By K.N. Pandita
Prime Minister’s 7 June visit to Srinagar was marked by total strike in the valley. It is more or less identical response of the separatist leadership to his previous visits. In the idiom of the managers of strike this is non-violent protest against Indian presence in Kashmir.
After patronizing gun wielders and their brutalities for two long decades, separatists-secessionists have shifted to what they call “non violent” tactics. Have they compulsions? Yes, it is not only that Kashmir militancy has run out of steam, but more importantly the people are fed up with violence. They want to return to normal life; they want peace.
Nobody will be taken in by their latest avatar of “non-violence’. They never asked the gun wielding youth to lay down the gun: they never decreed outright condemnation of gun culture: they never expressed rejection of foreign mercenaries infiltrating into Kashmir to keep the pot boiling: they never demanded Pakistan to shut down the training camps run by the ISI and they never appealed to Kashmiris not to let their sons go to PoK to receive training in subversion and militancy in training camps there. They kept all these options open for themselves, but to throw dust into the eyes of unsuspecting people they claim to be the followers of Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.
In the context of Prime Minster’s statement that he was prepared to talk to any group provided it shunned violence, Prof. Ghani Bhat remarked that they (APHC-M) were not terrorists and did not believe in violence. “We are politicians and we believe in dialogue’, he said. What a guiltless statement.
We know that APHC (M) has been involved in dialogue process for quite some time. We also know the compulsions for the organization to be on low key and we cannot ignore the attack on a senior Hurriyat leader, Fazl Haq Qureshi.
Qureshi was APHC’s point-man in conducting peace talks with New Delhi. After various meetings with Home Minister Chidambaram, agreement on some broad aspects of the issue was arrived at which prompted Chidambaram to disclose that “quiet talks” away from public gaze were going on as desired.
The problem with APHC (M) is that it is unable to neutralize religion-based anti-India posture adopted by hardliner faction of Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani. For example, the Hurriyat could not counter the bandh call given by Geelani. It has not been able to restrain masses from indulging in stone pelting acts.
Prime Minister’s statement that he would talk only to those who shun violence has also demoralized APHC (M) for two reasons. One is that the Prime Minister has blunted the pressure lever used by hard-line faction. The second point is that if APHC agrees to talk to New Delhi, it will have to talk on their terms.
APHC (M) appears to have realized that power would not flow into its hands that easy because contestants are no mean novices in the game plan of Kashmir politics. Sajjad Lon’s defeat at the husting is an indicator.
Another setback for the APHC (M) is the statement of US Secretary of State Robert Blake who said that Kashmir was not a priority in the forthcoming bilateral talks between the two foreign ministers (India and Pakistan). He emphasized that combating terrorism was the main theme of this meet.
This statement indicates significant change or realistic understanding of American think-tanks of Kashmir dispute in the matrix of Af-Pak situation. In other words it is a subtle way of telling Pakistan and its home grown jihadi organizations that the US would not link up Kashmir with Af-Pak scenario as is wished by Pakistani interlocutors.
Taking into account the entire gamut of Track II diplomacy between India and Pakistan for resolving Kashmir issue, a few things become clear. In no case is India prepared to alter the Line of Control in Kashmir. Secondly, any deal arrived at has to be inclusive. Northern Areas integrated by Pakistan into its territory and Aksaichin area ceded by Pakistan to China have to figure prominently in any deal.
The question is will the US agree to let the status of Northern Areas now under the occupation of Pakistan be compromised? In view of surging military power and political influence of China, Northern Areas assume vital importance to US’ regional and global strategy to have indirect toehold in the said area. Let us not forget that China has installed missile bases along the Karakorum Highway connecting China with Islamabad across the Karakorum ranges to the north of Kashmir. These missiles have a reach as far as the Indian Ocean, Diago Garcia and the Gulf of Hormuz.
It has to be reminded that India troops had to ordered a stop at Uri in 1948 war with Pakistan just because the British Labour Party Prime Minister Clement Attlee wrote a personal note to Nehru saying “thus far and no further.” It is not true that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, strategic importance of NA is reduced. The fact is that with China surging in world strategies and as an economic power will be far more formidable a threat to the western world and the US than what Soviet Union was.
Mirwaiz’s several meetings with former Pak President General Pervez Musharraf must have convinced him that his dream of united Jammu and Kashmir will never be a reality because of Pakistan’s deep involvement in Northern Areas.
More recently, as the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project has been formally accepted by the two countries, it is likely to be extended to China via the Karakorum Highway. China will be the last to let Pakistan abandon Northern Area to the whims of agitators who want it a self ruling unit but not under the suzerainty of Islamabad in any way.
APHC (M) will have second thoughts about demanding Pakistan to be a party to Kashmir “dispute”.
Finally the sectarian strife in different parts of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi, in which minority Shias are systematically attacked and killed, has demoralized APHC (M) which has a dream and a vision of secularist Kashmir or Kashmiriyyat. As sectarian clashes exacerbate in Pakistan, Hurriyat will get more and more demoralized; it is bound to lose the support of a million and half Shias of Kashmir. Its bargaining strength will be substantially cut.