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, November 5, 2009

Tactically or Pragmatically, the Kashmir issue Cannot be Ignored

Bukhari affirms that final settlement of the Kashmir issue is integral to lasting peace between India and Pakistan

(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.)

Road to Indo-Pak peace goes through Kashmir

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kashmir valley ended on positive note, though without any package announcement. He rightly said that pace on his ambitious Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan (PMRP) was slow and it was inability of the state governments to spend the money that forced the central government to extend the deadline for the Rs 29000 Crore plan. Apart from politics he confined his visit to reviewing the progress on developmental projects and assured something more but that can come only after state government proves its ability to implement what already is given.

Politically the visit was all important and significant for varied reasons as he tried his best to change atmospherics in the region which is essentially required to make changes which are vital to ensure peace.

For a brief moment it looked as Dr Singh had copied his predecessor A B Vajpayee when he surprised his close aides by extending a fresh hand of friendship to Pakistan from Srinagar on April 18, 2003. While Vajpayee was more than clear on his intensions by giving a turn around to situation in India-Pakistan relations at that time, Dr Singh chose to be more cautious but it was ample evidence to the fact that establishment in Delhi had realized that Kashmir can only be used for reconciliation between the two countries and not the rhetoric. This gives a feeble impression that New Delhi does not want to dismiss Kashmir casually but has the intention to use it as a platform to settle issues with Pakistan which in the ultimate analysis gives Islamabad a feeling that Kashmir was on the table. This also goes well with people of Valley who do not want to see Pakistan bashing from here albeit their little love for that country.

It seems that Dr Singh’s advisers had rightly counseled him to use the occasion to reach out to Pakistan that too at a time when country is grappling with the worst ever crisis since it was born in 1947. More so Prime Minister himself has been under tremendous pressure as Islamabad’s investigation into Mumbai attacks had not been satisfactory. People in India want concrete results as for as curbing “terror network on Pakistani soil” is concerned which was repeated many a time by Prime Minister. But what is more significant is that he clarified that issue of talks with Islamabad was not hostage to condition that they should first act. He was again cautious when he said it was not practical to carry forward dialogue in the present circumstances. Dr Singh’s bid to play with the words was a clear indication that New Delhi too was under pressure to mend fences with Pakistan that too in relation with Kashmir. It is otherwise a reality that in the current situation the atmosphere for any engagement with Pakistan was far from possible given its intense disturbances within the country.

Former Foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal was to an extent right when he told NDTV that Prime Minister’s overture to Pakistan was tactical. He tried to draw a distinction between Vajpayee’s gesture and Dr Singh’s “olive branch” saying that the relations between two countries had come to a standstill after 2001 parliament attack and this time the tension was not that high notwithstanding sharp differences over the issue of terror to be de-linked from dialogue process.

However, the peace overture Dr Singh initiated this time cannot be ignored in the backdrop of Sharm el Sheikh Declaration which put him (PM) on the defensive. He almost declared it null and void when attacked by opposition BJP and others. That is why he was repeatedly adding that curbing terror was essential to build an atmosphere and in the same breath saying that India wanted to settle all issues through dialogue and there was no precondition. This in other words would mean the realization that all roads to peace between India and Pakistan go through Kashmir. Whether this outreach will reach any culmination in the months to come but the message Dr Singh sought to send was positive. He was equally guarded in reaching out to separatists and did not move beyond “quiet diplomacy” theory floated by Home Minister P Chidambaram during his visit to Srinagar earlier this month. Dr Singh only reiterated that New Delhi was committed to dialogue with all sections of people with obvious reference to separatists. For his government “quiet diplomacy” is a strong weapon to send a message to International community that process of dialogue was on and it hardly needs to be accountable for making its “fruit” public if any. Like PC, he avoided to set conditions except for the militants whom he wanted to shun the path of violence.

In this backdrop Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also sounded pragmatic when he de-linked the theory of money from the politics of gun. In unequivocal terms he made it clear that Kashmiri youth had resorted to gun as a matter of Kashmir being a political issue and not for money. His statement nullifies all theories propounded by government agencies who give an impression to rest of world that it stems from the greed of money. Omar’s realism is going to help in building a case for political resolution of Kashmir and while being Chief Minister he needs to follow it on the same lines. It is time for all in Delhi and Srinagar to be realistic to achieve the goal of resolution and Omar has surely shown a path.

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