Saturday, 22 August 2015
Meeting of National Security Advisors and Kashmir, Dr Shabir Choudhry
Meeting of National Security Advisors and Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 21 August 2015
Once again top officials of India and Pakistan are to meet to discuss Kashmir dispute and other outstanding issues; and as always is the case the meeting has generated a lot of interest and controversy.
Some Pakistani TV anchors say Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor is no match to his counterpart Ajit Doval. To express such negative remarks about a Pakistani negotiator a few days before the talks could not be seen as patriotism or pro Pakistan gesture. If a Kashmiri analyst had expressed similar views he would have been branded as a ‘traitor’, ‘anti Pakistan’ and an ‘Indian agent’.
Other Pakistani analysts lament that it is waste of time because India is not sincere in any dialogue to resolve Kashmir dispute or any of the outstanding issues. Allegations and counter allegations and exchange of heavy gun fire across the Line of Control and on the working boundary further aggravate the tense situation.
Both sides accuse each other for starting the gun fire, but as far as we people of Jammu and Kashmir are concerned bombs of both India and Pakistan kill us, intimidate us and destroy our houses and crops. We request both countries to stop this unnecessary fighting over Kashmir; and let people of Jammu and Kashmir live normal life until they get their unfettered right of self determination.
The invitation of Pakistan to meet some Valley based Kashmiris in Delhi has also added to the problems and bitterness. India is not happy with this invitation and asked Pakistan that ‘it would not be appropriate for Mr. Sartaj Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives during his visit to India’.
Pakistani government has decided to brush aside the Indian view point; and has expressed their desire to meet Muslim leaders of Kashmir Valley. In their view Pakistani officials have always interacted with the Hurriyat leadership during their visits to India; and there was no logical reason to depart from that established practice.
These bilateral talks and invitation to some Muslim leaders of the Valley to meet Sartaj Aziz is also opposed by many political parties of Jammu and Kashmir. Thinking people of Jammu and Kashmir ask why is it that Pakistan is only interested in meeting Muslim leaders of the Kashmir Valley. If they were interested in Jammu and Kashmir and people of the former Princely State or peace and stability then they should have interacted with leaders from Ladakh and Jammu too.
The Kashmir dispute is fundamentally a political dispute, however, over the past decades Pakistani governments have worked hard to give it a religious flavour; and by meeting only Muslims of the Valley, Pakistan want to communalise the Kashmiri independence struggle and divide people of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines.
This policy of the Pakistani establishment is essential to justify the Two Nations Theory; and promote religious intolerance, hatred and extremism, which in view of many is part of their foreign policy tool.
If Pakistani government was so sincere with people of Jammu and Kashmir; and seriously wanted to ascertain views of the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir then they should have also consulted political parties in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan, which are occupied by Pakistan. Pakistani policy is clear that they are only interested with the Muslim leaders of the Valley?
Agenda for talks
Both India and Pakistan have somewhat different emphasis and view on the agenda of talks. Indian officials claim that India Pakistan NSA level talks are being held to discuss terrorism and issues related to extremism and violence. The Pakistani officials on the other hand assert that there is a comprehensive agenda for the National Security Advisors meeting that includes all outstanding issues between the two countries, including Kashmir.
In response to that, spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup criticised Pakistan for trying to impose new conditions for the talks. He said, "The distortion of agreed agenda cannot be a basis for going forward, Pakistan cannot impose new conditions for talks". He further said ‘there were only two stakeholders in Kashmir, not three, effectively ruling out the participation of the Hurriyat leaders before any bilateral meeting’.
Because of the tension and different views on the agenda of talks, some people feared that the talks may be cancelled. I, however, believe the talks will take place as planned, but the Indian focus would be on terrorism and issues related to Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted man; and matters related to 26/11, Hafiz Saeed and Commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Ajit Doval may present a dossier on Dawood Ibrahim and his likely location.
Ajit Doval, who accompanied Prime Minster Modi to UAE, made a considerable progress and obtained details of Dawood Ibrahim’s properties in UAE; and urged the authorities to seize these properties. India believes that Dawood is hiding in Pakistan, and that Pakistani officials know where he is. During the meeting Ajit Doval will urge Sartaj Aziz to show his sincerity by nailing him down.
People of Jammu and Kashmir express their resentment on these talks and urge that India and Pakistan cannot resolve the Kashmiri dispute bilaterally. Kashmir is not a territorial dispute, they assert, and demand that leaders who represent true aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir State must be made part of the dialogue process.
In principle this is the correct stand; but problem is who will represent people of Jammu and Kashmir on the negotiating table? I know many people won’t like it, but fact is people of Jammu and Kashmir are just as confused today as they were confused many years ago in 1947. Despite all the suffering and hardship, unfortunately they have not learnt any lessons.
Still people are not sure what they want. Do they want azadi – independence or ghulami - slavery of India or Pakistan? Do they want democratic and plural society in Jammu and Kashmir or a society based on religious beliefs? Still some of them are waving Pakistani flags and some are waving Indian flags; and some are burning Indian flags and some are burning Pakistani flags. Now a new flag is also being introduced in the troubled polity of Jammu and Kashmir – a flag of ISIS, savage and notorious gang of terrorists who kill and torture people in name of Islam.
Not only thinking and concerned people of Jammu and Kashmir are bewildered by this illogical and anti people, anti peace and anti Kashmir behaviour; but non Kashmiris are also perplexed and wonder after all what do people of Jammu and Kashmir want.
I want to conclude that with this confused strategy and misplaced loyalty people of Jammu and Kashmir will remain forcibly divided; and they will continue to suffer. It is also possible that India and Pakistan have another military confrontation which may draw in to conflict other stakeholders with disastrous consequences.
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org