Our leaders in Kashmir have a unique quality. They read too much into the small things that happen around them or even in the distant places. Their eyes are glued to the TV screens to watch and hear what happens in Egypt, and the rest of the world. They would come out with their reaction, suiting them and their constituencies, be they separatists, mainstream or semi-mainstream party leaders. They get particularly enthused when some sort of table is set up for talks between India and Pakistan, even if it happens at the level, where no decisions can be taken. Honestly, the secretary level talks could not have delivered something big, but there was a race among the leaders to give a hype to it and then relate everything to Kashmir. There are two sides to it; one, that Kashmir leaders are well informed and they know that what consequences would follow. Secondly, the leaders give such a hype that when nothing concrete emerges, they go into silent mode. The recent example is that of the Home Secretary level talks between Indian and Pakistan Home secretaries in Islamabad which went on for two days- May 23-24.
If the reports emanating from Islamabad are any indication, the talks centered around terrorism. India was insistent that Pakistan must accept its blame for staging the terror attack in Mumbai of November, 2008, now known through its code of 26/11 in the line of 9/11 of the United States of America. There absolutely is no doubt that 26/11 has done more damage to the India-Pakistan dialogue process than the three wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and mini war of Kargil in 1999. The scars of the war are there, but the terror attack on Mumbai has acquired bigger dimensions than even the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. When India talks of 26/11, it doesn’t mean only one terror attack. It means that the attack happened in Mumbai, financial capital of the country, which, if described more in Orwellian terms is `more equal than others’. The attack left 166 people dead. Some of them died at a place of worship, railway station and hotels and restaurants. The live coverage of the attack by overenthusiastic TV channel reporters who found some kind of a pleasure in showing every bit of the action and revealing the strategic course of the teams of security forces trying to pin down the attackers, also imprinted on the minds of the viewers that 26/11 was the defining moment of terrorism in the country and there should be no concessions on that. This point was understood for a while by the national leadership. However, it goes to the credit of Kashmiri leaders that they exhorted both India and Pakistan not to stall the dialogue process, which was so painstakingly resumed by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government. Vajpayee, incidentally, made the appeal at a public rally in Srinagar on 18th of April, 2003, then ceasefire followed and then came Islamabad declaration in January 2004.
Now at the conclusion of Home Secretary level talks, Pakistan has reiterated the same old phrase that it would not allow terrorism to be exported from its soil. On the other hand, it has submitted, what it calls, the evidence of the Indian involvement in Balochistan. Pakistan home Secretary has given some information and the Indian Home secretary, according to Pakistani media, promised a necessary look into the charge. Whether it is Balochistan or Bombay ( Mumbai’s old name), that has held back any movement forward on Kashmir. There is a lot of rhetoric that comes from Pakistan about Kashmir and there is reiteration of diplomatic, political and moral support.
This is something, which has more meanings than the simple meanings what one gets while looking into the dictionary. India knows it well, Pakistan knows it better that how this kind of support has brought a level of uncertainty in the whole region of South Asia. The fact that needs to be stressed is that when Kashmiri leaders give a hype and raise the level of expectations of the commoners and ultimately when progress is not made even one tenth of that, disappointment breeds frustration. That is unfair, the leaders must say only that much to keep the expectations within limits.