By Farman Nawaz (The Frontier Post)
“Mr. Ambassador you suggested that Pakistan and India must negotiate the Kashmir issue while China demonstrates the use of force against Taiwan”. It was the question raised by a student of Peshawar University of Pakistan during a visit of students to Chinese embassy in Islamabad in 1999. Chinese Ambassador Mr. Lu Shulin smiled and said, “We don’t demonstrate force against the Taiwan but against the forces which brings fleets to the premises of Taiwan. Taiwan is not an occupied territory and the world also accepts Chinese claim about Taiwan but Kashmir is internationally accepted disputed territory and previously Pakistan has fought wars on this issue too, that’s why we recommend negotiations to settle this issue peacefully.”
Almost one and a half decade back the recommendation of Lu Shulin was appealing, keeping in view the regional stability, but general viewpoint in Pakistan was contrary to this approach. It was the time when Pakistan and India had fought the Kargil war and tested their nuclear weapons as well and peace was fragile indeed. Taliban were in control of Afghanistan and western border of Pakistan was secure. The heroic operation of Kargil was still fresh in the minds of common Pakistanis.
But now situation has changed and Pakistan official stand is of fruitful negotiations with India. Western border of Pakistan is more vulnerable to threats as compared to Eastern border and common Pakistanis now feel the gravity of the situation too. Though still common Pakistanis are reluctant to differentiate between the real and perceived threats on the western border but it is a fact that the concentration is shifted from East to West.
The efforts during the last decade of Pakistan and India to solve the Kashmir issue, especially the high esteem shown by Indian media when Nawaz Sharif came to power in Pakistan, show that both sides are interested in the solution of this long awaited issue. But it is the misfortune of the people of both these countries that whenever we come close to settlement or peace negotiations then any terrorist attack sabotages the whole peace process. This time even before we could start negotiations the developments on LoC in Kashmir may again brought us to standstill. The attack on Indian consulate in Afghanistan is also part of the process which always keeps these two neighbors apart.
It is regrettable that whenever we faced with such situation so instead of finding the hidden hands we start pointing fingers at each other. What the hidden hands want to see we act accordingly.
The issue of Kashmir is not a matter that can be solved in a span of months but it needs years to find a step by step approach. But our current focus should be to find a solution to all those hurdles which start sabotaging peace process. Though it is very difficult to point out or expose the hidden hands but at least we can promise to keep the peace process continue whatever comes before.
In the month of May Chinese ambassador to Pakistan said, “China is ready to act as an arbiter in Kashmir dispute but any such arrangement is subject to India’s acquiescence”. He also affirmed the two countries could see rapprochement over Kashmir issue through China”. Indian approach towards arbitration on Kashmir is always fearful. India considers arbitration a kind of interference in India’s internal matters. But it is also a fact that issues between India and Pakistan are always solved by arbitration. The war of 1948, the war of 1965, Indus Water Treaty of 1960 and the recent solution of diversion of Kishanganga water by the International Court of Arbitration are all examples of third party arbitration.
The new episode in South Asia started by economic corridor between China and Pakistan has started a new debate about Kashmir too. It is feared that this economic corridor will strengthen the concept of divided Kashmir. But the fact is that the new challenges created by the involvement of Pakistan, China and India in Afghanistan need new approach towards solution of problems. Kashmir is not an isolated issue but now it stands in a queue of problems that are created by the competition for political hold in Afghanistan. The old framework doesn’t helpful to address the newly-presented problems in South Asia. Pakistan, China and India have to resort to establishing a new framework to solve issues. The projects in Afghanistan bind Pakistan, India and China in a new relationship.
In the absence of regional solution for the problems of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the international players got a chance to start living among us. Similarly The Kashmir issue too needs the attention of regional players. Regional players will have to demonstrate their political strength to settle the regional issues. Economic projects initiated without solving regional issues will have short life span.
Afghanistan and South Asia are now lands of opportunities. These opportunities also create prospect for us to sit together and find a new framework of solution for future so that our next generation can live peacefully.