For his failure to identify with the popular sentiment – the sentiment of the overwhelming majority, like many others in the “power politics” of Jammu and Kashmir, there is more than one reason to distrust Farooq Abdullah’s words. Nevertheless, wisdom lies in giving credit to what is good in any action of a disagreeable or disliked person. Known for making outlandish and weird statements, senior scion of the Abdullah family on Friday seemed for the first time on the right track in giving New Delhi a healthier advice that it should approach third parties, such as US and China, to mediate in Kashmir. He was logical in questioning and telling India:
“For how long are you going to wait? Sometimes, you have to pull the bull by its horns. The way is to have a dialogue. India has so many friends all over the world they can ask them to act as a mediator. US President Trump himself said that he wants to settle Kashmir problem. China also stated that it intends to mediate in Kashmir. Somebody has to be approached. If India is ready to talk to China and does not want to get into a war, then they can talk to Pakistan also.”
On the expected lines, in condemning Abdullah’s suggestion of third party mediation to resolve the Kashmir issue the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Shiv Sena were on the same page. In line with tone and tenor of the statement once made by Congress President Devakanta Barua, “India is Indra, Indira Gandhi” grandson of Mrs. Gandhi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi criticizing statement of Abdullah said, “Kashmir is India and India is Kashmir, and this is our internal matter.” The BJP asked octogenarian National Conference leader “stop advancing Pakistan’s fake nuclear blackmail.”
In suggesting third party mediation for the resolution of the Kashmir Dispute that continues to be on the United Nations agenda did Dr. Abdullah as a pro-India politician commit a political blasphemy? Or did he betray the international agreements for the resolution of the dispute to which India and Pakistan are signatories? Or did he violate the spirit of the bilateral agreements more particularly the Shimla Agreement? Or has the Shimla Agreement in a way changed the status of the Kashmir Dispute in the eyes of the Comity question? Before coming to these questions, there is need to understand how the international community looks at the Kashmir problem from an altogether different standpoint than New Delhi’s present stand- that it is a bilateral issue.
That Kashmir is going to be the theatre of new cold war in South Asia and Kashmir Dispute is a nuclear flashpoint in the region is considered view with many international think tanks. Six years back, the Royal United Services Institute for Defence & Security Studies (RUSI) – a prestigious British think tank organized an international conference on the Kashmir Dispute to analyze and understand the global context of the Kashmir Dispute and concerns it causes for the South Asian regional Security. The Conference titled Asian Powers in Kashmir examining the role of China and Sino-Indian rivalry in the Kashmir dispute had seen Beijing emerging as a major factor. Except for New Delhi, almost every major power including the United States and the United Nations understands the emerging scenario in South Asia and centrality of Kashmir to peace in the region. Realizing that New Delhi and Islamabad have failed to resolve the dispute and determine future of the state many international leaders have time and again offered to arbitrate or mediate. In the wake of 2016- Intifada, compared to the previous years the offers for mediation from various countries have multiplied. In the first week of May 2017 ahead of his first-ever visit to India, Turkish president Erdogan made an offer to India to mediate talks between India and Pakistan over the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier to his visit in April Iran offered to negotiate on Kashmir issue between the two countries. In April only Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, had articulated eagerness of Trump administration for mediation between the two nations to de-escalate tension ‘before something happens.’ President Trump later on also reiterated it. For past six months, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ has been meeting India and Pakistan Prime Ministers. These meetings are not for the heck of it but for ‘bringing about dialogue between the South Asian neighbors to resolve the Kashmir issue.’ That Guterres’ is following Kashmir and carefully watching the situation in the region has been more than once reiterated.
Despite, India persistently in denial mode on Kashmir, these developments during past six-months sufficiently indicate that the comity of nations does not agree with New Delhi’s position on Kashmir- that it was a bilateral dispute with no scope for third party mediation. This stand is in contravention to hard historical reality. History is replete with instances when Islamabad more interestingly New Delhi has welcomed as well as allowed third party mediation. From 1948, America is as good part of Kashmir narrative as India and Pakistan, so holds true about China for the dispute over Aksai Chin more particularly after the Sino-Pak Boundary Agreement. It has often India-Pakistan has had bilateral talks at the behest of Washington. It was Russia that negotiated the Tashkent Agreement, latest in the long queue, Bill Clinton brought about the Kargil Ceasefire.
In this column, I have more than once analyzed historicity and every clause of the Shimla Agreement. It is a bilateral agreement in which two countries have agreed to address an internationally recognized dispute through dialogue. For endorsement, it was never brought to the Security Council, so it has not altered the status the status of Kashmir Dispute even to a semi-colon. Equally, for 45 years this agreement has not enabled the two countries to move a step forward towards resolution of Kashmir- practically it has become a trash paper.
Harping on this agreement is shutting eyes to the realities- that is no answer. It is high time for New Delhi, to heed the saner suggestion of Farooq Abdullah, one who is more committed to New Delhi than to Kashmiris and involve a third country for negotiating a resolution of the dispute.
Published in Greater Kashmir, July 23, 2017