T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue X

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

February 2003

I N S I D E


 

Spotlight 

Romeet K WATT

 

Comment     

Balraj Puri

 

Column     

Sunita Vakil                          

View Point      

Romeet K WATT

 

On Track     

Romeet K Watt 

                  

Opinion

Sushil Vakil

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Romeet K WATT

 

Perspective

T R Jawahar

 

Last Word

Sunita Vakil 

 

                            


 

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O N   T R A C K

APHC has no option, but to initiate talks

Romeet K Watt


All Party Hurriyat Conference, a.k.a Kul Jamaat Hurriyat Conference in the local lingo, and better known by its acronym, APHC, is often portrayed as the ‘political face’ of the separatist bandwagon in Kashmir, with both the national as well as the international media, time and again exaggerating the significance of the conglomerate in the given scheme of things.

 

Though APHC is known to be an umbrella organization of more than two-dozen groups, the reality is that some of its constituents are so small that their existence in the political spectrum of Kashmir, is by and large, inconsequential. Consequently, to say that APHC consists primarily of about 8-10 groups would be to state the obvious.

 

Even, some of the larger and better known constituents like the Peoples’ Conference of the Lone clan, have limited sphere of influence confined to certain specific pockets in the Valley. It may be pertinent to recall that out of a dozen or so seats contested by the proxy candidates put up by the party in the October 2002 elections, Peoples’ Conference was only able to muster a solitary seat, although one must admit that it lost two other seats to National Conference in a close contest.

 

Most of APHC’s members are separatists, who favour an independent state, though there are some, who favour Pakistan and one, the Kashmir Bar Association is apolitical in nature. APHC as an organisation is widely believed to be “deeply divided on goals, means, and strategies, including whether to continue the armed struggle or participate in the political process.”

 

In the post election scenario, APHC is fast losing hope and if the statement made by its executive council member, M A Ansari, sometime back is any indication, the conglomerate has climbed down from its known stand –- the insistence for tripartite talks involving Indian, Pakistan and people of Kashmir (read APHC). Instead, it has agreed in principle to hold direct, one to one, negotiations with the designated negotiator of New Delhi.

 

With the inability of the organization to participate in the elections, largely because “most of the APHC leaders, have only a narrow individual following and no real political experience”, it is important for APHC to bring itself back into reckoning – a do or die situation -- by initiating negotiations with New Delhi.

 

Commenting on the developments, one Home Ministry official speaking on the condition of anonymity told Kashmir TELEGRAPH that the developments were by and large a ‘way forward’ and were being ‘carefully monitored.’ However, other sources, have confirmed that New Delhi will not hasten the process, and will take its time to decide on the future course of events, only after gauging the reactions from Islamabad.

 

Policy makers on Kashmir within the government however see these developments as vindication of New Delhi’s stand, which calls for talks with the separatist elements in the Valley, detached from any talks with Pakistan. Despite the insistence of APHC to accommodate Pakistan at some later stage, officials described the climb-down as a ‘major policy shift’ in the separatist camp.

 

The dialogue process, many believe would be welcomed by the people of Kashmir. APHC, if the initial reactions are to be believed, is also keen, which stems from the fact that the party is fast losing its credibility and writ, with PDP being the major gainer at its expense. This development is also seen in polito-diplomatic circles as a serious setback to the Ram Jethmalani led Kashmir Committee, which has been accused of double-talk by some of the important constituents of APHC.

 

Political observers based in the Valley have also attached great significance to the commencement of talks, lest they point out , APHC would be reduced to playing second fiddle to PDP, who have been fast making inroads into the areas, where the writ of APHC has been supreme, since the  inception of militancy, over more than a decade ago.

 

One of the principled stands that APHC has taken over the period of time is that violence and gun-culture cannot be used as the ways and means of achieving what it describes as the right to self determination of the people of Kashmir. (Some constituents dispute this stand) So, sooner or later, it has to come to the negotiating table.

 

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a high ranking member of APHC told Kashmir TELEGRAPH from New Delhi that there is a general consensus in the rank and file within the party for an earnest need to start negotiations with the Indian leadership as soon as possible. “We cannot wait for the normalization of relations between Indian and Pakistan, which if the indications are to be believed instead of improving, has hit a new nadir; and under the circumstances we have little option but to get on with the negotiation process,” the official said, while explaining the party position.

 

One of the major setbacks for APHC has been the volte-face of the State Department of the US of A, who in the past has ensured that its high-ranking officials on visit to New Delhi do hold parleys with APHC, and provide them with the much needed patronage of sorts. 

 

With no Cristina Roccos’ to lend a shoulder to cry on, APHC is finding it increasingly difficult to further their agenda, which to a large extent is dictated by the stern instructions issued by the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi. However, if the indications are to be believed, the party is all set to pursue its own agenda, which calls for talks with New Delhi without the involvement of Pakistan, at least to begin with. 

 

Pakistan and militant groups having foreign mercenaries in its cadre, have been estranged by the successful Kashmir elections. Neither will welcome dialogue processes between APHC and New Delhi, and both will be enticed to play the spoiler's role. The fact that some of the high ranking members of APHC have been bullied by the militant organizations in the past at the behest of Islamabad is a well known fact, the result being that the party has been blindly toeing the line dictated by Islamabad. 

 

However, with the people of Kashmir getting increasingly disillusioned with the stand of the APHC, the party has little option but to initiate talks with New Delhi even at the expense of risking their own lives. Though the political situation in Kashmir still remains fragile to some extent, the ‘peace constituency’, which had been ‘passive’ for quite some time has become ‘active.’

 

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