THE recent announcement regarding the renewal of ceasefire along the LoC has evoked both cautious welcome and considerable scepticism. Even as a tactical move, it has the potential to lead to something more substantive given the required political will on both sides. Although it is too early to talk of a peace process, yet, since the announcement of the ceasefire, many references have been made in the media to the so-called four-point formula referring to an earlier period (2003-2007) when the situation between the two countries had improved so dramatically that they had succeeded in even drawing up a framework of a possible agreement on Kashmir. I have been asked by many to throw some more light on that framework since I was foreign minister at that momentous time.

The formula had 11 or 12 important ingredients: (i) Substantial demilitarisation beginning with major urban centres with an agreement to keep troops to a minimum along the LoC; this was done, inter alia, also to protect Kashmiris’ human rights.

(ii) Defining units of Kashmir: There would be two units for the purposes of the agreement regarding the disputed State of Jammu & Kashmir under the control of Pakistan and India. They would comprise the areas respectively controlled by the two countries whose governments would be free to have more than one administrative region in the units under their control.

(iii) Maximum self-governance would be granted in legislative, executive, and judicial areas to each unit. It was also agreed that a mechanism would be evolved to achieve this objective

The four-point framework agreement on Kashmir contained some bold proposals.

(iv) A joint mechanism would consist of a specified number of elected members from each of the two units (representatives of Pakistan and India would be present at the meetings). The elected members were to be nominated by the governments of both units. It was also agreed that a decision of the joint mechanism would require more than a bare majority of members of each side and that this mechanism would meet at least twice or thrice a year. It would be entrusted with the responsibility of increasing the number of crossing points, and encourage travel, trade and tourism. It was decided to further streamline transport services and encourage interaction between the peoples as well as exchange of commodities.

(v) One of the most important responsibilities envisaged by this mechanism was to encourage the promotion of common policies towards the development of infrastructure, hydroelectricity, and exploitation of water resources. This would be crucial to maintaining future peace between Pakistan and India.

(vi) Centres to wean militants away through DDR (deradicalisation, disengagement, and rehabilitation).

(vii) Elections: Free and fair elections in the respective units would be held regularly. They would be made open to international observers and the media.

(viii) Monitoring and review process: Any solution that was presented could experience unanticipated difficulties. It was, therefore, appropriate that the agreement be of an interim nature. The envisaged agreement, consequently, provided for a monitoring and review mechanism. The foreign ministers of Pakistan and India would meet at least once a year to monitor the progress of the agreement and it would be subject to a review at the expiration of 15 years.

(ix) LoC — ‘A line on the map’: Pakistani response to India’s position, that the border cannot be changed, was that in that case the border would cease to exist between the Kashmiris, and they would require no visas or passports to travel across the LoC. Effectively, the LoC would be reduced to just a line on the map.

(x) The signing of a treaty of peace, security and friendship like the Élysée Treaty between Germany and France.

xi) Most importantly, there was an unwritten understanding/agreement that neither side would proclaim victory, once the details of the framework had been announced since it was realised that hardline elements on both sides would find something to disagree with in this framework.

(xii) There would be equal self-governance in both units.

During my meetings with leaders of occupied Kashmir in Delhi, Islamabad and secretly in other parts of the world, I had sounded out the Kashmiri leadership. It would be fair to say that except for Syed Ali Shah Gilani, most others supported it. He had, however, supported the Islamabad Joint Statement (2004) which had effectively started the peace process.

It may be too early to talk of a peace-process that requires an enabling environment. Unfortunately in India, there has been much Pakistan-bashing motivated by partisan political considerations. This was bound to have a negative reaction in Pakistan as the recent flip-flop on trade indicates. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s position in India is so unchallenged today that were he convinced that India’s own interests are best served by peace in South Asia, he would be in a position to move the people in that direction. Significantly, unlike in the past, there has been no Pakistan-bashing in the state elections underway in India.

On this side, Prime Minister Imran Khan as a former cricket star has many friends in India. He was interested in ushering in an era of peace between the two countries and is on record as having supported the ‘four-point formula’ before assuming the office of prime minister. During a visit to Delhi, “he told the Indian premier that at one point Pakistan and India had reached very close to resolving the Kashmir issue” and said the Kashmir issue can be resolved on the framework in Kasuri’s book (Neither a Hawk nor a Dove) reported in many newspapers (including Dawn) in Pakistan and India at that time. Similarly, Gen Bajwa’s recent statement stressing that it was time for India and Pakistan to “bury the past and move forward” is very significant.

In view of the sensitivity of Pak-India relations and Kashmir dispute, I strongly suggest that there needs to be a ‘backchannel’ during our time. Backchannel avoids extensive media coverage and intense speculation that enables opponents of the peace process to put a negative spin. Further, ‘backchannel’ in the absence of media glare makes it easier for the parties to revisit their positions in the light of proposals coming from the other side.

The writer was foreign minister of Pakistan during the period 2002-2007.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2021

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