The Story of ‘Climb-downs’ The present leadership has some lessons to learn

Our “leaders” are in a habit of sparking debates- mostly hackneyed ones parsed and analyzed in these columns umpteen times – rather overdriven. Even adding spice to these stale debates does not make them palatable but still they fuel doubts in the public minds. A similar debate has engaged attention of our political commentators but I have a different take on it.  

On Sunday, 10 November 2o13, Kashmir leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Molvi Muhammad Umar Farooq, Mohammad Yasin Malik, Asiya Andrabi along with their party men and aids had separate meetings with Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs and National Security.  Pakistan High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir aided him during these meetings. He is by training an economist and academician.   For having his been Foreign Minister of Pakistan in Nawaz Sharif’s last term as Prime Minister at the critical juncture of India and Pakistan joining nuclear club, Sartaj Aziz   is conversant with the intricate details of the Kashmir dispute- with all its ramifications at the ground level. He also understands its dynamics. 

The visiting Pakistan leader meeting Kashmir leaders is not a new phenomenon. Or, the Kashmir leaders visiting Pakistan High Commission, in New Delhi  is no news.  The post 1953 scenario is replete with instances of the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front leaders including its towering leaders Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg meeting Pakistan   officials in New Delhi. Of these meeting January 1971 meetings of Sheikh Abdullah and his lieutenant, Beg with Pakistan High Commissioner in India have been significant for the developments that followed. Since, the birth of the Hurriyat Conference (united), there has been hardly an occasion when leaders of this multiparty combine have not met   visiting Pakistan leaders in the Embassy, at New Delhi, The opposition parties and leaders criticizing or raising voice against meetings of Kashmir leaders with Pakistan officials has also been a regular ritualistic feature in the capital.

I do not know if these meetings portend a big change in organizational structure of the fragmented constituents of the 1993 Hurriyat Conference- and bringing some semblance of unity amongst the diverse groups.  Or, the objective of the meet was to update these leaders on Islamabad’s new Kashmir policy and strategy.  Couple of New Delhi based newspapers published some inside stories about the deliberations between Kashmir leaders and Sartaj Aziz – apparently planted. 

It is not  the deliberations inside the Pakistan High Commission that has generated a debate amongst political commentators in Srinagar  but it is    the statements of the  APHC (M) leader and observations on this meeting by   superannuated spymaster, known for being conversant with ‘nuts and bolts’ of the Hurriyat Conference that has aroused the curiosity and germinated speculations.  On the face of it, tone and tenor of the the statements made after the meeting is indicative of eagerness of the   APHC faction for entering into dialogue with the Congress led UPA government- whether New Delhi formally invites them or not.  To be noticed, by the new BJP leadership, in a cleverly crafted statement, by resurrecting a trite and dead phrase, “within the ambit of humanity” used by Mr. Vajpayee,   it also held out a hand of cooperation to Modi led BJP if it makes to the Raisina Hill. 

The statement is apparently an innocuous reiteration of the much-orchestrated stand of this faction of the APHC but at the same time, it carries subtle message of not insisting   the demands it has made in 2005, during meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh- “a mellow down”.   The ‘loaded’ word ‘step-by-step’ in the statement seen in historical perspective artfully suggests a ‘climb-down’ that has many a parallels in our   sixty six year old   political struggle.  Every individual or party has a right to choose his politics- after all politics in Jammu and Kashmir that leads to the corridors of power has been a great ‘game of turns’ -right, left and U.  

Here I am not going to comment on this faction’s politics, whether it goes by the ‘advice of the former RAW chief, and decides to partake in the polls”. It is syndrome of ‘climbing-down to zero level’ afflicting our leadership for past over six decades that is the moot point.  

It is often said that for ‘tenacious unwillingness’ and ‘procrastination’ of the GoI Kashmir dispute has not been so far resolved.  Moreover, India’s “obstinate” stand on Kashmir has been the cause for estrangement between India and Pakistan –   two neighbors, who could be of symbiotic value to each other. But I see, the syndrome ‘of climb-down to zero level’ afflicting  our leadership as one of the most important contributing factor for New Delhi’s policy of procrastination and    consistently remaining in denial mode for ending political uncertainty in the state.  So the no resolution of the dispute.  Had not the Kashmir leadership repeatedly suffered this syndrome- often out of exhaustion and on occasion out of “jail-dejection” and sometime out of persuasion old-time political friends like J.P.   

The story  of top Kashmir leaders is that of  taking the movement to the highest pitch, filling the jails with have-nots, splashing streets with blood, multiplying number of  orphans and adding to long list of widows and then    ‘climbing-down to zero level’  – and calling this inglorious surrender as realpolitik.  Let us not talk about 1947 that is full of note of interrogations.  Nevertheless, the post 1953 period is a galore with instances where the leaders after leading the political movements   ignominiously retraced their steps and surrendered to the terms and conditions of New Delhi.  Some of the examples of insulting surrenders are the 1964- Holy Relic Movement and dialogue thereafter with New Delhi. “Sheikh Abdullah more or less ruled out a plebiscite.” Commenting on Abdullah Alistair Lamb writes, “Prisons apparently had taught Sheikh Abdullah nothing.” The 1968 State Peoples Convention- the disarray and decision thereafter.  Some important politico-religious parties advocating cause of right to self-determination, contesting of the 1972 Assembly elections.  Six point, Indira-Sheikh Agreement of 1975 and dissolution of the Plebiscite Front.  Moreover, all pro-plebiscite parties jumping over the Janata bandwagon and burying right to self-determination movement. Besides these   glaring examples of political leaders ‘climbing down’ there are many other such instances were Kashmir leaders have failed the people of the state who had reposed faith and trust in them.

In this column, it may not be possible to analyze all the all quoted instances of “climb-down to zero” syndrome, as each one of them is a subject in itself and have lesson for present “leadership.”