Regional politics and Kashmir leadership

By K.N. Pandita

The roots of PDP Patron’s reflections after his meeting with the Prime Minister on Sunday lie in his acerbic reaction to PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Zardari’s recent comments about Kashmir issue. Zardari had said that Kashmir question could wait a decade for final solution because Pakistan had more serious and urgent matters at hand.

This statement has unnerved the Hurriyat Conglomerate as well, which has come out fretfully with its negative reaction. The difference between the two reactions does not go beyond polemics.

To say that India may try to “brush the issue under the carpet” is neither a meaningful nor analytically a realistic approach. If that were the case, India would not risk precious lives of thousands of her troops in quelling the insurgency over past two decades. If the matter had to be brushed under the carpet, where then was the urgency of making incredibly large investments in the State’s all round development so that J&K does not lag behind other fast developing states of the Union. For example, investment of 11,000 crore rupees in Udhampur-Baramulla rail link, apart from PM’s 28000 crore developmental package, was much less warranted a commitment.

The belief of “stabilization of political situation in Pakistan” is, for the time being and at best, only un-requited excitement. A close Pakistan observer knows that she has been hopping in and out of democracy all the time. There have been elections in the past: representative governments have been formed and democratic institutions put in place. But notwithstanding all this political structure, duly elected governments have been arbitrarily ousted by the Army with a single show of its muscle, and replaced with military dictatorship. Having killed democracy, military regimes clamoured that they had to act to save democracy in Pakistan. With the dictator who struck at the roots of democracy and scalped judiciary still holding the reins of power, has the chronic democracy versus dictatorship battle in the Islamic Republic come to a grand finale?

This being the harsh reality, the claim of “stabilization of political situation” in that country is only a wishful thinking. India has no dearth of experience of handling Indo-Pak relations in the background of alternate spells of conflicting political dispensations in Pakistan. New Delhi does not need unsolicited policy guidelines?

The commitment of carrying peace process forward is a bilateral affair. Pakistan’s new ruling partnership has to sit down and debate the options of its political relations with India. Unless the new government in Islamabad clarifies how it will like to deal with India, New Delhi cannot make any move, much less on Kashmir. However, by way of conducting generalities of international relations, Indian foreign minister hopes for cordial relations with the people of Pakistan and their impending elected government.

It is rather overstretching one’s role in suggesting New Delhi to expedite “amicable settlement of external dimensions” of Kashmir issue now that “positive political scenario” in Pakistan is stay put. India has been meeting external challenge posed to her sovereignty and territorial integrity in Kashmir right from the day of partition of India. She always produced a befitting reply to external actors. No “new external actor” is visible on the scene nor is there any new “external dimension” of Kashmir issue. All of its dimensions are obvious and well-known. One fails to imagine what is the new dimension that would necessitate a leader of Mufti Sahib’s stature to talk so randomly? And if there is one, what is his response to the demands of national security?

If putting Kashmir issue in hibernation for a decade or more is the considered opinion of the leadership of the majority party of Pakistan — a party that is about to lead the coalition government —, then astute statesmanship demands that New Delhi should respond with all goodwill.

Two decades of militancy and its distressing consequences have given rise to surcharged emotions. It is but natural. Any decision made impulsively will not be viable and lasting. Emotions should subside and people must return to their normal state of mind: angularities must be ironed out and scars must heal. All this will take its own time. There is a wise saying: give time to time. Therefore precipitating matters by raising a bogey of “flash point” or “critical stage” or “historical opportunity” etc. will mean forcing things on a government in Pakistan, which has at hands much more serious and urgent matters pertaining to the destiny of her 190 million people.

PDP leadership’s diabolic reference to Kashmir is a loud message to New Delhi that the party does not endorse the views of the duly elected ruling party of Pakistan namely PPP. Thus PDP and the Hurriyat converge on this point. Moving a step further along this paradigm, PDP patron suggests opening of all cross border routes in J&K.

Soft border is definitely in the interests of both countries and the people of the State. One more step, which PDP wants New Delhi to take, is of allowing safe return of Kashmiri youth who were “lured” to the training camps in PoK and are stranded there. It wants their rehabilitation in Kashmir. We hope New Delhi will consider these suggestions with extra dose of astute statesmanship.

But in this exercise, PDP leadership needs to be as much suggestive about two vital aspects as it is in other matters. The first is that of the return and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri religious minority and nationalist elements that were forced to leave the valley. Included also are the migrants from border areas in Jammu, particularly from the districts of Poonch and Rajouri.

Secondly, the party leadership should, on its level, seek an assurance from those who have been responsible for alluring Kashmiri youth to clandestinely cross over to PoK for receiving training and also from those who were instrumental in forcing the peaceful minority members to leave their homes that they will not repeat the perfidy. This issue has to be integral to any major proposal of rehabilitating affected people. Real peace and harmony among the people of the State is closely linked to a common policy on this count. However, PDP Patron has missed both issues while revamping his perception of current situation.

It has become the culture of Kashmir leadership to pontificate on moral and other responsibilities of New Delhi in Kashmir. Though intrinsically there is much good sense and intentions behind such pontificating yet the fact remains that it is only a one-sided affair. We hope that militant leadership and Kashmir civil society will receive Mufti Sahib’s full doze of advice with all seriousness that it deserves on how they need to carry themselves in the light of tense political situation through Pakistan is going.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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