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.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Off-On India Pakistan Dialogue

Rafiuddin Bukhari sees hope in the recent meeting between the two Prime Ministers in Thimpu, Bhutan

(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.)

Bhutan Breakthrough

The much awaited meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani in Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, is a significant breakthrough as far as the strand relations between the two countries are concerned. This is, in fact, vindication of urgency of having talking relations. Both seem to have realised that the atmosphere of reconciliation has to prevail and unless a movement forward is pushed, animosity will further increase thereby posing a serious threat to peace in the region.

Much before the SAARC summit, the impressions created around were not suggestive of such an ice breaking moment. The two PM’s did shake hands during the Nuclear Summit in Washington early April but that did not indicate that a one-to-one meeting between Singh and Gilani could take place for about 90 minutes and before that they could agree on an informal stroll. Now that both had a “fruitful and positive” meeting as described by the respective officials, this heralds a positive change for which the track II activists had been craving for last over two years.

The Thimpu Thaw, as it is known now has put both New Delhi and Islamabad in a different mode. And that is of talking and not confrontation. The Foreign Secretary talks will resume and the talks on “all matters of concern” as put by Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupuma Rao will begin. The resumption of talks at the highest level have surely opened a new chapter in relations between the two countries notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister Singh may again has to face BJP’s wrath on what it may call “softening” the stand vis-a-vis bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. Analysts have started deciphering the tone of the talks and many termed it as something which is spirited in Sharm-el-Sheikh Declaration in which Pakistan had managed to get in the Baluchistan issue. If that is the case then Dr Singh may face opposition keeping in view his country’s concerns over what it feels “failure of Pakistan to control India centric terror” on its soil. Dr Singh’s meeting is seen as his walking an “extra mile” with Pakistan which some observers see as advantage Islamabad.

But the statesmanship exhibited by Dr Singh in Thimpu is somehow akin to what former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee did in Srinagar on April 18, 2003 when he “bulldozed” the hawkish approach of the Indian establishment and extended a fresh hand of friendship to Pakistan from Kashmiri soil. This he did in the backdrop of most difficult time of India-Pakistan relations which had been thrown out of gear following attack on parliament. BJP and other opposition parties should in that case revisit the policy adopted by Vajpayee at more crucial time. This being the fact that the likes of Mumbai terror attack are seen as a repeated attack on Indian sovereignty and peoples’ concerns on that are genuine but at the same time the relations of these two “difficult neighbours” cannot be made hostage to a particular incident which only will strengthen the subversion on both sides. There is much between India and Pakistan to resolve and Kashmir being on the top can’t further delay in order to see the region out of a nuclear threat. Whether Dr Singh has really overlooked the issue of what is called Islamabad’s failure to punish the perpetrators of 26/11 remains to be seen the entire gamut of talks is not known. Moreover the Indian Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao, made it clear that “we should not get stuck with the nomenclatures”. She was referring to whether there was any agreement on Composite Dialogue and that holds true for all the issues including the Mumbai attack.

Nevertheless, Dr Singh may feel the heat when he returns home. The commentaries which have started around Thimpu meet may not provide him complete support. The media and analysts have their own way to interpret the meeting. The Telegraph from Calcutta in its issue of April 30, 2010 has raised suspicion over Mumbai attacks issue. “Following one-to-one session this afternoon — their first since Sharm-el-Sheikh last July—Singh walked his promised, and contentious, ‘extra mile’ by dropping India’s insistence that Pakistan dismantle terror infrastructure on its soil and act against the 26/11 plotters as pre-requisites for resumption of the composite dialogue” it said in its report on the meet.

But the civil society and track II diplomatic circles have thrown their weight behind Dr Singh in walking ahead with a positive mind. Former Indian Foreign Secretary, Salman Haider, who has been active in Track II diplomacy, has lauded the quiet manner in which the two foreign offices “neatly” brought about today’s bilateral meeting. “I disagree talking is a concession. We need dialogue to pursue our country’s interest. We now need to decide what kind of dialogue it will be. We have concerns and this will give us a forum to raise them,” he told a newspaper adding “It is necessary to get the timing of the dialogue right. There was a time when dialogue was not possible. We cannot keep our mouths shut and stare at each other endlessly.” But another former secretary S K Singh termed the talks to the advantage of Pakistan.

Whatever shape the dialogue process takes in the months to come it is clear that both New Delhi and Islamabad are on a different track. Apart from what people of India want specifically to tackle issues like Mumbai, the growing pressure of civil society and the realisation that there was no substitute to dialogue is helping in right direction. Pakistan’s internal crisis as also the rigid stand taken by New Delhi had pushed the two countries to a level of no returning and that had further jeopardized an atmosphere in which even an air of reconciliation could be maintained. While Pakistan should come clean on its stand vis-a-vis militancy or as India calls it terror, New Delhi also has to show flexibility particularly on Kashmir issue. Its studded silence is not helping to improve situation in Srinagar which is receding with human rights violations and absence of a definite roadmap to engage political people. In case New Delhi shows sincerity towards resolution of Kashmir, the extremist elements in Pakistan’s public as well as establishment will have no reason to aid and abet violence in Kashmir. As rightly put by Foreign Secretary Rao “the searchlight is on future and not past”. Both should move forward to work for a better future.

No comments: