We now come to the contours of a possible settlement of the intractable Jammu & Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India which has been the cause of constant friction between the two countries over the last six decades. It was not just the Cassandras or the usual sceptics who thought that we were engaged in a futile exercise; in fact, a large part of the intelligentsia shared these doubts. As I recollect, the main elements of the proposed agreement and the spirit underlying it can best be described by what follows.

As far as we were concerned, it was quite clear to us that no agreement worked out between India and Pakistan could be sold to the people of Pakistan unless the vast majority of Kashmiris accepted it. This required trying to understand in earnest what the Kashmiris really desired. This in turn entailed meetings with Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), particularly, those in the Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK)*.

I had marathon sessions with Kashmiri leaders to try and understand what their real priorities were, since it was the people of IAK who had suffered the most and consequently protested throughout regarding the conditions under which they were living. I made special efforts to understand their real concerns. For this purpose, I interacted with the Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi and in other world capitals, sometimes secretly.

As a result of this interaction, it had become abundantly clear to us what their priorities were. First of all, they pointed out that about a hundred thousand Kashmiris have been martyred since 1989. All Kashmiris emphasised demilitarisation since they wanted that Indian troops be withdrawn from the populated areas as soon as possible.

Life, they said, had become unbearable for them. They could not go through their ordinary chores under Indian bayonets. Additionally, their women and children had suffered psychological trauma due to the presence of Indian troops on the streets of their towns and villages.

This posed a major challenge to Pakistani negotiators. We realised that, unless we were able to satisfy the Kashmiris on this score, they would not be amenable to a long-term solution that ignored their immediate plight. We thus had to insist on demilitarisation in our negotiations with India.

Initially, the Indians would hear none of it.

When it became clear to them, both on the backchannel as well as during talks between leaders, that no Kashmir settlement without a meaningful progress on this issue was possible, the Indians came forward with a counter-proposal. They said this proposal was untenable and no government could sell it to the people of India unless Pakistan similarly withdrew its troops from AJK.

We pointed out to the Indians that there had been no demand by the people of AJK to withdraw Pakistani troops. The Indians said that, in the absence of a quid pro quo on this issue, our proposal was politically undoable. We had brainstorming sessions on the Pakistani side and came to the conclusion that, in the interest of a settlement, we would also agree to withdraw troops from AJK as the Indian withdrew theirs from IAK. Anyhow, we felt that we did not need troops to maintain Pakistan’s position in AJK as India did to maintain its control over the territory under its occupation.

It was, therefore, decided after protracted negotiations that both sides would agree to a major reduction of armed forces in the region. It was also agreed that this reduction would be brought about gradually, in consonance with the improvement of the situation on the ground and that troops would not only be withdrawn from population centres but that they would be reduced to a bare minimum on both sides of the LoC. Pakistan and India further agreed to solemnly conclude an agreement within one year over reduction of troops and the process of demilitarisation.


There was a clear understanding between the two countries that conscious efforts would be made by both sides through all means available to them to reduce violence in Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK)*. Without putting it in so many words, the understanding was that India would make the lives of Kashmiris more bearable by withdrawing its troops initially from population centres as explained above, and that Pakistan would utilise all the influence and exert all the moral pressure it could apply on those who were engaged in crossing the Line of Control (LoC) from Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK).

This was one of the most important items in the backchannel discussions on Kashmir. In addition to the provision that Pakistan and India decided upon solemnly, concluding an agreement within a year over reduction of troops and the process of demilitarisation, there was also a reference to the need to make efforts to reintegrate into society those involved in Kashmir freedom struggle through violent activities. We tried to achieve this through the launching of various programmes designed to wean them away from violence to enable them to lead a normal and peaceful life upon reintegration in society.

When we assumed office, it had become clear to all of us that the policies Pakistan had pursued following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and after the 1989 Geneva Accord, as well as in Kashmir, were no longer tenable. The militants’ support to the freedom struggle led to its radicalisation. This process gained strength following the rigged elections in 1987 in IAK.

We also realised that the peace process we had initiated with India would not make much headway unless conscious efforts were made to control cross-border movement.

As indicated elsewhere, we had faced criticism from a section of retired ambassadors, generals, and some others on the contents of the Islamabad Joint Press Statement of 6 January 2004, which mentioned that Pakistan would not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner. We were attacked on the grounds that this amounted to an admission that Pakistani territory was being used for acts of terrorism.

Our critics seemed to be living in a world of make-believe. It was widely believed by the international community and was a matter of common knowledge among most informed Pakistanis that there was movement from the territory of AJK into IAK. The international media were full of such stories and, in my interaction with some of the major world leaders, including some of Pakistan’s closest friends, a reference, however indirect, polite or oblique, to conform to the niceties of diplomatic etiquette, was made to this phenomenon. Sometimes these references were not particularly oblique either, especially, when I was dealing with my counterparts from the West.

There was also a general realisation that the rising militancy was not in our own long-term interest. We felt that, in the changing international climate, Pakistan would do all it can to espouse the cause of the Kashmiris through political means. The cause of Kashmir has a strong legal and moral foundation and acts of violence would not help advance that cause.

We realised fairly early that the peace process with India could not survive, let alone thrive, unless cross-LoC movement was controlled. It was in this background that in 2005 and 2006, I started hearing in hushed tones at the Presidency and in some other high-level meetings that centres had been set up to wean away militants from their past and impart skills to them which would help them integrate better in society. On more than one occasion, I offered to some ambassadors who raised the issue of militancy with me to take them to these centres.

It is, therefore, no wonder that statements started appearing from important persons in India that the number of militants crossing the LoC had gone down substantially. For example, Lt Gen. T.K. Saproo General Officer Commanding (GOC), K. Saproo, of Nagrota (Jammu-based) 16 Corps of the Indian Army said that infiltration across the LoC had been brought down to ‘almost zero’.

Understandably, he gave much of the credit for this to better control of the LoC by India. Perhaps it was too much to expect a senior Indian Commander to give credit to Pakistan publicly. Some Indian sources which give the figures of fatalities caused due to terrorist violence testify to this fact.

For example, from 4,507 in 2001 according to these sources, the number of fatalities had come down to 777 in 2007. This was the year when our government left office. It is clear that the Pakistan Army had been on board on the solution of J&K that we were trying to achieve and continued along the same path even after our government’s tenure ended and President Musharraf was no longer in power. According to the same sources these fatalities by 2014 had been reduced to sixty-eight.


Many people remind us these days (including some Western countries who initially encouraged Pakistan in this direction during the Soviet invasion) that Pakistan should have known better before it created Frankenstein’s monsters that have come to haunt it in the shape of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Moreover, it should have also known that this was a common historical experience. This is true, but unfortunately, as George Bernard Shaw put it, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”...

One of the factors leading to the rise of militancy among the youth, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), was the mushrooming of madrasahs. It was obviously Pakistan’s failure in the social sector, particularly in education, which played a major role in radicalising young students whose parents found it convenient to send them to madrasahs where they were provided with free board and lodging facilities as well as an education of sorts.

There is no doubt that successive governments in Pakistan are responsible for the alienation of individuals from society and it is their failure over the years in addressing the issues of public education, health, and employment which have driven young people to this senseless violence.

It is therefore the government’s duty to bring these people back to the fold through focus on the social actor. It was because of the recognition that poverty alleviation could play a major role in de-radicalising the youth in FATA that we proposed the idea of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) to the Bush Administration and this issue received top priority during Bush’s visit to Pakistan in 2006.

The purpose behind this scheme was to attract business and industry to the area and for the identified products to have free access to the US market. We planned to make a similar request to the European Union (EU). Some of the sectors to be encouraged included the textile and marble industries, since high-quality marble is found in huge quantities in many FATA agencies. We felt that this, along with other factors which we had in mind to develop the area economically, would be helpful in creating job opportunities and thus decreasing militancy in the area. Unfortunately, however, after our government left office, this project was not pursued with the same vigour as we did.

These madrasahs had initially sprung up in the tribal areas near the camps housing Afghan refugees. Later on, madrasahs spread to other areas of Pakistan, including Southern Punjab, which is relatively less developed. Some of the madrasahs have impressive buildings and infrastructure and money seems not to have been a problem. No serious and sustained efforts were made by various Pakistani governments to develop a coherent strategy to prevent the inflow of funds and donations which come largely from private sources, both Pakistani and later, increasingly, through other Middle Eastern countries.

Although initial funding for the Afghan refugees came from official sources, very soon private charities and individuals in the Gulf and other Muslim countries took it upon themselves to support jihadi militancy, including training in some of these madrasahs. Before the advent of the Afghan refugees, madrasahs were imparting a largely religious education, while some of them also taught lay subjects. They never really posed a major security problem. It is also true that, unfortunately, a large number of madrasahs in the tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly, NWFP or North-West Frontier Province) were radicalised. Certain Punjab-based religious organisations devoted themselves to jihad and the Kashmir freedom struggle after rigged elections in Indian-held Kashmir in 1986. Thereafter, the Kashmiri struggle took a violent turn. All this, as they say, is history.

Pakistan is facing the consequences of this radicalisation. It is also believed that a large number of Muslim countries were involved in supporting their respective lobbies financially in Pakistan to create pockets of support along sectarian lines. This is because Pakistan is one of the largest and most important Muslim countries, has the largest army in the Muslim world, and is the only Muslim nuclear power.

The Iranian revolution, as well as the fears of those opposed to the consequences of this momentous event and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, played a major part in increasing militancy in Pakistan. Various governments in Pakistan seemed to have turned a blind eye to this militancy. The consequence was the adoption of a highly flawed national security approach, wittingly or otherwise. These policies have increasingly exposed Pakistan to radicalism, violence, and terrorism.

I will not delve into the details regarding the developments referred to above, since they are known and a lot has been written on the subject. I am mentioning this because my experience as Foreign Minister leaves me in no doubt that Pakistan just cannot afford to carry on with these policies. Pakistan will have few friends left in the neighbourhood and will be isolated internationally and polarised internally if it does not make serious efforts to wean the militants away from their activities.

Mercifully, there is an increasing realisation of this in important circles in Pakistan. The operation launched by the army in North Waziristan in the recent past is a very strong indication of this.

Excerpted with permission from Neither A Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account Of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Penguin Viking.

* The terminology has been left unchanged from the original text.