Pak-India peace process
This was a particularly optimistic time given the nuclear tests that both the countries conducted in 1998. Relations between India and Pakistan had become so strained that forces had been deployed on the international borders and the control line
21 February 1999 was just another Sunday, notable only because India’s Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee became the first leader of that country to visit the Minar-e-Pakistan, a symbol of Pakistan’s independence from British India.
It was hoped that the visit would bring to an end decades-long enmity between our two nations.
Vajpayee traveled to Lahore abroad the Pak-India Friendship Bus Service, launched during his tenure to ensure that people from both countries could count on good and easy means of travel. The Lahore Declaration, a bilateral agreement and governance treaty between India and Pakistan, was signed that otherwise uneventful day by Vajpayee andPakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It declared that both the nations agreed in principle to resolve all bilateral issues between them — including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir — through dialogue in a peaceful manner. It also promoted people-to-people contacts.
This was a particularly optimistic time given the nuclear tests that both the countries conducted in 1998. Relations between India and Pakistan had become so strained that forces had been deployed on the international borders and the control line. A single bullet, fired, could have instigated war. But the initiative Vajpayee and Sharif took that Sunday certainly was not given time to be nurtured and thrive. Instead, Pakistan’s military felt compelled to launch a surgical strike in the Kargil sector of Indian Occupied Kashmir with the objective of getting back the area it lost in 1984 during “Operation Meghdoot”.
That military action 15 years earlier had resulted in India gaining control of the entire Siachen Glacier and Pakistan had to retreat west of the Saltoro Ridge. Time magazine said India had gained more than 1,000 square miles (3,000 km2) of territory.
Today, South Asia’s politicians, generals and other warmongers have brought the region to an unfathomable precipice; perhaps one that may eventually lead to nuclear war
Under orders of Gen Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s army chief, our soldiers climbed the snow-bound passes and occupied high positions that had beenleft unguarded by the Indian army. They took up a position to overlook Indian National Highway (NH1D) and cut off arms supply to Indian forces in a bid to force our neighbouring government to withdraw from the glacier.
Blindsided, Vajpayee and Sharif decried the move. There was no need to initiate Operation Kargil when a nascent peace process was taking root and outstanding issues, including Siachin, were likely could be resolved through negotiations.
Indians ultimately complained and appealed to the international community. Under pressure from Washington DC, Sharif finally ordered the withdrawal of troops. But India opened fire on withdrawing troops and most of the casualties of “Operation Koh-e-Paima” were inflicted on the Pakistani side during the withdrawal. This created such difficult standing of Sharif thatMusharraf initiated a bloodless coup d’état on 12 October 1999. Sharifwould be jailed and exiled.
During 2002 SAARC summit at Kathmandu, Nepal, Musharraf extended his hand in an attempt to embrace leader to leader peace. Vajpayee, still at the helm of India, rose to shake hands with him, which many hoped would deter warmongering between the two countries. Understandably, he was cautious but aware of the bigger picture.
“We were rewarded by aggression in Kargil and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft from Kathmandu. I invited President Musharraf to Agra. We were rewarded with a terrorist attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and, last month, on the parliament of India. But we would be betraying the expectations of our peoples if we did not chart out a course toward satisfying the unfulfilled promises of our common South Asian destiny.”
But this handshake would fail to produce any firm results as powerful Indian warmongers would fail Vajpayee. The opposition in India was so strong that Vajpayee, who had just renewed a promise to work together for peace instead, was forced to order heavy army deployment on the international border and LoC. The Kathmandu initiative failed.
Both the countries once again would conclude that war was not in their interest. In 2003, Vajpayee declared to the Indian parliament that he was making a final initiative to make peace with Pakistan. He oversaw a considerable improvement in relations and a ceasefire between Indian forces and freedom fighters in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Vajpayee, though, fell victim to Saffron terror, war mongers and extreme nationalists and terror groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Abhinav Bharat. He declared Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India. In doing so, he negated the fact that in 1947, with the birth of the Kashmir conflict, India had raised the issue with the United Nations, which adopted a resolution suggesting a plebiscite. Through this and many other Security Council resolutions, Kashmir is part of an internationally recognised dispute between these two neighbouring countries. Pakistan, India and Kashmiris are party to this dispute and only a plebiscite can resolve this bone of contention.
The lack of a solution to the Kashmir dispute means that the hostilities are unending. India has been trying to orchestrate world opinion by blaming Pakistan for supporting the freedom fighters in Kashmir.
The current BJP government, headed by NarenderaModi — a life-long member of the RSS, a paramilitary Hindu organisation inspired by fascist movements of Europe — has been trying to suppress the collective voice of millions of Kashmiri youth who have been chanting for freedom.
Modi, as chief minister of Gujrat (a state of India), oversaw the murder of 1,000 Muslims during the ethnic cleansing of 2002. This barbaric act led to him becoming the most loved Indian politician in the eyes of India’s Hindu majority (80.5 percent). He rose to become prime minister and brought his atrocious tactics to bear in Kashmir.
Kashmiris this year have retaliated to his oppression and hegemony. They have defied curfew and millions came out chanting the slogans of independence and calling for the UN-recommended plebiscite. Modi’s government has responded to these reasonable and legal actions with pellet guns, assault rifles and tear gas that have resulted to date in the deaths of more than 80 adults, women, children and youth. More than 1,400 have been blinded and 7,000-plus have been injured.
This penchant for brutality has led to many Kashmiris picking up arms against the occupation forces. These guys are not afraid of showing their faces. They use social media and inspire hundreds others to join them in armed retaliation.
Burhan Wani, one such fighter, was killed by Indian forces. In response, anti-Indian protests broke out in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley. Protesters defied curfew with attacks on security forces. In response, India has deployed 700,000 troops giving them extraordinary powers to detain, torture, blind, injure and kill any Kashmiri citizen — all with impunity under the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990.
Apart from the UN resolutions, consider that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent a telegram on 31 October 1947 to his Pakistani counterpart Liaquat Ali Khan, assuring that “we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order is restored and leave the decision regarding the future of the State to the people of the State is not merely a promise to your government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world.”
Fast-forward to Modi. Instead of ending the killing of Kashmiris, he has decided to fund and support a few Baloch leaders living in exile as an instrument of bargain against Kashmir.
In his Independence Day Speech of 15 August 2016, he vowed to support the Baloch separation movement. These terrorists get training in Afghanistan at Indian training camps and attack innocent people, students, children and women. The most recent was an attack on Civil Hospital Quetta which left 70 dead and more than 150 injured; most were lawyers and journalists.
This brutality has brought a new excitement in New Delhi, particularly among right-wing commentators who shout from the digital rooftops that India finally found a solution to the Kashmir issue.
But the people in Balochistan have rejected Indian propaganda by staging huge anti-India rallies and by rejecting Indian agents like Kulbhushan Yadav and Brahamdagh Bugti.
Today, South Asia’s politicians, generals and other warmongers have brought the region to an unfathomable precipice; perhaps one that may eventually lead to nuclear war.
Good people in both lands and the disputed territory just want to live in peace.
Nawaz Sharif once again is prime minister of Pakistan. The only difference on the other side is the Modi and his draconian views of leadership. If only it were Vajpayee, perhaps such an unstable and untenable situation could be resolved to the satisfaction of all good people.