Negotiation is the Way Out of the Impasse on Kashmir
Asghar S. Nasir
Now Independent Development Consultant
for Developing Countries
What is the best way for people to deal with their differences? What,
for example, is the best advice one could give a husband and wife
getting divorce, on how to reach a fair and mutually satisfactory
agreement without ending up in a bitter fight? Every day, families,
neighbours, employees, bosses and nations face the same dilemma: How
to come to an accord without going to war?
Like it or not, negotiation is a fact of life. Negotiation is a basic
means of getting what one wants from others. It is back-and-forth
communication designed to reach an agreement, particularly when both
sides have some interests that are shared and others on which they
Conflict in Kashmir is a growth industry. As it is, in our time fewer
and fewer people accept decisions taken for their future by someone
else. This is relevant for the Kashmir issue too. It demands the
participation of the people of Kashmir - on the same table with India
and Pakistan - in negotiating differences. Negotiation without the
participation of the people of Kashmir will get entangled in a process
Both India and Pakistan should look for mutual gain and they should
insist on a fair method of negotiation without tricks and no
Principled negotiation will produce mutually acceptable results on the
Kashmir issue. Both countries now have a new interest in "face saving"
in reconciling future action with past positions. Without the
legitimate interests of the people of Kashmir, agreement will be less
people of India and Pakistan are not computers
The answer to the question of whether the follow-up of Agra summit
will lead to an alternative to positional bargaining will depend on
the method of negotiation. It would need an explicit design to produce
a wise outcome efficiently and amicably. It will boil down to four
basic points. These four points deal with a basic element of
People: Separate the people from problems.
Interest: Focus on interest, not positions.
Option: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to
Criteria: Insist that result be based on some long-term objective
The people of India and Pakistan are not computers; they are creatures
of strong emotions. As such, they have radically different perceptions
and emotions. Two cases in point are the words: "cross-border" and
"centrality". These stood in the way of a joint declaration by
Pakistan and India.
Hopefully such differences of words will not jeopardise the next
declaration. Before the next meeting both sides must reach an
agreement on options for mutual gain.
There is a time for everything
It is vital that future leaders and members of a negotiation team
remember that there is a time for everything. There is a time for
ploughing and sowing. There is a time for building confidence in each
To state it here is simply to stress the fact that this is the most
suitable time for India and Pakistan - under General Musharraf's
government - to resolve the 54-year-long dispute over Kashmir.
There is no military solution. But there is a scope for compromise if
the will of the two leaders - supported by people of both nations - to
come to a settlement, remains genuine. Let us, therefore, make no
mistake - whether we live in India or in Pakistan - that Kashmir issue
can no longer remain in cold storage.
On the contrary, it is on the anvil and, therefore, should be hammered
and shaped into a form for peace and prosperity in both countries.
People of India and Pakistan could hope for nothing better.
This is an ideal opportunity - when a 74-year old veteran politician
and a 57-year old general have shown their will to bury the past and
open a new chapter to reach a compromise solution.
while the iron is hot - and polish it at leisure"
It is about such situations that the Saracens* said: "strike while the
iron is hot - and polish it at leisure". That saying is packed with
moral virtue and practical wisdom. At the root of any argument about
collective security for the people in Kashmir, proceeding peacefully,
lies the principal that order precedes justice, that the prevention of
violence is comes prior to the redress of grievances, that law can
only function within a framework of order for all the people of
Kashmir: "Hindus" and "Moslems".
There is a growing acknowledgement of the nature of threat to law and
order in Kashmir. The situation is so calamitous that both governments
must do everything to preserve maintain peace.
The question is: What would help to preserve it? Would it be the
doctrine of national self-determination like the majority of
inhabitants in Europe enjoy?
The lack of provision for peaceful change in India's policy towards
Kashmir needs redressing as much as the policy of Pakistan.
From the outcome of the summit there is a prospect of a direct and
positive relationship between India and Pakistan to develop a peaceful
balanced discussion to solve their dispute in future. Though it may be
hard to decide what to negotiate in "good faith" and to avoid to fight
dirty bargaining tactics.
Sarakenoi), originally a north Arabian tribe mentioned by
ancient authors. The name was applied by medieval Christians and
later Western historians to the Arabs in general and also to other
Muslim peoples of the Middle East.
"Saracens," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All
Courtesy: The Global South @www
The views expressed in this column are the author's own, not
necessarily of The Global South @ www. Dr. Nasir's E-Mail address is