"I have just returned from a productive and positive round of talks with Foreign Secretary Bashir in Islamabad." These were the words uttered by the Indian Foreign Secretary at a London based think tank. I was one of the audiences. The address was held soon after the talks with her Pakistani counterpart and after a joint statement issued from Islamabad.
Usually, addresses of these kinds are followed by a round of question and answer sessions. Since the key address was about India’s foreign policy and primal priorities, the questions were centered mostly about China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and also about India’s attempt to improve relations with other countries in the region. One would have expected questions focusing on the talks that would have heightened a discourse in an attempt to enhance peace and stability in the region. But, it did not. It was about India’s missing foreign policy and usual ranting about democracy, its attributes, and how India has monopolised that to maximum.
In an attempt to perceive successful talks between India-Pakistan, the author of this piece at the end steered a couple of questions from the joint statement. Beginning with a statement on Kashmir, regarding "creating convergences," the speaker was asked to delve deeper in engaging with the separatist leadership of the valley, in the near future, for a successful solution to the dispute. However, on the contrary, the most brazen replies to both questions and a smug smile ended any resolution to further the discussion:
"I cannot reply to that and it is too early."
There goes another missed opportunity for thousands in the turmoil stricken valley for a durable solution for peace and stability. The game of double standards which the Indian government has played in bringing the separatists to the table has created further disarray in the region. The GOI believes that electing an Indian political entity is an end of alienation to the Kashmiri people. Yes, they have voted for their personal benefits for beejli, sadak paani (road, electricity and water) which are basic amenities for survival. But when asked for long term aspirations, the quick collective answer/unanimous reply remains, "Azaadi or Independence." Indian political machinery always tends to gloss over a view that separatists represent reverberation in all strata of Kashmiri society. Be it a youngster with a lump of stone in his hand or an old man, they all want to be free from the shackles of Indian dominion, everyday humiliation at the hands of security forces or the draconian laws that limit their existence as free individual.
The last three summers have heightened a thirst for achieving aspirations, where the separatists have been at the fore front of the movement and not the centre supported mainstream leadership. Thereby, how can you duck down on engaging a stratum of leadership who hold mass support? Does not holding talks mean by definition welcoming all sorts of views to find a common ground to converge? If people of two countries are at the heart of this bilateral talk, then all Kashmiri leaders should be brought to the table and their views should be respected. Indian attitude needs to apply a broad spectrum change on Kashmir. Its tendency to whip up support internationally for its democratic standing, secularity, scrupulous human rights record and humility falls short when it comes to Kashmir. The very fact which remains is India’s ambivalence in Kashmir that will again prove yet another stalemate and riddance for any aimed resolution.