Kashmir self-rule plan making headway
14 March 2006
The News International
Islamabad: Picking up on the prospects of self-governance for Kashmir, a proposal floated by Pakistan, is fast catching up with the leadership of Kashmir. It was also a focal point at the recently concluded Pugwash conference in Pakistan. Barrister A Majid Tramboo, Executive Director, ICHR, Kashmir Centre, EU OHRAAM, permanent representative to the UN and Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Foundation International, says many questions and potential pitfalls remain as to how the current initiative of willingness to engage can translate into concrete steps so that a meaningful process to the Kashmir conflict can begin. 'No doubt, an affective element of international facilitation is in place and is showing its positive effect. But how far this will last remains to be seen. Most importantly, the leaders of Pakistan and India have to demonstrate huge courage and vision to undertake a brave and genuine peace process on Kashmir. Without serious political will nothing will be achieved. Above all, Kashmiris will need to convince the leadership of India and Pakistan to recognise the need for involving Kashmiris in the peace process by working out a concrete mechanism for Kashmiris participation in the process format. No solution of Kashmir will be durable unless it is legitimate in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,' said Tramboo. He says the Pakistani leadership appears both serious and genuine, and wishes to include Kashmiris in dialogue. The ice- breaking initiatives on establishing available 'peace process' by the governments of India and Pakistan are underway and welcomed. There appears a general willingness to engage and improve existing conditions so that the peace process can eventually be addressed by finding a peaceful and acceptable solution to the Kashmir conflict. 'Give and take a month or so, the peace process between Pakistan and India is on for about two years. Yet we do not see a tangible Kashmir centric dialogue, let alone demilitarisation or self-governance. There are three factors that hinder or will likely hinder a direct dialogue on the Kashmir issue, Tramboo says. According to him there is no commonly shared roadmap or agreed upon set of basic principles for the process to proceed along on this issue. The focal point of this concerns the core issue of the conflict itself, i.e. Kashmir. Given the vacuum of trust and the current lack of any shared point of view on how to address this issue, neither India, nor Pakistan, or Kashmiris are likely to take major risks or steps currently needed unless some agreed upon principles and mechanisms for addressing the core issue of the dispute are in place. While the next step in any process is perhaps a long list of confidence-building measures, that needs to be put in place and given time to take effect, at the very onset is the dispute of Kashmir upon which some ground work and progress needs to be made immediately. In fact, any decision on the part of any of the parties to take any major step to bring the process of engagement must necessarily come after an assessment has been reached that the process vis-a-vis the question of Kashmir is likely to be in accordance with the interests of the respective parties. For Kashmiris the criteria for assessing a process is whether or not it is likely to be in accordance with the wishes, aspirations, needs and concerns of the people of Kashmir. To proceed with a process now by glancing over the question of Kashmir at this stage and not to have at least some basic groundwork laid on this central issue is to leave the subsequent process to the same vulnerability that proved fatal to the Lahore, Ramazan ceasefire, and Agra initiatives. Secondly, he points out that it is a fact that the question of Kashmir cannot be addressed without involving the Kashmiri people ... the sticking point has typically been how to do so. Indeed, the key demand of Kashmiris is that Kashmir should be solved through a meaningful tripartite dialogue between India, Pakistan and the genuine representatives of the people of Kashmir. India has refused to accept this notion of a process thus far. Like previous efforts to initiate a peace process on Kashmir, there is yet no clearly defined role or mechanism for involving the people of Kashmir in the process. This is a serious weakness since the involvement of Kashmiris in a process can open up new and affective means for addressing these issues. Strictly bilateral approaches to resolve Kashmir have failed all throughout and may remain so in future. A successful peace process must include a direct and effective participation of the people of Kashmir. What has made Kashmir intractable over the years has been the bilateralism of India and Pakistan in dealing with the question of Kashmir. It is not a coincidence that every single dialogue and agreement on Kashmir since 1947 share two things in common-they all failed to bring peace and they all excluded Kashmiris. The zero-sum Indo-Pak mentality over Kashmir and differing historical narratives have much to do with Indo-Pak perceptions about each other. Kashmir will always be a zero-sum game as long as it is seen as a territorial or ideological prize. By involving the people of Kashmir, and thereby 're-humanising' Kashmir, you automatically dilute this Indo- Pak 'staring contest' since both countries will have to turn their eyes towards the real victims of this conflict. Tramboo feels the Kashmiri Mujahideen groups need to be convinced to go for a ceasefire to give the process a chance. 'Now, a question arises how to ensure that the Kashmir centric dialogue is underway. Both India and Pakistan have expressed their intentions to engage in dialogue in which the Kashmir issue would be dealt with. Whereas it is understood that the two countries proceed bilaterally on their bilateral issues but Kashmir is a tripartite issue. New Delhi has shown consistent resistance to the trilateral concept. 'India on its part, besides talking to Pakistan, has recently commenced some sort of dialogue with selective Kashmiris. But Srinagar-Delhi process has failed to get the necessary momentum because it is not linked to a wider Indo-Pak peace process in a tripartite way,' says Tramboo. However, he points out that adopting Srinagar-Delhi engagement, the intentions of the government of India have become somewhat questionable. 'History shows us that India is deadly in search of some newer faces wherever international pressure builds on them to create a perception to those who matter in this dispute ... 'talking' to Kashmiris directly. This has watered many mouths. Thinking wrongly themselves as 'some ones' of Kashmir they have abused the national cause of Kashmiris at this critical juncture very obviously to make 'hay' while India is 'shinning' in their perception,' he adds. The question of Kashmir is quite simply Kashmiris demand for self-determination. It is in reality the loss and injustice faced by the Kashmiri population and the very deep and real Kashmiri aspiration for freedom, yet to be satisfied, that forms the major substantive component of political question on Kashmir which the government of India will have to address through the ensuing peace process. Unless the government of India, from the start, has reconciled to the reality that this question must be seriously addressed no process is likely to succeed.