Kashmir: the view from Kathmandu

IN Media Practice | 01/09/2002
Kashmir: the view from Kathmandu

Kashmir: the view from Kathmandu

From Himal, June 2001


A dramatic turn of events in Subcontinental geopolitics has had Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee extending an invitation to Pakistan’s Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf to visit New Delhi, and the general has accepted it. It was overdue for the two nuclear powers of the most unstable place on earth to meet in summit, and now it is happening. It was understandable that Vajpayee felt cheated after ‘Lahore’, for it was Musharraf himself who had masterminded the Kargil mini-war that followed the peace bus ride. But when you are at cliff-edge, responsible leaders know to let bygones be bygones, which must be part of the reason why Delhi decided to extend its invitation. Despite his Kargil history, Musharraf is probably the best person in Pakistan to talk peace. As a military man, even though he is not totally free from political pressure, he has more leeway to take initiatives as well as risks than his political party predecessors, Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif, both currently in ingnominous exile. India may be a democracy but for this very reason its leaders have less margin to function, given the concretised mindset about Pakistan and Kashmir, especially among the middle classes all worked up in the nationalist hype which followed both Pokharan II and Kargil. But the fact is that the populace on both sides of Wagah/Atari is ripe and ready for some movement, and we predict that a little bit of risk-taking by the prime minister and the chief executive would actually deliver unexpected dividends.

So, what should be the roadmap for the two, the politician and the general, should they decide to take the leap together into the South Asian future that beckons? One was provided five years ago in the pages of Himal by the scholar and activist, and true ‘South Asian’, Eqbal Ahmed. We reproduce sections from his article, "A Kashmiri solution for Kashmir"(November/December 1996). Eqbal Ahmed died on 10 May 1999 in Islamabad.

If Mr. Vajpayee and Gen Musharraf are able to put the Kashmir problem behind them and their respective people, they will have opened up possibilities for an incredible social and economic advance in which 1.4 billion individuals can participate. People have got the Nobel Peace Prize for less. —Editors.



- Eqbal Ahmed

THERE IS a conflict in South Asia, which has outlasted most post-World War II disputes. This long-festering dispute is the one in Kashmir, and it is the primary cause of hostility between India and Pakistan and a source for endless misery for the people of Kashmir.

As far as the Kashmiri is concerned, the Delhi and Islamabad governments share one key characteristic: both perceive Kashmir’s realities and interests as subser vient to their own. This affinity between the Pakistani and Indian positions is ironic in view of the fundamental contrast between the two in relation to Kashmir. India is, in the language of political science, a "status quo power". That is, it actually holds the area it covets, and its policies are intended to preserve the

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