Will India’s Kashmir Talks Offer Break Fresh Ground?

16 October 2009

New Delhi: New Delhi said this week it will adopt “quiet diplomacy” with every section of political opinion to find a solution to the problems in India-ruled Kashmir about four years after it opened a dialogue with separatist groups there. The response to the announcement is on expected lines - the moderates welcoming it and pro-Pakistan hardliners reminding any effort at peace without involving Islamabad would be futile. New Delhi has not yet made a formal offer for talks. But the timing of the development appears to be significant. Violence is at a low in Kashmir, elections there were largely successful and last year’s angry public protests against Indian rule have now subsided. On the other hand, the security situation is at its worst in Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan appears to be in a decisive phase. There is also growing realisation in Washington about the impact of the India-Pakistan rivalry on the Afghan war as pointed out in this Reuters analysis. Pakistan has long demanded that resolution of the Kashmir dispute be made part of any effort to stabilise South Asia, a move strongly resisted by India. The United States wants Pakistan to concentrate its military efforts on fighting the Taliban and other Islamist groups on its western border. For this Washington would like to see India and Pakistan reduce their tensions. So could it be that international pressure was devolving on India to resolve the Kashmir issue and New Delhi’s latest offer for talks was only aimed at deflecting that pressure by giving the impression that it was engaging with Kashmiris? Or is it that the time is right to strike a deal with moderate Kashmiri groups? Does New Delhi believe that a Pakistan caught up in a vortex of bloody conflict would now be less attractive to the modern Kashmiri youth aware of India’s rising financial and political stature in the world? The Mint newspaper suggests if India hoped to settle the Kashmir issue it had to engage with those who want meaningful autonomy for the state and politically isolate the hardline pro-Pakistan groups Clearly the need is for a solution that will be implementable on the ground in Kashmir and not a formula that only satisfies New Delhi and Islamabad. Do you think New Delhi is finally moving towards that solution in right earnest?