IT is heartening to note that the President has clearly and unambiguously come out in favour of the Kashmiris' right to decide about their future in accordance with Indian commitments and UN resolutions. Thus, he put to rest the impression, which had gained ground since the PPP-led government came into power, that he was not so enthusiastic about Pakistan's traditional stand on the issue and under US pressure was somehow keen to put the dispute out of the way. There can be little doubt that such a course would work against Pakistan's vital interests. Besides, the quest for peace cannot blind us to the plight of the people of Kashmir under the brutal and illegal occupation of India. President Zardari's emphatic expression of the stand on what he termed as Pakistan's "jugular vein", recalling the words the Quaid-i-Azam used was, therefore, in order and timely.
The country's rivers flow from Held Kashmir for one thing, and the people across the Line of Control have family ties, for another.
Addressing the Azad Kashmir Assembly on January 5, the day in 1949 when the UN Security Council passed a resolution to acknowledge the Kashmiris' right to self-determination under the UN auspices, he did not mince his words about the inextricable connection that peace in the region had with the resolution of the disputed state through that course. He was right that New Delhi would have to sit on the negotiating table with Pakistan to sort out the nitty-gritty of holding the plebiscite. India's persistent refusal to resume composite dialogue with Islamabad and efforts to engage Kashmiri leaders to work out a modus vivendi under the Indian Constitution instead, would not help matters. Neither Pakistan, which is a party to the dispute and has deep interest in its just solution, could be sidetracked, nor genuine Kashmiri leaders would go along with such a formula. The crucial question of durable peace would continue to persist. Peace is possible only when the Indians drop their hegemonic intentions and acknowledge the fact that unless they adopt a policy of having good neighbourly relations with the smaller states of South Asia, there would not be much hope for their own country to live in peace and harmony. And that is what President Zardari meant when he said that it was not possible to change one's neighbours.
Mr Zardari was hopeful that the international community would soon realise the imperative need for bringing the dispute to a close in a fair and acceptable manner. However, considering India's present state of unreasonableness and its aggressive attitude, it is necessary for the government to become active at the diplomatic level. Relying on public statements would not bring the subcontinent any nearer to a political solution.