T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue IX

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

January 2003

I N S I D E


 

Spotlight 

Romeet K WATT

 

Editorial     

TKT Says......

 

GuestColumn     Krishnamoorty       

 

Big Fight      

Romeet K WATT

 

On Track     

Romeet K WATT

 

Opinion

T R Jawahar

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Romeet K WATT

 

Report

SAT Feature

 

Last Word

Romeet K WATT

 

 


 

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Defining the Kashmir issue   

Dasu Krishnamoorty


The gains that followed the electoral coup in Kashmir have received further succour from Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani’s fresh initiative for a dialogue, not just between Delhi and Srinagar but with all sides interested in peace in the valley and its speedy development. The talks will be with all elected representatives and others to resolve the crisis. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed lost no time in positively responding to Advani’s invitation. This is evidence of a hitherto unknown pragmatism that the new coalition has brought to the resolution of what is loosely known as the Kashmir problem, a result certainly of the People’s democratic Party’s alliance with the age-old Congress Party. Despite the demands of the gallery, Sonia Gandhi too has striven to purge her party’s ranks of populist rhetoric and response.

 

However, it is not easy to first mobilize all sides to the dispute for parleys and second to accomplish an agreement. The first obstacle in the process is the absence of a definition of what constitutes the Kashmir problem. The second is the identification of legitimate participants in the dialogue. The immediate candidates are the federal government in Delhi and the coalition in Srinagar. But who constitute the ‘others’? According to Advani, they do not include Pakistan’s proxies or those who reflected its voice. This rider eliminates a large section of the political spectrum in the valley and, according to media speculation, the separatist umbrella outfit the Hurriyat Conference also. Naturally, the Hurriyat insists that the talks should be held with it as the representative of ‘a sentiment existing in the State.’ This makes for comical reading, as comical as its former chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s statement that the present government had been elected only for governance and that it had no mandate for taking any decision on the future of the State.

 

Mirwaiz also wants that there should first be an India-Pakistan dialogue to facilitate which the Hurriyat is ready to suspend its plans to go to Pakistan. This is an attitude that hardly helps the present efforts to depoliticize the process to restore normalcy in the valley. Advani is set against any dialogue with Pakistan and thinks that the Hurriyat plans to go to Pakistan do not make any sense. “We will not talk to Pakistan till they dismantle their terrorist infrastructure and stop cross-border terrorism.”  According to him, the epicenter of terrorism has now shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan and the real issue is terrorism and not Jammu and Kashmir. The dialogue, at this rate, is bound to run into rough weather, considering the divergence of opinion on what is the real issue.

 

The dialogue itself is without an agenda, except a vague reference to finding a political solution to the Kashmir problem.  This is a problem that eludes clear definition. What is it about? Terrorism? Border Security? Development? What agenda is acceptable to whom will pose problems. The Hurriyat has boycotted the elections and amusingly dismisses the credentials of an elected government to speak on  behalf of the people of Kashmir. Even while asking the Kashmiri pandits to return to the valley, it does not refer to the need to invite the pandits for talks. Without the participation of the pandits it is difficult to accord any representative status to the dialogue set-up. The Hurriyat shuns the participation of the coalition and Delhi does not favour the inclusion of the Hurriyat among the invitees.

 

But the greatest hurdle to the proposed dialogue is the demand of some sections to involve Pakistan in the talks. It is time the media understand that the relevance of Pakistan to any dialogue, as and when it takes place, arises for negative reasons only: funding and engineering cross-border terrorism and the Line of Control issue. Pakistan or any of its proxies have no place in a dialogue that concerns matters purely internal to Jammu and Kashmir. The dialogue that Advani has offered and appropriately welcomed by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed should be about developing Kashmir’s economy, about autonomy to each of the three regions, about restoring peace, about political reconciliation and consensus. It is not the business of any political party in Kashmir to pontificate on what should be Indo-Pak relations.

 

Bilateral relations are a totally different issue, distinct from Center-State relations. There is a deliberate attempt to blur the line between the Kashmir problem and Indo-Pak discord. There is some logic in the Hurriyat inviting itself to the dialogue offered by Advani but little in its insistence on Indo-Pak parleys on Kashmir on the ground that there is tension in South Asia around the Kashmir issue. The Hurriyat cannot be a party to the Delhi-Srinagar talks unless it gives up the untenable demand for talks with Pakistan. By such shortsightedness, it is only confirming the fear that it is a proxy for Pakistan. Whether it is wise for Delhi to take a hard stand on re-opening the door for negotiations with Pakistan is another matter that should concern Delhi and Islamabad. It is a foreign policy matter in which the Hurriyat or any other party in Kashmir has no locus standi. 

 

Other parties in the valley also responded to the dialogue idea in various ways. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen declared that it will continue its attacks with full force in Kashmir and will continue jihad. Hizb also demands that India should start talks with the “real representatives” of Kashmir for any peace effort to succeed. But the National Conference, symbol of dynastic rule, sees in the dialogue plan an attempt to change J&K’s Muslim majority character. There cannot be a clearer evidence of religious angle to the Kashmir problem than this stance of the National Conference. Separatist leader Shabir Shah wants the Hurriyat to represent the unified voice of the Kashmiri aspirations by reconstituting itself as the Jammu and Kashmir Hurriyat Conference. These cosmetic changes do not change the real agenda of the Hurriyat.

 

In any Indo-Pak discourse the Kashmir angle is limited by the effects of Pak-sponsored terrorism that is at once a border issue as well as one concerning internal security. This is where the international community has failed to stand by India and gone back on its commitment to get Pakistan end cross-border terrorism and dismantle terrorist training camps. The number of foreign militants sneaking into India has increased. They now constitute three-fourths of the number of militants.  Delhi is ready to re-open talks if Pakistan shows some gesture to appreciate Delhi’s decision to withdraw troops from the border. On the other hand, the Jamali government in Pakistan has declared that there would not be any change in its Kashmir policy because it was a state and not government policy.

 

The choice for both Delhi and Srinagar is between precisely defining the Kashmir problem and then proceed to negotiate it or come to an agreement on the agenda that should inform the dialogue. If both are convinced that throwing the dialogue open to anyone who desires to participate in it, that scenario can be tested as a prelude to political reconciliation. It must be made clear that the talks are about peace and development and therefore have no room for demands for secession, autonomy or independence and that they are between the federal government in India and political outfits in Jammu and Kashmir for the economic and political rehabilitation of the State. 

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