India and Pakistan have not been able to come up with a just solution to the Kashmir problem in 68 years. The only thing that has come out of it is the mutual mistrust that looms large over the relations between the two bitter neighbors.
But the period from 2004 to 2007 was undoubtedly one that saw a sea change not only in the thinking of the people at the helm, but also on the ground. In the words of former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, in 2007 the “solution to Kashmir was in the grasp of both governments”.
In his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’, which is yet to be released in India, Kasuri gives minute details of the ‘Kashmir framework’ that the two countries had arrived at. He even shares the details of the non-paper that brought an unprecedented change in the attitude of the two governments and their thought process on Kashmir.
The rather lengthy autobiography, spread over 851 pages, is a chronicle of the most important period in India-Pakistan ties. While Kasuri praises former president Pervez Musharraf’s out-of-the-box thinking and justifies his departure from Islamabad’s stated position on Kashmir, he also gives full credit to the statesmanship of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his close confidant Brajesh Mishra, who happened to be the National Security Advisor during those years.
Kasuri vehemently defends the “four-point formula” – a non-paper to which only five people were privy at that time. And he has done the best defense he could by sharing that in his book. “I have gone beyond the four points. People will be able to understand what we did on the backchannel framework on Kashmir,” he said in an interview. He also denies that Pakistan made a U-turn or that the four-point formula amounted to giving up its position on Kashmir. “That Pakistan was offering concession on all issues without any quid pro quo from India and that pro-Pakistan elements in Kashmir were being isolated – such perceptions were misplaced,” he said. “There was no U-turn on Kashmir. I had repeatedly spoken of the need for reciprocal flexibility by both India and Pakistan.”
Almost all prominent Kashmiri leaders were consulted from time to time during the preparation of the framework, Kasuri says. He narrates how in September 2004, the Government of India tried to discourage him from meeting Hurriyat leaders during his visit to Delhi, but he went ahead. “Significantly, a day prior to my meeting with Foreign Minister Singh, I received an informal message from the Indian government that I should not meet the Kashmiri leaders, particularly Syed Ali Geelani, as this could adversely impact our bilateral talks the following day. However, I remained convinced that there could be no acceptable resolution of the Kashmir dispute without taking the Kashmiri leadership on board. Accordingly, I decided to go ahead with my planned meeting.” The leader she met included Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah.
“There was no U-turn on Kashmir”
This is important, compared with the atmosphere before the planned meeting between the Indian and Pakistani national security advisers that was cancelled on August 23, only because New Delhi objected to Sartaj Aziz’s meeting with these leaders.
Recalling his meetings with Geelani in Delhi, Kasuri notes that he was generally inflexible in his approach to resolving the Kashmir dispute. “He described President Musharraf’s four-point agenda as vague, and criticized the president’s statement on UNSC resolutions’ relevance to Kashmir. To my surprise, he commented on Pakistan’s foreign policy generally and was critical of the Wana Operation – a purely internal matter of Pakistan,” he writes. “Fortunately, other Kashmiri leaders I met recognized the need for unity in the ranks of Kashmiris. They were more pragmatic and by and large unwilling to go along with Geelani’s rigid approach.”
Kasuri says Pakistan was clear in its thinking that no agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad could be sold to the people of Pakistan unless the vast majority of Kashmiris accepted it. This, he says, required trying to understand what the Kashmiris really desired. “For this purpose, I interacted with Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad, New Delhi and in other capitals, sometimes secretly.”
Demilitarization and a ‘joint mechanism’ were the most significant parts of the framework. Pakistan had laid stress on former. Under the ambit of a joint mechanism, both sides would evolve common policies for development and water issues. The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan were proposed to meet once a year to monitor the progress of the agreement, which would be subject to review at the end of 15 years. Finally, the conclusion on the backchannel was to sign the Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship after a resolution of the outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. Kasuri strongly believes that this was the solution to the unending acrimonious relations between the two countries in which Kashmir was the centre point. Unlike past negotiations, he says this was the best way to move forward, and backchannel diplomacy did help in reaching very close to a solution. “It is a solution, which they could sell to their respective constitutional authorities and their people.”
Salient points of the proposed Kashmir agreement
- Reducing violence: Controlling cross-LoC movement of militants, an end to the terror support structure, and dismantling terror infrastructure directed towards India
- Demilitarization: Both sides were to reduce their military footprints, initially by withdrawing troops from civilian areas
- Self-Governance: Strengthening Article 370 and identical measures of self-governance on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir
- Elections: Free and fair elections on both sides, open to the scrutiny of international observers and media
- Defining Units of Kashmir: To address Pakistan’s claim on Gilgit-Baltistan, its gateway to China, it was decided to allow countries to hold administrative control of one or two regions
- Joint Mechanism: Elected representatives nominated by governments would form a joint body to monitor cross-LoC trade, tour, travel etc
- Common policies towards development and water resources: A body, along with both governments, would evolve common policies towards water and development issues
- A monitoring and review process: Foreign ministers of the two countries would meet once a year to review progress. The agreement would come under review after 15 years
- Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship: The two countries would sign the treaty after outstanding issues are addressed. It would give them stakes in each other’s economic development
The author is a veteran journalist from Srinagar and the editor-in-chief of