent years, Pakistan has increased its efforts towards pushing for UN mediation, claiming that issues connected to the LoC need to be mediated by the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), one of the oldest UN missions which is kept alive but without India giving it any recognition.

Regular visits by UNMOGIP personnel are made to the LoC on the PoK side. However, they are denied access to our side of the LoC.

Administrative offices of UNMOGIP exist at Srinagar, Rajouri and even New Delhi.

A few years ago there were proposals to close down the offices in India since it did not recognize the role of UNMOGIP. However, for various diplomatic reasons no unilateral decision was taken and the issue was pended.

We need to ask ourselves whether the persistent presence of UNMOGIP legitimises Pakistan’s continued stance on third party mediation by the UN, and thus encourages seeking the same from other nations.

How Joint Parliamentary Resolution Of ‘94 Was Passed

The Indian standpoint on J&K is clear. It focuses on the Instrument of Succession signed by the then Maharaja of Kashmir on 26 Oct 1947, ceding the entire territory of J&K to India.

It was only in 1994 that India felt the buildup of international pressure on its claim. 

Robin Raphel, the widow of Ambassador Arnold Raphel, who was killed in the air crash with Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq, was appointed the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. She had a vengeful attitude towards India which included discounting Indian claims over the entire J&K.

In fact Raphel worked towards strengthening the ‘third option’ – or independence (azadi) of J&K.

This progressive pressure against India forced the Narasimha Rao government to work closely with the opposition in Parliament to ultimately pass the Joint Parliamentary Resolution on 22 February 1994.

The Resolution reiterated that the entire territory of J&K belonged to India. It is a resolution rarely mentioned by Indian analysts and diplomats and firmly declares that:

“The State of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means... Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of J&K, which they have occupied through aggression… and resolves that all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely.”

Kashmir Conundrum: India Needs To Be More Forceful On Its Stance

India needs to be more forceful in the reiteration of its stance on J&K and not rest on assumptions of past support. It’s a changing world with changing equations. Stands needs to be stated upfront, across the world, and at important forums.

What needs to be mentioned here is that in 1994, it was domestic political consensus which ensured a common Indian political voice on J&K. Can we expect the same again in 2019? If yes, Pakistan’s claims on J&K can rest for many decades.

(The writer, a former GOC of the Army’s 15 Corps, is now the Chancellor of Kashmir University. He can be reached at @atahasnain53. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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