The June 14 op-ed column "Dampening the Fires of Kashmir" by Teresita and Howard Schaffer rightly points out that the fighting in the Kargil sector of Kashmir has disproved the Cold War notion that nuclear capability prevents conventional conflict. India and Pakistan, which last year justified their nuclear detonation in such terms, have had to backtrack.

However, as the article points out, the settlement the writers propose would not resolve the Kashmir problem. Satisfying the aspirations of the Kashmiri people is essential to resolving the dispute. If the coalition representing the Kashmiri people were to accept internal autonomy under India with a representative political process, Pakistan would have no complaints.

But it is doubtful that the Kashmiris would settle for anything short of independence. That is why the Pakistani opposition has proposed substituting a land-based solution with a people-based solution. Instead of determining whether Kashmir should go to India or Pakistan, the Pakistani opposition suggests that India, Pakistan and the All Parties Hurriyet Conference accept open borders between India and Pakistan. As part of this peace package, India would withdraw its troops from Srinigar and Pakistan would police Muzzafarabad. Pending a final solution, the two assemblies could meet independently and perhaps jointly.

"Dampening the Fires" saw autonomy in Kashmir as a first step toward expanded autonomy within other parts of India. We believe that devolution of decision-making in our region, as in other parts of the world, would provide more effective government to our people. Greater regional autonomy also would help our people make the best use of available resources, from within the country and from donors, in tackling the problems of poverty, illiteracy and backwardness.


Islamad, Pakistan

The writer is chairman of the Pakistan People's Party and leader of the opposition in Pakistan.