Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf had hammered out a draft framework agreement on Jammu and Kashmir in secret talks, a senior Indian diplomat familiar with the negotiations has told The Indian Express.
Files recording unsigned documents exchanged by the two sides were personally handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his predecessor at a May 27, 2014 meeting, the diplomat said.
The official spoke even as former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri is in New Delhi to release the Indian edition of his book, Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove — the first insider account of India-Pakistan secret diplomacy on Kashmir.
The Indian negotiator said the final draft of the framework agreement in fact spoke of a “consultative mechanism”, made up of elected representatives of the governments of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Azad Kashmir, as well as officials of the two national governments. The consultative mechanism, he said, was mandated to address regional “social and economic issues”, like tourism, religious pilgrimages, culture and trade.
New Delhi, the official said, had rejected General Musharraf’s push for institutions for joint management of Kashmir by the two states, arguing it would erode Indian sovereignty.
Prime Minister Singh’s hand-picked envoy, Ambassador Satinder Lambah, and General Musharraf’s interlocutors, Riaz Muhammad Khan and Tariq Aziz, held over 200 hours of discussions on the draft agreement, during 30 meetings held in Dubai and Kathmandu.
Lambah, a former intelligence official recalled, was also flown to Rawalpindi on a Research and Analysis Wing jet as negotiations reached an advanced stage, travelling without a passport or visa to ensure the meetings remained secret.
“In early talks,” the Indian diplomat said, “Pakistan reiterated its public positions, calling for international monitoring of the Line of Control, and so on. However, it became clear that both General Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh were keen on arriving at an agreement that would allow them to focus on their respective agendas, without conflict over Kashmir sapping their energies.”
“Each paper exchanged between the two sides,” the diplomat said, “was read by him personally, and his instructions were then given to Lambah. There were just two people in the Cabinet, and perhaps three more in the bureaucracy, who were privy to what was going on.”
Later, Prime Minister Singh’s interlocutor on Kashmir, now Governor N N Vohra, was also tasked with briefing secessionist leaders in the state on the looming deal. “I think the agenda is pretty much set,” Kashmir leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in an April 2007 interview. “It is September 2007,” he went on, “that India and Pakistan are looking at, in terms of announcing something on Kashmir.”
Prime Minister Singh, a former aide involved in the talks said, was scheduled to begin consultations with his Cabinet and opposition leaders on the deal, when a tide of protest unleashed by Pakistani lawyers pushed General Musharraf into a corner in March, 2007. “He seemed confident the talks would soon be able to revive,” the aide said, “but ended up being swept out of office”.
“At one time,” Singh admitted at a press conference in 2014, “it appeared that an important breakthrough was in sight. Events in Pakistan — for example, the fact that General Musharraf had to make way for a different setup — I think that led to the process not moving further.”
Key to the agreement, the Indian negotiator said, was an understanding that it would not require ratification by Parliament, or a Constitutional amendment. Thus, the two sides agreed to treat the Line of Control “like an international border”, with agreements to allow for the free movement of goods and people.