Indo-Pak dialogue …questions on Mahbooba Mufti’s plea

The strong undercurrent of ideological persuasion in RSS make-up finds it difficult to accept the reality of subcontinent becoming a nuclear flashpoint due to non-resolution of ‘K’ dispute. Vajpayee though politically groomed in RSS culture changed his perspective during years in corridors of power, either as a parliamentarian or as foreign minister in Morarji Dasia’s cabinet, later as prime minister.

On the 2nd death anniversary of Mufti Mohammad Syed, Mahbooba Mufti made a strong plea for “mutual dialogue” between India and Pakistan. She called it vital for peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Mahbooba’s plea sounds a note rightly struck. Mere pleas, however, may not be enough to set the bells ringing. The question remains whether she has the needed instrumentality to bring about in any manner, what she pleads for. Mufti’s opting for a coalition with BJP following elections in 2014 foreclosed any options, PDP might have had for pushing their often repeated agenda of bringing about Indo-Pak dialogue as a prelude to resolution of ‘K’ dispute. BJP, the political front of RSS does not have in its ideological make-up any space for peaceful resolution. Instead, what has come to fore is the masculine militaristic approach. This stays in spite of Atal Behari Vajpayee reaching out to parties in the dispute during the earlier phase of BJP led NDA.

However, it may be noted that Vajpayee’s reach to Pakistan did not go beyond selling Indian tailored solution to ‘K’ dispute. It could be summarised as no territorial exchange, extending at the most to softening LoC, free travel across it for residents of erstwhile JK state, and free trade exchange. Vajpayee was on the same wavelength as the later day Manmohan Singh post 2004, the year NDA lost power to UPA. The idea later got reflected in Musharraf’s four point formula. The formula fell short of expectations of vast section of ‘K’ resistance leadership. With Musharraf’s exit in Pakistan, the formula got buried, though it is exhumed invariably for debating its nuances.

Given the existent facts Mahbooba’s plea for “mutual dialogue” between India and Pakistan being vital for peace in Jammu and Kashmir would hardly find a taker in the political conglomerate, she has got stuck in. Making the plea on 2nd death anniversary of her father has a familiar ring to it. On November the 7th 2015, late Mufti Mohammad Syed made a plea to Indian PM—Narendra Modi of reaching out to Pakistan in a public address in Srinagar, only to be rebuffed. Modi retorted that he doesn’t need any advice. The rebuff sounded the death knell to Mufti’s hopes of making a Vajpayee of Modi, notwithstanding Modi’s Christmas day landing Lahore landing a month later. That the rekindled hopes of Indo-Pak dialogue fell victim to militant strike in Pathankot or Pak ambassador meeting Hurriyat leaders is poor explanation for calling off talks. It is the non-resolution of ‘K’ dispute that breeds militancy and violence. Violence, whatever its form abhors, a structured dialogue is the best route to bury it, only that it does not find a space in BJP lexicon—the partner of PDP’s choosing. Mehbooba stating that the PDP-BJP alliance in the state is “able to defend the rights and interests of the people” hardly fits the situation on ground.

While noting these lines, a news-report on Mahbooba’s 10th January legislative assembly speech appeared in news print. It had a take totally diverse from her statement on desirability of Indo-Pak dialogue three days earlier.

The renewed statement had the undercurrents of overstating her brief in the earlier one. In the assembly speech, the point to note was that Jammu and Kashmir had signed its future (ostensibly with India) and the only thing now possible was that the state becomes a bridge of peace between India and Pakistan. There was an added advice for Pakistan, “Pakistan has to understand that the state has written its future and the only thing now possible is that the state can become a peace bridge instead of a bone of contention between the two countries.” The statement virtually rules out Pakistan as a party to ‘K’ dispute, and expects it to accept, what might be a fait-accompli for Mahbooba Mufti. The questions however remains, whether there is even an iota of chance of Pakistan washing its hands off ‘K’ dispute and take the advice that Mahbooba Mufti offers? Or, is taking such a stance tenable with Indo-Pak dialogue or the much desired reconciliation?

Taking extreme positions by voicing wild statements without taking the stated positions of the parties to the dispute in view is a recipe for keeping the subcontinent in the existent tense state. It is virtually the opposite of working for a peace constituency. Accommodation of the stated positions of the parties in dispute and narrowing down of the differences encountered in a structured dialogue is the way to go about it, rather than a shut-up call to a party or parties concerned, and ask them to accept the status quo. It needs to be remembered that it is the status quo which is being contested, resulting in violence. The state contributes to it by seeking to maintain the status quo. The present level of violence, whether inside the valley or on LoC is unacceptable. Hardly a day passes without death and destruction being reported. A way out of vortex of violence has to be found, sooner the better.