An American think tank, the American Intelligence Council, in its latest report, has said that without solution of the core of issue Kashmir and other disputes between India and Pakistan, South Asia will not experience stability. This chimes in with the many voices arising worldwide which say what India is doing its best to deny, that it cannot establish normal relations with its largest neighbour, so long as it continues to deny Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir issue.

At the same time as this, Mian Nawaz Sharif has said that if he comes to power, he will solve the Kashmir issue. Yet his younger brother and Punjab party President, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who is also Chief Minister of the country’s largest federating unit, is going off on a visit to India on December 14, to return on December 17. That means that when the Kashmiri leaders are in Pakistan, between December 15 and 22, Mian Shahbaz will be in Indian Punjab, where he will be meeting Indian businessmen, inviting them to visit Pakistan, during the first half of the Kashmiri leaders visit to Pakistan. Apart from the unfortunate impression that Mian Shahbaz will give to the visiting Kashmiri leaders of his priorities, it will also serve as a symbol of his party’s overall commitment to the Kashmir cause.

Mian Shahbaz might well be making the visit on his Indian counterpart’s invitation, but unlike the visiting Indian Punjab Deputy Chief Minister, who came over recently to attend the Kabaddi World Cup, he is not going to attend any special occasion, and thus the dates could have been easily adjusted to let Mian Shahbaz meet the Kashmiri leaders without whom the problem cannot be solved. That a solution is central to any wider settlement in South Asia is about as far as the most truth-loving sections of American opinion are going. The next stage is for those sections to recognize that the best solution lies precisely in what Pakistan is proposing, and what India is resisting so strenuously: the holding of a UN-supervised plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their inherent right of self-determination. This solution has the support of the international community, and is enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions on the subject. Their implementation is something that all right-thinking elements worldwide must work on. Instead of bemoaning the instability in the region, right-thinking elements must work on their governments to put pressure on India to do the needful.

Under these circumstances, the casual attitude shown by both government and opposition towards the Kashmir issue sits ill with Pakistan’s status as the base camp of the Kashmir liberation struggle. If there is to be hobnobbing between Indian and Pakistani chief ministers, that would be to put the cart before the horse. Such normalization of relations should take place once the Kashmir issue has been solved. Mian Shahbaz must make sure that he gives the Kashmiri leaders the reception they deserve.