November 2018 News

Former Norway PM Says No Military Solution To Kashmir Conflict, Favours Dialogue

29 November 2018
The New Indian Express
Fayaz Wani

Srinagar: The former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik, who met Kashmiri separatist leaders in Srinagar last week and also held talks with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad, has asserted that there is no military solution to the Kashmir conflict and expressed hope that his peace initiative would lead to dialogue among India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. 'My visit to Pakistan and the Pakistani side of Kashmir is linked to my visit to India and their side of Kashmir. I want to learn as much as possible about facts on ground and different views on the Kashmir conflict,' Bondevik told TNIE via email. Bondevik, who heads the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, met Kashmiri separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Srinagar last Friday (November 23). It was the first meeting of any foreign diplomat with Kashmiri-separatist leaders in over six years and was facilitated by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living. After his talks with separatists, Bondevik returned to New Delhi and within next few days travelled to Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) and held talks with Pakistani leaders including Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Bondevik, who served as Prime Minister of Norway from 1997 to 2000, and from 2001 to 2005, told TNIE that there is no military solution to the conflict. 'We must find a peaceful solution to the issue,' he said. The former Norwegian PM said he was hopeful that his initiative would lead to a dialogue in future among India, Pakistan and the leaders and people of Kashmir. Norway has been engaged in peace and reconciliation process in some of world's worst conflicts in the past. And Bondevik's unexpected visit to Kashmir has rekindled a new hope of peace in the strife-torn Valley. Senior separatist leader and cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told this newspaper that the ex-PM of Norway had come with an intent to listen and assess the situation in Kashmir. 'During our meeting with him, we felt it was a serious initiative as he said Norway has done lot of work in conflict resolutions. We told him that if you start the peace initiative, it would be a welcome sign because India and Pakistan bilateral talks have not moved forward from a long time,' Mirwaiz said. He added Bondevik told them that his focus was on peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue and wanted an end to violence and start of dialogue. 'We also told him that we are also votary of peace but our next generation has been pushed to violence as we don't have any political space.' It was after many years that any foreign diplomat met separatist leaders and Mirwaiz feels that Bondevik's visit to Kashmir had a go ahead from Government of India (GoI). According to him, Bondevik sounded very positive and told them that he would be travelling to Delhi and Pakistan and talking to all stakeholders. 'He said his thrust would be to involve people of J&K in any dialogue process between India and Pakistan. He said without involving people of Kashmir, no process can move forward. And maintained that it is very important that while we focus on India and Pakistan to take the initiative for talks, the two countries must evolve a mechanism to involve Kashmiri leadership in the talks process,' Mirwaiz said.