Generally Talkative

Indian Express, December 16, 2006

PAKISTAN government spokespersons have made it clear that General Pervez Musharraf was not making a unilateral offer when he told NDTV that Pakistan would give up its claim on Kashmir if India, too, agreed to self-governance in the region.

An interview to an Indian TV channel would have been the wrong venue for announcing the most significant shift in Pakistani foreign policy in 58 years. Moreover, Pakistan does not have “a claim” on Jammu & Kashmir that can be unilaterally given up by a Pakistani ruler.

Since 2001, Musharraf has “misspoken” far too many times. He has given divergent and confusing statements about where Osama bin Laden might be after becoming the toast of the international circuit as the man who might deliver Osama bin Laden to the US after September 11, 2001. A book can be compiled on Musharraf’s contradictory statements on domestic issues.

On more than one occasion, Musharraf has described Kashmir as the most important issue for Pakistan. Considering he attaches greater importance to Kashmir than to democracy or human development, one expects Musharraf to at least know Pakistan’s position on Kashmir well.

By saying what he said to NDTV, Musharraf seems to be suggesting that the Kashmir dispute is now a matter to be resolved between India and Pakistan, and for his part Musharraf is willing to “give up” the Pakistani “claim”. The international community has no role in resolving the Kashmir issue, if it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan, and as far as the Kashmiri people are concerned, they can negotiate with India. That is what India has argued for years.

That runs contrary to Pakistan’s official position on Kashmir that it is the unfinished business of Partition. Pakistan’s entire stand has been based on the argument that the Kashmiri people have not yet exercised their right of self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions. Pakistan has consistently questioned the accession of J&K to India as unlawful.

If the issue is the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination, Pakistan has no claim to give up. If, on the other hand, the UN resolutions are no longer relevant, then India can negotiate self-determination with the Kashmiri people in territories under its control and Pakistan ought to do the same. There is no locus standi left for Pakistan in the matter in relation to Indian-controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The latest Musharraf comments, which outright reject Kashmiri independence, are close to accepting the de facto division of Kashmir but fall short of accepting the Line of Control as the border between Pakistan and India.

The problem is, Musharraf lacks the authority to solve the Kashmir question but insists on continuously talking about Kashmir, as if to justify his status as army chief and absolute ruler.