December 2005 News

Wither Kashmir

3 December 2005
The Daily Excelsior
M L Kotru

Jammu: Mum is the word, if you are seeking an answer to the question 'wither Kashmir'. In a more straightforward manner you may ask Dr Manmohan Singh and his party chief Sonia Gandhi what exactly they are seeking in Kashmir. A solution, by all means go ahead. But what kind of a solution ? It's not an internal matter concerning the diminishing Congress Party. It's not a matter of geography or as Manmohan Singh has said on record it's not even a question of changing boundaries. What exactly is it then? Pakistan's military dictator loses no opportunity to tell the world how important it is for him to have a solution for the 'festering' Kashmir sore. He doesn't forget to recall the Kashmir bogey at an international conference called to mobilise aid for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the devastating earthquake that hit all of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and some parts on our side of the Line of Control. Gen Pervez Musharraf, begging bowl in hand seeking alms for relief, simultaneously telling possible donors that the biggest help he could hope to get is the gift of a Kashmir solution. He is more or less convinced that Kashmiri Muslims on either side of the LoC are no longer interested in a merger with Pakistan but it would be so unlike Musharraf to admit that publicly. So he makes the next best move. In fact he repeats a move which he had made on an earlier occasion. Divide the State into five demilitarised, self-governing zones. His handymen in New York and Washington parrot him as only they can. Congressman Burton we are warned by our all-knowing media is going to hustle New Delhi into accepting the demilitarised zone idea. And Burton, always painted as some kind of Superman, is invested with powers which his own constituents in some obscure US district are not aware of. Burton has been a Pakistani lobbyist for years and according to our media experts he somehow holds the key to the future growth of Indo-US relations ! Forget Burton for a while. Will someone in the Government in New Delhi please inform us, the people, about what they have in mind when they talk of resolving all disputes with Pakistan including of course, the Kashmir dispute. As I said earlier a Kashmir solution is not an internal family affair of the Congress Party. Forget Nehru- Gandhi parivar's emotional links with the former princely State. There are several million Kashmiris, alive and kicking, for whom Kashmir is much more than an emotion. It's their home, whether they live in the valley or in the refugee camps strewn all over the land, most notably in Jammu. The Government must take every Indian into confidence before telling them one day 'Look, here is the solution'. 'Informed sources' tell us that back channels have been opened up to take a closer look at the self-governing demilitarised zones formula. The 'open' channels, the ones we can see and hear, tell us that cross- border movement of militants is very much alive. The National Security Advisor (no less), the low profile M K Narayanan tells us that the Pakistani-ISI hand was very much around in the killing of the poor Mr Kutty, the unknown Keralite, who was helping build a connecting road inside Afganistan. Kutty, for the record, was picked up by the Taliban but Narayanan reminds us that the Pak-ISI hand couldn't have been too far away. He also tells us Pakistan thoroughly disapproves of a strong India-Afghanistan relationship. Narayanan is not making a reveleation. Any student of post-independence era will tell you how Pakistan has always sought to disrupt the Indo-Afghan link. The Pakistani designs did indeed peak when the ISI was acting as the mentor of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan. That was perhaps for the first time in more than a century that Indians (mostly Sikhs) were forced out of Afghanistan. Be that as it may, an answer to the question 'whither Kashmir' remains to be made. During the three years of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's Government in the State there was a clear indication of what the emerging scenario may be like. His healing touch policy may not have healed all but it did offer succour to most. His Government may not have been totally corruption-free but the Mufti introduced a lot of transparency into the system. The setting up of the Accountability Commission was one such step. Acts of terrorism may have continued but then how do you explain the massive influx of tourists into the State these past three years. The remarkable growth in tourist infrastructure came as an eye-opener to many as indeed did some of the development projects. Mind you, the Congress Party was an ally of the Mufti's People's Democratic Party Government, a compliment now returned by the Mufti by supporting the Government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad. Ghulam Nabi Azad appears to be carving out his own agenda, the cornerstone of which would seem to be his determination to carry forward the Congress Party agenda in the State. That is if it ever had one. If the party's past record is anything to go by it can only mean undoing most of the good work done by Mufti Sayeed. The new Chief Minister says he will not call terrorists 'our boys'; they cannot be his boys while carrying Pakistani guns. 'Our boys' has a context of its own and refers specifically to Kashmiri youngmen misled into training camps in Pakistan. It certainly does not cover Pakistani terrorists. And if figures are anything to go by quite a few of the locals have since surrendered and returned to normal life. Azad must also remember that he needs to build a base for himself in the Valley. Unlike Mufti Sayeed, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, Azad for the most part is considered an outsider in the Valley, the man from Jammu. He must use his links with the Mufti's PDP as a bridge to reaching out to the ordinary people in the Valley. The Hurriyat and its ilk will find their role substantially reduced should Azad be able to gain the confidence of the mainstream parties. And in this endavour he cannot hope to succeed without enlisting the active support to Mufti Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti. And did I forget Omer Abdullah ?


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