J & K: Retreating from brinkmanship?
by Sandhya Jain on 27 Nov 2009 31 Comments

Omar smells the coffee

On Tuesday, 24 November 2009, Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah indicated a sudden retreat from the brinkmanship of ‘dialogue’ aimed at giving unstated concessions to separatists and secessionists, by asserting that the security situation in the State is “not yet conducive for moving the Army out.” Demilitarization, Abdullah added, “will take time.”


With this, the PMO-prompted talks, conducted in the form of secret parleys between Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and some Kashmiri separatists in Delhi recently, and Track II diplomats in Singapore, have come to a standstill. For the present, at least.


Given the secrecy with which New Delhi operates, it is impossible to say where the collaborators in reopening the State’s Accession to India fell out amongst themselves. All that is known is that the Prime Minister, State chief minister, Congress MPs Rahul Gandhi and Sachin Pilot (brother in law of the CM and a Gujjar) favoured some kind of talks centered round the Self-Rule document of the People’s Democratic Party, which was in the loop. 


Perhaps wisdom dawned on the young chief minister that by holding talks with separatists and secessionists on the basis of equality, he was effectively undermining the legitimacy of his recent electoral victory and his own government. Perhaps US President Obama’s startling offer to the mandarins of China to divide policing of the world between them gave South Block a reality bite. Perhaps the fast-imploding Pakistan with no one in charge made it impossible to give West-driven concessions to a vacuum.


Be that as it may be, Mr. Omar Abdullah, at the dedication of war memorial Balidan Sthambh to the nation in Jammu, by Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, seamlessly changed track: “although the Army's primary task was to take care of the border and the Line of Control (LoC), it has been in Jammu & Kashmir for the past 21 years on account of the internal situation of the State arising out of the prevailing militancy in the State.”


The Army, he added, has in this period helped in maintaining security and law and order, but also stood by the people in every major crisis arising out of natural calamities, disasters or other eventuality. Only when the situation in the State improves will internal security be entrusted to the paramilitary forces and State police.


PM wakes up


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who reached America in the shadow of President Obama’s obeisance in Mandarin China, executed a smart U-turn, telling the CNN anchor person that he does not know who to deal with in Pakistan!


Given the chaotic power struggle there, that is understandable. But only last July Manmohan Singh issued a joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani which acceded to the Pakistani demand to include turbulent Balochistan in bilateral discussions between the two nations.


Hence, after giving everyone the impression that some major concessions to Pakistan were afoot, the Prime Minister suddenly upset the secessionists and separatists with his declaration in Washington that Kashmir’s borders cannot be redrawn. We went on to waffle about free trade, people-to-people contacts, and enabling people on both sides of the border to lead lives of dignity and self respect.


Islamabad was not amused. It demanded that the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir be settled in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and the aspirations of the people. Welcome to Square One.


Chidambaram & Mirwaiz  


The Home Minister, meanwhile, around 14 November 2009, met separatist leaders including Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhatt and Bilal Lone in Delhi. Both Hurriyat and Mirwaiz have a public posture not to talk to the Government of India, and news about the talks triggered serious disputes within the APHC, which may split.


Chidambaram had met the Mirwaiz in September as well, after which the latter was permitted to attend the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference in October. The fruit of this generosity was that Mirwaiz got the 57-member body to appoint Saudi national Abdullah Bin Adbul Rahman Al Bakr as Special Envoy on Jammu & Kashmir.


This was widely perceived as a success of Pakistani efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue. New Delhi, taken aback by the development, said it would not give the OIC envoy access to the region. Mirwaiz also pressured his OIC hosts to grant Kashmir a permanent member seat on that body.


In concert, the Kashmir Muslim diaspora in the United States began a chorus demanding that UN appoint an envoy to Kashmir. 

The same month, Government of India allowed Mirwaiz to visit the United States, where he announced (on behalf of whom?) that Washington would soon appoint a special envoy for Kashmir.


He claimed to have met officials of the US National Security Council, State Department and the United Nations. Mirwaiz revealed that though the Indian Prime Minister had dismissed the separatists as irrelevant a month ago, international pressure had forced him to change his stance. So now we know why we are talking to the dregs of society.


Pakistan aborted the envoy proposal promptly. Marvi Memon of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) proposed a resolution supported by her party; the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its allies the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur (JUI-F), and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The resolution asked President Obama to send a US envoy on Kashmir or include Kashmir's resolution in the mandate of the US envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.


But with stiff opposition from Islamabad, Washington ruled out in July itself the possibility of an envoy on Kashmir.


China card


That leaves Beijing, the US-anointed gendarme in Asia. Faced with a seething New Delhi, it refused last Tuesday to be drawn into the controversy ignited by Mirwaiz, who said China has a stake in the region.


This led PDP leader Muzaffar Husain Baig to counter that far from being introduced as a stakeholder in Kashmir, China should be asked to return the territory under its control (about 38,000 square kms of Aksai Chin, north-eastern corner of Jammu & Kashmir). Beijing began to play the Kashmir card recently to pressure India over Arunachal Pradesh, where it claims the 90,000-square-km Indian state.


Beijing has invited Mirwaiz Farooq to China via an invitation by a Muslim NGO. Given Mirwaiz’s keenness to go, New Delhi has said the visa must be stamped on his passport as per normal procedure, and not presented as a separate stapled paper.


Persisting Dangers: dubious appointments


Within Jammu however, Hindus, exiled Valley Pandits, and the diverse non-militant Sunnis, view events of the past year with dismay. There is growing unease at the manner in which certain persons are being positioned in the State, with a suspected mandate to execute something untoward at a moment’s notice. Appointments viewed with suspicion include:


-          J&K Governor N N Vohra, who survived the Amarnath agitation last summer, despite a public call for his removal by agitators. Vohra’s survival became an issue of cleavage between RSS-BJP and Hindus at large. In a recent visit to the province, the writer was told there is continued heartburning over the fact that the BJP did not prevent the removal of Governor Jagmohan when the forced exodus of Hindus began in 1989, and did not insist on the removal of N N Vohra at the height of the Amarnath agitation last year. Attempts are underway to paper over the divide.


-          Wajahat Habibullah, who quit as Chief Information Commissioner on 20 October 2009, to take over RTI watchdog in J&K. The appointment is considered controversial as Habibullah is seen as a votary of the Gen. Musharraf formula which divides the Indian State into five regional councils on the basis of demography. The PMO reportedly wished to give him charge of Kashmir Affairs in place of A S Dullat who retired, but the proposal was dropped following stiff resistance from the Hindu leadership. Keen to keep him involved in State affairs, he was allowed to quit as CIC and return to J&K as Right to Information watchdog.


Habibullah’s previous postings include a stint as Senior Fellow, US Institute of Peace, Washington DC (2003-04), where he worked on “Kashmir: the Problem & its Resolution.” Other postings include Minister, Community Affairs, Indian Embassy, Washington DC (1994-99); two terms as Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir; Secretary, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (1991-93), among others.


-          Dr. Haseeb Drabu, a PDP admirer and ideologue, who was appointed as Chairman, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, just three days after he appeared on a popular television show and declared he is “neither for autonomy nor for Pakistan, but for an Independent Jammu and Kashmir,” by the PDP-Congress coalition government. He was recently granted another three years extension by the NC-Congress regime, perhaps to help fulfill the unfinished agenda of the State's secession.

Amitabh Mattoo: Author of Self Rule Document?


What is agitating Jammu today however, is the proposed appointment of Dr. Amitabh Mattoo as Vice Chancellor of the new Central University in Jammu. Dr. Mattoo is not trusted in the province because as a former Vice Chancellor of Jammu University he courted unpopularity for various partisan actions. Most pertinently, he is a votary of Greater Autonomy, which he has espoused through numerous articles in the media.


Despite free and fair Assembly elections last year, Mattoo wrote: “…New Delhi must not view the elections as signalling a return to ‘business as usual’ in the politics of the State. The triumph of democracy should not be a moment of triumphalism. By acting in a statesman like fashion now, New Delhi and Jammu/Srinagar will demonstrate a willingness to reward participation in the democratic process and will not be seen as capitulating to extra-constitutional pressure… The Centre must consider re-vamping the Fifth Working Group on Centre-State relations which failed to arrive at a consensus. A new expert group can consult with all stake holders to forge common ground on issues such as autonomy, self-rule, regional balances and sub regional aspirations.” [Greater Jammu 13 October 2009]


As Vice Chancellor, Jammu University, Mattoo endeared himself to PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (whom Hindus regard as the ‘Butcher of Anantnag’). According to reliable sources, the Self Rule Document which talks of ‘supra state’ measures, demilitarization, repeal of anti-terror laws, dual currency, economic independence and shared sovereignty, was the brain child of Mattoo and Jammu & Kashmir Bank chairman Haseeb Drabu.


As VC, Mattoo was known more for dabbling in politics than involvement in academic pursuits. There was deep unrest when more than 200 M. Ed. seats in Jammu University were given to Muslim students from the Valley under his watch. This led to major unrest and protests in Jammu, after which he ‘adjusted’ some Dogra students of Doda, Poonch and Rajouri, which puts a question mark on his admission policy and process, to say the least. He promoted and appointed cronies to important positions, and the decision to promote a non-academic staffer as Pro-Vice Chancellor invited the ire of the teaching community and had to be rescinded by the Chancellor!

As one of the three negotiators appointment by the State Government in the Amarnath agitation, Mattoo is perceived as having played a very negative role. His return to Jammu will agitate the aggrieved Hindu community.


Most disturbingly, Mattoo is not averse to international participation on the Kashmir issue, and has not only participated in interfaces with the United States, but is on the Governing Council of the PUGWASH Conference on ‘Science and World Affairs,’ an international NGO (read Western funds), which post he will hold till 2012.


The PUGWASH Conference held a conference on J&K in March 2006 – in Islamabad! If it is truly the Government of India’s position that outside interference in the internal affairs of India is unwelcome, surely a man determined to internationalise the Kashmir issue cannot be appointed as Vice Chancellor of a Central University. In articles in leading newspapers, Dr. Mattoo even promoted the Joe Biden formula for settling the dispute between India and Pakistan! He said the Parliament Resolution reclaiming all Kashmir must be abandoned with immediate effect!


The Islamabad PUGWASH Conference, “Prospects of Self-Governance in Jammu & Kashmir and Present Status of Cooperation and Communications Across the LoC,”  invited political leaders from both India and Pakistan along with prominent think tanks (international busy bodies?) to discuss the self-governance idea of President Pervez Musharraf! The delegates included National Conference leader Omar Abdullah; Mehbooba Mufti stayed away.


Most PUGWASH meetings have a selective agenda of what is to be conceded to Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists. Mattoo uses this platform to subvert and neutralize the nationalist resistance to the separatist agenda even in Jammu.


Given the high stakes for the nation, it would be pertinent to glance at the highlights of recent articles by the man reputed to have crafted the PDP’s Self Rule Document. This document was promoted at a recent Seminar, Multi party dialogue on future of J&K organised by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, on 7 November 2009

[See articles by Nancy Kaul, Hari Om, Radha Rajan at www.vijayvaani.com


In an article titled, Four D's For A New Kashmir (Times of India 27 October 2009), Dr. Mattoo declared, inter alia:


-          Kashmir is the ground zero of the India-Pakistan relationship. A signal from Singh on India's willingness to engage its troubled neighbour - in spite of its recalcitrance would generate tremendous enthusiasm within Kashmir.


-          … there are in reality only four principal challenges that need to be addressed. First is the issue of the three dialogues that are vital to rebuild the culture of mutual respect, tolerance, accommodation and faith in peaceful conflict resolution… only the myopic will suggest that popular alienation has ended or separatist sentiment is dead. The challenge is to ensure a larger dialogue with separatists and even former militant groups which need not delegitimise the elections or undermine elected representatives.


-          Dialogue must be unconditional and continuous and should address both political and humanitarian issues that could build confidence and trust (including the issue, for example, of the release of political detainees and ensuring a stricter enforcement of human rights).


-          There has been growing regional and communal polarisation, which needs to be urgently addressed. The dialogue within should be complemented by restarting the New Delhi-Islamabad backchannel on Kashmir, to ensure that Pakistan has no incentive to subvert the internal track. This should, of course, take off from precisely where previously designated special envoys had paused in their discussions.


-          The second challenge is to arrive at a consensus on devolution and decentralisation of power. An important working group of the prime minister on J&K dealt with Centre-state relations, but it was unable to arrive at a breakthrough. This does not mean that we have arrived at a cul-de-sac. There are many proposals on the table, including those on autonomy, self-rule, self-governance and achievable nationhood.


-          These internal discussions must flow into the backchannel, which can then attempt to work out a non-territorial India-Pakistan settlement on J&K based on providing a similar political architecture on both sides of the Line of Control while working towards converting the LoC into a line of peace that allows free movement of people, goods, services and ideas. Cooperation in areas of mutual interest like water, transport, agriculture and education will require the creation gradually of trans-LoC mechanisms and institutions. Implementation of such an understanding should create conditions for a win-win solution without needing to address hard issues of political sovereignty.


-          An issue that is both controversial and essential to building peace is demilitarisation. Militarisation must not be confused merely with withdrawal of troops. It is a culture that legitimises use of violence and force, rewards machismo and physical aggressiveness, patronises intolerance and repression and is contemptuous of marginal groups.


-          All stakeholders, state and non-state, have an obligation to recreate a demilitarised culture of peace... A truth commission would be an ideal starting point. Symbolically, the withdrawal of troops from the main cities will send an immediate signal of the government of India's sincerity of purpose. But much will also depend on Pakistan's actions in ending sponsorship of violence as well as the ability of Kashmiris themselves to resist attempts that legitimise violence and force them to abandon once again their distinctly non-violent historic identity.


In another document, Ten Commandments: Towards a peace process, Dr. Mattoo made some equally startling proposals:


-          Autonomy must not be viewed as a dirty word, and an ‘autonomous’ Kashmir could become a model of cooperative federalism. Autonomy is… synonymous with decentralization and devolution of power, phrases that have been on the charter of virtually every political party in India.


-          Autonomy can be achieved in the state through a simple six-point plan. First, restore the nomenclature. The terms Sadar-i-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam, which were used until 1965 for the governor and the chief minister of the state, still have important symbolic value for people of the state.


-          … give the state a role in the selection of the governor. … The governor could be elected by the state legislature and be appointed by the President and, by virtue of Article 156(1), hold office at the pleasure of the President. Or alternatively, the state government could submit a panel of names for the President to appoint as governor the person he finds most suitable from the panel. The appointee would hold office at the President’s pleasure.


-          … appoint a regional election commissioner for the state.


-          … special constitutional guarantees are introduced to ensure that the state’s autonomy is not eroded. It may be necessary, for instance, to introduce a provision in the Constitution, which would provide for a referendum in the state before any major amendment that would affect its ties with the union becomes a law.


-          A dialogue between the centre and the Kashmiris should be as inclusive as possible, and no group or individual must be considered untouchable. No conditions must be attached at the beginning of a dialogue... even militants who are willing to give up arms and eschew violence should be given a place at the negotiating table, as must representatives from minorities and different regions of the state.



With intellectuals who argue against the very sovereignty of India, and are willing to compromise its territorial integrity, we don’t need enemies!


The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com 

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