Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s announcement last month extending the ceasefire in Kashmir has generally been welcomed, although it has not prevented the Indian occupation army from continuing its murderous campaign against civilians. Even while the oppressed people of Kashmir desperately need respite from the Indian-inflicted mayhem, it is important to bear in mind that their 12-year struggle is not about securing merely a ceasefire. That is India’s need; in fact, the ceasefire simply restores the status quo that existed before the uprising in December 1989. Surely the Kashmiris did not give 70,000 martyrs and suffer thousands of women being raped by Indian soldiers simply to return to the pre-1989 situation?
It was this reality that prompted the Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC), representing 15 jihadi groups, to reject the so-called ceasefire by India on January 2. After meeting in Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir, the council vowed to continue the struggle until Delhi accepts their demands. “There is no shift in our stand regarding the ceasefire. We reject it outright and firmly resolve to continue our operations against the Indian troops,” announced Shaikh Jameelur-Rehman, secretary general of the MJC.
Elaborating the council’s stand, he said: “India should withdraw its troops from the occupied territory, release the detainees and accept the disputed status of Kashmir.” The council also took note of the ceasefire extended by India and the excitement generated by the proposed visit of representatives of the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) to Pakistan. “We mulled over the proposed visit of the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference leaders to Pakistan [in order] to take a unanimous stand on it,” he said, but added that no final decision was taken.
The Indian ceasefire extension was publicly welcomed on December 20 by outgoing US president Bill Clinton, who is desperate to go down in history as a “peacemaker” to try to deflect attention from his escapades with Monica Lewinsky. His Middle East “peace” efforts have blown up in his face. It is clear that Clinton has been leaning heavily on Pakistan and the Kashmiris to accept the ceasefire and resolve the issue by negotiation. While Pakistan has urged India to hold a dialogue all along, Delhi has rebuffed every proposal, demanding that Pakistan must first stop “cross-border terrorism” — ie. jihadi activities. Since the ceasefire came into effect at the start of Ramadan, both sides have taken a number of steps to prevent its collapse. India is anxious to maintain the ceasefire because its occupation forces, despite their mind-boggling brutality, are exhausted and unable to cope with the situation. Beyond that, India appears reluctant to agree to anything else.
However, there appears to be a perceptible shift in Pakistan’s stand vis-a-vis Kashmir. It has now publicly stated that it will accept whatever agreement the APHC arrives at. Unfortunately, the APHC does not speak with one voice, nor can it be expected to uphold the interests of Pakistan or indeed of the Kashmiris. Not only does its constitution accept the option of an independent Kashmir (which would be disastrous for Pakistan) but there is also a substantial body of opinion within its ranks that leans towards the independence option. While India will not accept Kashmir’s independence beyond cosmetic changes to the present set-up (unless it is forced to do so by suffering an unacceptable cost for maintaining its occupation), Pakistan appears to have abandoned its principled stand even before negotiations commence.
India has been forced to accept the reality of the Kashmir dispute not by negotiations but by the hard-fought struggle of the mujahideen. Delhi is naturally anxious to dampen the jihadi spirit by any means possible. It has tried and failed by military means; now it wants to try the diplomatic route, for which it has the support of America, which wants to use Delhi for its own purposes. The proposed visit of the APHC leaders to Pakistan is intended to help India’s position by forcing the MJC to support the ceasefire and pave the way for negotiations. No occupation power, however, has ever abandoned any territory by negotiations; there is absolutely no evidence to support this proposition anywhere in the world. Occupiers have to be driven out. The Vietnamese drove the Americans out of their country; the Afghans defeated the Russians; the Hizbullah chased the zionists out of Lebanon; and the Chechens are still fighting the Russians in the mountains of the Caucasus, despite having defeating them once and signing an agreement in 1996 by which the Russians were to leave. Why should it be any different in Kashmir?
An even greater tragedy is that the rulers of Pakistan have no clear policy on Kashmir; or, if they have one, it is such a well-guarded secret that they themselves do not know it. Islamabad’s Kashmir policy is marked by ad hoc-ism: at present it means waiting for the APHC leaders to arrive in Islamabad; then it will be to have negotiations with India. What is the end goal of all this? Nobody seems to have the foggiest idea. Is there any bottom line that Pakistan has drawn for Kashmir? If Indonesia can be forced to have a referendum in East Timor after 200 deaths, why can the Kashmiris not have a referendum after offering 70,000 lives? Why are Kashmiri lives cheaper than Timorese lives; is it because the Timorese are Christians while the Kashmiris are Muslims? Besides, there are UN security resolutions accepting the Kashmiris’ right to determine their own future. Why has that been overlooked in the current enthusiasm to ensure that the Indian-proposed ceasefire survives?