Lost on the cusp of history

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khurshid mahmud kasuri
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri

By the time the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was ousted from office, Pakistan and India had made progress on the last of the contentious points of the four point settlement formula for Kashmir which had brought the two countries tantalisingly close to a solution to the 68-year-old conflict. The issue was about creating a joint consultative mechanism between the divided parts of the state.

The two countries had agreed that such a mechanism would consist of a specified number of elected members from each of the two units. There was also an agreement on “the principle of the presence of Pakistanis and Indians” in this mechanism. What was still under discussion was “the manner of the presence and association” of the two countries with the arrangement.

Seven years after Musharraf was removed from office, his then foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri has penned in elaborate detail the contours of his promising formula to solve Kashmir issue in his newly launched book Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove. The book also provides a detailed analysis of “the complex Pakistan-US-Afghanistan-India quadrangular relationship”.

It offers a glimpse of Kasuri’s own complex relationship with Musharraf and how the two coming from different backgrounds found a meeting ground in the pragmatic middle — after climbing down from their respective dovish and hawkish approaches on India relations.

For example, their views on Kargil were markedly different. Kasuri writes about Musharaff, “he was the man of Kargil and of the failed Agra Summit which led to even greater tension between the two countries”.

Kasuri, on the contrary, always believed his country’s relations with India “had impacted our national psyche and affected Pakistan’s foreign and security policies because of the distrust, suspicion and hostility between the two countries”. And he believed that this needed to change. Musharraf was soon to meet him half-way. “It is… all the more remarkable that he reached the same conclusion travelling a totally different road from the one that I had,” Kasuri writes.

And thus began a four year process of engagement with India from 2003-07 underpinned by a sustained backchannel contact, first between Tariq Aziz and Brijesh Mishra, then Aziz and JN Dixit — who had first broached the idea of an “out of the box solution to Kashmir” to Kasuri — followed by the one between Aziz and Satinder Lambah.

What happened in these years is a story that has been told and retold. The broad outlines of the contemplated solution — no border readjustment, demilitarisation, self-governance and joint mechanism — are now common knowledge. The book adds depth and detail to what is already known.

For example, Pakistan had agreed to withdraw troops from Pakistan occupied Kashmir(PoK) after India demanded a quid pro quo for doing the same on its side. And the two countries had agreed to conclude an “agreement within one year over a reduction of troops and the process of demilitarisation”.

Kasuri credits Pakistan rather than India’s counter-insurgency operations for the progressive decline in militancy in Kashmir in the last decade. Pakistan had agreed to “utilise all the influence and exert all the moral pressure it could apply on those who were engaged in crossing the Line of Control”. And it was in this background that Kasuri had heard in “hushed tones at the Presidency and in some other high-level meetings” that Pakistan had set up centres to wean away militants through a process of DDR — De-radicalisation, Disengagement and Rehabilitation. And this, according to Kasuri, has made a marked difference to the ground situation in Kashmir.

“For example, from 4,507 in 2001, according to these (Indian) sources, the number of fatalities (in Kashmir) had come down to 777 in 2007. This was the year when our government left the office,” Kasuri writes in the book. “According to the same sources the fatalities by 2014 had been reduced to 68.” He also cites the statement by the then General Officer Commanding of 16 Corps, K Saproo, saying that infiltration across the loc had been brought down to “almost zero”.

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