In recent past, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has pro-actively pursued peace with India. Not only has he unilaterally taken the unprecedented step of opening the corridor for the Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib, he has also eagerly sought talks with New Delhi to resolve the outstanding issues, including Kashmir. In fact, on Kashmir, he has sounded more amenable to a pragmatic solution and even hinted at some existing settlement options to arrive at a solution.
In an interview to a group of television journalists in Islamabad, Khan looked forward to start dialogue with India to discuss various solutions to Kashmir. Significantly, he claimed he was informed by late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former foreign minister Natwar Singh during a conference that Kashmir would have been resolved if the BJP had not lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. This has been a widely held perception even without Khan saying it. At the time, the settlement option for Kashmir that was under discussion was the former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s four point proposals. The formula set out a four step incremental process for Kashmir resolution. The steps were: identification of the regions in Kashmir for the settlement, demilitarization, self-governance and a joint management or a consultative mechanism between India and Pakistan on the state. The proposals envisaged a Kashmir solution without any territorial re-adjustment of the state and as such were a drastic climbdown from Islamabad’s traditional stand on the state.
A promising negotiation over the proposals continued for several years. At one point of time as the Kashmir solution seemed within reach, the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had famously talked of a time when people in Indians would be able to have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. However in 2007, when the two countries were supposedly ready to seal the deal, Musharrafs position weakened following lawyers agitation which eventually led to his exit.
The process even now serves as a reminder that if both nations pursue the talks with sincerity and a sense of purpose, there is every hope that the issues as intractable as Kashmir could be resolved to the satisfaction of all its parties. The governments in New Delhi and Islamabad need to build upon the legacy of dialogue and reconciliation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Musharraf to create a framework for Kashmir solution. We need such a process again but this time to be taken to its logical conclusion. Khan seems willing to tread the path but New Delhi seems disinclined to respond. This could be due to the ongoing state elections and the upcoming general elections. Here’s hoping that after the elections, the new government in Delhi does take up Khan’s peace offer and work for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of their issues, including that of Kashmir.
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