Kashmir: A way forward
Creating a win-win-win for all from the current movement
DATELINE SRINAGAR BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
For the first time in many decades, Kashmir’s movement for the restoration of its lost political sovereignty has attained a big moral high ground. The current upsurge – which many Indian analysts admit is an uprising - has a real potential of taking Kashmir out from its decades-old suffering. It has also a potential to bring India and Pakistan closer with a new approach. Let us remember, the happenings in Kashmir today are guiding their political responses, and not the vice versa.
For the first time in several decades, India’s political and media establishments are seeing Kashmir’s yearning for rigged political sovereignty as it has been – fundamentally indigenous. There is real nervousness, and even discomfort. New Delhi seems to be short of ideas to contain the vivid political expression in Kashmir today.
Even at the height of militancy, when its rule was challenged to great lengths, it has never been as nervous. There is a growing public perception in India that New Delhi’s moral standing on Kashmir is weak, and hence the need for re-thinking the 60-year-old approach of military control and political manipulation.
Then see the language India’s media is using on Kashmir today. The clichés like ‘Pakistan-instigated’, ‘Pakistan-sponsored’ ‘Pakistani-backed’ etc. seem to have suddenly disappeared. For the first time in our living memory, news anchors on India’s TV news channels are short of words and arguments. The tone and tenor of the opinion makers in print media – including the top columnists – has changed. Such is the awe of the beauty of Kashmir’s current people’s movement.
Pakistan, on its part, seems to be watching and just going by the tide. Its response to the happenings in Kashmir has been muted – which, in the present circumstances, Kashmiris must appreciate fits the situation well.
Clearly, Pakistan cannot afford a groundswell of anger and upsurge among its population at this point of time vis-a-vis Kashmir. It is confronted with too many odds today. For Islamabad too, nothing could be as perfect a time as today to talk to India on Kashmir with its ears to the ground.
There are certain people in Kashmir who expect Pakistan to engage in Kashmir more proactively today. Sensible politics demands that Pakistan steers clear from the current movement of Kashmir, as it has been doing for a long time now. That will be as much a good to Kashmir as Pakistan itself. Admitted, there is a political cost to that – Kashmiris will mistake Pakistan’s silence and lack of support to its indifference. But given the longer term benefits of letting Kashmir’s movement evolve on its own, this cost will be paltry.
Kashmiris, on their part, must maintain the momentum of the current movement at all costs. That is a feeling nursed by an overwhelming majority of Kashmiris today. If the momentum of this movement is lost, it will take quite a lot to renew that again.
There is also an overwhelming view making the rounds in Kashmir today - that it is much better to undergo a prolonged suffering in one go to achieve a meaningful political goal rather than dying in perpetual everyday uncertainty and chaos. Such an opinion has its merit too.
But Kashmiris today have to guard against the temptations of militant transformation of this movement. The current level of oppression is seen by many youngsters as a big provocation and challenge ‘to their power and manhood.’ There are already stray voices of youngsters on social networking sites talking about guns and suicide missions. That course would be a collective suicide for Kashmiris, which must be avoided at all costs.
Sooner or later, given the supremacy of people’s peaceful movement, New Delhi will have to budge from its traditional standpoint on Kashmir in a significant manner. It has no other options. If it takes the Sri Lanka’s approach of mass slaughter of the Tamils last year, its cause in Kashmir will be lost for ever, with much wider ramifications. If it tries to buy time and take to same experiments it has been fiddling with since decades here, it is poised for a much larger upsurge among Kashmiris in the future. Kashmiris’ Gen-Next is different, so are their means and resolve to resist.
India’s Home Minister P Chidambaram’s offer of talks to the pro-freedom parties in Kashmir needs not be rejected altogether. Today pro-freedom parties in Kashmir have a big bargaining chip at hand. For that to materialize into some political achievement, both the Hurriyat factions need to meet and discuss a possible agenda for talks. If they do not meet, they will lose it again. Entering into a dialogue does not mean an automatic surrender or sell-out. However, sensible diplomacy demands that these people keep their doors half-open once they enter the dialogue room.
However, for the Hurriyats entering into any such dialogue without some confidence building steps from New Delhi would be too risky. The people of Kashmir today are too sensitive about the question of talks. They must get a feeling of achievement before talks could be initiated. It is not a bad idea to keep homework on one’s bottom lines done well ahead of time.
But there has to be caution. Any talks which may boil down to salvaging New Delhi from the current situation will be unacceptable to Kashmiris. The two Hurriyats can always walk out if they feel that the format and the substance of talks are no different than the past.
If, however, they sense a change in New Delhi’s heart, they could enlarge the scope of dialogue by inviting parties like the NC and PDP to support that process.
It would also not be a bad time to consult Islamabad before entering into such talks. At this point of time Islamabad might have some good ideas about such a dialogue process. However, it would be nice to leave the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) out from the scope of discussions at this moment. Pakistan has some real concerns if the treaty is taken up for re-negotiations. There is ample space for Kashmir under the present system of IWT which could be maneuvered.
As a sequel to such process, further Kashmir-centric Indo-Pak talks which are held in the spirit of mutual win-win as against the usual one-upmanship would not be bad either. It could well be the beginning of a new era of conflict resolution, disengagement from Afghanistan and real cooperation between the two countries.
Latest reports indicate that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for an all-J&K-parties’ meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. In theory it makes sense to consult ‘democratically elected representatives’, but it is now a well established fact that these representatives at best represent certain people’s day to day governance needs and not the political aspirations of the masses.
As such, the process must go beyond the parties which are part basically part of the problem than a solution for Kashmir.
(The columnist can be e-mailed at Arjimand@greaterkashmir.com)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 8 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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