‘Kashmir could have been solved during Musharraf’s tenure’

May 12th, 2009 - 1:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez Musharraf New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) A US-based Indian political scientist and author says India and Pakistan were close to a deal on Kashmir during the regime of Pervez Musharraf, but the deal could not go through as Pakistan’s ruler became steadily weak.
The deal, according to Ashutosh Varshney, a professor of political science at Brown University and a well-known expert on Pakistan and conflicts in South Asia, involved making the Line of Control (LoC) “a permanent soft border” that would enable the flow of people, trade and commodities across the border.

“We were close to a deal on Kashmir. Had the Musharraf government not become weak, the deal could have gone through,” said Varshney at the launch of “The Great Divide: India and Pakistan,” at the India International Centre here Monday night.

Varshney is the author of the prize-winning “Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India” and “South Asian Politics and Political Economy”.

Published by the India International Centre in collaboration with HarperCollins India, “The Great Divide” is a collection of essays dealing with variegated facets of the India-Pakistan relationship ranging across a spectrum of areas, including politics, diplomacy, strategy and culture, food and music.

The deal could be revived later in more conducive circumstances, he said.

No serious observer on both sides disagrees that making LoC permanent border is the solution to the Kashmir issue, he said.

In media interviews, Musharraf had proposed an out-of-box solution to the Kashmir dispute that revolved around creating a soft border to make the LoC irrelevant, demilitarization, self-governance and joint management of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir by the two countries. The idea, however, never figured in official discussions between the two sides.

The author also underlined that the US’ mediation will be necessary for peace between India and Pakistan.

“There is an increasing congruence of interests between India and the US in Pakistan. India should creatively use this opportunity,” he said.

Varshney outlined two long-term models for relationship between India and Pakistan in the days to come. The first scenario assumes that Pakistan’s disintegration is necessary for peace in South Asia. Critiquing this model, Varshney said a weak, unstable and disintegrating Pakistan will not be in India’s interest and has the potential to hold back its rise as a major global player.

The second model envisages an India-Pakistan relationship on the lines of the relationship between the US and Canada based on greater trade and economic integration between the two sides.

But there are serious impediments on the way. Terrorism easily tops the list. “If more Mumbais (terror attack) takes place, there will be a war-like situation. It will have a downward cascading effect on the relationship,” he said.

There is another frightening scenario. “If the Taliban takes over, there will be civil war in Pakistan,” Varsheney warned.

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