'Peace-politics' Catchphrase For 2011

It should not be taken as a political blasphemy:  I see no ‘summer of discontent’ during 2011. I see ‘normalcy- peace – politics’ as the buzzword   for the year that is on the threshold.  I see no repeat of summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010-  that saw  hundreds of thousands of people converging on the streets of Srinagar and other towns in support of the demand for  ‘right to self-determination’. Notwithstanding lot of blood-letting these years for militancy related violence having almost come to a naught   are rightfully called by some political commentators and Kashmir observers as years of transition from the “armed resistance” to the “peaceful agitation”.

 Of the three sequent summers of mass rallies, massive protest and mass demonstration the year 2010 will go as yet another milestone in the contemporary political history of the state. Mass rallies, protests, demonstrations, ding dong battles, stone pelting, tear gassing and firing by police have been   an alienable part of the political spectrum of the state for past six decades  but what  makes it different is it kick starting a Kashmir related political process in New Delhi and at the international level.

In the contemporary history of Kashmir, the year will be counted as eventful as 1948, when Jammu and Kashmir catapulted to the central stage of the international politics and it assumed the dimension of an international dispute. It was in January 1948 that India took the dispute over the future of Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations. And India’s representative Gopalaswamy Ayyanga, presenting his government’s case at the Security Council, made position of his government known and stated that ‘The question … whether she (Kashmir) should withdraw from her accession to India, and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent with a right to claim admission as a Member of the United Nations – all this we have recognized to be a matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir."

And it was in this year only that the UN Security Council passed one after another resolution on Kashmir recognizing right to self-determination for people of the state and holding a plebiscite in the state under its aegis. It is true in 2010,   Pakistan Foreign Minister raised the   Kashmir issue at the annual meeting of the United Nations but despite the issue failing to a debate in  the house it continued to be an important subject to be talked about in the diplomatic circles at global level. The situation in the state unlike during past many years attracted lots of columns and commentaries in the international media more particularly in American and other Western media tracing the origin of the dispute and looking for its resolution in the context its historicity. The international opinion on the situation as obtained in the state during summer and autumn of that is passing into history made many in India to relook at the decision of Jawaharlal Nehru taking the “dispute” to the United Nations. In an interview to New Delhi newspaper Natwar Singh called Nehru’s decision as an act of “misjudgment”. ‘India should not have called it a disputed area.’ ‘India was not mature when it had gone to UN.’ (Indian Express 28-9-10) and it also made many an opinion makers and political leaders to think about resolution of the problem beyond status quo.

When I say that the catchphrase for 2011 will be ‘normalcy-peace and politics’, I do not make a statement that during this year Kashmir problem will pale into insignificance or it will be relegated to back burner as it happened after India-Pakistan war in 1971. I am optimistic about the problem shedding off the hard shell of impenetrability and impregnability for two reasons one, the moves initiated by New Delhi and the changing mindset about Kashmir in an important segment of Indian lawmakers and second, the problem once again gaining centrality in New Delhi’s diplomatic relations with some key players in global politics and Kashmir regaining its cold war geo-strategic importance.

Some days back Home Minister P. Chidambaram stated that ‘contours of the Kashmir problem should emerge over next few months. Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, the Minister said while the first and second reports of the interlocutors dealt with confidence-building measures, they will now focus on evolving a political solution for Kashmir. So far the team of interlocutors has no clear cut terms of reference for suggesting a   solution of Kashmir problem to the government. But, with all skepticism about the team growing beyond an academic study group it will be in a position to provide inputs to government in New Delhi for constituting a fully empowered team of parliamentarians with definite mandate for negotiating a settlement of the problem with all the contending parties. The silver lining that makes me believe that the year 2011 will be a year of change in the right direction is the growing interest of   groups of civil society and parliamentarians in ending political uncertainty in the state.

It is for the first time after February 22, 1994, when both the houses of the Indian Parliament adopted a resolution stating that ‘the State of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India that a eight political parties in parliament have decided to form a caucus to create a public opinion within India  in order to facilitate a permanent solution for the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The eight parties include Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), CPI, CPI (M), Telegu Desam, Janata Dal-United, Janata Dal-Secular, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal. The positive response shown by Kashmir leadership including Syed Ali Geelani encourages one to believe that in the coming year such moves will gather momentum and it will be provided necessary grist to the political party in power for talking bold initiatives on Kashmir.

On the diplomatic front during 2010, Kashmir again assumed centrality in India’s relations with many other countries other than Pakistan. The year was different from the decade gone by and was reminiscent of early years of nineties when besides United States many other important countries had proactively got involved in Kashmir and desired to play mediatory role in the resolution of this problem that had emerged as a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan. Washington despite having emerged as India’s strategic partner in the region   for offsetting the influence of Beijing not only    adhere to its stated Kashmir policy of finding resolving the dispute according to “aspirations” of the people of the state   but is also using   its shove for resumption of composite dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad. Kashmir has become a core issue in the relations between India and China. The statements coming from the capital during past few weeks suggest that during the visit of Chinese Premier to New Delhi Kashmir will topping the list of issues to be discussed.  Norway also joined international discourse on Kashmir and its s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr stating Kashmiri uprising was indigenous and that the protesting people who come out on the streets should not be fired   indicated interest of the country.

To understand why I say the buzzword during 2011 should be ‘normalcy-peace-politics’ there is need to draw a difference between ‘agitation’ and ‘movement’. Agitation is launched for focusing on the issues and movements are launched for achieving the goals- political or others to that extent  2010 agitation with all its sufferings to people and negative implications has succeed in making  the government in New Delhi to move beyond rhetoric and procrastination and think seriously for ending uncertainty in the state.

In the changed scenario words ‘normalcy and peace’ become important for 2011 as any further  agitation, violence and law and problem  in all likelihood is going to fritter away the political gains of 2010. To see the gains translated into changing the ‘status quo’ policy   much need for finding out lasting solution there is need for sagacious political moves like an intelligent chess player by the political leadership of the state.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)

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