Panel Discussion 05/05/2014
Senior Research Fellow IPRI, Dr. Noorul Haq, after welcoming the visiting journalists opened the floor for discussion. A member of the Indian delegation asked from IPRI scholars about the main deterrent and catalyst in relations between India and Pakistan and what approaches was Pakistan adopting for the solution of Kashmir issue. He was replied by an IPRI scholar that Pakistan wanted the solution of Kashmir issue according to the resolutions of United Nations (UN). The issue could be solved through negotiations and the inclusion of Kashmiri people in the process was necessary. Former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had endorsed United Nation Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on Kashmir and agreed to hold plebiscite in Kashmir but it never took place. Article 370 of Indian constitution was about granting autonomy to Kashmir but it was not implemented. This major constitutional violation, non-implementation of UNSC resolutions due to Indian intransigence and repeatedly rigged elections in Kashmir the created resentment among the people. Culminating in highly rigged elections of 1987 frustrated the Kashmiri people and they started their freedom struggle in 1989.
To solve Kashmir issue several proposals had been suggested including former president General Pervaiz Musharraf’s idea of making the Line of Control (LoC) irrelevant. Some progress was made in this regard to the extent of opening bus service and trade. Pakistan wanted to solve all the issues through composite dialogue process.
In this regard the delegation was informed that Pakistan undertook various initiatives. Few years ago Pakistan and India had reached an agreement over Siachin but Indian army did not agree to the solution of the issue and later on the Indian government also withdrew from the agreement. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had restarted the composite dialogue process and he wished the solution of all the issues through bilateral dialogue. Pakistan-India relations during intermittent periods were good but without the solution of Kashmir issue relations would continue to have problems. India’s trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics would be very much convenient if the bilateral relations were good and Pakistan provided India transit trade facilities to Afghanistan and CARs. Keeping in view India’s future trade and energy requirements it was more to the benefit of India if it solved all outstanding issues with Pakistan including Kashmir. If there was no peace between Pakistan and India both countries would lose many political and economic opportunities. Since India needed energy for the maintenance of its growth to become a major power it would need to import oil and gas from CARs through Pakistan.
A visiting journalist said that there were several think tanks and intellectuals in India who believed that Kashmir belongs neither to India nor to Pakistan. Kashmir had never been under any rule and historically it had always been a free state. An IPRI scholar said being a member of UN India should respect UN resolutions on Kashmir. UN resolutions on Kashmir were a realization of the fact, by the international community, that the people of Kashmir were denied their right to decide whether to join India or Pakistan after the partition of India. He said India was an aspirant for becoming a permanent member of UNSC and it was difficult for it to get that membership if it did not implement UN resolutions on Kashmir.
A delegation member said that over the plebiscite issue India had a constant position which was that after the 1948 intervention the plebiscite issue automatically became null and void. An IPRI scholar said the question of plebiscite arose as a result of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir in 1948 and that right was also accepted by Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. So this right cannot be forfeited without any other acceptable solution of Kashmir dispute. Moreover India itself had gone to the UN in 1948 when Kashmiri people had revolted. The UN passed the resolution for holding plebiscite. Therefore, how India could refuse to hold plebiscite. Another IPRI scholar added that both Pakistan and India needed to move beyond the cold war syndrome and should understand that geo-politics had been replaced with geo-economics. Both countries could gain lot of benefits if they resolved bilateral issues including Kashmir dispute.
The Indian Journalists asked as to which country was responsible for non-implementation of Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. They were informed that the IPI gas pipeline could not materialize because of sanctions over Iran. India withdrew from the IPI gas projects once the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed. If India had remained a part of the gas project the construction of pipeline would have been completed. Financial and technical issues were also a reason for the delay in the completion of gas pipeline project.
A delegation member said what could be the implications of NATO troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and what were the likely outcome of peace talks between Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the government. An IPRI scholar replied that Pakistan has been fighting terrorism for more than ten years. The country had made many sacrifices and suffered many causalities. The peace talks were aimed at addressing the issue of terrorism in a holistic manner. If the talks failed to bring peace the military option could be used to exterminate terrorism.
A member of Indian journalists said both the countries needed to improve people to people contacts and media could play a positive role in the promotion of relations. He said the common people in both countries wanted to have good bilateral relations. Talking about elections in India a delegation member said, Congress would lose the elections, and there were chances that BJP would be in a position to win majority votes but they would be able to form a coalition government.