Media Leaks Delay Peace Process

29 November 2009
Indian Express
Firdous Syed

Srinagar: The Manmohan Singh’s statement in Washington that “there is a certain assertiveness on the part of China”, only authenticates what was being sensed for a few months now. Tremors of China’s policy shift are felt clearly in Kashmir. The practice of issuing stapled visas instead of pasted ones to passport holders from Jammu and Kashmir, by China’s embassy in New Delhi, gave a hint of the change of mood. Even before the visa controversy, there were reports of Chinese army’s incursions in the Ladakh. In a fresh salvo of hostility, an NGO from China has invited Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of his faction of Hurriyat Conference, to visit China. The invitation is seen as a tit-for-tat to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. These are not isolated incidents; it seems a new pattern is emerging, yet nobody can make out what China is up to. The PM has rightly pronounced China’s latest aggressive postures ‘inexplicable’. The mention of Indo-Pak relations in the joint statement issued at the conclusion of Obama’s talks with Hu Jintao in Beijing, ‘to support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan’, has further given rise to many speculations. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq issued a statement in which he indicated that China has ‘a stake in peace in Kashmir’. Even though China’s foreign ministry spokesperson dispelling the notion has said, “China’s position is consistent. The Kashmir issue is leftover from history between India and Pakistan. We hope they resolve it properly through dialogue and consultation.” Until now China had pursued a hands-off policy on Kashmir and has always rebuffed efforts made by Kashmiri separatists for any public intervention on their behalf. The present aggressive posturing baffles most Kashmiri analysts - is China preparing itself to play a greater role in the murky waters of South Asia? Ironically, the sudden international interest has buoyed the expectations of separatists in the Valley. A fresh realignment of international opinion on Kashmir is quiet evident; China and Islamic countries seem to back Pakistan, the European Union explicitly and the USA in a guarded manner are sympathetic to India’s position on Kashmir. But significantly, Pakistan for some months has been showing signs of growing impatience. Unable to resurrect the peace process with India, it has gone back to its traditional stand of UN resolutions on Kashmir. Reacting to the Singh’s statement in America that ‘borders cannot be altered’, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman has said, “Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory awaiting settlement in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”. Pakistan has been deliberately trying to move away from Musharraf’s legacy. Sustained back channel dialogue for four years has not produced a straightforward solution. Musharraf’s four-point formula was seen as a departure from Pakistan’s historical stand on Kashmir. It was regarded as a path-breaking step. Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to Kashmir had also acknowledged the same fact: “We had the most fruitful and productive discussions ever with the government of Pakistan during the period 2004-07 when militancy and violence began to decline. Intensive discussions were held on all issues including on a permanent resolution of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.” Perhaps it was possible to strike a deal with an amenable military dictator in Pakistan; elected representatives there lack the will and confidence of the military. It seems India’s has missed a golden opportunity to make peace. Since P Chidambaram’s visit in October, peace process between Srinagar and New Delhi has gained some momentum. Some recent developments in and outside of Kashmir have cast a deep shadow on the prospect of the peace process. In a volatile situation like Kashmir, it is very difficult to be pro-peace; a smear campaign is enough to deter even the lionhearted. However it is not mere accusations that have made the situation difficult for Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat Conference. A series of deliberate leaks in a section of the national press about Mirwaiz’s alleged meetings with the union home minister have made Mirwaiz’s position untenable. It also makes a mockery of Chidambaram’s ‘quiet diplomacy’. This has precipitated a crisis-like situation within the moderate faction of APHC; opposition to the peace process has become vociferous. To gag the opposition, Mirwaiz has disbanded the organisational set-up of its faction. Media leaks are attributed to the clash of egos between Chidambaram and the NSA; it is believed here that Narayanan is not happy with Chidambaram’s handling of Kashmir. Whatever little credibility ‘quiet diplomacy’ had brought about, ‘deliberate leaks’ have almost destroyed that. A segment of separatists led by Syed Ali Geelani always opposes any peace process with New Delhi. This intrinsically anti-India group rakes the bogey of sell-out whenever any group shows some inclination for talks with New Delhi. Media leaks have proved to be a god sent opportunity for Geelani faction to malign the peace process. This pro-Pak lobby was further emboldened by Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement: “any talks between the Indian government and separatist Kashmiri leaders will not be successful without its involvement”. However Qureshi’s statement has infuriated leaders of pro-independence groups - “if Pakistan can hold bilateral talks with India on Kashmir, why not Kashmiris, who are a principal party to the dispute?” But they are reluctant to take a public stand against Pakistan because the wishy-washy attitude of New Delhi does not infuse much confidence. It is said that it is easy to make war than peace; it is truer about Kashmir.