Friday, 24 November 2017

Kashmiris are the real stakeholders, Moonis Ahmar

Kashmiris are the real stakeholders, Moonis Ahmar
The identity of Jammu & Kashmir requires that it should have a separate state managed fairly by the representatives of the five regions of J&K while having peaceful relations with their neighbours — India, Pakistan and China.

On October 23 this year the Indian government appointed Dineshwar Sharma, who was Director Intelligence Bureau, as an interlocutor for Jammu & Kashmir. His appointment was immediately rejected by the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (IPHC), Farooq Abdullah of National Conference and Pakistan. In 2010 also, the Indian government had appointed a group of three interlocutors to hold dialogue with all stakeholders of J&K for peace in the region. Termed as a non-starter in 2010, in 2017 also, the so-called initiative taken by New Delhi to start the process of dialogue in the turbulent Valley of Kashmir albeit its repressive policies, is termed as a futile attempt.
Dineshwar Sharma, who served in J&K around 25 years ago called his appointment as a ‘home coming” with a resolve to engage all the stakeholders including pro-independence groups for a purposeful dialogue on resolving issues confronting J&K. Yet the ground realities militate against the October initiative of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the Muslim majority Valley has risen against the occupation of Indian military and serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators striving for independence from New Delhi continue unabated.
Situation in the Indian controlled J&K got from bad to worse when the National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval came up with his own set of ideas named as ‘Doval doctrine’ which gave free hand to the Indian military and para-military forces to crush any popular expression by the Kashmiris for independence. Far from the reality and devoid of any objective assessment of situation on the ground, New Delhi is committing a series of blunders to deal with an issue which is not confined to law and order problem but has a conglomeration of political, economic, religious, cultural and territorial dynamics.
Predictably, Sharma’s appointment as an interlocutor to unleash the process of dialogue with all the stakeholders in the Kashmir conflict failed to take off. Pakistan’s reaction to his appointment was also understandable as the issue of J&K without the involvement of Pakistan cannot be resolved. In the meantime, the Muslim Kashmiris of the Valley are protesting on daily basis against the Indian occupation military; are facing pallet guns; killings, injuries, detention, torture and other serious violation of human rights against the women population.
Without promoting inter- and intra-Kashmiri dialogue; softening of line of control, withdrawal of forces of India and Pakistan, and the deployment of UN peacekeepers conditions for peace cannot be created in that volatile region
Since 1990 when popular uprising or Kashmiri Intifada began till now more than 100,000 Kashmiris have given their lives for freedom; thousands have been injured including those who lost their eyes because of the use of pallet guns; thousands have been detained and displaced. Yet, the Indian government is confident that it can control the situation and prevent the secession of Valley from India.
It is true that the conflict of Jammu & Kashmir is very complicated because of the parties involved in that conflict with rigid positions and the issues which deepen the level of violence in that once Valley of Paradise. India and Pakistan, apart from China, are the main players but the real stakeholders of conflict in J&K are the people of that region. When the real stakeholders are not on board one cannot expect any plausible resolution of such an intractable conflict like Jammu & Kashmir. By appointing interlocutor the situation on the ground in J&K cannot improve because those who are the real stakeholders, particularly living in turbulent Valley of Kashmir, have rejected any move of New Delhi which doesn’t address the main issue, i.e. independence from the oppressive rule of India. Since August 1947, the people of Jammu & Kashmir are part of a human tragedy which struck them when J&K got divided along the ceasefire line following 1948 Indo-Pak war. Divided families on both sides of the line became a victim of the British manipulation of drawing borders between the emerging states of India and Pakistan.
Kashmiris are the real stakeholders in the age-old conflict between India and Pakistan because of the two main reasons. First, millions of Kashmiris on both sides of the fence have enormously suffered in the last seven decades because of armed conflict between India and Pakistan and the ruthlessness of the Indian security forces particularly since 1990. Since they are the sufferers of the conflict, it is their legitimate right to be included in any process which aims to seek normalcy and restore peace in the region of J&K. It will make no difference if Dineshwar Sharma, as the interlocutor embarks on holding dialogue with different Kashmiri groups because a vast majority of them do not recognise the legitimacy of the Indian government and will not talk to him. It would have been better had New Delhi, instead of appointing a former Director of Intelligence Bureau appointed a respectable and influential personality to act as a bridge between the Indian government and the Kashmiri groups.
Second, without the involvement of Kashmiri groups both moderate and hardliners, no peace initiative on J&K can reach its logical conclusion. Therefore, the initiative which was launched by the then President General Pervez Musharraf in October 2004 in which he talked about ‘out of box’ solution by providing a road map in which as a first step the withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani forces from their respective areas; holding of inter and intra-Kashmiri dialogue; softening of the line of control; election of the parliament of Kashmir and subsequent handing over power to Kashmiris representing the parliament composed of all the five regions of Jammu & Kashmir like Jammu, Valley, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, will create conditions for peace in J&K pending its final solution.
Unfortunately, the government of Atal Vehari Vajpapae failed to positively respond to Musharraf’s proposal for peace in J&K and that opportunity was missed. Therefore, without promoting inter and intra-Kashmiri dialogue; softening of line of control, withdrawal of forces of India and Pakistan and the deployment of UN peacekeepers conditions for peace cannot be created in that volatile region.
If Kashmiris are the real stakeholders for any resolution of the Kashmir conflict, two major requirements should be met by them. First, they should, regardless of ethnic, lingual, religious and sectarian contradictions must seek unity among themselves. Unless, Kashmiris are united on both sides of the line of control, the vision for an independent Kashmir would remain unrealistic.
Second, Kashmiri diaspora living in different parts of the world also needs to develop consensus along with their counterparts in the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of J&K to seek a united stance for an independent Kashmir because a future state of J&K, if partitioned along religious lines, can deepen the state of conflict in the region.
The identity of Jammu & Kashmir requires that it should have a separate state managed fairly by the representatives of the five regions of J&K while having peaceful relations with their neighbours, India, Pakistan and China. Although, it will be a landlocked state yet its viability will depend on the leadership of J&K that how successful it is to unite the people and concentrate on the process of human and social development.
The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. E. Mail:
Published in Daily Times, November 24th 2017.

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