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UN delivers harsh blow to Pak's J&K dreams

UN delivers harsh blow to Pak's J&K dreams

Author: Chidanand Rajghatta
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 24, 2002
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Articleshow.asp?art_id=10885642

The United Nations has dealt a severe blow to Pakistan on Kashmir that could change the dynamics and complexion of the contentious issue.

In a statement issued Thursday on the South Asia situation that international experts agreed was a landmark, Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested the bilateral route to resolve the "differences" over Kashmir.

He also implicitly pointed to Pakistan as the originator of terrorism in the region by asking it to stop such acts across the Line of Control.

The brief two paragraph statement issued by Annan's office reads as follows:

"The secretary-general is increasingly concerned by the alarming rise in tension between India and Pakistan. He is in close contact with the leaders of both sides, to encourage them to resolve their differences, including over Kashmir, by peaceful means."

"The secretary-general considers it essential that the logic and language of war be replaced by the logic and language of peace. At the same time, he wishes to reiterate his unconditional condemnation of all acts of terrorism. There can be no tolerance for such acts, especially across the Line of Control in Kashmir. The secretary-general accordingly urges President Musharraf to take vigorous action to ensure full implementation of the policy set out in his speech of 12 January."

There are several remarkable aspects to the timing and content of the statement. It was issued soon after Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar wrote a lengthy and vituperative letter blaming India for racheting up tensions and seeking UN intervention.

More pertinently, while Annan has indicated before that UN resolutions on the subject of Kashmir may be infructuous given the time lapse and changed ground conditions, the statement clearly suggests a bilateral route now to resolve what the secretary-general calls "differences".

Even more stunning is the clarity with which Annan indicts Pakistan for the tensions in the region, implicitly blaming it for acts of terrorism, and the recognition of the Line of Control as the rubicon.

The statement sent ripples of excitement across the diplomatic and think-tank community involved in the region. "It is certainly an unusual statement," Steve Cohen, a long-time South Asia scholar now with the Brookings Institution, said. "It seems like a departure from the usual UN stand."

"It is the most categorical assertion of Pakistani complicity in terrorism ever to come from the UN," agreed University of Texas' Sumit Ganguly. "The UN has never been more forthright than this in advising Pakistan to call off its dogs of war."

Ganguly said it was also very interesting that Annan had made no reference to the Pakistani demand for international observers on the border. "It was patently a public relations stunt by Pakistan and the UN has ignored it," he said.

The statement, combined with relentless pressure from the world community, including strong messages from the United States and salutary advice from European powers, not to speak of unmistakable notice of war from India, has compelled Gen Musharraf to stand down from his forward policy on Kashmir.

There is now a sense in the western community that Musharraf's renewed pledge to forsake terrorism has pushed back the war clock and provided some space for a diplomatic dialogue. But the Pakistani general will be under even greater scrutiny now to deliver on his promises, now that it has been established that he played fast and loose with his earlier pledges.

The situation and atmosphere is somewhat reminiscent of July 1999 when Pakisan was forced to retreat from Kargil and recant its forward policy in Kashmir. But that retreat, agreed to by the country's political establishment, turned out to be just tactical, as the country's military dispensation retained it as a strategic objective.

Whether Musharraf will permanently forsake the same aggressive forward policy in Kashmir is the question worth billions.

If he does, western countries may lavish Pakistan with even greater aid, but the fear is that he is likely to be consumed by fundamentalists within the country. Some observers though feel that this is a bogey he invokes to keep stoking the fires in Kashmir.

However, there is now a sense that Musharraf may have to go even if he does not resile from the aggressive Kashmir policy.

New Delhi has made it clear that it does not trust him and will not do business with him even in the unlikely event of his having a change of heart about his Kashmir policy. He also also lost credibility with the rest of the world, save perhaps China.

"I don't think the US cares too much about him now. The Pentagon's primary interest now is not Pakistan or Musharraf but anyone who can help US continue the war against terrorism," says Cohen, pointing out that Pakistani dictator is even losing domestic support.

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