Is India willing to make Kashmir an independent state?
Will Pakistan really stick to its oft-repeated stand to not hold any kind of talks or resume trade with India unless the latter first reverses its illegal annexation of the occupied Jammu & Kashmir and restores the pre-Aug 5 2019 position?
These questions have arisen after what a former Indian envoy Satinder Lambah, who represented his country in backchannel talks with Pakistan between 2005 and 2014, said in an interview to an important Indian newspaper The Hindu, which was also carried by an important English language newspaper published from many cities of Pakistan.
Replying to a question Mr Lambah said Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Pakistan’s COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa would be a good combination for backchannel talks between the two countries.
“Our two countries have different power structures, and therefore we need people who have seniority in their own systems, direct access and confidence of the leadership. They need to be able to take on-the-spot decisions. I have worked with Mr (Ajit) Doval in the 1980s, at the High Commission in Islamabad, including a hijacking situation in Lahore (1981), and later on the situation in Afghanistan post-Bonn conference. General Bajwa has had an extension. As I said, given all our differences, they would be a good combination as interlocutors, or to oversee the dialogue.”
He claimed that “the 2019 changes in the status of Jammu and Kashmir would not negatively affect future talks”.
Observers are of the opinion that this assertion goes against the preconditions set by Pakistan for talks with New Delhi.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly said that Islamabad would not hold any kind of talks with New Delhi unless the annexation decision was taken back.
Only a couple of days ago, in telephonic contact with the people, he had reiterated the same point. in very clear terms Before this, while replying to the Indian prime minister’s message on Pakistan’s Republic Day, Premier Imran Khan had said that Pakistan was convinced that "durable peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, in particular the Jammu & Kashmir dispute".
"Creation of an enabling environment is imperative for a constructive and result-oriented dialogue," Imran emphasised.
Apparently, there is no flexibility in Pakistan’s stand on the Kashmir issue. But then why the Indian envoy has said the Aug 5 step would have no effect on talks between the two states?
Mr Satinder Lambah has also been quoted as saying in his interview: “Unconnected with relations with Pakistan, I believe the important state of J&K on our border deserves full statehood.”
This statement should raise many an eye brow on both sides of the border.
The reason: India, turning its back on international reaction, annexed J&K when the dispute remains unresolved even after seven decades during which the UN Security Council passed several resolutions.
The interview should stir a heating debate on the subject.
And people should also recall what Prime Minister Imran had said while addressing a public meeting in Kotli (AJK) on Feb 5, the day when the entire nation expresses solidarity with the oppressed people of Kashmir.
Although there was apparently no need for saying this, he had announced that people of Kashmir would be at liberty to decide if they want to be part of Pakistan or as an independent nation even after deciding accession to Pakistan in a United Nations-sponsored referendum.
He had reiterated Pakistan’s stance that Kashmir dispute can only be resolved by implementing the plebiscite guaranteed in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. He had said: “Once the plebiscite is implemented and Kashmiris join Pakistan, their relationship will be between Pakistan and Kashmiris.” He asked the people to focus on the struggle and to keep an eye on India’s behaviour that he said must be exposed.
Pakistan is so sincere to the Kashmir cause and the lives of Kashmir, the human angle being the foremost, that the Kashmiris’ aspirations are the most important thing for Pakistan, Mr Khan said. “This is the difference between the two states. Pakistan standing for the just right of Kashmiris and India acting as a rogue manner to oppress and illegally occupy Kashmiris.”
After the Indian envoy’s interview it seems as if something is cooking up for Kashmir.