Peace Gets a Second Chance

Peace Gets a Second Chance
December 2000

Few events has evoked so much surprise and skepticism, dialogues and discussions across a wide spectrum of opinion leaders, policy analysts, strategic commentators as well as the objects of the action themselves than the unilateral announcement of cease-fire declared by the Indian Prime Minister for giving peace a second chance in the Kashmir Valley. The initiative speaks volumes about the dogged persistence with which New Delhi wanted to find a solution to the age old separatist imbroglio the history of which is laid in a trail of blood and which now threatens to bring South Asia to the threshold of nuclear brinkmanship. For once, there was an absence of any pretence in the initiative, it came as a genuine expression of interest. The timing, moreover was perfect- the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, a period dedicated to abstinence, high moral resolutions and penance. It was also a vindication of New Delhi’s resolve to find a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue which underscores “India’s credential for peace.” i

The reactions from militant organisations were on the expected lines nonetheless. The cease-fire offer besides brought differences amongst various groups to fore. The organisations like Al Badr, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Harkat-ul Mujahideen operating mainly from within Pakistan rejected the cease-fire offer with some militant groups even promising a violent Ramzan for the valley. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba denounced the cease-fire as a “drama” and “part of the fraud of Indian politics…. Jihad is a sacred mission and we will continue it in Ramzan” ii However groups with a support base in Kashmir such as the JKLF, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, even a section of the Hizbul Mujhahideen on both sides of the Line of Control have chosen to keep the door open for peace although there has been expressions of reservations about the sincerity of New Delhi in engaging Pakistan and Kashmir groups in the dialogue. The local media quoted a prominent Hurriyat leader as saying “We have in principle decided to accept the offer because it would be a positive step” and “we would be in a better position to judge their (India’s) sincerity of purpose.” iii

In a significant shift in policy, Pakistan Foreign Minister wanted Lahore Declaration to be the basis for a “peaceful resolution of the Kashmir crisis” and wanted the cease-fire to be permanent and “serious efforts initiated to find a solution” including “political dialogue with Pakistan and the Hurriyat” as the “only civilised path to problem solving.” It is interesting that Islamabad wanted the peace dialogues to be held with APHC.iv For the first time after the military take over too Islamabad admitted that it has a duty to stop militants from crossing the Line of Control in Kashmir. “Pakistan having agreed to the (Washington) statement (respecting the sanctity of the LoC) has an obligation to comply with it. The Foreign Minister however was critical of the general perception that his government was not doing enough to curb terrorist acts emanating from its territory.v

The cease-fire in Kashmir began with an ominous note with people being killed, injured in blasts that were also targeted against the Indian armed forces with an obvious intention at provocation and as a ruthless defiance of the unilateral cease-fire which some militant outfits consider an attempt “to ward off international pressure on it (India) to resolve the Kashmir issue.” vi The All Party Hurriyat Conference condemned the killings of Hindus near the eastern township of Kishtwar as “yet another murder of humanity.” vii

On the positive side however, the Indian Prime Minister held onto his offer of cease-fire against opposition from some constituents of his coalition government even hinting at extending the same beyond the month of Ramzan if the initial period passes off with out large scale violence. New Delhi though ruled out tripartite talks was however not averse to parallel talks between Delhi and Kashmiri organisations on one side and later between Delhi and Islamabad. The APHC, which wanted Pakistan to be involved came around to see India’s reasoning and as a middle path wanted New Delhi to allow an Official delegation to visit Pakistan, meet the militant outfits and create conditions of peace conducive for a dialogue. Terming the cease-fire offer a “last chance” for both sides to make peace, the Hurriyat said, “it has done all that it can be expected to (by accepting the cease-fire and advocating peace), there is nothing else we can do now, the ball is in the government’s court to respond positively with concrete steps.” viii

The newly formed Pakistan-Kashmir Caucus in US Congress calling for third-party mediation as imperative to resolve the Kashmir problem wanted this issue be addressed through peaceful means and to give Kashmiris a chance to decide their future, exercising their legitimate right to self-determination and to ensure that Pakistan’s viewpoint is properly heard. ix

Founding father of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and a senior Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) leader Nazir-ul-Haq came out with the opinion that the military rulers of Pakistan “should take a bold initiative and offer all assistance to India’s cease-fire offer irrespective of risks from fundamentalist groups operating from that soil.” There is substance to believe the contention of Mohammed Mumtaz Khan, organiser of Kashmir People Nationalist Party that Pakistan has potential to make the cease-fire a success by exercising an effective control over the militant groups.” x

The cease-fire offer brought out differences among various separatist groups on both sides of the border. It was not easy for any Kashmiri or pro-Kashmiri group to outrightly reject the truce offer as “they have to be given an impression of working towards creation of an atmosphere which would pave the way for ending violence and bloodshed. In contrast, the groups dominated by and consisting of mercenaries have different ideologies and agenda.”xi The Ramzan peace initiative could well drive a permanent wedge between the indigenous Kashmiris operating in the Valley and the foreigners, mainly Pakistanis, Afghans and Arab.xii Various separatist outfits nonetheless appear to be under pressure to adopt a conciliatory posture. APHC stance calling all militant outfits to accept the cease-fire offer is seen in the context of US’ insistence that all parties should open dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue.

In a dramatic turn of events Pakistan came out in open support of the cease-fire offer and announced “maximum restraint” along the Line of Control to “help strengthen and stabilise” the cease-fire and formally conveyed to India its willingness to enter into a “meaningful dialogue” to address the Kashmir conflict. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Mr. Inamul Haq spelled out Pakistan’s response to the November 19 Indian initiative on Kashmir that include an invitation to the executive committee of the All- Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to visit Islamabad for consultations, a plea to India to invite the APHC leaders for a similar purpose and to allow them to travel to Pakistan.xiii This was followed with a plea by the Pakistani President Rafiq Tarar urging India to respond to General Musharraf’s offer for talks.xiv Pakistan’s response of exercising restraint along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir was seen as a “positive and encouraging development”, which can be used to create a conducive atmosphere for initiating the peace process.xv

Now it is the turn for militant outfits to react. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen asked India “to pay full attention to the principal and basic issue of Kashmir rather than rake up the frivolous issue of infiltration and exfiltration of mujahideen on the LoC” what with Pakistan instructing “its troops to exercise maximum restraint on the cease-fire line.” The group however, kept its threats open to continue guerilla attacks on the Indian Army unless India accepts three conditions set by the group. The conditions were inclusion of Pakistan in tripartite talks, reduction of Indian troop presence in the valley and release of Kashmiri leaders. The group was unhappy about the ‘hasty’ welcome accorded to the cease-fire announcement by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and recalled that when the Hizb announced one in September it was severely criticised by the Hurriyat.xvi

For the moment it appeared that the cease-fire and the Pakistani commitment is holding with about 95% reduction in firing across the Line of Control though there has not been a commensurate reduction in infiltration. “A direct link between a drop in firing and infiltration is yet to be established,” an exercise which was important in view of the Indian Home Minister’s stated position that a reduction in cross-border “infiltration” would be central for the revival of India’s dialogue with Pakistan stalled after the Kargil war. Security analysts nevertheless, were quite optimistic that infiltration across the LoC will significantly reduce this winter irrespective of Pakistani intent.xvii

Intelligentsia from other side of the border was full of applause and hope for the cease-fire gestures of the warring neighbors. “A quieter Line of Control and a Kashmiris-led talks process is as good a proposition as can be conceived under the prevailing circumstances,” the News daily said in an editorial. “If India keeps its word on the Ramadan restraint in occupied Kashmir, further strengthens it with scaled down troops presence,” and starts meaningful negotiations there can be the beginning of a substantive peace process.” The News however attributed the cease-fire offer of India and the “restraint” order to troops along the Line of Control (LoC) by Pakistan to the result of the “quiet diplomacy” by the United States. International Monetary Fund’s decision to release loans for Islamabad was the dividend for Pakistan for complying. “Islamabad’s acceptance of the ceasefire, coming a day after the IMF’s decision on loans, indicates the link,” The same has also been confirmed by controversial Pakistani American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who claims to have played a role in the US track-II policy on Kashmir. “We are making every effort for a meeting between Gen Pervez Musharraf and Atal Behari Vajpayee and hope these efforts would bear fruit,” Ijaz was quoted by the paper as saying.xviii The United States’ endorsement of Pakistan’s declaration of “maximum restraint” along the Line of Control in Kashmir is further indication in this respect. “We’ve been calling for restraint and respect for the Line of Control for some time,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Monday. “Pakistan’s affirmation of that principle is an important complement to the suspension of the offensive military operations that was announced by India last week. So that’s certainly a welcome development.”xix

India expected that the first round of talks with Kashmiri leaders will be held this month. The decks have been virtually cleared after Pakistan’s positive response to the ceasefire and a statement by its foreign office that Islamabad will raise no objections to a one-on-one dialogue between New Delhi and the Kashmiri groups at this stage so long as there was an assurance that this would be extended to a tripartite dialogue after the one month of Ramzan.xx

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar set his country’s agenda by stating that there should be a change in direction between India and Pakistan in favour of political progress leading to a dialogue between India and Pakistan and appropriate representatives of the Kashmir groups and that his country was setting “no deadline”, no ultimatum” for India to begin talks. His statement that there could be no resolution of the Kashmir issue without a composite dialogue between India, Pakistan and representatives of the Kashmir people, let the stalemate over talks to continue.xxi Similarly Serious differences appeared to have surfaced in the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leadership over the issue of cease-fire. Syed Ali Geelani, former chairman of the separatist amalgam and an influential Jamaat-e-Islami leader, criticized New Delhi’s Ramzan cease-fire as “mischievous act” aimed at “sabotaging the freedom movement of Kashmiri people”. “It (cease-fire) is an odious conspiracy to subvert the freedom struggle in the name of restoring peace,” he said in a statement. “We (Kashmiri people) should examine it deeply and at all levels,” he cautioned. This came in quite contradiction to the stand the other leaders of the APHC have taken. Abdul Gani Lone, Professor Abdul Gani Butt, the present APHC chairman; Mohammad Yasin Malik and Molvi Ummer Farooq have by and large appreciated the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s move. Yasin Malik even asked New Delhi to allow him to visit Pakistan so that he could bring militants, who have rejected the cease-fire offer as a ploy, round.xxii Hizbul Mujahideen similarly issued a stern warning to All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders for speaking in different languages over the issue of cease-fire. The outfit threatened that it would not allow anyone to betray the people in the name of “so-called peace”. It asked amalgam leadership to “work together for the final resolution of Kashmir issue rather than temporary peace.”xxiiiDays after Islamabad’s announcement of “maximum restraint”, the initial feeble response from Pakistan based militant organisations got crystallised with more outfits expressing reservations about the move. The Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, Sayeed Hafeez, in a strongly-worded statement not only rejected the Pakistan ceasefire but cautioned the military Government against the possibility of “getting caught in the Indian trap” and threatened to continue its mission of targeting the security forces that are engaged in Kashmir operations.xxiv

Admist confusing signals emanating from both the sides of the border, the fact remained that none of the interlocutors has rejected the ceasefire initiatives, an almost general acceptance has been followed by an expectation that talks will be held. All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat expected that the “going will be tough and the times ahead harder.” The Government is courting his secessionist conglomerate for talks to resolve the Kashmir issue. “All of us, India, Pakistan and APHC will have to do a lot of thinking and a lot many political exercises will have to be undertaken.”xxv More significantly, the demand for plebiscite has become conspicuous by absence. Everything therefore rested on the consolidation of the cease-fire.xxvi India however ruled out “tripartite talks” on Jammu and Kashmir but reaffirmed its commitment to an early resumption of the composite bilateral dialogue. “It is abundantly clear that there is no room for what are termed as ‘tripartite’ talks. India has always conveyed its readiness to have talks with all parties and groups in Jammu and Kashmir including also the militants….. The modalities for the talks (with Kashmiri groups) will be decided by India and there is, in this, no room for what are termed as tripartite talks.”xxvii The New Delhi Government nonetheless gave enough indications that it is “prepared to take bold steps” and if need be is “ready to explore unexplored avenues to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.” It is also certain that barring some “spectacular disaster”, the current “ceasefire” would remain operative even after Ramadhan. This line of thinking however was qualified with the expectation that the acceptable party to the dialogue like APHC should position itself as a voice of Kashmiri people rather than as a mediator between India and Pakistan or as Islamabad’s proxy.xxviii More over the Indian government assured to consider permitting a visit by the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan if a request was made by them.xxix

Quite expectedly Islamabad was to express disappointment with the reaction of the Indian Government on the formulation made by Pakistan for a dialogue on Kashmir mainly as the Indian statement (December 6) did “not engage in exploration of any openings. It simply shuts the door on the ideas and openings we sought to inject in the December 2 statement.”xxx India responded to Pakistan’s call for ideas to resolve the Kashmir issue by pointing out that the unilateral ceasefire itself was a positive and forward-looking “new” idea.xxxi

Hurriyat leadership made it clear that it does not want to visit Pakistan as “mediators”. “The people of Jammu and Kashmir are party to the dispute. We want to go to Pakistan to talk to the mujahideen leadership there, to create a peaceful atmosphere for a genuine political dialogue.”xxxii

In between hard attitudes that often put hiccups in peace initiatives there have been definite signs that all sides are in agreement with the idea that this time peace has a chance. For example Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba kept harping on the cease-fire lacking “sincerity” and that they would not accept the offer till Pakistan was involved in talks and the Army was withdrawn from Kashmir. “India’s refusal to include Pakistan in the talks on Kashmir endorses the Hizb stand that the cease-fire offer is short of sincerity.” At the same time any consensus with New Delhi and Islamabad separately being worked out by the APHC was acceptable to the outfits.xxxiii Reports from the Valley suggested that the common people were relieved that irritants in the garb of security have been lifted and a degree of normality returned to their daily life.xxxivThe security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir have decided to reduce the number of bunkers spread all over the Valley to make the normalcy visible and to minimise the inconvenience caused to people.xxxv

Despite the cease-fire, the foreign flank of Kashmir militancy led by extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, continued to target the security forces. These provocation might be designed to make the forces react in a manner that could later be portrayed as a violation of the cease-fire. Besides, a few among the Hurriyat leaders, who had initially been somewhat reluctant to take up the cease-fire offer, are not averse to using the foreign mercenaries or the Mujahideen as a pressure group even within the Hurriyat’s internal power politics.xxxvi

The fact remains that a “genuine political dialogue” must soon commence to end the impasse. It was hoped that once the process gets a head start the foreign militants will withdraw from the “battle field,” New Delhi faces the daunting task of balancing the Hurriyat and the Hizbul on the one hand and the pro-India parties in the Valley like the National Conference, Mufti Sayeed’s Democratic Party, the CPI(M), not to speak of the BJP, the Buddhists and the Kashmiri Pundits on the other. Indian Home Minister maintained that there has been “perceptible” change in the situation after the announcement of the cease-fire, the infiltration activities from across the border had also come down and militant activities had declined. “Pakistani shelling has also come down as infiltration generally takes place under its cover fire,” he said, according to an official release. Stating that the Ramzan cease-fire was another opportunity for Pakistan to take positive steps so that peace talks could be considered, ” the Home Minister said “if violence comes to an end or is reduced drastically, New Delhi is prepared for talks even with Pakistan.”xxxvii

In a significant development, Hurriyat Chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, drew a road map for the Government to take its peace initiative forward seeking the release of a sizeable number of jailed militants followed by extension of the cease-fire beyond Ramzan and a halt to human rights violations.xxxviii

So far everything indicates that New Delhi’s announcement to silence its guns in the Valley have not fallen on deaf ears despite occasional attacks designed to destabilise the peace process. It is just as well that all parties understand that further chances will not come by in a hurry. Everything that needs to be done to consolidate the process must therefore be done with due diligence with patience and fore bearing, understanding compulsions of the parties involved. India now has extended the cease-fire up-to 26th January against much provocation to the contrary. Even Pakistan has come around to the acceptability of separate talks. With consensus of a sort taking shape it would not be too optimistic to expect some results. But as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said no solution should be expected within days as the issues of 52 years are too complicated to be untangled so soon.”xxxix

( To be concluded)

Afghanistan

“Afghanistan has become a Berlin wall for Pakistan in developing relations with countries in Central Asia” according to the Pakistani foreign minister Abdus Sattar who also admitted his country’s concerns arising out of the flow of narcotics, drugs and refugees from Afghanistan into Pakistan. He was however very critical of India’s “assumed” role: “whatever India is trying to do in relation to Afghanistan is prompted entirely by its hostility to Pakistan.” As India does not have a common border with Afghanistan, it should keep out of the current process as its interference would unnecessarily complicate issues. Mr. Sattar said that the initiative to resolve the Afghanistan problem lay with the six countries sharing common borders with it and Russia, the US and India do not fall into this category and should stay out of it. The foreign minister was particularly dismissive of the on going discussions between Russia and India on Afghanistan and terrorism. “any objective analysis will show that Afghanistan is in hardly any position to threaten any country. It is in dire economic straits and armed action across the border is unthinkable. Referring to the inflow of drugs into Pakistan, Mr. Sattar said this has assumed very serious dimensions and that its eradication is very much in Pakistan’s main agenda.xl

Human Security

India slowly getting hotter – Scientists of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology say that the surface air temperature over India has shown a “statistically significant” increasing trend over the past century of about 0.4C per hundred years on an all India scale due mainly to an increase in maximum temperature and mainly contributed by the winter and post monsoon seasons. The Physical Research Laboratory reported on the potentially worrying large amount of aerosols over the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean prior to the onset of the summer monsoons when the trade wind blowing from the north east bring polluted continent air over the area. Aerosols recognised as condensation agents for the formation of raindrops and help precipitation, if present in large quantities produce a narrow spectrum of small droplets inhibiting rainfall. “The aerosol-cloud interaction could be playing a crucial role on the onset of monsoon over different regions and the spatial distribution of the rain over India.” Besides the aerosols brought from the Indian sub-continent and other surrounding regions have relatively high concentration of soot particles, which substantially reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the ocean surface.xli

Compiled By

Arabinda Acharya

iThe Asian Age 20 November 2000 p1-2
iiThe Asian Age 21 November 2000 p1
iiiThe Asian Age 28 November 2000 p1
ivThe Asian Age 26 November 2000 p1
vThe Times of India 25 November 2000 p1
viSalim Hasmi, spokesman for the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen quoted in The Times of India 30 November 2000 p1
viiThe Asian Age 26 November 2000 p2
viiiThe Asian Age 1 December 2000 p1-2
ixThe Asian Age 1 December 2000 quoting ANI p4
xThe Times of India 1 December 2000 p5
xiAmitabh Mattoo quoted in the Times of India 1 December 2000 p5
xiiThe Pioneer 2 December 2000
xiiiThe Hindu 3 December 2000 and the Asian Age 3 December 2000 p1
xivThe Asian Age 3 December 2000 p4
xvMirwaiz Umer Farooq former All-Party Hurriyat Conference chairman quoted in The Hindu 4 December 2000
xviThe Hindu 5 December 2000
xviiThe Hindu 5 December 2000
xviiiThe Times of India 6 December 2000 p1
xixThe Hindustan Times 5 December 2000
xxThe Asian Age 5 November 2000 p1-2
xxiThe Asian Age 6 November 2000 p1-2
xxiiThe Pioneer 5 December 2000.
xxiiiRashid Ahmad; The Pioneer 6 December 2000
xxivThe Hindu 6 December 2000
xxvArun Joshi; The Hindustan Times 6 December 2000
xxviAG Noorani The Statesman 6 December 2000
xxviiThe Hindustan Times 6 December 2000
xxviiiThe Hindu 7 December 2000.
xxxixThe Times of India 8 December 2000
xxxThe Pakistan Foreign Minister quoted in The Hindu 8 December 2000
xxxiThe Hindu 9 December 2000
xxxviiThe Hindu 10 December 2000
xxxviiiThe Hindu 10 December 2000.
xxxivThe Statesman 11 December 2000
xxxvThe Times of India 17 December 2000
xxxviThe Hindustan Times 14 December 2000
xxxviiThe Pioneer 16 December 2000
xxxviiiThe Indian Express 19 December 2000
xxxvixThe Times of India 16 December 2000
xlSeema Mustafa; The Asian Age 27 November 2000 p1
xli The Asian Age 26 November 2000 p3