Pointless Visit?

Pakistan travel will bring some attention but do little to rescue moderate Hurriyat from its decline in Kashmir



Hurriyat is going to Pakistan in December after a gap of five years. The purpose of the visit is to hold consultations with Pakistan government and the opposition parties on Kashmir. But there is a hitch: the visit is taking place at a time when Pakistan is preparing for national polls next year. And at the same time there has been little headway in the ongoing talks between India and Pakistan to warrant consultations with Kashmiri leadership.
But this hardly detracts from the significance of the Hurriyat visit. More so for Hurriyat which has now for long been reeling on the margins of Kashmir politics.  More than helping draw some attention to Kashmir, the visit is expected to bring Hurriyat back into discourse. The meetings with Pakistani leaders and those from the Pakistani Administered Kashmir will allow Hurriyat to bask in some media attention. Hurriyat will also get a chance to be active on a larger plane, playing a defacto third party to Kashmir dispute without being acknowledged as such by New Delhi. Therefore, the statements of its leaders are likely to be taken due note of in both India and Pakistan.
But then, that is what will be about it. The visit offers little possibility of any concrete achievement. Hurriyat’s demand that it be given a “legal sanctity” for its third party role in the resolution efforts on Kashmir seems both well past its time and ahead of its time.  It is well past its time as Hurriyat has lost its political centrality in Kashmir, being reduced to a spectator to the fast changing Kashmir scene. And ahead of its time, because India and Pakistan seem to have moved away from tackling their political issues towards nurturing a long term trading relationship. Besides, not only has separatist leadership itself splintered into different groups but the two-third of the political space they once dominated has been appropriated by the mainstream parties.  And whether moderates like it or not , the election of panches and sarpanches has also radically altered the political scene at the grassroots.
However, the pointlessness of the visit has to do not only with the moderate Hurriyat’s circumscribed political role but also with the evolving geo-political in the region and the scheduled national elections in Pakistan and India in 2013 and 2014 respectively.  This means there is little chance of a substantive dialogue between India and Pakistan in the next two years that we can expect to be informed by the input from the Hurriyat visit. We can only look forward to a fresh engagement between the two countries by 2015. But here again there are many major geo-political factors that the region has to contend with before the talks go ahead. US exit from Afghanistan will be one of the most significant such developments. It has the potential to unleash new dynamics in the geo-politics of the region  which in turn will reshape the priorities of India and Pakistan.   But one thing is clear, the two countries will enter this new phase with their bitter historical baggage intact.
So, it is better for Hurriyat to be mindful of this reality when it plans the agenda of its visit. Pakistan visit will certainly pull it briefly to the political foreground and allow it some play at a larger plane  but the reflected glory will not last long. What Hurriyat should be worried about is its long term political relevance in Kashmir. As its current situation underlines, Hurriyat, once an all-encompassing political force, has shrunk to a more or less symbolic standing in Kashmir. The amalgam is being brusquely edged past by the mainstream parties in the state who have not only electoral sway but also occupy a substantial mindspace. And it is only when Hurriyat stays relevant in Kashmir can it hope to remain relevant in settlement efforts on Kashmir.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 4 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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