While the factories of terror thrive, India and Pakistan are too terrified to talk. The talk tables between the two nations have tumbled, rounded, squared, turned or reversed but no edges have been found. How long will the K-issue be dragged, and peace remain, its captive?
When it suits Pakistan, the core is relegated to the back burner, as during the International Conference of SAFMA in early 2013, held in Lahore, when Nawaz Sharif was a PM-in-waiting. Neither the public nor even the media in Pakistan came in support of the ‘core’ issue of Kashmir in presence of the media representatives from eight countries.
At SAFMA, Nawaz was a mute spectator as speaker after speaker from Pakistan decried the standstill situation between India and Pakistan being hemmed by the issue of Kashmir. They spoke on moving forward on other agreeable issues while keeping Kashmir on the sidelines. A Kashmiri in the delegation even asked the establishment – “one lakh Kashmiris killed and now Kashmir becomes a non-issue?” He was told dismissively: “Talks can’t become hostage to Kashmir. There is no question of transfer of territory.”
One senior Pakistani television journalist even bluntly told the Kashmiri media at SAFMA– “If my child is crying in Baluchistan, should I run after a Kashmiri child or look after my own?” And continued in the same tone, “Kashmir doesn’t sell in Pakistan anymore! If I announce a TV discussion based on Kashmir in the promos, the Channel’s TRP falls drastically”.
Najam Sethi a prominent Pakistani journalist had noted “People in Pakistan want to carry on with their lives. Only the political compulsion makes Kashmir an issue.” People in Pakistan had seen the gameplay of country’s politicians calling wolf on Kashmir every time internal problems arose, as diversionary tactics.
As soon as Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister of Pakistan, Hamid Gul, former ISI’s chief (who passed away recently), decried the new PM’s friendly overtures to India – “What dosti, dosti (friendship, friendship) is Nawaz talking about? He (Nawaz) is denigrating the Quaid-e-Azam’s two nation formula.” Hamid went on to denigrate almost every ruler of prominence in Pakistan, including Gen. Pervez Musharaff, a former army chief, besides Bhutto and his family.
This brings us to the point – How many peace-opposing powerful personalities like Gul would be in the theological state of Pakistan, to pull the strings of Nawaz, anytime he makes a peace overture to India, like attending the swearing in ceremony of Indian PM Narendra Modi? Are the army generals in Pakistan willing to let peace prevail, which in turn will reduce their position of prominence in their country?
How many of those may reside on the Indian side too to hamper any progress on Indo-Pak talks? Apart from that, there would be nations with a vested interest or agenda, to continue the spell of hostility and violence between the warring neighbors. Their interest could range from arms, ammunition supply to matters of faith, power, fear etc.
It has been a tradition that Pakistan has been holding conferences with Kashmiri leaders of Hurriyat in the past. However with the changed government in India, the new incumbency appears to be in no mood to toe the line and continue to allow the practice.
Several vital questions have arisen on the current scenario on various social networking sites. A high level Indian diplomat of Kashmiri origin, wishing to remain anonymous asked, “What is the Pakistani take on Kashmir – does it want Kashmir to accede to Pakistan in toto? Is Pakistan for independence of Kashmir, as demanded by Kashmiris? In that case, independence to Kashmir means Pakistan may have to concede the territory held by it with all stakes withdrawn from it, even the Kashmir territories ceded to China. Is Pakistan willing to do that?”
Moderate elements on both sides feel “The issue of Kashmir should be solved bilaterally as per the Simla Agreement”. Even Washington and London have categorically announced “both India and Pakistan must resolve their issues bilaterally, including Kashmir” ruling out any scope for third party mediation.
A cartoonist in Pakistan asks –“Is Kashmir, more important than pressing domestic issues while insurgency is going on its backyard? Will Kashmir solve that for Pakistan?”
On another tangent “Is Jammu & Kashmir, as a whole, willing to attach itself with Pakistan and willing to be ruled by it?”
If Kashmir is an issue, then shouldn’t a delegation of leaders of Pakistan administered Kashmir have ideally accompanied the National Security Advisor of Pakistan Sartaj Aziz for NSA talks? How is it that Aziz wants to talk Kashmir and only one side of Kashmir is invited for the talks? Has Sartaj Aziz allowed PoK to talk to India about its future? If the delegation of PaK comprises of its elected members, would it not be appropriate to include the elected representatives from the Indian side too, i.e. the elected Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his colleagues in the cabinet, to join the discussion.
A 3-point agenda was set up by India and Pakistan in Ufa, Russia as told to the media during a press conference by Pak NSA Sartaj Aziz soon after cancellation of NSA talks, as follows:
• Call for all discussion on issues related to terrorism
• Call for reviewing progress on actual decisions made in Ufa, i.e. prompt release of fishermen, discussions for better arrangements for religious tourism and activation of mechanism for restoring peace across the LoC and the working boundary.
• Intended to explore all ‘outstanding issues’.
In the above agenda there is no mention of any issue specifically – no Kashmir, no Siachin, and no Sir Creek. However, these were mere discussions and Kashmir could be brought into the discussion without needling India with an invite to Hurriyat Conference- a non-representative body, with no representative from either Jammu or the Ladakh regions.
Despite these hiccups, the horizon throws no alternative to talks. “We cannot perpetually remain in the past” like Pakistani TV anchor for popular programme ‘Jirga’, Saleem Safi described former ISI chief Hamid Gul’s obsession.
Dossiers on Intelligence activities pertaining to RAW (India) and alternatively to ISI (Pakistan), need to see the light of wisdom, irrespective of political incumbents. This is vital to formulate a roadmap to revive the stalled peace process and retain the flavor of the nascent goodwill generated by Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India.
Sharp rhetoric, to arouse jingoistic euphoria by both, has only served to blunt and weaken pro-peace lobbies in both countries. A result oriented engagement between the two countries is the key challenge for both Islamabad and Delhi, and let the gesture of peace not be labeled as a weakness but as strength of character and statesmanship.