India-Pakistan “secret pact” – was Kashmir accord just a signature away?
India and Pakistan held secret talks for more than three years, reached an accord on the thorny Kashmir issue and had almost unveiled it in 2007 before domestic turmoil in Pakistan derailed it, former Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has revealed.
Kasuri says the two nuclear-armed rivals, who rule the Himalayan region in parts, had agreed to full demilitarisation of both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir with a package of loose autonomy on both sides of the Line of Control, a military control line that divides the region between two nations.
“We agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy,” Kasuri told Times of India.
Almost all Kashmir leaders except hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani came on board and agreed on the accord that was to be signed during a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Islamabad scheduled for February-March 2007.
It never happened. The then Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, lost power and the country plunged into turmoil.
The “secret deal” had come despite six decades of distrust and other festering disputes between the two countries who have fought wars over Kashmir.
Has Kashmir, the region that has bled for twenty years, lost an opportunity for peace and permanent settlement?
An editorial in The Times of India says that the 2007 secret deal has another interesting implication.
“The Pakistani army has always been viewed as the prime obstacle in any process of rapprochement, and with good reason. But such a deal could not have come into existence without it being on board, especially as it happened during Musharraf’s watch,” says The Times of India editorial “Back To The Future“.
The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan signalled that their prime ministers will talk this week in Bhutan, in a meeting seen as crucial for resuming a peace dialogue and preventing further deterioration in their ties.
The secret deal, for dealing with the Kashmir dispute, remains a hope for the weary people of the region and for peace in the subcontinent.