It would seem that our ?friendly? neighbour, General Musharraf is at the end of his tether. That is perfectly understandable. Since 1947-48 Pakistan has done everything possible to wrest Jammu & Kashmir from India and it has failed miserably. It tried deceit, falsehood, indeed every trick of the trade, but to no effect. It won support from its Western godfathers, especially the United States and United Kingdom, managed to get the Security Council pass resolutions in its favour and did the bidding of its masters in Washington unquestioningly without any success. It waged three wars against India and lost all three. It started a low intensity conflict against India in Jammu & Kashmir, employed Jehadis to spread terrorism, encouraged a progrom to drive Kashmiri Pandits from their ancestral home, but India has refused to budge.
Musharraf and his future successors may continue to spread murder and mayhem in Jammu & Kashmir for the next five thousand years but the situation will not change. As Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Centre, a distinguished non-profit American think-tank recently told The Statesman, ?Even after 10-20 years we would be looking at maps that wouldn'tbe different from what they are now.? After nearly five decades-and-a-half of utter failure, Musharraf has come with a new idea. According to him, Jammu & Kashmir can be divided into seven different regions on both sides of the Line of Control. He wants these ?regions? to be identified on the basis of religion, geography and ethnicity. He would then like these ?regions? to be demilitarised for good and a new status in the form of either independence, condominium, joint control or an UN-mandated territory be conferred on them. It is another way of bringing partition along religious lines through the back door. India will never accept the concept.
It tried deceit, falsehood, indeed every trick of the trade, but to no effect. It won support from its Western godfathers, especially the United States and United Kingdom, managed to get the Security Council pass resolutions in its favour.
An agitation-weary Congress may have willy-nilly accepted the two-nation theory in 1946-47 however unwillingly. But no party in India, let alone the Congress, will now accept that damned theory, come what may. The two-nation theory established on religious lines must be buried a hundred fathoms deep. In advocating his new gimmick, Musharraf accepted the fact that a plebiscite has no longer any validity. He has also accepted the fact that Pakistan cannot take Kashmir by force. He should also know by now that India cannot be brow-beaten whether by Washington, London, Paris or Beijing, or by all four. 2004 is not 1948. As Michael Krepon unceremoniously put it, ?Pakistan'sKashmir policy is a failure.? Decades of diplomacy, conventional and non-conventional warfare, United Nations pressure have all failed. As Krepon put it simply, ?Nothing has really worked?.
If Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were still alive and in power, he might have accepted the Line of Control as the international boundary and sought to take his country forward to peace and prosperity, thus opening a new chapter in Indo-Pak relations. Unfortunately, like the Bourbons, Musharraf has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. He is determined, if he can, to destroy India. What he obviously does not realise is that in the process he is destroying his own country. He is welcome to move towards that goal. The sooner Pakistan is broken up, the better it is for Pakistanis themselves. Pakistan is not just a ?failed State?. It is no State at all. It is a delusion. But one has to live with even a delusion. Several suggestions have been put forward in the past, to work out an honourable solution that will not hurt India, but will enable Pakistan to save its face. It has been suggested, for example, that one must start with opening the boundaries for free movement of goods and people, that emphasis should be on trade and commerce and cultural exchange and that the alleged dispute should be put on the back-burner. The presumption is that with increasing contacts between Indians and Pakistanis, hatred will cease and the so-called Kashmir ?dispute? will become irrelevant. It may be wishful thinking but there is at least some evidence of people in both countries wishing to bury the past and move forward unitedly into the future. It can happen and it has to be facilitated.
It has been suggested that the people of Jammu & Kashmir should also be involved in all future discussions. Fair enough. But the Hurriyat surely does not represent the Buddhists or the Kashmiri Pandits?
A heavy responsibility lies on the media of both countries. Pakistan'sForeign Minister Kasauri has been quoted as saying that his government has no territorial ambitions. That is a small, but good beginning. It has been suggested that the people of Jammu & Kashmir should also be involved in all future discussions. Fair enough. But the Hurriyat surely does not represent the Buddhists or the Kashmiri Pandits? In any negotiations, shouldn'tthey also be represented? Flexibility, then, should be shown by everyone. But what Musharraf would call the ?core issue? mistakenly is not Jammu & Kashmir, but the anti-Hindu sentiments so strongly prevailing among a section of the policy-making elite of Pakistan. If Pakistan wants peace, it must get over that sentiment.
Pakistan must also realise that under no circumstances will India talk in terms of demographic distribution of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. That era is long over. Pakistan may also do well to remember that presently there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan and they are doing as well as can be expected. That the vale of Kashmir has a Muslim majority is totally irrelevant. It is against this background that one may suggest?and this is not something new?a confederation of India and Pakistan that would include an autonomous but not independent Jammu & Kashmir. A confederation is the greatest thing that can happen to South Asia. It will bring the peoples of South Asia together even while respecting the sovereignty of each composite part. An Indo-Pak confederation that could, in time, also bring in Bangladesh under its umbrella, will automatically make it the most powerful political unit in Asia, if not in the world. No one?not even China?would dare to challenge it. It would enable the people of both countries to flourish and become prosperous within a couple of decades.
India and Pakistan have the intellectual and physical resources; all that the two nations must have is the willingness to forget the past and build a greater tomorrow. India has no territorial ambitions. West Germany had none when it was united with its eastern counterpart. But is Musharraf great enough?and intelligent enough?to correctly assess the vast possibilities inherent in the formation of a confederation? That, if one might say so, is the real ?core issue?. But if Musharraf insists on supporting the Jehadis in their terrorism, some day he will have to pay the price. If that is what he has in mind, he may get what he wants to the detriment of both Pakistan and India. India will survive a nuclear holocaust. Pakistan will not. But the choice is entirely Musharraf?s. There is a limit to India'spatience. It is wisdom not to push India to the wall.