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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pitfalls, But a Plan For Resolving Conflict Over J&K

Islamic terrorism, even if unofficial, after border resolution, will not subside until Land of Pure cleans up its act

Writing about the impact of the destruction that Gen. Musharraf brought upon himself on the so-called peace process between the countries, Praveen Swami outlines the contours of secret negotiations for peace settlement in J&K going on between former diplomats of the two countries, for few years now. Five core issues seem broad enough - from converting LOC to international border to joint management of natural resources within the state without diluting sovereignty and free access to people movement between J&K and PoK.

First, insiders involved in the dialogue told The Hindu, the two men agreed that there would be no redrawing of the Line of Control. However, they agreed that minor readjustments were needed to rationalise access to both Indian and Pakistani forward positions.

Secondly, Mr. Aziz and Mr. Lambah exchanged extensive notes on greater autonomy for both sides of Jammu and Kashmir. While they accepted that the process would encompass the entire region, they agreed that local conditions made it difficult to impose symmetrical arrangements on both sides of the LoC. Pakistan, for example, said it needed time to arrive at a consensus on the political future of the Northern Areas. India’s proposals, for their part, closely resembled PDP leader and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minster’s proposals for devolving power to regional and sub-regional elected bodies. However, they fell well short of the National Conference’s calls for the restoration of the pre-1953 status of Jammu and Kashmir, which would remove it from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission.

Thirdly, a half-way house was arrived at on Gen. Musharraf’s calls for the demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir — a position backed by the People’s Democratic Party. India committed itself to reducing troops as the activities of Pakistan-backed jihadist groups scaled down, a process that has been in place since 2005 when India replaced troops in urban areas with police. Despite the Aziz-Lambah dialogue having been placed on hold, forward movements on troop cuts continue. For example, elements of the Rajouri-based 27 Mountain Division are currently being moved to their base station in Kalimpong, along with their organic artillery assets.

Fourthly, Mr. Aziz and Mr. Lambah discussed Gen. Musharraf’s calls for “joint management” of the region at length. India insisted that the phrase suggested a dilution of sovereignty, which it would not countenance. In its place, Mr. Lambah pushed for the cooperative management of mutually-valuable resources such as watersheds, forests and glaciers.

Last, both sides agreed that, in practice, the border between the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir would be open, allowing for free movement of people and goods. [An explosion on the road to peace - The Hindu]

While joint management of natural resources is surely a plus for LoP because it can have control over the origin and (water) source of its major rivers, opening free access to people movement across the border cannot be remotely be possible without Islamic terrorists being completely wiped out from LoP and Afghanistan - not a tenable situation for LoP anytime soon, at least vis-a-vie Afghanistan, even if it shelfs its current policy of death-with-thousand-cuts on Bharat.

And what of the area ceded to China by LoP in Northeast corner of J&K? China will have vacate the land and move its forces back.

Another vital issue missing in the five-point contour is India's access to Afghanistan via currently Northern region in POK. India need clear access to northern Afghanistan, which is the safer region in the country controlled by Tajiks, and into energy rich regions of Central Asia. India should negotiate full-access into northern Afghanistan - a 50 to 100 kilometers corridor for roads and pipelines, if possible swapping land before international border is finalized and clearly demarcated. The long term energy security of the country may well depend on this corridor.