In Part III of an exclusive interview on Devil's Advocate, Karan Thapar questions Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf about the ideas that he has been canvassing for as possible solutions to the Kashmir conflict.
Karan Thapar: General Musharraf, your foreign office spokesperson has indicated that in November, Pakistan Prime Minister Shakuat Aziz, suggested the concept of self-governance to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a possible solution for Kashmir.
It's an idea that many people think has weightage, but they are not really sure what you mean by self-governance. So let me ask you what do you have in mind when you talk about self-governance?
President Musharraf: I believe one has to go beyond stated positions. Now, there is one aspect of what India has been saying - autonomy within the Indian constitution. This is totally not acceptable to the people of Kashmir also. Therefore, one needs to go beyond the stated positions. We have to go beyond autonomy and independence. We are working for something between autonomy and independence. And I think self-governance fits in well.
Thapar: Let us explore what India claims: That the people of Jammu and Kashmir state, who have their own elected government, already enjoy a measure of self-governance. How much more do you have in mind when you talk about self-governance?
President Musharraf: I don't agree with that at all.
Thapar: You mean they have no self-governance whatsoever in your eyes?
President Musharraf: Not at all. Because most of the people don't accept the Indian government in Kashmir.
Thapar: Of course the Indian response to this could be that, in fact, the people of what you call the Azaad Kashmir have no self-governance at all, even less than perhaps in India.
President Musharraf: Well, we would like to give self-governance to them also.
Thapar: So let's come back to my question, when you talk about self-governance, how much more do you have in mind?
President Musharraf: When you say self-governance, okay in this part, would we agree to self-governance from both parts? Let us do it.
Thapar: Before we come to an agreement on both parts, let me try and explore with you, what you mean by that.
President Musharraf: Because you say self-governance, they would say that. Okay, if they are saying that, I'm open to it. Let us work out self-governance and impose the same rules on Indian side of Kashmir and Pakistani side of Kashmir. Is that all right?
Thapar: Well, it is not for me to answer, it is for the Indian government to answer.
President Musharraf: Okay.
Thapar: But I'm sure they are listening to this interview. Let's first try and establish what do you mean by self-governance. As I said, Indians believe there is self-governance. How much more do you want? What more are you looking for?
President Musharraf: If India believes there is self-governance, we keep sticking to this position, we will never move forward because we do not agree. Therefore, if you want to move forward, we have to leave stated positions.
Thapar: Let me ask the question the other way around. May people in Kashmir look forward to what they call independence? How much less than independence is self-governance?
President Musharraf: Exactly that is what I am saying. Please listen to me. Self-governance falls in between autonomy and independence. That is what I want to say. Now, the exact details and intricacies of it need to be worked out. I am there to propose a strategy and idea. Now the tactics and the modalities of what is self-governance need to be worked out.
Thapar: Who works it out?
President Musharraf: Together, India, Pakistan and Kashmiris.
Thapar: Will you bring in constitutional experts, will you do it yourself or is it the politicians who will do the working out?
President Musharraf: Let us get legal experts.
Thapar: International legal experts or Indian or Pakistani legal experts?
President Musharraf: I don't mind international. All these are problems with India. We won't mind international experts. Get international experts.
Thapar: But will you be happy for India and Pakistan bilaterally to appoint their own experts?
President Musharraf: And the Kashmiris too.
Thapar: And Kashmiris. But you are happy for the matter to be handled bilaterally with Kashmiris involved rather than international people coming in?
President Musharraf: As I said, we are open to anything. That is our flexibility. We are open to anything, but please, for heaven's sake, move forward.
Thapar: So, at the moment I am trying to understand what you are saying. You have gem of an idea, which is something in between autonomy and independence. But you have not fleshed it out and you believe the fleshing out has to happen together jointly.
President Musharraf: Yes, only one aspect that I have in mind within self-governance is that of security. Because the problem is of militancy on both sides. Indians accuse us for the terrorism going on or the freedom struggle going on, the other side or Pakistan accuses the Indian Army of committing atrocities. All these have to stop. Therefore, there is a demilitarisation required. And then, if we have to demilitarise, let us hand over security to the people. That is the main aspect.
Thapar: Is the concept of self-governance interlinked with demilitarisation? Or are they two separate concepts that you are playing with?
President Musharraf: I think it is one part of whatever I have suggested.
Thapar: It is a joint idea?
President Musharraf: Yes.
Thapar: But let me point out a problem.
President Musharraf: Demilitarisation is important because what kind of self governance can there be if there is a 600,000 or 700,000 army personnel all over the place and in the cities controlling everything.
Thapar: But what sort of government and you are a head of government, you are a head of army and you will understand this, what sort of government can withdraw and demilitarise while the threat of terrorism continues?
President Musharraf: No, it should not. Yes, indeed I am for curbing any kind of militancy.
Thapar: Doesn’t that have to happen first?
President Musharraf: No it can’t happen entirely. It should happen and peace should return in the Valley.
Thapar: And the demilitarisation?
President Musharraf: No sir, no. I don’t agree there. If anyone thinks that not a bullet will be fired, there are people who are involved. There is an indigenous proof, there are people involved, they are around, and they are not under the control of anyone. So if we think that if one bullet is fired, the peace process is dead, I am afraid this is not the way forward and this is what is happening on the Indian side.
Thapar: Can I point out you what perhaps in Indian eyes is normally the argument you are putting forward? You are saying that demilitarisation and the peace process has to happen together. Demilitaristion and terrorism can happen together, the problem is which government will demilitarise as long as the threat of cross border terrorism remains. Any responsible government in Delhi will say end the terror first, then we will move to talk about demilitarisation and governance. But as long as the terror continues how can a responsible government demilitarise?
President Musharraf: Okay. Why it shouldn’t? Has the Indian government ever said 'yes we are for demilitarising and self-government?' They haven’t even spoken. So lets get the strategy right. Okay, if there idea is that all terrorism has to stop and then we will speak about demilitarisation and self-governance. But they don’t move forward at all. They don’t even comment what they want.
Thapar: Let me play Devils Advocate with you. If the Indian want to say to you, as you sort of suggested just now, "end all terror then we will talk about demilitarisation and self-governance", in that circumstance would you move to end all terror immediately?
President Musharraf: Karan, we must understand and the public of India should understand. If you think I have the key, which I will just switch off like that and all terror is gone.
Thapar: It sounded for a moment as if you did.
President Musharraf: Not at all. I didn’t sound that at all. There are a lot of groups operating. There is an indigenous factor operating there and there should be no doubt in any Indian minds there are indigenous factors there.
Thapar: So then do you say the Indian government’s problem is how to demilitarise while the terror continues?
President Musharraf: They will not listen to anyone. So therefore we have to jointly move forward. When we opened the bus service, the bus station on the Indian side was attacked. Do you think we did it? Do you think we facilitated that? On one side we are opening bus service and going for a peace process and somebody attacks that. You think Pakistan sponsored it?
Thapar: Many people in India sadly say that Pakistan sponsors Jehadi militant groups today.
President Musharraf: That is absolute nonsense and this is why we don’t move forward on the peace process. The problem is that they keep blaming Pakistan on things which are not correct and therefore we don’t move forward. Now if the bus station was attacked and they say Pakistan sponsored people, whoever it is they are not sponsored by Pakistan. They may have been sponsored 15 years back. They are not being sponsored. Now stop this allegation so that we can move forward.
Thapar: Let us come back to the peace process. You have said a moment ago that you will be very happy to introduce the concept of self-governance in what you called Azad Kashmir, just as you want to introduce self-governance on the Indian side of the border as well. And you would like both countries to work out together what they mean by self-governance and that is a set of details that still need to be worked upon. Will self-governance also apply to the Northern territories?
President Musharraf: Why we are getting involved in this nuisance?
Thapar: Is it a nuisance? You control almost 70 per cent of the Northern Territories.
President Musharraf: Now my idea is, we have to identity the region. I have said this a long time ago. In its complexity, in its entirety, we have to identify a region and then we have to demilitarise and then we have to go for self-governance and then we go for joint management. There are the four things that I said long time ago.
Thapar: Joint management?
President Musharraf: Yes.
Thapar: This sounds new. Joint management means that the sovereignty of the two countries over what they hold today is not appreciated, but you still manage to exert joint management. A Kashmiri entity with open borders and perhaps collaborated joint institutions. Is that not right?
President Musharraf: First of all it is sovereignty that we are talking about. The dispute is about sovereignty. This is a disputed territory. There is no sovereignty.
Thapar: Then what does joint management mean?
President Musharraf: Joint management would be a solution which we need to go into. Now I know that I am treading in very sensitive areas. And I know that the Indian government would comment on it that I give ideas through the media. Unfortunately, I also give these ideas always to the leadership also.
President Musharraf: I believe in confidentiality. I believe that things should be covered till we move forward. But unfortunately a year has passed and we still keep things under the wrap. We don’t come out openly. I don’t go along with this kind of strategy or theory. A time has to come when leadership on both sides have to come up in the open and discuss ideas.
Thapar: Absolutely. Let us separate for a moment how the ideas are raised and why you talked in the press and why you don’t. Let us leave that for a little later.
President Musharraf: I have said these things to the leadership also by the way.
Thapar: Let us for now concentrate on the idea itself. If self-governance is the solution that you are suggesting for both to consider - for Jammu & Kashmir on the Indian side and what you call Azad Kashmir on yours - why are the Northern Territories, which perhaps represent 70 per cent of of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which you control?
President Musharraf: I have not said anything about any territory. I said we have to identify the region.
Thapar: So the Northern Territories could be included?
President Musharraf: At the moment, technically, the whole of Kashmir means the northern areas, Azad Kashmir, Jammu, Srinagar region and Ladakh region.
Thapar: So just to be crystal clear, because people are listening to you and they want clarity. The Northern Territories could be part of the package that you are talking about?
President Musharraf: When we discuss regions, when we discuss territories, yes indeed we start with the whole block. This is Kashmir and we start discussing.
Thapar: Now this concept of self-governance that you are suggesting would apply to the whole princely state of Kashmir as it existed prior to 1947. What you are suggesting is that the two governments sit down, work out what they mean by self-governance and apply equally and mutually on both side of LoC on the territories that they control? Can I go a step further? What are you envisaging?
President Musharraf: But that is not the end of everything.
Thapar: Absolutely. What are you then envisaging?
President Musharraf: Joint management.
Thapar: Joint management. What does that mean?
President Musharraf: Joint management means we need to work it out. We need to have a system where the Kashmiris, the Pakistanis, the Indians are involved in monitoring the self-governance that we evolve. There have to subjects which are devolved, there have to be some subjects retained for the joint management.
Thapar: So within the joint management of India and Pakistan over the old pre-1947 primary stage and Jammu and Kashmir within that you have self governance equally applied across both sides where the Kashmir have a say in their own life. Is that right?
President Musharraf: Yes, absolutely.
Thapar: Joint management then suggests that the sovereignty of India over what it has and sovereignty of Pakistan over what it has remains, but a creative, imaginative way is found for Kashmir within that sovereignty to share and a be part of it.
President Musharraf: That sovereignty is reduced. Okay. That sovereignty gets reduced because when we give self-governance that sovereignty that you are talking off, in a sense you are saying certainly gets reduced. Yes, I agree with it.
Thapar: But it is not undermined, that is the critical point.
President Musharraf: It's not undermined.
Thapar: If it still remains, Indian-Kashmir, Pakistani-Kashmir but within that joint entity as well.
President Musharraf: Okay, one can have a time frame. One could have a time frame for these separate entities. After five or 10 years if they decide to merge and to have self governance as one block that could also be possible.
Thapar: So, then it could be a two-stage process. In stage one they remain separate entities, in stage two they merge, but they merge under what I am now calling the 'tutelage', the joint management of India Pakistan. That joint management remains.
President Musharraf: Yes, there has to be a division. We are not talking about giving independence to Kashmir. That is not acceptable to either India or Pakistan. We don't accept autonomy as the final solution within the Indian constitution.
Thapar: Something in between.
President Musharraf: Something in between or self-governance.
Thapar: With both countries guaranteeing it?
President Musharraf: With both countries guaranteeing it and overseeing it.
Thapar: And therefore both countries having a stake in guaranteeing the situation in the other side of Kashmir.
President Musharraf: Absolutely.
Thapar: That's critical?
President Musharraf: Yes.
Thapar: So you are talking then about concepts of interdependence, concepts of diplomatic interrelationships, that have never really been experimented before. This is completely fresh ground.
President Musharraf: Absolutely, you to break fresh ground. Because the LoC is the issue. On the Indian side it is said that boundaries cannot be redone. We will not accept the LoC as final.
Thapar: So this is General Musharraf being creative? This is General Musharraf thinking out of the box as he said in April he would.
President Musharraf: Absolutely, these are my ideas but I am open to any suggestions. The unfortunate reality is no suggestion comes from the other side. Or no comments come on this other than negative comments.
Thapar: General Musharraf, lets take a break. You have sketched out things in more detail than ever before. What you mean by self-governance and you have gone on record for the first time to talk of the concept of joint management under what I call the tutelage of India and Pakistan.
Let's take a break and comeback and ask how you react to the Indian response, the way you have raised these proposals and what the next step thereafter should be.