December 2016 News

Kashmir Can Be Gateway For India To Join CPEC: Mirwaiz Umer Farooq

11 December 2016
The Economic Times
Hakeem Irfan

Srinagar: Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, 43, who is under house arrest, talks to Hakeem Irfan on the government's Kashmir policy, ongoing protests in the Valley, Donald Trump and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Excerpts: How do you analyse the five months of protests in Kashmir? Every agitation or movement has a lifespan. Some people here are wrongly creating an impression that we have not achieved anything during these months. We cannot always be in the sprint mode. We have to come to march mode. We are working on a transition from short-term agitation to long-term protest. We have to make a shift from hartal to sustainable means of resistance. People have given a clear message that resistance is mainstream in J&K. There would be a confluence between daily life and resistance. We have to resist at minimum cost. You are issuing weekly protest calendars and inviting tourists as well. How would this work? We always welcome tourists. We will show (BJP leader) Mr Ram Madhav that tourism and protest calendar can go hand in hand. We will start a campaign to educate tourists about the political reality of Kashmir. Maybe, we will urge all hoteliers to charge 1% extra for each room they book to help those who have been killed, maimed and injured in the past five months. Has the government behaved differently while dealing with Kashmir this year? NDA has taken a U-turn from Vajpayee's policy on J&K. They are internally working on revocation of Article 370, setting up of sainik colonies and separate Pandit clusters. They are in confrontational mode. Till the time the government of India does not accept Kashmir as dispute, there can be no movement forward or meeting point right now. Even PDP (which is ruling J&K in alliance with BJP) has lost its own agenda of self-rule. BJP is ruling the state. RSSHindutva driven ideology is running the state. They want to assimilate us culturally and politically. You were positive about winning of Narendra Modi. Are you still hopeful? We were hopeful that Mr Modi would realise that if he really wants to come into the statesman league, he has to address the Kashmir issue and take those steps. If not in this tenure, Modi has to change the policy vis-à-vis Kashmir if he is there for the next term. I believe once UP and other elections are over, Narendra Modi's policy might change. We are not averse to any engagement with the government. Modi's development package would never resolve this issue. Why did you not meet a Parliament delegation but decided to meet an unofficial delegation led by Yashwant Sinha? All of us were put under detention that time. The Parliament delegation had no mandate from the Government of India The members of the delegation also confessed that they could do nothing after 2010. The images of pellet victims moved the world community. But they couldn't ban pellet guns. How could they take bigger initiatives vis-à-vis the Kashmir issue? No parliamentary debate was followed up with any concrete action. They were non-serious. How do you analyse the win of Donald Trump vis-à-vis South Asia? We had zero expectation from Donald Trump, considering the discourse during his campaign. But Trump's phone call to Pakistan, and the remarks of Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Kashmir are very important. I guess South Asia is going to be focus for the new dispensation in the US. If the Trump administration gets involved in the region, it will be a huge diplomatic shift, which would help us. How do you see CPEC impacting J&K politics? In terms of larger economic activity, everybody wants to be part of CPEC. It is an opportunity for J&K also to be part of the old Silk Route, once again. Kashmir can be a gateway for India as well. I am sure India will want to be part of CPEC. Coming year is going to be very interesting as economic and political equations are going to be changed, considering the winning of Donald Trump and engagement of many countries in CPEC.