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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

In Pursuit of Elusive “Peace” with Pakistan

In its recently held meeting, the State Cabinet welcomed resumption of talks with Pakistan. Was this endorsement necessary and in consonance with State practice, and what was the prompting? Observers will comment on that if they analyze the event in some depth.

Two days earlier, the Chief Minister was on a visit to the border in RS Pora sector examining the possibility of opening tourist destination along the LoC and IB, particularly at Suchetgarh and Chambalyal. She strongly emphasized opening a Wagah-type international border entry-point at Suchetgarh and transit point at Chambalyal. The CM was actually on a visit to explore tourist potentials along the border as she also holds the charge of Tourism Department.

Jammu region has lagged behind in developing tourist destinations. This is what the CM conceded and said that the deficit has to be made good.

The question is what tourist significance can the transit points at Suchetgarh and Chambalyal enjoy? Why should the tourists, coming all the way from far off places in the country and spending so much on their visit, chose to go and see a site beyond which lies the land called PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir)?  Tourists want to come to J&K because they know it is a Himalayan State perched in the lap of mountains with picturesque landscape, waterfalls, lakes and snow clad peaks and pastures and meadows. These are surely the objects of attraction but not the landscape of plain arable lands on either side of the Suchetgarh/Chambalyal locale.

As far as Pakistanis are concerned, they would not wait for a formal transit point as they have already begun tunneling the border for their specific purposes. During her official visit to various tourist sites in Jammu, the Chief Minister, more than once, expressed happiness over the resumption of talks between the two countries.

Have talks actually been resumed?

The two foreign secretaries met in New Delhi in connection with the preparation for the forthcoming ‘Heart of Asia’ Delhi meet. And what did the two foreign secretaries talk about? Dawn, the leading Pakistani English daily wrote, ” Kashmir remains a core issue that requires a ‘just’ solution under United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and wishes of the people of the valley“, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told his Bharatiya counterpart here (New Delhi) on Tuesday.

The process of bilateral talks boosted by PM Modi’s unscheduled good-will visit to Lahore broke down with Pathankot airbase attack. So there is no resumption of bilateral talks as yet. It is a different rhetoric that the two countries should talk.

Kashmir leadership of all hues has been repeatedly stressing on continuation of bilateral talks which often break down owing to an anti-Bharat activity by Pakistan. Kashmiri leaders very often remember and recapitulate the need of Bharat – Pakistan resuming bilateral talks, but they do not feel any need to address the reason of cessation of talks. That does not suit them. All that they do is to dole out pious words of need for peace in the region.

Late Mufti Sayeed also repeatedly spoke of bilateral talks, sometimes going to the length of doling out warning notes that cessation of talks could trigger catastrophe for the entire region in South Asia.

Ms Mehbooba is moving in the footsteps of her late father in the matter of bilateral talks. Who does not understand the incredible benefits that would accrue to the people of the two countries if they succeed in building cordial and friendly relations? Who does not know that Jammu and Kashmir is a border State and the brunt of hostilities between Bharat and Pakistan is directly borne by the people of the State? These are generalities and no public leader of high stature needs to orchestrate that.

The question is much deeper. In the first place it is important that Kashmir leadership should come out of the illusion that people trust them for what they profess in public. Second, things in Kashmir have moved beyond the limit of playing ducks and drakes with them.

Kashmir leadership needs to concentrate on the fast changing situation of Kashmir valley society rather than bothering themselves about Bharat-Pak hostilities which are fuelled by deep rooted jihadi elements in the Pakistani state along with international actors, including super powers.

The home-grown issues on which Ms Mufti should focus her party leadership’s attention are extraordinarily explosive. Radicalization along Wahhabi-Salafi ideology, enormous illegal and clandestine funding of terrorism by the Gulf States and Kashmiri Diaspora abroad, big spurt in local and sponsored militancy, spiral increase in raising of mosques and seminaries across Kashmir, deepening of anti-Bharat sentiment among the Kashmiri youth who attend these newly built mosques and seminaries with Gulf money, deep penetration of Wahhabi ideology among various cadres of administration from the lowest to the highest echelons, polarization in Kashmir intelligence and police organizations, rising crescendo of defiance of judicial authority by the state administration and willful sabotage of many centrally sponsored and funded schemes of infrastructural development in the Stat etc. – these are the facets of ground situation.

The State Cabinet chose to sidetrack all these pressing and crucial issues facing the State, and felt happy with doling out advice to the Government of Bharat to continue “peace” talks with Pakistan. Such Cabinet resolutions stand in direct contravention of ground reality in the State. Obviously, it was a politically motivated resolution, and carried not even an iota of sincerity and statesmanship.

Kashmir valley leadership should forget that the people of the valley look to them or even to Pakistan for guidance and direction. They have chosen to be part of the world-wide Muslim brotherhood, which at present, is locked in a grim and decisive ideological struggle sparked towards the closing years of the 20th century and now continuing with all its fury and force.

The word “Peace” on which the Chief Minister lays stress, though philosophically very right, is not in the lexicon of either the Pakistan Army or its mentors in the Pentagon. She is asking for the moon.  Some interpret it as lollypops for the militants in the backdrop of her commitments.

Yes, she has a lever at her disposal that can help reduce existing turmoil in the State. The lever is to call a spade by its proper name. The right and perhaps the only way for her is to appeal the militants of Kashmir to lay down their arms and stop hobnobbing with their Pakistani handlers if a semblance of peace is desired. She has to come out of dichotomy, take a bold and courageous decision in the interests of the people of the State and the Bharatiya nation and actually in the interests of humanity at large. Failing which she will pass into oblivion as did others since 1947. Let me conclude by citing the great bard:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

 Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat.

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.”

– (William Shakespeare)

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K.N. Pandita
K.N. Pandita
Shri K.N. Pandita is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.


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