NEW YORK: India and Pakistan were secretly negotiating a deal on Kashmir prior to February 2007 and were surprisingly close to adopting a solution proposed by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, diplomats at the US embassy in New Delhi wrote in a confidential cable newly released by WikiLeaks.
According to the cable dated 21 April 2009, Singh told a delegation led by US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman that the two countries had achieved a breakthrough. The uncensored cable released by WikiLeaks quotes the Indian Prime Minister as saying: “We had reached an understanding in back-channels, in which Musharraf had agreed to a non-territorial solution to Kashmir that included freedom of movement and trade.”
It appears that Pakistan would have been willing to give up its claim to Kashmir if India had agreed to a self-government plan for the disputed Himalayan region. Both Pakistan and India have claimed the whole of Kashmir — split by the Line of Control into a Pakistani-controlled sector to the north and a larger Indian-run area in the centre and south — since the end of British rule in 1947.
Musharraf, in his 2006 memoir In the Line of Fire, first discussed a “four-point solution” to Kashmir. The plan envisaged no changes to the region’s borders, the de-militarisation of the region and curbing all militant parts of the freedom struggle, self-governance for Kashmiris and a joint supervision mechanism controlled by Pakistanis, Indians and Kashmiris to oversee the self-governance of subjects common to all the regions.
Former Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tried to seek a resolution on the question of Kashmir but the much-hyped Agra Summit in 2001 floundered disastrously. Singh was clearly closer than Vajpayee to achieving a breakthrough with Musharraf, but that window of opportunity is now shut. Pakistan is much less inclined now to make future concessions over Kashmir as it is building strategic depth in Afghanistan.
It is no secret that the US is waiting to cut-and-run from Afghanistan, so it is clearly Advantage Pakistan in a post-NATO Afghan scenario where Pakistan is perceived as the resurgent Taliban’s greatest ally. During Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s era, India poured billions of dollars to rebuild Afghanistan and gain influence, but with the Taliban coming back, India is likely to experience a reversal of fortunes. Pakistan’s military, diplomats and bureaucrats know India will be swiftly on the back foot in Afghanistan.
“That Musharraf’s Kashmir formula, which in effect gave the region dominion status under a joint Indo-Pakistani dispensation, and which the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh almost accepted, has been lying on the wayside for the previous four years indicates that Pakistan seeks more from any future deal,” South Asia expert Sunil Sharan wrote in The Huffington Post.
India is also quite comfortable with the status quo on Kashmir. The pressure to resolve the decades-old dispute over Kashmir has always come from the West fanned by Pakistani diplomacy. India, on the other hand, has always tried to explain to the US state department (and anyone who will care to listen) that Pakistan, and not Kashmir, is the real problem that needs to be fixed to prevent another 9/11 or Mumbai attacks.
Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation, and author of How to Run the World, which turns on its head much of the assumed reality of 21st Century power, says India needs to shift its approach to Kashmir in the way China has recently won over Taiwan — by buying its loyalty.
“The Manmohan Singh government came to power a half-decade ago promising over $5 billion in rehabilitation spending for Kashmir — at the time, it really seemed as though the situation would turn a corner in terms of stability and a sense of normalisation within India,” Khanna told Firstpost.
“But today the situation has again fallen into a fragile and dangerous state. Indian leaders still need to fulfill decades-old pledges to win over Kashmir the way China increasingly does with respect to Taiwan. This would be even more feasible if both India and Pakistan would declare the so-called Line of Control the official border before pursuing more goodwill missions across it. Opening official borders in the long term means more than unofficial ones in the short term,” added Khanna.