May 2006 News

Intra-Kashmiri dialogue to resolve Kashmir issue

9 May 2006
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: A two-day Intra-Jammu and Kashmir conference held in Jammu on April 12 and 13, whose proceedings have become available to Daily Times, has come up with a wide range of proposals aimed at resolving the dispute on terms that all three parties can live with. The conference was organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation with support from the Forum of Regional Voices, the second such conference to be held in the disputed state. Forty participants from the two parts, as well as Pakistan and India, attended. The Pakistani-Kashmiri contingent was led by former Pakistani diplomat Dr Humayun Khan, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to India. The conference also aimed at narrowing the differences amongst diverse political and social streams and creating some basis of common understanding that would contribute to the ongoing official peace process. One of the principal representatives from the Indian side was Dr Amitabh Mattoo, the vice chancellor of the Jammu University, who told the delegates that the peace process has never been so exciting and injected with so many ideas as today. The present situation would have been unimaginable even a couple of years ago, he pointed out. He said, “I do not agree with those who feel pessimistic about the peace process. You may doubt the sustainability of the peace process but cannot deny that it is providing for the first time new opportunities. In some ways, the tragedy of Kashmir is that the governments are ahead of Track II and III initiatives.” He quoted an unidentified “senior analyst” who recently said that while the people of India and Pakistan have made peace and their leaders too want to make peace, the establishments still have to adjust their thinking. He also said that J&K is treated as a “real estate problem”, it would turn into a zero-sum game. A legalistic approach would also hold out little hope. But if the focus is on the welfare and development of the people of the State, it is a “win-win situation.” Mattoo, a Kashmiri Pandit, said he was optimistic because he views the peace process as divided into three “baskets.” The first was constituted by Valley-centric measures or CBMs that have led to improvement in ground realities and the situation in the Valley. Secondly, there is movement across the Line of Control (LoC); and thirdly new ideas are being discussed, including autonomy, self-governance and self-rule. He noted that a substantive amount of effort has gone into baskets 1 and 2, but the 3rd basket will be a product of baskets 1 and 2. The statement by the Indian prime minister that borders should be made irrelevant will determine progress in the 3rd basket. “There has to be progress on all the fronts. Given the history of Jammu and Kashmir, there is reason to be optimistic,” he added. The vice chancellor said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh believes that security is freedom from fear. “He wants to work towards Comprehensive Security – physical, political, cultural, economic, and social – which is another, more imaginative, definition of self-governance. There has to be interplay of new ideas for concrete results. Unfortunately, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are not taking enough advantage of these historic opportunities. Kashmiris need to feel empowered enough to be able to take care of themselves. But this empowerment has to come from within,” he said. Mattoo said there are five factors that will have an impact on policies which will determine the future of South Asia. According to him, the five factors are the rise of India both in terms of soft and hard power; how India maintains its relationship with Pakistan; globalisation and the influence of the United States; how South Asians manage common dangers i.e. natural calamities, pandemics and related threats; and how to settle the conflicts in South Asia. He added that there are some who believe in keeping the status quo and letting the conflicts go on, while others maintain that the two countries should move towards changing the status quo and resolving conflicts. He said the people of Jammu Kashmir and the Northern Areas should locate themselves in the larger scenario to find a solution to the Kashmir problem. He stressed that the Prime Minister of India felt that we must be at peace within South Asia and not ignore the immediate surroundings.


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