Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Should Kashmiri Leaders be Cheering a Meeting With a "Missing Topic"?

Mr. Bukhari comments on the recent talks between the Pakistani President and the Indian Prime Minister where the topic of Kashmir simply did not come up

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Indo-Pak Thaw and Kashmir

Kashmiri separatists have a unique characteristic. They do not lose time to react to a meeting, particularly between India and Pakistan. As stake holders in Kashmir issue, they are supposed to make their responses, but any meeting which discusses Kashmir merits a response and not the one in Russia, between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in which the latter was on back foot. The only positive side of the development was that both the leaders met for the first time after Mumbai attacks. And Kashmir was no where in the short conversation half of which took place in full media gaze.

Instead Dr Singh took on Zardari like a Headmaster of the School. He shook his confidence leaving him nervous. His (Dr Singh’s) focus was on terrorism and did not move beyond that. Zardari responded with a meaningless grin and had nothing to offer him when asked about what his government did to tackle the terror directed towards India. A fumbled Zardari did try to mollify him but Dr Singh was clear cut in driving home the point that if Pakistan can launch a crackdown on Taliban why not on those who according to Dr Singh were hell bent upon creating disturbances in India.

So Kashmir figured nowhere in the talks about which more hype was created by Kashmiri leaders here by welcoming “God Knows What”. Both sides did agree that Foreign Secretaries will meet in July. But the meeting, according to those privy to the development, will be uni-focal and Pakistan will be asked to produce the “Report Card” on what it did to reign in the terror against India. This is substantiated by the wrath Zardari is facing back home where he was asked to explain as to why he failed to rake up the Kashmir issue and was like a lame duck in front of Dr Singh. That is why he has put of his proposed visit to Egypt where during the NAAM Summit both leaders were again expected to meet and carry forward the dialogue. Now Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani is likely to attend the meeting.

Pakistan’s failure to miss Kashmir at the meeting should be seen in the backdrop of its disturbances within the country. Pakistan is going through the worst face of instability and tackling Taliban, which is its own creation, in collaboration with United of America, is becoming difficult with each passing day. Till a few years back its (Pakistan’s) sole attention was focused on Kashmir and no opportunity was lost to push India to the wall. But now the situation is entirely different. India’s ostensibly strong diplomacy and increasing proximity with Washington is playing a significant role in cornering Pakistan on the issue of “terror”. Ironically Pakistan is America’s ally in “War on Terror” but India has found a place in “Victims of Terror” category alongside America. This advantage is going in favour of New Delhi to brand even a genuine political struggle as an off shoot of “International Islamic Terror Network”. But in this game of pushing one another to corner, both Washington and Delhi are playing safe. While Obama administration is prone to pressure from New Delhi on Kashmir, but it subtly kicks off the Kashmir issue as it was done recently by Burns. This is being done to sooth the Pakistani sentiment keeping in view its importance in taking on Taliban-Alqaeda nexus which the Washington thinks is detrimental to its existence.

India is also playing safe and giving an impression that it was not washing its hands off the solution to Kashmir issue. Dr Singh’s well tailored strategy to send a strong message is something to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand he responded to Washington’s desire to resume the dialogue with Pakistan and on the other he made it possible to assert his country’s position vis-a-vis terror. He clearly told Zardari that his mandate was to tell him that what he was doing on terror. So the talks, though resumed do not have any bearing on Kashmir as of now.

This becomes more interesting in the wake of recent agitation. Pakistani analysts believe that Zardari was better placed in that sense to raise Kashmir issue but he was so weak that Dr Singh didn’t allow him to even sweat. Any dialogue between India and Pakistan, in the recent years has centered on Kashmir. This is in spite of the u-turn made by former Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf when he talked about out of box solution. But this time, Pakistan’s quagmire is redefining the contours of dialogue between the two countries. This certainly pushes Kashmir out, unless Pakistan takes a radical line, which in the given situation seems impossible. It goes beyond any doubt that Pakistan is one of the principle parties to Kashmir dispute and its role can never be ignored. But at this stage when the Pakistani government is grappling with the worst ever crisis, the Kashmiri leadership should stop looking towards Islamabad and think independently to charter their own course.

This is imperative as the situation on ground does not show any signs of reconciliation and the people’s mood is defiant. If separatists claim to be representing true aspirations of Kashmir they should have their own roadmap, otherwise will have to bear with the accusations like one by Dr Singh that they have nothing to offer on table. Leave Pakistan aside for the time being and let the country recover, but wake up and think big to deliver on resolution. This is the demand of the time.

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