“India and Pakistan had come close to clinching a deal on Kashmir”

Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri (74), occupied the post of Pakistan’s foreign minister between November 2002 and November 2007, under the regime headed by then President Pervez Musharraf. India and Pakistan had made significant progress in peace talks during his tenure. They had even moved a step closer to hammering out a deal on Kashmir through back channel talks. In his new book Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove, Kasuri has laid bare the details of that non-paper that was exchanged between India and Pakistan, which culminated into what is now known as a ‘four-point formula’ of understanding.

Here are some excerpts of Kasuri’s conversation with Iftikhar Gilani.

Khurshid-Mahmud-KasuriIftikhar Gilani (IG): Mr. Kasuri, you have elaborated President Pervez Musharraf’s famed four point formula and expanded it into a nine-point formula. But the foreign offices of both Indian and Pakistan have disassociated themselves from any such deal.

Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri (KMK): Yes…. but thank God, there are many in India, who have spoken about the back channel engagements. S K Lamba, Manmohan Singh’s pointsman, had disclosed similar information in a lecture at the Kashmir University last year. Sanjay Baru’s book has a chapter on this subject. Baru has even said that the formula was Singh’s brain child. It has also been disclosed that Singh personally handed over a file to his successor Narendra Modi. It has also come out that the interlocutors, Riaz Muhammad Khan and Tariq Aziz, held over 200 hours of discussions with Lamba, spread over 30 meetings held in Dubai and Kathmandu. Every statement in my book can be ascribed to a source.

I had also made sure that when there was a change of guard in Pakistan, the documents would be handed over to President Asif Ali Zardari. Which is why, at the time of being sworn in, Zardari had declared that the nation would soon hear some good news about Kashmir. At that time, Zardari had not met any Indian leader. He made that statement because only the previous day he had been told at length about the back-channel engagements, the process and the outcome. I don’t think it was diplomatically wise for him to offer that statement till he had met Indian leaders. I can tell you with full authority that whatever I have written in my book is unquestionable.

IG: But this formula, if implemented, would have required a host of changes in the Constitutions of both countries. In settling the Northern Ireland issue, Republic of Ireland had to amend their Constitution. In India, where even the land acquisition law and other legislations get shot down in parliament, what led you to be so optimistic about the agreement on Kashmir?

KMK: Our understanding was it would not require a Constitutional amendment. It may require legal changes – that is the impression we had. But, I am confident that when India and Pakistan decide to be civilized nations, they would have no option but to resolve the Kashmir issue at the first opportunity. I have described in my book nine war and near-war like situations, starting from 1947. In wars, even the victorious party cannot forcibly impose a settlement on the other country.

My question to Narendra Modi is this: Mr Prime Minister, there is nothing new for you to try in this region. If Ajit Doval’s statements are taken into account, let me tell you from my experience, agencies from both sides have mastered and known each other’s fault lines too well. We may lose – but India – will not gain either. Modi has promised people of India, development. But there can be no development unless there is genuine peace in the country.

 

IG: But India is growing without or despite Pakistan. The global powers are keen to invest in India…

KMK: That may be so. But will this process survive if something were to happen in the region? If what Mr. Doval has hinting at happens, both countries will inflict heavy damages on each other. I told you, we may lose, but India will also not emerge victorious. It is enough for me to just say this.

 

IG: If this solution really emanated from Vajpayee or Singh, why was it called the Musharraf formula? Why didn’t any Indian leader try to own it?

KMK: You can give the formula whatever name you want. I have quoted Manmohan Singh’s statements made along the same lines as Musharraf’s. It doesn’t matter who the formula is ascribed to.

 

IG: You have disclosed that India, despite being a robust democracy, was not keen on Musharraf leaving his army position. Did India want him to continue as president as well as chief of army staff?

KMK: Yes, this has puzzled me. It was so ironic. I was at the UN when informed that the Indian representative in London had attacked Musharraf’s uniform in order to block us at the Commonwealth. I picked up phone and talked to National Security Advisor J N Dixit. I asked him: what are you complaining about?  He said, I am sorry, it will never happen again. Then, just as I was about to put the phone down, he said, can you convey a message from us to the President that, India doesn’t want him to leave the army position. That was the most surprising statement that I have ever encountered in my career. I had been telling people inside Pakistan that the President should leave his uniform and contest the next election as civilian. I had even conveyed my opinion to the President’s chief of staff.

Then I realized that India was apprehensive that Musharraf’s successor to the army position may not be like him. Wearing his two hats, Musharraf, had turned out to be statesman-like. But it is not possible to have such a statesman-like figure every time in history.

IG: Our impression here is that Pakistan’s army is an obstacle in the path of peace, and that it owes its existence to anti-India rhetoric.

KMK: I have named the generals who were involved in peace process. Pakistan army is not an obstacle in the way of genuine peace. But it wants peace on terms of equality, justice and fairness. The army and ISI were completely in support of the back-channel peace process. Institutions don’t change stand like political parties. Real national interest means defence preparedness, economic prosperity and political stability. So the army understands that it is in Pakistan’s interest to have genuine peace with India.

 

IG: You have mentioned Pakistan’s first engagement with Israel. Why were you keen to build contacts with Tel Aviv?

KMK: The reason for contacting Tel Aviv was Americans working on an agreement with India on civil nuclear technology. We believed the US was being unfair in not having a similar agreement with us. The biggest opponent to this deal with us was the Israeli lobby in United States. We then thought of approaching Israel. The present Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was then the prime minister, arranged the meeting. We thought it would send a positive signal to the US’s Israeli lobby, to stop opposing us. The Israelis knew that we are the only country in the world to pose a military challenge to them. In the 1971 war, Pakistani pilots had shot down Israeli planes in Syria. That is why Mir Murtaza Bhutto was given asylum by President Hafiz Al Asad. They also knew our range of missiles. My purpose was to ask them why they were hurting our interests and tell them not to cross a line.

The meeting was arranged a bit like a 007 Bond film. I landed secretly in Libya in a special plane, and then went to Malta – and from there to Turkey. When I landed in Istanbul, Erdogan sent his close confidante to receive me at the tarmac. There was absolute darkness. Lest any intelligence agency gets whiff of my presence, the lights of Istanbul were switched off. The news, if leaked, would have created hell in Pakistan and elsewhere. Israelis offered us every sophisticated technology. But we could not go that far. We told them that we couldn’t accept their offer till they accept King Abdullah’s formula to settle the Palestine issue.

Here are the contours of the agreement on Kashmir, drawn up by Kasuri:

  1. Reducing violence: Controlling cross border LoC movements of militants, and dismantling terror infrastructure aimed at India.
  2. Demilitarization: Reducing military footprint on both sides, beginning with withdrawal of troops from civilian areas.
  3. Self-Governance: Strengthening Article 370 and identical measures of self-governance on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir, across the LoC.
  4. Elections: Holding free and fair elections, open to scrutiny of international observers and media, on both sides.
  5. Defining units of Kashmir: allowing both countries to hold administrative control of one or two regions, to address Pakistan’s obsession of Gilgit-Baltistan part of Kashmir, its gateway to China.
  6. Joint Mechanism: Constituting a joint body of elected government-nominated representatives to monitor cross LoC trade, tour, travel etc.
  7. Evolving common policies in development and water resources.
  8. Setting up a monitoring process: Foreign ministers of the two countries to annually meet for monitoring the progress of the agreement, which was to be reviewed after 15 years.
  9. Signing a treaty of Peace, security and friendship after addressing outstanding issues, in order to give the countries a stake in each other’s economic development.

– Part of the interview was first published by DNA. Interviewer is DNA national bureau chief.

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