By: Satinder K. Lambah
India’s position on Jammu & Kashmir is legally, politically and historically correct. Yet, it has remained one of our major post-independence problems, contributing to three wars between India and Pakistan, decades of cross-border terrorism and violence, and incalculable sufferings for the ordinary people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Therefore, successive prime ministers of India have made resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue a priority. Prime Minister Nehru’s initiatives culminated in the inconclusive Swaran Singh-Bhutto Talks in the early 1960s. Indira Gandhi’s efforts to seek a settlement through the Simla Agreement reflected recognition, even in the moment of decisive victory in the 1971 war, that a solution to the Kashmir issue was important for lasting peace and security. In a generational shift, Rajiv Gandhi tried to chart a new course with Benazir Bhutto. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bold attempt to reset the relations in 1999 took place months after the nuclear tests by both the countries; his bus journey to Lahore highlighted the proximity between our two countries and the centrality of people to this relationship. Kargil did not dissuade him to engage its perpetrator in Agra, nor did the Parliament attack of December 2001 stop him from making another journey to Pakistan in January 2004 in search of peace and settlement.
Manmohan Singh picked up the baton and turned it into one of his foreign policy priorities. His vision is rooted in India’s security, economic development and global aspirations, and in the transformation of a region that is central to India’s destiny.
At the highest level of the government, there has always been interest, readiness and resolve. Let me venture to make some suggestions of a possible outline of a solution in my personal capacity.
…it is essential that any agreement must ensure that the Line of Control is like a border between any two normal states. There can be no redrawal of borders;
Alongside, in accordance with the normal acceptable behaviour between nations, it is imperative that the people of Jammu & Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control should be able to move freely from one side to the other.
The process of progressive removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers in specified locally produced goods already underway has to be expedited to ensure meaningful trade between the two sides of the LoC;
The essential prerequisite is that there has to be an end to hostility, violence and terrorism; once this happens, it would be important that military forces on both sides of the LoC are kept to the minimum, particularly in populated areas;
It would be important to ensure self-governance for internal management in all areas on the same basis on both sides of the LoC;
There has to be respect for human rights on both sides of the LoC and efforts need to be made to reintegrate into society those sections who had been involved in violent militant activities; and
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his speech in Amritsar on March 24, 2006 has stated that he “envisaged a situation where the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir can…work out a cooperative, consultative mechanism so as to maximise the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region.” It should be possible to do so to enable it to look into socio-economic issues like tourism, travel, pilgrimages to shrines, trade, health, education, and culture.
A settlement will give the people of J&K an opportunity to seek a future defined by the bright light of hope, not darkened by the shadow of the gun… a solution of the Kashmir issue will substantially enhance India’s security, strengthen the prospects for durable peace and stability in the region and enable India to focus more on the rapidly emerging long term geopolitical challenges.
It will relieve Pakistan from a debilitating military competition with a much larger neighbour that has drained its economy. It will hopefully strengthen its ability to turn the tide on terrorism and radical militancy. Needless to say, a stable Pakistan is also in India’s interest.
We are undergoing enormous transformation in a world witnessing change and transition on an unprecedented scale. A stable, peaceful, cooperative and connected neighbourhood is essential for us to realise our destiny. Solution of the Kashmir issue will help us on that path.