A permanent Kashmir solution

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Of late, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has been making curious statements on Kashmir. He has twice spoken about the “permanent resolution” of Kashmir issue which won’t allow any compromise over the territorial integrity  of India. He has said that not only Kashmir belonged to India but “Kashmir and Kashmiriyat too”, an ostensible attempt to include the otherwise absent people into the political discourse over the state. The wording of the Singh’s statement reveals a careful plan in action.

“We have come up with a permanent solution to solve Kashmir. The initiative has begun. We are moving forward,”  Singh said while talking to  media on the sidelines of a party function.

Singh’s statements have caught the attention of Congress too. The party has asked  Singh to explain contours of the ‘permanent solution’ to the Kashmir problem. The  AICC spokesperson Manish Tewari has warned of the  “disastrous consequences of this ‘permanent solution”, a response that adds more suspense to the talk of a supposed settlement. Come as it does from the home minister of the country, this talk can hardly be overlooked as routine. Hence the inevitable question: what is this Kashmir solution that Singh has been talking about? The BJP’s longstanding agenda on Kashmir has been integrationist. It sees the complete merger of Kashmir into India as the only solution to the lingering problem. So the party’s absolute control over India is believed to have empowered the party to execute its longstanding ideological agenda in Kashmir, one of them the abrogation of Article 370. Is the party moving towards the realization of such an agenda in Kashmir? This is hard to tell. But Congress warning that such a permanent solution will have disastrous consequences points towards such a solution only.

Not long in the past,  the same BJP led government was working towards a bilateral solution with Pakisttan along Musharraf’s four point proposals. These proposals unveiled by the former Pakistan president in 2006 set out a four step incremental process for Kashmir resolution. The steps were: identification of the regions in Kashmir for solution, demilitarization, self governance and a joint management or a consultative mechanism between India and Pakistan on the state. Musharraf’s zeal to arrive at some kind of an understanding with New Delhi over the issue is singularly absent now. Through a strategy of smart quid pro quo over the state, Musharraf had created conditions for a settlement between the two countries which but for the president’s untimely exit from the scene had nearly come through.  

However, there is a lot that has happened since the time dialogue between the two countries was interrupted following Musharraf’s sudden exit and later on by the Mumbai attacks. The basic dynamics that were in operation then no longer obtain. There are several new factors at play in the regional geo-politics and the relations between the two countries.

Now, the new establishment in Islamabad has not only gone back on the Musharraf’s four point proposals but also become more belligerent and hardline. Significantly, Islamabad has returned to its traditional stand on the state which is to call for the implementation of United Nations resolutions on the state and seek a right to self determination for the people of the state.

The scenario for any solution is thus bleak.  And if New Delhi tries to force a unilateral settlement on Kashmir, it will only further problematize an already fiendishly vexed issue.  For an enduring Kashmir solution, New Delhi will have to sustainably talk to Pakistan and the stakeholders in Kashmir. Only an acceptable solution that arises from such an engagement will hold. 

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