Step by step approach best to solving J&K problem: Qasim
10 May 2000
New Delhi: Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Syed Mir Qasim, advocating a “step by step” approach, said that there can be no “final solution, everlasting and peaceful” without the involvement of Pakistan in a dialogue with India and the people of Kashmir. Speaking to The Asian Age from Srinagar, Mr Mir Qasim said that the first step should be a dialogue between the people of Kashmir and Delhi, to create an atmosphere conducive to peace. “Right now the people are agitated with Delhi, so let them meet and talk things out,” the veteran politician said. He did not want to straitjacket the proposed dialogue with terms like “tripartite” but made it clear that there could be no lasting solution without the active involvement of all concerned parties, Islamabad, Delhi and the people of Kashmir. Syed Mir Qasim, as he put it, is back in the picture “because I do not have a very black past.” He said his role is limited to crossing hurdles and “facilitate matters wherever there is a hitch.” He has been advising Union ministers not to make a fetish out of working within the framework of the Constitution. “I told them that the Government of India can only talk within the Constitution, everybody knows that so there is no point in repeating it all the time, but that they must also listen to those who are not talking within the constitution,” he said. Asked about his “solution,” Mr Mir Qasim laughed and said: “If everybody has a better solution at the end of the day, then I have no solution. But if they do not come up with a solution then I will tell them. ‘I have one solution, listen to me.’” He presently enjoys the confidence of both the Central government and the Hurriyat Conference leaders who have been released from jail as the first step towards a dialogue. Mr Qasim was not particularly enthusiastic about the proposal, forwarded by a section of the Hurriyat and a US-based think tank, the Kashmir Study Group, about the religious division of Jammu and Kashmir. “You mean communal division,” he responded immediately. He wanted to know how this “solution” would help either India or Pakistan. “If anybody tells me that there will be a religious division of Jammu and Kashmir I would like to know what will happen to the forty lakh Muslims in the Valley. Will Pakistan absorb them? Can Pakistan absorb them?,” he asked. The Kashmir leader pointed out that there was no point in arriving at a solution which “instead of solving the existing problem will create a much bigger problem.” The second proposal for an independent Kashmir being supported by JKLF leader Yasin Malik also did not elicit any favourable comments from Mr Qasim. He pointed out that an independent Kashmir would require guarantees from China, Russia, India, Pakistan. “Will all these countries agree,” he asked. Mr Qasim spoke of the US interest in the initiative. He said that US President Bill Clinton had taken serious note of the developments in the region, particularly the nuclear capability acquired by both India and Pakistan. “This led to a realisation that if we do not settle matters it can be quite disastrous,” he said, explaining the US interest in the subcontinent and Kashmir.