Kashmir Holds the Key Mr. Prime Minister!
Posted on July 6th, 2009

Momin Iftikhar

The much anticipated encounter between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation OrganizationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s summit at Yakterinburg, Russia, turned out to be quite a starter and revealing of the Indian terms of endearment vis-ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚ -vis Pakistan; as the foreign office establishments of the two countries geared up to pick up the thread of the stalled dialog process. Mr. Singh came across as a tenuous leader struggling to accommodate different pressure groups at home and abroad, buffeted by strong cross currents of domestic political posturing and international compulsions of statecraft. His gruff demeanor, uncalled for arrogance and un-diplomatic attitude appeared much in contrast to his hallmark genteel image. In full glare of the media he tried his best to set the harsh tone of the impending interaction with Pakistan in days to come. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-I am pleased to meet you, Your Excellency. I have a limited mandate to tell you that the territory of Pakistan should not be allowed to be used for terrorist acts against India,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ he blurted out even as the customary welcoming preliminaries were in progress before the commencement of their forty minutes long meeting.

That left no doubt as regards the tone and tenor of the much anticipated dialog process that had gone comatose eight months earlier as the terrorists ran amok in the Mumbai metropolis. But the show must go on and the stressful meeting did produce some forward movement; foreign Secretaries of the two countries shall now meet on the sidelines of a NAM summit in Jul in Egypt. What course shall the talks take is not difficult to predict. Manmohan Singh has already defined the context of the impending interaction; India wants the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) to be driven by her contrived perception on settling terrorism concurrently snuffing out the Kashmir Issue into oblivion. Flawed as it is the approach is nothing new and has remained the anchor sheet of Indian diplomacy vis-ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚ -vis Pakistan, ever since the occurrence of September Eleven catastrophe.

India, to its credit, proved quick-footed to seize the exploitative opportunities provided by the climactic events of September Eleven in creating KashmirƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s linkage with terrorism. The attack on the Indian ParliamentƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” to many an orchestrated event – materialized on 13 December. Operation Parakram , the largest ever mobilization for war against Pakistan unfolded within days of the incident and by mid January 2002 the two countries were a proverbial bullet away from going to war with the threat of a nuclear holocaust looming ever larger in the background. Indian thesis was clear; the threat of self perceived terrorism was serious enough for India to take military strikes against Pakistan. Its underlying convoluted rationale was that since Pakistan supported the Kashmiri Resistance that India had now termed as ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-cross border terrorismƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ therefore she was justified in crossing the international border and the LoC to follow the US lead of attacking Afghanistan. As a footnote to history it is instructive to know that the Parliament Attack Case lingered on in the Indian courts for five years and when the final verdict came from the supreme court of India there was no mention of PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s involvement in any form.

When the Indian Armed forces packed up for cantonments in Oct 2002 it was obvious that the terror card had failed to trump the KashmirisƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ struggle for freedom and the Composite Dialog Process (CDP) with Kashmir at its core was launched in January 2004 after the Islamabad Summit meeting between the two countries. This dialog has continued to sputter without producing any tangible results till MumbaiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s bloody violence in November last year brought it to a screeching halt. With Mumbai attacks Indians began to wave their terror card with a renewed vigor as perhaps the only issue that existed to be sorted out by the two nations.

This strategy of stonewalling any development on Kashmir under the garb of threat of terrorism from Pakistan has not served India well and for obvious reasons. Indian premise that the secessionist aspirations of the Kashmiri masses from India are driven by terrorism exported from Pakistan is hardly sustainable. On the contrary it is the backlash created by the Indian intransigence in addressing the Kashmiri aspirations that is a clarion call for radicals from a wide spectrum to join hands in creating instability in Pakistan and in India. This neglect is also providing an opportunity to extremists to target the Indian state that has refused to acknowledge the grass root demand of a wide majority in Kashmir. The alienation from the Indian state and a demand of throwing the Indian yoke is strong in the IHK. The large scale upheavals in IHK during the last summer over the Amar Nath Yatra issue and currently due to rape and killing of two Kashmiri women have rocked the turbulent state and have made the articulation of a desire for independence from India very obvious. A non violent Kashmiri resistance has shaped itself into maturity and given its depth and scale has acquired dynamics which, unless expeditiously addressed, shall inevitably feed the cycle of militancy in the Indian Held Kashmir. Even the US officials have started to nudge the Indian leadership to accept the realities of the ground situation. William Burns, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs told so to his hot-under-the collar Indian hosts in Delhi recently; ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Any resolution of Kashmir has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ he said.

The Indians, while boldly underlining priority for terrorism in a dialog also need to explain their abject failure and lack of cooperation to scuttle the Joint Anti Terror Mechanism (JATM) which despite three rounds of interaction is decaying in the neglect of official redundancy. The mechanism was conceived to buffer the CDP from the impact of acts of terrorism which are bound to remain a challenge for times to come for the two countries. Even the attitude of Indian officials has made it obvious that the Indo-Pak cooperation in The Mumbai Strikes, outside of the JATM, remains a perfunctory exercise in propaganda point scoring. In this context the attendant carelessness with which the identical DNA tests of the two alleged attackers, Ismail and Ajmal Kasab provided by India as clues for Pakistan to advance her investigations speaks volumes about the Indian sincerity in seeking cooperation from Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister while resorting to undiplomatic rudeness needs to be cognizant that any process of Indo-Pakistan dialog, seeking normalization of relations, which doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t address the core issue of Kashmir, is bound to prove futile. The Indian attempts to relegate the CDP to a single point agenda of terrorism only speaks of their ingrained desire to stick with the strategy of maintaining status quo that seeks to convert the LoC into a permanent border. Such a strategy that places the aspirations of the Kashmiris in a blind spot of deliberate omission is simply a recipe for disaster not only for the CDP but also for the prospects of bringing the genie of terrorism afflicting the sub continent in a semblance of control.

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