Q. What has changed in the last two years that makes India and Pakistan move towards a faster resolution of problems?
A. First, as compared to the past, the US now has a high interest in the sub-continent. In the past, the US was avoiding the inclusion of Kashmir in the agenda. But the nuclearisation of the two countries changed things. A US expert told me that the two countries talk so freely about nuclear weapons as they though they are going to shower flowers on us. The US has a global interest of course and that has made things move. Also, there is a growing realisation among the people of both countries that the two should avoid going to war. The next war will certainly be destructive.
Q. But let us not forget that Kargil happened
A. If Clinton and Nawaz Sharif had not been involved, maybe it would have gone nuclear. Also both countries now realize the amount of money being spent on defence. It is colossal. The economies of both countries are suffering because of this belligerence.
Q. What about changes in the Valley and POK? Are there any domestic political changes?
A. One change that took place was the takeover by the military in Pakistan. From the very first day. General Musharraf said there was no military solution to the Kashmir issue. For that purpose, coupled with other factors, militant activity that was based in Pakistan had to be stopped and people argued in favour of democracy. People fail to realise that elements were involved with militancy for 12 to 15 years. Some of them might be still persisting and that sort of irritation might continue for some time. A peaceful solution is both in the global interest and in the interest of both countries.
Q. Do you see a change in approach between the two countries in solving the problem?
A. No matter what the two prime ministers talk between themselves, no one has the courage to spell it out outside. People inside realise the urgency to resolve these irritants. Some hardliners will continue no matter what you do. I think they will be completely sidelined. They will have no say in the future affairs of both countries. I think they are completely out. That is because hardline has no end. People cannot indefinitely go on appeasing the hardliners.
Q. So is jehadi over?
A. I don't think it is over. My fear if there is no way forward found, it might have a backlash. It will be very destructive.
Q. How do you view President Musharraf's recent proposal to solve the Kashmir issue?
A. It's an initiative. I told him from my point of view that it is neither a solution nor a formula. It is not a proposal. It is just an initiative that can generate some sort of activity. We are far away from any solution so far. That's why I am suggesting an interim solution or an interim measure which could perhaps be acceptable even if it is unpalatable in the name of an interim solution. A lasting solution seems far off.
Q. What would you consider an interim solution?
A. Anything - the ceasefire is an interim measure. Softening of the border could be one such. A third could be replacement, withdrawal of troops from both sides from population centres, particularly from the Indian side. In AJK, we have no troops deployed. Many steps have to be taken before you reach a lasting, durable solution. If we would have had a plebiscite, we could have achieved it. But we have missed that bus.
Q. That plebiscite bus cannot be caught again?
A. I don't think so.
Q. What would be the other alternatives?
A. When there is trust it is very easy to tackle problems. When there is mistrust you can't tackle a simple problem.
Q. India has been saying exactly that. Do you think the Indian effort is genuine?
A. It is a matter of interpretation. One says it is a genuine effort. The other says it is meant to sideline or sidetrack the Kashmir issue. But I think it is motivated by genuineness.
Q. Are you in favour in greater connectivity?
A. The benefit is that it will reduce level of tension. At the moment we are living in a totally antagonistic atmosphere. The right atmosphere is needed.
Q. What move would you suggest?
A. I have been insisting from 1979 that we should have an intra-Kashmir dialogue. When I was in power in 1975, I offered to open the routes and go into trade between the two countries. I invited the then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir to come to Muzaffarabad on the condition that I also be invited to Srinagar so that there will not be a one way traffic. It was dropped. I am very much convinced that if an intra-Kashmir dialogue was permitted, it would have helped a lot.
Q. The Indian perspective of an intra-Kashmiri dialogue is that Pakistan and the Hurriyat have an exclusionist policy towards the elected leaders of Jammu and Kashmir?
A. You have to raise the level of participation of the dialogue. Otherwise, you have people who can only discuss things but cannot deliver any goods. You have to bring in effective people, those who matter. From the beginning, I have been saying that all sections of opinion, including from the government side, should be invited to talk. Then only by a process of elimination, we will come to some understanding. What the meetings should do is not jockey for a numbers game but sit down and put all cards on the table and find out ways that could help India and Pakistan and the international community. That is the responsibility of the Kashmiri leadership on both sides.
Q. Is there a third option? Can there be an independent Kashmir?
A. It is a mathematical question. The independence option is not available in the scheme of things. Then the whole scheme would have to be changed. India would have be repartitioned. And the 600 states included. UN resolutions will have to be reversed. Who will do it? It is an intellectual luxury. It has no foundation or basis. How can one suggest independence of one state out of 600 states on both sides? Since the beginning I have been opposed to the idea. I remember even Pandit Nehru stating that we can hand Kashmir over to Pakistan but we cannot make it independent.
Q. The northern areas do not identify with the Azad Jammu and Kashmir state which you once headed?
A. Whether they do it or not, under the UN resolutions, under the sub-continental geographical divisions, this area has been part of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Pervez Musharraf included the northern areas as one of the regions when he proposed a solution. There are three groups among the Kashmiris. There are those who identify themselves as part of the Frontier region. There are those who just believe that it is part of Pakistan. And a small section talk of independence which means independence from the influence of Pakistan. I think the Indian government, from the beginning, seemed to be supporting the idea of independence of Kashmir. But very soon, they realised that is a golden dagger which they would draw at their own stomach.
Q. What would be some of the steps you would suggest as a way out?
A. Confidence building measures. The Kashmiris should meet. They should have a small demilitarised zone. There should also be an opening of routes from Sialkot to the northern areas. Unfortunately, whenever a good step is taken, it is looked upon as a sign of weakness. It would then be exploited. Subversion should stop on both sides. Don't think anything good can materialize from the presence of organized, planned, official subversion.