Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

India-Initiated Cease-Fire in Kashmir Holds, Nawaz Sharif Allowed to Leave Pakistan

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

India-Initiated Cease-Fire in Kashmir Holds, Nawaz Sharif Allowed to Leave Pakistan

Article excerpt

India-Initiated Cease-Fire in Kashmir Holds, Nawaz Sharif Allowed to Leave Pakistan

Prof. M.M. Ali is a consultant and a specialist on South Asia based in the Washington, DC area.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's orders to his 700,000 troops to cease fire in the disputed state of Kashmir during the month of Ramadan, and its extension for another month ending Jan. 26, 2001, has been effective. Pakistan reciprocated by pulling back some of its forces from the U.N.-administered Line of Control (LoC).

Vajpayee's decision proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that New Delhi holds the key to peace in Kashmir. It also demonstrated that it was India's intransigence and years of military posturing that have been responsible for the continued killings of Kashmiris. By neutral third party accounts, over 50,000 Kashmiris have been killed in the last 11 years. Thousands more have been injured and maimed. Literally every Kashmiri family has been affected by the prolonged tragedy.

Vajpayee's overture, however, also exposed a not-so-subtle but nevertheless very significant truth: while Delhi can produce a cease-fire in hostilities, it cannot unilaterally guarantee peace in the state. Unless the root cause of the problem is tackled fairly and squarely, the present situation will prove to be merely a lull in the shooting war.

Another lesson, however distasteful it may be to the political pundits of Delhi or to their military brass, is that a meaningful solution to the dispute can be found only by negotiating with authentic Kashmiri leaders who have been fighting Indian occupation for years. No wonder the Indian government has agreed to talk to the Kashmiri umbrella organization, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).

Yet another message is that Delhi finally has reconciled itself to the fact that Pakistan is very much a party to the Kashmir dispute and that no lasting solution can be reached without Islamabad's participation. Therefore, however reluctantly, Delhi has agreed to allow APHC leaders to visit Pakistan and discuss the issue there as well. Vajpayee has also agreed to meet with Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as parleys progress.

Last but not least, what has unquestionably emerged out of the developments of the past two months is that Farooq Abdullah and his government in Srinagar are, for all purposes, irrelevant in the resolution of the dispute that for more than half a century has threatened to disrupt the peace of the entire region--unless, of course, Delhi has privately assured Abdullah that all this is nothing but an exercise in futility meant to keep the American monkey off India's back.

For it would be a mistake to think that there suddenly has been a change of heart in Delhi. The right-wing Hindu-dominated BJP government that is pushing Indian Muslims to the wall on the Babri Masjid question (see article p. 36) cannot lay down arms in Muslim populated Kashmir, even temporarily, for no reason.

New Delhi holds the key to peace in Kashmir.

The timing of Delhi's unilateral cease-fire declaration must have come as a great relief to the suffering Kashmiris. However valiantly carried out, the war of liberation must be experiencing fatigue syndrome. Each year inclement Himalayan winter weather and fasting during the month of Ramadan compound the problem, testing the level of people's tolerance. Vajpayee definitely factored this in when he announced his cease-fire.

The history of liberation movements, moreover, shows that freedom fighters walk arm-in-arm while the fight is on. When the time comes to talk peace, however, they tend to break ranks. Kashmir's mujahedeen, or freedom fighters, although united on the main issue, come from varying schools of thought ranging from moderate to extremist. The APHC is a loose conglomeration of groups, and others remain outside its fold. There are differences of opinion within the APHC as well. Although aware of the solidarity of the Kashmiris, New Delhi at the same time it is not unmindful of its weaknesses. …

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