By Arun Joshi
Pakistan has startled the subcontinent by declaring that Indian had offered quiet talks to Pakistan to resolve among other things, the Kashmir issue. It has also claimed that the talks were continuing between the intelligence agencies of the two countries, a report published in the most prominent newspaper of Pakistan has claimed.
Dawn newspaper said in its main lead that India had offered secret talks to Pakistan in December last year to ease high-tension on the Line of Control that divides Jammu and Kashmir between two nuclear-powered neighbors whose hostilities have been the constant source of tension in South Asia.
The news report that is bound to cause a flutter in the diplomatic and military circles in both the countries also mentions that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is also part of the secret talks. Kashmir is the most contentious issue between the two nations – they have fought three wars of the Himalayan territory. The contours and contents of the report, attributed to the unnamed official quarters, suggest that it is based on the official briefing.
The report titled,” Indian offer led to quiet talks on all major issues,” says that Pakistan in these talks is pitching for statehood for Jammu and Kashmir. This is an interesting development because, if true, it can be the point of convergence between the two nations. This development is to be measured against the backdrop of Pakistan’s high-noise campaign internationally to get the August 5, 2019, decision regarding Jammu and Kashmir reversed.
On August 5, 2019, the Government of India alongside scrapping off of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and revoking all the special rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the state had also divided J&K into two union territories of J&K , and Ladakh.
It is not clear whether these talks were centered on the statehood for the UT of J&K or Ladakh, too, is included in it. The statehood could work to satisfy the ego of Delhi and Islamabad as the Indian Home Minister Amit Shah had stated on the floor of Rajya Sabha on August 5, 2019, that the statehood would be restored to the UT of Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time. It was assumed that by “ appropriate time”, he meant, the return of normalcy in Kashmir; free of terrorists and acts of terror and when the development in theory and practice would take shape to neutralize all the forces of corruption and secessionism.
Its significance can also be gauged from the February 24/25 reiteration of the November 26, 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control and all other borders. the joint statement of the top Indian and Pakistani military commanders was attributed to the back-channel talks. Neither side has denied this.
The report saying that India had offered these talks and agreed to discussions on J&K has added a new dimension to the scale of the talks. The report has highlighted the Indian compulsions owing to heavy deployment of Indian forces along the Line of Actual Control , the de-facto border between India and China following the intrusion of the Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh. India also had its forces deployed along the Pakistan border and the daily exchange of fire on the LoC was heightening tensions between Delhi and Islamabad. Pakistan needed forces along its western borders where the terror networks were causing huge casualties of its soldiers.
It has reasoned that the Indian presence along the border with Pakistan had come down to 1:1 for the first time in the past so many years. India always had better deployment on the borders vis-à-vis Pakistani presence. That worked a way out for the ceasefire agreement yet again. This agreement was made public on February 25 in less than a week after India and China had agreed to disengage their troops from LAC in February. The first phase of disengagement had started on February 10 and completed by February 18-19.
On the ground, there are two situations as far as J&K is concerned; there is a rethink on the current situation, which apparently shows that terrorism is on the decline and the streets are calmer than ever before in the past 30 years. But the disturbing fact is that there is widespread simmering which is beyond the measurement. That could spell problems at any stage. The Indian side is conscious of this. At the time when it is battling with the terrible situation arising out of the second wave of the Coronavirus, it would like to avoid fresh troubles in Kashmir. There is no mistaking the fact that Pakistan has its own agents working overtime in stoking flames of secessionism. India-Pakistan pact can ease Kashmir situation.
Restoration of the statehood to J&K should also not pose any problem to Delhi, because it is committed to that. If it does so, it would be delivering on its own promise. Pakistan, too, would have a face-saving exit from its high-pitched rhetoric of getting the special; status and all other guarantees enshrined in the Indian Constitution under Article 370 and Article 35 A . Now the definition of August 5 and reversal of August 5, 2019, appears to be changing.
There are many in Jammu and Kashmir want statehood to be restored. These voices have been heard from Kashmir and if that happens, the BJP unit of J&K that had been asking for a continuation of the UT status for J&K would also have to retreat and accept the statehood. The BJP’s strategy to continue with the UT status would be used as a bargaining chip with all the parties that have started asking for statehood more vociferously . . This will bring convergence of ideas in theory and action.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with the www.prameyanews.com