Thursday, 29 May 2008

Has APHC missed the 'train'?

Has APHC missed the 'train'?
Shabir Choudhry

This initiative known as cases-fire has ended. I don't know if this has surprised many, it certainly did not surprise me.

When this initiative was announced six months ago, I together with a lot of others thought this process might lead us somewhere. India's peace announcement came after the failure of Hizb's unilateral cease - fire. Hizb Commanders demanded that the next move should come from India to demonstrate India's sincerity to peace.

India took initiative in the form of this unilateral announcement for cease - fire. Many argued that on the ground there was no peace, people were still being killed and there were custodial deaths as well; and you cannot have peace in air. For any peace process to succeed appropriate environment must be created, and that is what was missing.

True the game of death continued despite this unilateral cease - fire, but question is could we squarely blame India for everything that had happened since this declaration? One can suspect India's sincerity for peace; and one can say that KC Pant's appointment and his moves were not correct, even some called them joke, but it would have been more appropriate if APHC also had played its cards correctly.

Some even argue that Vajapayees himself is a sincere man and wants to resolve this issue for once and all. He has come to realise that this dispute has to be resolved if India wants to fulfil her programmes for the 21st century, but there are some in his government who wanted to derail the whole process; and it looks that they have won the day.

In the past 53 years India and Pakistan had many pacts and had cease-fire between them more than once. Nowhere in these cease-fire agreements the people of Kashmir were party, even though bone of contention was Kashmir and both were fighting for possession of this beautiful land. It was for the first time that a cease - fire, whatever its position on ground, was declared by accepting the Kashmiri people as a party to it. In other words for the first time it was accepted that people of Kashmir are genuine party to the dispute, and it is they who should play a role in the peace process.

But what have we done? We insisted that Pakistan must sit down with us at the same time; and that we must be allowed to go to Pakistan. I agree as Pakistan is also a party to the dispute she must be part of the peace process. But Kashmiris were also a party to the dispute; in fact, a main party, and Pakistan never demanded that Kashmiris must be at the negotiating table. What the Kashmiri leadership have failed to appreciate is that throughout the long and troublesome relationship between these two countries they have differed on everything to do with Kashmir, but agreed to keep the Kashmiri leadership away from the negotiating table for the past 53 years.

I agree that India should have allowed the APHC delegation to proceed to Pakistan. By denying them to visit Pakistan India has not enhanced her reputation, but the question is by insisting that every one of us must go there on a same 'bus', have we acted prudently. And moreover how the whole thing has reflected on wisdom and farsightedness of the Kashmiri leadership, keeping in mind that both India and Pakistan always act in their national interest, and we need to learn to do the same.

But the question is by behaving the way we have behaved, have we demonstrated our political maturity and statesmanship? What impression have we left on the world community by refusing to enter into a process of dialogue? We could have agreed to participate the peace process and after the first such meeting could have put forward a number of areas of difference. This way we could have shown to the world community that we want peace but we want appropriate environment created for this.

It looks that we have been out manoeuvred by India and Pakistan. Both have in the past insisted that it is a bilateral dispute that has to be resolved bilaterally. International opinion was also along the same lines. It was only recent development that there was emphasis on trilateral talks. After India's opposition to this there was change to this and it was substituted with a 'triangular' talks. By this it meant that a multi - track talks: Talk between Kashmiris and Indians, talks between Kashmiris and Pakistan, talks between India and Pakistan, and after reaching some kind of consensus if needed there could be a meeting of all three to finalise the dispute.

With the end of cease fire the above process is out of window, and the initiative is back with India and Pakistan, why shouldn't it, after all it is only a "BILATERAL" issue that is to be resolved between them. What I suspect now is that after Musharaf Vajapayee Summit both countries would reach a consensus as to who gets what of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and decision would be passed on to us.

This consensus would surely be on the division of the State along the lines discussed in the 'Chenab Plan'. We can sit and shout for the inclusion of Pakistan; or keep on insisting that we must visit Pakistan. And when this opportunity is given although individually, kiss the soil of Pakistan, but completely forget to do the same when reach Azad Kashmir as demonstrated by Sheikh Aziz .

I don't know with these gimmicks what are we trying to prove? Many Kashmiris before Sheikh Aziz kissed the soil of Pakistan, but after living there for some time their whole attitude changed. Sheikh Aziz is lucky that he left Pakistan before his honeymoon period was over, but he might learn a thing or two from veteran freedom fighter Azam Inquilabi

Once again we are lead into a dead end, and people have right to ask what has happened to our sacrifices. If India and Pakistan want to impose a solution based on Chenab plan then what options do we have? It looks that APHC leaders have missed the train they refused to sit on because it had no destination plate at the front; and probably with that, by and large, the role of these leaders is over as well. But the people of Kashmir have many questions to ask, as it is they who are suffering.

(Author has written this article in his personal capacity)

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