LoC as border: not workable, for now

LoC as border: not workable, for now

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah's statement that India should accept Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as lost to Pakistan and work towards a solution that is based on making the Line of Control (LoC) the International Border is a pragmatic one. The idea is not new. At the Simla Summit of 1972, the then Indian and Pakistani prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, are said to have agreed, albeit verbally, to gradually convert the LoC into the International Border. Unfortunately, events in subsequent years prevented them from making it happen. Since then several leaders, including former prime ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh as well as Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf have suggested variations of this theme as the basis of a solution to the festering dispute. The problem is not the idea itself but its translation into reality. It requires great thought and discussion in both countries. But the current atmosphere in India, let alone Pakistan, is not conducive to it. Hyper-nationalism and intolerance of viewpoints have grown under the Narendra Modi government and can be expected to mount as general elections near, especially with Modi's popularity showing signs of fading. Unsurprisingly, Abdullah's statement has kicked up a storm and political parties and politicians, anxious not to be labelled
'anti-national', have quickly rejected it.

There are, of course, far more substantial issues, too. In 1994, Parliament unanimously passed a resolution stating that PoK is an integral part of India. It also called on Pakistan to "vacate the areas" of the former princely state of J&K that it "occupied through aggression." Allowing PoK to become a part of Pakistan would be a violation of the letter and spirit of that resolution.  Besides, it would send out a signal to Pakistan that its policy of using terrorism as an instrument of policy against India works. There is no guarantee that Pakistan will live in peace with India even after such a concession. Appeasement is only likely to feed its ambitions, not dampen them.

The Modi government is in a position to settle the matter; it has the required strength in Parliament to do so. But that strength was itself built by fuelling hyper-nationalist sentiment and a promise of being tough on Pakistan, not on making concessions to it. The BJP's larger Parivar is unlikely to allow Modi any leeway on this. In any case, rising nations do not make such concessions, certainly not to a failing state. The time for settling the issue with Pakistan is not now. Abdullah's idea, therefore, must be put in cold storage, at least for now.  

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