India, Pak must move fast to resolve all disputes including that of Kashmir


The operationalisation of the new visa agreement between India and Pakistan, following the visit of the Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik to New Delhi, is certainly a step forward on the road to peace in the region and an important measure for bridging the trust deficit. If implemented in letter and spirit without usual bureaucratic hassles it will certainly provide some relief to sections of people in the neighbouring countries visiting across for various purposes. However, the manner and the speed with which the two governments have been able to decide about removing some of the hurdles makes it obvious that the political leadership of the two countries has yet to demonstrate their will and capacity to push forward the ongoing dialogue process with the desired speed. They have yet to rein in the hawks whether in politics or bureaucracy who can create roadblocks on the road to peace in various ways. 

The need to do away the rigid and inhuman visa regime that practically prevented the much-needed people-to-people contacts between the two neighbouring countries, besides facilitating the visits of the divided families from one country to the other, can hardly be over-emphasised. This should have been done soon after the two countries decided to have composite dialogue for resolving all their disputes through negotiations to put an end to the decades of hostility and confrontation. But it took them long time even to arrive at the agreement to somewhat relax the earlier harsh visa system. Though this agreement was signed on September 8 it took the home ministers of the two countries over three months to decide on its operationalisation and that too only partially. The visa on arrival will come into effect on January 15,2003 and the group tourist visa from March 15,2003. However the much desired abolition of visa regime to allow free movement of people from one country to the other still appears to be a distant dream.

The two countries have yet to shed their respective rigidity in the matter of confidence building measures necessary for bridging the trust-deficit for creating a conducive climate for pursuing the dialogue process to its logical conclusion. Some of the other CBMs like the withdrawal of troops by the two countries from Siachen Glacier, opening of other routes across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, making the travel and trade across the LoC hassle-free need to be taken without any further delay. There are several other important CBMs like the demilitarization of both sides of Jammu and Kashmir, end to human rights abuses and restoration of the democratic rights of the peoples across the LoC which are vital for the success of the dialogue process, which not only needs to be made uninterrupted and uninterruptible but should also move fast.

The CBMs are meant only to create a climate of trust and cannot be a substitute for the solution of disputes between the two countries. Unfortunately the dialogue process has not only been disrupted by extraneous factors but has also been moving very slowly. The process in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, which undeniably is the major dispute between the two countries its being both the cause and consequence of the conflict has not even taken off the ground. Unlike other issues Jammu and Kashmir is not a bilateral issue. It concerns the future of the people of the troubled state and calls for a political solution. For any just, democratic and lasting solution of this problem it is important to provide a due place to the people of the State representing all shades of opinion, nelonging to different regions and areas of the State on the dialogue table. The two countries must take early and necessary steps to facilitate intra-Jammu and Kashmir dialogue for evolving a consensus on a just, democratic and sustainable solution of the complex problem which not only satisfies the urges of the people living in all the regions and areas and belonging to different communities but also takes into account the interests of both India and Pakistan