Peace in the Air-January 2006
India-Pakistan move towards conflict resolution
By Pravin Sawhney
Close on heels of the Indo-US agreement, the April 18 joint statement between India and Pakistan was the other landmark national security event in 2005. Signed during the two-day visit of President Pervez Musharraf to India, the joint statement was unique for two reasons. One, by stating ‘that the peace process was now irreversible,’ the Kashmir issue for the first time since the insurgency broke out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, was moved on the twin track of crisis management and crisis resolution, the first track that India was comfortable with, and the second one that Musharraf desired. To make sure what the peace process was all about, Musharraf met with prominent Indian media editors in New Delhi and urged them to debate the ‘soft border’ approach that had been accepted by both sides. The ‘soft border’ approach sought a political settlement of the Kashmir dispute between the two stated positions: India saying that borders cannot be re-drawn, and Pakistan refusing to accept the Line of Control (LoC) as the border. The approach was based on the concept of more people-to-people interaction between the Indian and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which both sides accepted. For India, this was yet another Confidence Building Measure (CBM) contributing to crisis management (analysts close to the government hailed this as Manmohan Singh’s out-of-the-box thinking).

For Pakistan, after years of frustrating stalemate, this was a breakthrough towards a permanent settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Therefore, during his India visit, Musharraf also met with prominent opposition leaders including A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani to make sure that they understood that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accepted the ‘soft border’ approach during his 24 September 2004 meeting with him in New York during the UN General Assembly session. The other unique thing about the joint statement was the endorsement that ‘the two leaders pledged that they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.’ This could be interpreted in two ways: from India’s perspective, by accepting the word ‘terrorism’ in the joint statement, Pakistan had implicitly accepted their role in cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. However, from Pakistan’s viewpoint, they had finally got India to accept the difference between terrorism that Islamabad opposed, and the ‘freedom struggle’ that Pakistan supports in Jammu and Kashmir.
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