Dialogue is only way to resolve Kashmir issue Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

INDIA and Pakistan will not talk. Pakistan wants to talk “Kashmir”. India wants to talk “terror”. Yet they will not talk. The baggage of history weighs heavy on us. The status quo stays.

Kashmir bleeds and we the people of Kashmir will continue to pay a heavy price. Not that the people of India and Pakistan will not pay. Of course they too will. We are all paying a high price for this utterly mindless status quo which is seen as politically safe by the ruling elite (whether in power or out of power) in India and in Pakistan. Any shift is compromise which amounts to treason.

For the past seven decades the people of Kashmir remain trapped in this rhetoric of the status quo, living a life of bondage in the world’s most militarised zone, yearning to come out of it, pining for a breakthrough.

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We Kashmiris know that our salvation lies in a shift in outlook and policy. We also know that this shift is possible only through dialogue — dialogue as we all understand is currently the most civilised and humane way to resolve conflicts. Each time there is some movement towards this elusive dialogue between the two countries our hope peeps out — we see a chance to represent our case at the table — but each time we are brutally pushed back.

The current backtracking and hardening of position by the government of India is directly linked to its general elections which are due early next year. The ruling BJP cannot afford to be seen soft on “terror” — a frightening bogey which has been created and which in India is now synonymous with Pakistan.

Electoral dividends outweigh reason. This intransigence and refusal to engage and talk has not only held the people of Kashmir hostage, but by placing the region on the dangerous trajectory that it is currently moving on, it is a threat to the people of both the countries.

Kashmir stands as a potential nuclear flashpoint between them which will consume the lives of millions of people in an instant. Allowing this dangerous political conflict to fester not only endangers the security of the people of the entire region but also undermines their future by compromising on their interest and well-being — it forecloses all spheres of possible cooperation and amicable dispersal of disagreements between the two neighbours.

Pursuing the policy of hostility and distrust, successive governments in New Delhi and Islamabad continue to squander the taxpayers’ money and precious economic resources. At a huge human and economic cost this belligerent approach is an oft-proven failed policy. It has only deepened the conflict exposing the inability of the governments in the two countries to maximise opportunities in these times of globalisation.

One-fourth of humanity lives in South Asia but it is unable to participate effectively in the new world order, India-Pakistan rivalry is at the root of this. Continuing political tension leads to a lack of normal trade relations between the two nations which has cast a shadow over cooperation efforts within South Asia.

According to a World Bank report ‘..The Promise ..’, released this Monday, the trade potential between India and Pakistan stands at $37 billion but today it is a mere $2 billion. Is it not a matter of great concern to the leaders that India rank’s #136 on the UN Human Development Index (HDI) and Pakistan ranks #150, while they have distinguished themselves by out-running each other in the arms race, draining their economies to benefit countries who are the worldwide arms dealers. India and Pakistan are the world’s largest buyers of arms.

How long will the two hold the prosperity and security of their people and the region hostage to their hostility and rivalry? If they reject talks how will they engage, do they have an alternative?

The other important factor is the fast-changing geopolitical scenario in the region. Clearly the two countries recognise Chinese assertions and ascendance in South Asia and the growing isolation of the United States. China’s territorial contiguity to India and Pakistan has deep implications regionally and globally and the hostility between India and Pakistan is to the disadvantage of all.

Coming back to the Kashmir issue which can only be described as a human tragedy. An outcome of deception and betrayal by successive governments in India; leading to families torn apart, swelling graveyards, repression and blindness, disappearance and sexual crimes — the entire gamut of human rights abuse and severe injustice. It is the complete moral and political failure of the Indian state.

To occupy people and their land against their will. To exert control by foisting draconian laws to facilitate unabated killings by its military apparatus, crushing democratic rights and political dissent, restricting free speech, incarcerating, torturing and continuing to keep hundreds of thousands of military forces deployed for decades on end. Against all these odds our steadfast resistance in all fields is exemplary, surely the leadership in India is aware that we cannot be subdued.

The Kashmiri people are far too determined and will not give up on their basic political right to self-determination.

Even though both the countries control a part of our land and its people, Kashmir is not just a bilateral issue that India and Pakistan can settle between them, we the people of Kashmir are the major stakeholders without our participation there can be no progress on the resolution of this dispute.

It needs deep reflection and clear reasoning by the leadership on both sides to understand that this human and political issue can only be addressed through political means which are humane and civilised. Military repression can only make it more chronic. I believe genuine leadership in India and Pakistan has to change course and move away from the default mode. They have to take difficult decisions which are urgently needed to shape a better course for the future generations of India and Pakistan and the tormented people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Sooner or later we hope a dialogue between the two countries will ease the tension in the region and open up the space for our participation which can lead us towards peaceful coexistence. It’s our belief and hope and the only way to ensure peace for greater development in South Asia and the world at large.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018