Wary welcome to joint terror mechanism in Kashmir
19 September 2006
Indo-Asian News Service
F. Ahmed and Binoo Joshi
Srinagar/Jammu: People in Jammu and Kashmir have reacted with cautious optimism to the renewed warmth in India-Pakistan relations and the agreement on a joint mechanism to deal with terrorism following the 'Havana handshake' between President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.Has Pakistan accepted that the violence in Kashmir is terrorism? Will Pakistan offer the same cooperation to India in nabbing terrorists as it did to the US and Britain?Questions are many in this northern Indian state, which has long been the focal point of tensions between the neighbours, after the leaders of the two countries met on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Cuba last weekend.'We have got to wait and watch,' said Amitabh Mattoo, Jammu University vice chancellor and an expert on international affairs.'Besides the officials of the ministries of home and foreign affairs, I think an understanding between RAW (India's Research and Analysis Wing) and ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan) is necessary to make this mechanism more credible and workable,' he told a television channel.After relations between India and Pakistan hit a roadblock in the wake of the serial bombings in Mumbai on July 11 that killed nearly 200 people, the average Kashmiri in the valley had reverted to cynicism with regard to the future of the peace process.Now, the common person on the street is anxious that the peace process get back on the rails.'Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf have once again proved that they have a vision of peace for South Asia that cannot be hijacked by anybody,' said Muhammad Shafi Zargar, 52, a teacher in the summer capital Srinagar.'President Musharraf had said after the blasts occurred in Mumbai that if the intention of the perpetrators had been to derail the peace process, they had to be proven wrong by the two countries pursuing peace with an even greater commitment,' said Parvaiz Ahmad, 32, a shopkeeper in the city centre Lal Chowk.He is of the view that the Havana meeting and its outcome prove that the pursuit of peace is inevitable. 'There is hardly any other option.'There are also locals who argue that the policy of blow-hot-blow-cold in India-Pakistan relations has almost become a convention.'They are sure today and unsure tomorrow. The government of India had stated some time back that unless Pakistan dealt with cross border terrorism more meaningfully, no objective would be achieved by continuing the present peace process.'That is a negative approach. Unless we keep talking nothing can happen, but the ups and downs in the relations of the two countries have made us cynical about the future of any lasting relationship between them,' said a sceptical Professor Muzaffar, who teaches in a local college here.There is also some understanding about the internal compulsions of both the Indian prime minister and the Pakistan president.'They have their internal problems. Manmohan Singh has to face the Bharatiya Janata Party and President Musharraf has to face hardliners in his country. That is understandable, but why should such compulsions hold our lives at stake and for how long?' asked Shabir Ahmad Sofi, a university student.In the Jammu region, Jyoti Kaul reacted with outright hostility to the proposed India-Pakistan mechanism on terrorism.'Pakistan can never be trusted,' said Kaul, a Kashmiri Hindu migrant, whose community had to flee Kashmir Valley under the threat of persecution by militants.'Until yesterday, we were watching Pakistan enter through our backdoor and destroy our house. Now we have opened our front door to our annihilator,' she observed.Officials have their own worries.'We are not clear as yet if this institutional mechanism will apply to Jammu and Kashmir,' said a key state government official dealing with counter-insurgency operations in the state.'Pakistan's ISI, so far suspected to be sponsoring terror acts, could be joining in the hunt against them. This is a big psychological plus for India... But if Jammu and Kashmir is not going to be governed by these parameters, then the whole thing looks suspicious.'Clearly, people welcome any forward movement in India-Pakistan relations. But what they really want is for the bonhomie to translate into reality and show results on the ground in the state, which has been witness to worst kinds of terror acts and where more than 50,000 people have been killed.