Let Kashmiris talk

January 26,2016

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The increasing illusion of the improvement in the Pakistan-India relations, or rather between the respected prime ministers has made the international world hopeful about the succeeding resolution of the pressing issues. The 65-year old Kashmir issue has long been delayed to be addressed now, seems to be one of the top priority problems that are to be dealt with.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promoted the Kashmir cause by adopting a courageous stand and pursuing an effective policy for the solution of the issue. It is in the interest of both Pakistan and India to have peace in the region. Pakistan strategically being located at a very important position needs to ensure peace in the region, as it is mandatory for the two countries to coexist without friction. The trust deficit would remain until the core issue is resolved.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq believes that the burgeoning trade between India and Pakistan and the liberal visa regime are positive signs, but resolving the core issue of Kashmir, which remains a bone of contention between the two countries, should take precedence.

Mirwaiz said, “India and Pakistan both have some compulsion regarding trade. I can’t say that Pakistan is deviating from its stance on Kashmir by granting MFN status to India, but trade should continue only after Indian forces are put aside and Kashmiris should be made part of every kind of talks.”

The bilateral talks that have taken place in the past have failed so the need of trilateral talks, in which Kashmiris are to be included and given equal power to decide for their future is constantly being insisted on. Generations of Kashmir have sacrificed a lot for their homeland and despite the lack of weapons; the Kashmiris vow to fight, with their courage, for their right of self-determination. Kashmir is not just a territorial dispute anymore; rather it has become a humanitarian issue. Kashmiris are not against establishing relations between Pakistan and India, but it should not be at the cost of Kashmiri people.

In August 2014, India had cancelled the foreign secretary-level talks over Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit’s meeting with leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. The controversy deepened on Monday when the high commissioner invited Hurriyat leaders to the Pakistan Day celebrations in the Indian capital. The development prompted the Indian foreign ministry to issue a statement insisting that the Kashmiri people had no role in the Pakistan-India dialogue.

However, Islamabad has reminded New Delhi that the final decision in the Kashmir conflict should be consistent with the will of the Kashmiri people, to be determined through a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations.

There has been another proposition that since Kashmir has been disputed there have been several changes in the sixty-five year old period hence, some decisions need to be made in accordance with the new developments. Apart from the equal involvement of the Kashmiris in the talks, Pakistan and India should first define what Kashmir is. The two nations have divergent views about Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan region, so these are some issues that need clarity. The UN resolution has its own worth but when we talk about alternates like trilateral talks also being an option that can very effectively lead to settlement and peace in the region.

Furthermore, the Indian establishment has consistently argued that there can be no sustentative talks concerning Kashmir until cross-border terrorism from Pakistan ends. Simultaneously, it argues that terrorism in Kashmir is purely the result of Pakistani support and sheltering of terrorists. But this argument that cross-border terrorism has caused the Kashmir situation today is circular. If cross-border terrorism ends, there will be no Kashmir problem. In the Indian argument, there is no admission of how India has alienated and caused suffering to the Kashmiri people. Human rights violations are consistently denied. Access to international human rights groups is forbidden and Pakistan has been constantly held responsible for the fleeting peace in the region.

Solutions are possible. But before the grounds for any solution can be created, the demonisation process would have to be reversed. Right winged political parties like the Bharatiya Janta Party and Shiv Sena as well as other political forces like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh continue to publicise the bitter memories of partition, constraining steps toward peace and prosperity. A change in political discourse and mindsets of the elites in both countries is much needed. Only after this crucial step occurs are substantive midterm solutions plausible, because the problem of Kashmir is mired within the problem of demonisation driven by historical memory.

Now after immense international pressure, the blame that has been consistently heaped on Pakistan now, after decades, seems to be very slowly subsiding. The credit also goes to the Pakistani military and government to have taken a staunch and courageous step to urge the international community as well as the respected neighbours to resolve the Kashmir issue as their first priority.

“Though improved confidence building measures between Pakistan and India are a positive development, someone must ask the people of Kashmir whether they are benefitting from those”, said Farooq, a member of All Parties Hurriyat Conference.


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