If they mean business
New interlocutors on Kashmir have nothing to fear but their predecessors
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
Interlocutors have once again come and gone. This time without Dileep Padgaonkar. They went to Ladakh, Baramulla and Islamabad (Anantnag) as part of their programme to meet various sections of opinion in the state. And in a press conference at the conclusion of the visit, Radha Kumar, one of the interlocutors once again emphasised the Pakistan dimension of the Kashmir dispute, saying that Islamabad’s inclusion was necessary for a solution to the lingering political issue. They said that dialogue with Pakistan needed to be picked up from where it was left off during the former president Musharraf’s tenure. And more importantly, Kumar talked about having a roadmap ready within six to nine months. Which means that this group of the interlocutors is confident of being in a long haul and do some serious groundwork for solution. While this talk is welcome, the resolve behind this is far from convincing. And the reason for this is that the current exercise of interlocution is ranged against the unremarkable achievements of the past interlocutors.
The truth is that the three new interlocutors on Kashmir – Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari – may have made themselves conspicuous by being the most vocal, the state has seen a succession of them over the past two decades, right from the goodwill visit of the Rajiv Gandhi led all party delegation in March 1990, when Valley was swept away by its first popular tumult to be soon followed by a virulent militancy. But all of them without exception have left behind little in terms of a roadmap or the progress on Kashmir solution.
The story of the interlocutors on Kashmir is a familiar one in Kashmir. All of them have followed a predictable trajectory before suddenly doing the vanishing act. It starts with the desperate need to find partners for the dialogue – with separatists invariably staying away feeling downgraded for being called to deal with New Delhi’s low profile emissaries – and ends up with the events overtaking them and rendering them irrelevant to the evolving situation. This has happened with both, informally charged and the formally mandated point men.
There have been many informal initiatives on Kashmir, most prominent of whom was the Kashmir Committee led by the reputed lawyer and the BJP leader Ram Jethmalani. Incidentally, Padgaonkar was a member of the committee. Other members included former law minister Shanti Bhushan, Supreme Court advocate Ashok Bhan, freelance journalist Jawid Laiq, retired Indian Foreign Service officer V K Grover, eminent lawyer Fali Nariman and the then The Asian Age editor M J Akbar. Unlike, the interlocutors appointed by the centre, the committee was able to engage the separatists. However, nothing came of the engagement. Even though Jethlamalani now claims that the committee had achieved a five point agreement with the moderate separatists which centre refused to back, Mirwaiz says nothing of the sort happened. He says that Hurriyat only discussed the implementation of the former Pakistan president Musharraf’s four point proposals with Kashmir Committee. And nothing else. These proposals unveiled by the former Pakistan president in 2006 set out a four step incremental process for Kashmir resolution. The steps are: identification of the regions in Kashmir for solution, demilitarization, self governance and a joint management or a consultative mechanism between India and Pakistan on the state.
There were some occasional efforts by the likes of R K Mishra, Wajahat Habibullah and the former Raw chief A S Dullat However, their labours were more in the nature of knowing the mind of separatists and establishing a contact between the former and the centre than developing an outline of a solution on their own.
The centre has formally initiated three exercises over the past decade where the people were charged with holding a dialogue with the various shades of opinion (read separatists) in the state and set in process a motion towards some kind of a settlement. First such initiative was led by K C Pant in 2001. Pant became the centre’s first official interlocutor on Kashmir . Hurriyat Conference – then undivided- however refused to meet him. Pant’s biggest success was a meeting with the major moderate separatist Shabir Shah, who then operated outside Hurriyat fold.
Pant was followed by the present J-K Governor N N Vohra. He was appointed in 2003. Hurriyat refused to meet him, insisting they will not talk to any functionary from New Delhi less than Prime Minister. Vohra’s meetings in Kashmir followed the pattern of Pant. He met social organizations, ethnic groups and NGOs. However, Vohra initiative was soon rendered irrelevant by the prevailing situation in Kashmir. The militant violence declined precipitously which created a space for the mainstream politics and pushed Hurriyat to the margins. The UPA government which took over in 2004 entirely jettisoned the institution of interlocutors, preferring first to deal directly with separatists and then ignoring them altogether.
However, the outbreak of the massive protests and the stone throwing over the past three years has fundamentally altered the situation in the Valley. Separatism has reclaimed its lost ground in the state and wields a tremendous control on the street. Centre has once again taken a recourse to the instrumentality of interlocutors. And if their first two visits are anything to go by, they seem set to go the way of their predecessors. So far, the only thing that separates the present group from their forerunners is the noise they have created. Even though they do not like to be called a fact-gathering mission, their meetings with a diversified group of people, organizations and associations is nothing but a time consuming exercise in understanding of Kashmir. In that sense, this interlocution looks more like an academic research project rather than an exercise designed to find a solution. The simplest fact is that Kashmir is Kashmir, a 63 year old issue, well known in all its layered aspects and the dimensions, from end to end. And the best thing an individual or a group assigned with the onerous task of resolving the problem can do is to create a sustained engagement with the political groups - and if possible even militant groups - challenging New Delhi's writ in the state and try and achieve an understanding and possibly an agreement. Of course, with Islamabad on board. Every other activity only diverts us from this goal.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 17 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 17 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 18 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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