Missing Kashmir angle

 
 
 

The unexpected display of bonhomie between Indian and Pakistani delegations in Ufa resulting in a joint statement and a commitment to revive a composite dialogue process is a welcome development but does little to satiate the appetite for peace in Jammu and Kashmir. The joint statement makes no reference to Kashmir, leaving it open to speculation whether the reference to settle all pending disputes between the two countries includes or excludes the Kashmir question. The sincerity of the process that is likely to be started in the days to come comes under a cloud of suspicion, atleast in Kashmir, where the omission to mention the Kashmir issue adds up to the general skepticism that is aroused owing to the timing of the sudden shift, coming just weeks after a rash display of belligerence and bellicose rhetoric from the two sides. There is a general perception that the peace is being brokered by international powers, behind the scenes, and that it is not essentially necessitated by a realization of the significance of co-operation between the two neighbours within India and Pakistan. In Kashmir, there is also a general perception that the issue has been conveniently omitted to allow Pakistani side to sell it as part of the resolution of all disputes and Indian officials to having managed to keep it out of the joint declaration. Silence is not only ambiguous, it may as well be devious and threatens the spirit of the Ufa declaration as well as jeopardizes the interests of long term peace, friendship and co-operation. Whatever one’s political views regarding Jammu and Kashmir issue,

it is an undeniable fact that it is intrinsically linked to the India-Pakistan dispute. Kashmir by virtue of being both a cause and consequence of the India-Pakistan dispute is one of the most significant ones, without resolution of which longer lasting peace, co-operation and friendship between the two neighbours and ultimate peace and progress in the South Asian region is not possible. Past experiences have shown that India-Pakistan peace process and Kashmir peace process are inter-linked and interdependent; excluding either of the one would make resolution process impossible. Kashmir, however, cannot be resolved simply through back channel diplomacy, as suggested by Pakistan foreign secretary, without supplementing it with the involvement of the people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control. Complex as the issue is with India and Pakistan having become two major parties to the dispute along with the Chinese tangle at one level and the competing ideologies within various parts of the state including Gilgit and Baltistan, Kashmir issue remains one of the knottiest dispute between India and Pakistan. Skirting it will not ease the way for resolving the other bilateral disputes but will only come in the way. 

The obvious tendency to completely isolate Kashmir out of a peace process is evident from the manner which two days after the India-Pakistan official level bonhomie in Russia, the usual repressive policy is being followed in Kashmir with fresh curbs on separatists and continuum of crackdowns and arrests on a random basis. There is nothing to suggest the inclusion of Kashmir in this promised peace process and this gap between the India-Pakistan composite dialogue and a stifling atmosphere in Kashmir will retard the peace process. Far from talking about inclusion of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with all its stakeholders including separatists, there is not even a murmur about introducing confidence building measures or strengthening existing ones. Such cold indifference to the Kashmir issue will add to the existing alienation and anger which cannot be addressed by unconfirmed reports of Centre toying with the idea of offering a handsome economic package to Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir problem is not simply economic but also political. A political solution would require integration of the issue in the proposed peace process between India and Pakistan.