A mutually recognised border between states is a prerequisite for stable relations. Its presence will not guarantee good neighbourly relations, but its absence will almost certainly guarantee tension. This is as true of the Af-Pak border as of the India-Pakistan border, not only along the international frontier but equally along the dividing line in Jammu and Kashmir. Good fences make good neighbours, provided they are built on a line accepted by both.
It should be in the interests of both India and Pakistan to settle this long-festering problem. Both are investing large amounts of human and material resources. For India, we should want to resolve it since it has compelled us to deploy significant numbers of our security forces; it gives a handle to Pakistan to rake up the issue every now and then internationally on human rights grounds; and since it adversely affects the lives of citizens there in many ways. For Pakistan also, it ought to make sense to want to resolve the issue.
Both countries say they want to settle the issue. But if each side maintains its position undiluted, it is as good as saying that they do not care if the problem keeps festering. This implies that neither India nor Pakistan has given up hope of achieving its maximum: for India, recovering the third of Kashmir still in Pakistan’s possession, and occupying the whole of J&K, especially the Valley, for Pakistan. It is not as if each side does not recognise the utter futility of achieving its territorial ambition, but because of domestic political compulsions, they feel obliged to maintain unchanged their impossible-to-realise objective.
For India, stating that we are prepared to discuss all issues including Kashmir, no longer sounds convincing. For Pakistan, the formula of invoking UN resolutions might work domestically but is counterproductive from India’s perspective and only shows that Pakistan is not really interested in looking for ways to resolve the issue. The time may have come to tell Pakistan that there is no point in talking about Kashmir if it persists in its inflexible stand of UN resolutions, etc. The international community will understand and appreciate such an approach. Many in India are convinced that Pakistan is not keen on finding a solution since this is one issue on which the government and military there can easily mobilise public opinion and whip up anti-Indian propaganda. Also, the removal of the Kashmir issue from the Indo-Pak agenda would eliminate the rationale for the Pakistan army’s preeminent position. However, in view of the current critical situation in Pakistan, a mutually acceptable continued…