What's the Kashmir deal?

In the backdrop of Kashmir having been put on the agenda in the proposed comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan, a news report in a newspaper from Pakistan has said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have decided to use ‘back channels’ for in-depth discussions on Kashmir through their respective confidantes. The report points out that the expected discussion will be on the lines of the Musharraf-Manmohan Singh secret talks and if all the hiccups are crossed there may be a deal between the two sides on the cards. While the authenticity of this report is not known, Kashmir being brought on the agenda and the two sides showing eagerness to resolve it would be insufficient without involvement of the people of Kashmir. Kashmir, divided between Indian administered and Pakistani administered, besides a chunk controlled by China, is not simply a territorial dispute;
it is a political dispute and by that distinction it involves the will of the people who must be taken on board to decide their own fate. Any solution hammered out bilaterally by India and Pakistan without the involvement and sanction of the people would lose its sanctity and ultimately be a failure. On Sunday, Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit pointed out that Hurriyat need to be brought on the table with respect to dialogue on Kashmir. That by no means is an unreasonable demand but for a sincere dialogue to begin on Kashmir, meaningful resolution requires engaging with all sections and regions of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control.
An important element of making this dialogue process all inclusive would be creation of conducive atmosphere for the same through introduction of genuine confidence building measures. As part of this effort, the involvement of the Hurriyat and other politically alienated sections of the society in consultation process as an initial step for introducing CBMs would foster a climate of confidence. Such an exercise began when the previous peace process was going on more than a decade ago but was not carried to its logical conclusion. Ever since, the Kashmir question has become knottier and more complicated owing to regional divisions, communal polarisation, religious radicalization on all sides and renewed militancy that is fuelled by anger stemming from impatience for want of peace process and continuing repressive policies and human rights abuse. 

Youth must be an important component of any dialogue process but as long as anger continues to push them to the brink, peace process would remain a farce and would also not have the ability to arrest the new trend of increased glamour of the gun among the youth in Kashmir Valley. As one of the foremost steps of confidence building, the governments on both sides, particularly New Delhi, must begin engaging with youth on their respective sides not only in terms of economic empowerment but also politically. Attempts should be made to facilitate liberal space for youth, also restive on the Pakistani side, to give vent to their views, concerns and aspirations. Youth voices can play a crucial role as healthy building blocks for a multi-tiered dialogue with respect to Kashmir, fostering an atmosphere that is conducive for both talks with the two governments of India and Pakistan as well as an all-inclusive dialogue at the intra-state level. Since recent anger is fuelled by continuum of human rights violations, militarization and State’s high-handedness, there is immense need for and scope of CBMs that seek to promise an end to the culture of impunity and culture of imposing curbs on civil liberties.

These will aid the success of structured mechanisms of facilitating multi-level dialogue between Indian State and Pakistan State, between the two respective states and their respective controlled territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as intra-Kashmir dialogue involving all stakeholders and including all ethnic, religious, regional identities as well as women and youth on board. Needless to point out that sincerity of the two sides would hinge on the essential component of confidence building measures within the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir, especially on this side which has been brutally battered during the two decades of heightened armed conflict. It cannot be expected from a formula that would only have the governments and elite track two groups in the decision making role.