Columnist Col (Retd) I HASSAN looks at a new angle for resolving the South Asian disputes. While DJ may not agree with them it publishes the article to invite debate and discussion

Fifty years have gone by since Pakistan became independent. In these 50 years Pakistan has been in a constant state of cold war with India. In these 50 years Pakistan has been impoverished to the state of penury owing to inordinate expenditures on defence which the country cannot afford.

Whatever the cause of the conflict, it has to be resolved just as in the end Palestine did start a peace process. Pakistan having tried open armed conflict a couple of times and having tested the temperature of the water, must decide that either to go to war or settle for peace. As going to war would be most imprudent, there really is no option but to work for peace.

The main bone of contention is Kashmir. Pakistan has swallowed many a bitter pill. At the time of partition, over a 100 million Muslims had to be left behind in India, the two nation theory notwithstanding. In fact the two nation theory was given a complete burial by the Quaid himself, who, on the day of independence declared that from then onward, the Muslims in India were to regard themselves as Indians. The final nail in the coffin of the two-nation theory was driven by the Bengalis when they fought Pakistan for their independence from Pakistan. Now Bangladesh is a separate nation.

Now in these 50 years, demographic changes have occurred. Whilst the original partition of the sub-continent was on the basis of those areas where Muslims were in a majority would go to Pakistan and the others to India, the same principle was not applied to the princely states. Kashmir consisted of three distinct parts. Jammu, which was the original state of which the Maharaja was the ruler, was predominantly Hindu. Kashmir with its Muslim majority was sold by the British to the Maharaja of Jammu. There is another part, Ladakh, which is almost cent percent Buddhist. Not only are there now well defined areas of either Hindu predominance, or Muslim preponderance or Buddhist majority but since independence, a large tract to the north east has been incorporated by China. Besides this nothing has remained static since independence. There have been population movement so that Hindus have moved away from the valley where now about 3 million Muslims reside. Now if Pakistan was willing to stomach handing over 140 million Muslims in India to India and declare them Indians, and equally accept the severance of Bangladesh from Pakistan, then to fight a war for the liberation of a mere 3 million Muslims in the Vale of Kashmir seems rash and imprudent. After all Pakistan is insisting on a plebiscite for the whole of Kashmir which includes Hindu and Buddhist parts and which must include, according to the original formula of the plebiscite the part occupied by China.

The strangest part of the Pakistani stance is that at the end of 50 years, although Pakistan beats the drum of self-determination for the Kashmiris, Pakistan does not countenance a proper self-determination on the part of Kashmiris by allowing them to opt for independence both from India and Pakistan. Does Pakistan wish to incorporate Jammu and/or Ladakh? If so, then the same principle would apply to those areas that are in occupation of Pakistan. Although it is presumed that should push come to shove, these areas would opt for Pakistan. Considering the complete lawlessness approaching anarchy that is prevailing in Pakistan, if some people could opt for a haven of peace it is not unthinkable that this lot could side with those who want independence.

If it is put to the people of Pakistan whether they want to go to war for the sake of 3 million Muslims in the Vale of Kashmir and stand the chance of being devastated and annihilated or like the handing over of the Muslims in India and again in Bangladesh, negotiate a peaceful settlement, one fails to see how anyone will vote for total destruction of Pakistan.

There are those misguided people who have been made to feel that having detonated a nuclear bomb we have become superior and/or invincible beings. This delusion has been tried out before. Now, although it is bandied about that the possession of a nuclear capability is a deterrent, this is not the case. The opposite is the truth. Because our nuclear capability is now declared and is known to be weaker than India’s (they have hydrogen bombs and all their bombs are plutonium based) the temptation on the part of India to destroy Pakistan’s capability would be great because, instead of being a deterrent, India perceiving Pakistan to be in possession of weaker capability could regard it as a threat that should be nipped in the bud and be persuaded to strike first to get rid of the threat. If India chose to do that it could make sure that almost everything was destroyed and we were left in no condition to retaliate or in any way deter. We are like a house-holder who has a pistol in his hand when he opens the door for a robber who seems well armed. Seeing the house-holder’s pistol he fires first to neutralise the fire power of the house-holder. We are in the position of the house-holder. With our weak nuclear deterrent we are inviting disaster. If we were not holding a weak deterrent , if deterrent it is, the other side would not have a knee jerk reaction to expunge it.

Having accepted that 130 million Muslims are Indian citizens and having accepted the dismemberment of Pakistan itself by agreeing to Bangladesh receding from Pakistan, the Pakistan as originally conceived has disappeared. It should therefore be realistic to accept that the position in Kashmir has not remained static over these fifty years. We ourselves have agreed to denominating the cease-fire line in Kashmir into the Line of Control. This means that we abjure war and any war-like solution. We have also agreed to settle the Kashmir question bilaterally according to the Simla accord. We are therefore obliged to settle the matter without going to war and by mutual negotiation. The best method to negotiate would be to negotiate with India and settle all outstanding matters such as trade, finance between the two countries and all other points of friction first and once everything has been settled and near normalcy prevails between the countries then with temperatures lowered and confidence having been built between the two protagonists, it would be easier to tackle the question of Kashmir. That will take time but if we have lived without Kashmir for fifty years we can do so for a little longer rather than make the last throw of a gambler and for the sake of 3 million Muslims in the vale lose the remainder of Pakistan, for a nuclear holocaust means just that.