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.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting Real on Solving the Kashmir Dispute

Shujaat's commentary in the Rising Kashmir is followed by comments from the author

Pakistan’s reality check on Kashmir

Shujaat Bukhari

 “On the issue of Kashmir, we have to see if our efforts and our strategy in the past have produced desired results. Now the question is, the attitude and formulation we adopted over past 60 years, if we continue sticking to them, will they give us a resolution even after next 65 years? The answer to that is a resounding no. When I say we did not succeed, I mean to say both countries," Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to DNA’s Iftikhar Gilani.

 A day before the foreign minister level talks between India and Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar made this significant statement about her country’s policy on resolving the Kashmir dispute. However, this was ignored by all the stakeholders as well as media in India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. Hina’s statement takes Pakistan back to a nuanced approach adopted by former President Parvez Musharraf, though the current dispensation in Islamabad led by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had apparently divorced the “changed track” set out by Musharraf by spelling out his much famed four point formula to resolve the vexed issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Not only did Hina hinted at this “changed mindset” in Islamabad, but the immediate former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani also told NDTV’s Barkha Dutt that they were looking at Musharraf’s formula and had been working at “tightening the loop-holes in it”. One can say that Hina has emphatically made it clear that past 60 years had not yielded desired result for Pakistan as for as its Kashmir policy is concerned. In other words, Pakistan’s stated policy of sticking to United Nations resolutions and the demand for Right to Self Determination had not helped it to see Kashmir getting resolved. This “struggle” not only involved intense diplomatic efforts but also an active support to armed rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir and three full fledged and one low scale war with India. Killing of thousands of people coupled with thousands getting maimed, widowed and orphaned did not bring much change in the situation except that Kashmir was recognized internationally. Unprecedented abuse of human rights and disproportionate presence of armed forces in Kashmir made its people to suffer to the hilt. But with the September 11 attacks on United States of America and subsequent so called “war on terror”, Pakistan’s diplomacy received a hard beating, thus again pushing Kashmir issue to backburner. Its problems on home turf increased to an unimaginable level and the extremists took a heavy toll on Pakistan’s internal stability. This not only left Pakistan to fend within its own territory but also gave India an “opportunity” to use the US and its allies against Islamabad. This eased its situation on Kashmir front, which of late Delhi has been seeing as a “less troubled” area.

Hina’s statement cannot be seen only in the backdrop of above-mentioned facts. But it could be based on a reality check with which Pakistan’s establishment has been handling Kashmir for last few years. A slewed role for Pakistan’s powerful Army and ISI must have helped Islamabad’s political set up to think on more pragmatic lines. That is why Hina emphasizes that past 60 year’s formulations and adaptations had not yielded any result and in next 65 years such a strategy would not take both the countries to a logical goal. By all accounts it is a very positive development with which both countries need to move forward, though without compromising on the basis of the dispute. Hina’s statement, however, should not apply to Pakistan only but it throws up a lesson for New Delhi also to adopt a more pragmatic approach towards the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Its mishandling with the internal dimension of the problem has given severe jolt to any genuine process in the past 60 years and a level playing field for stakeholders inside Kashmir is must for linking it with the pragmatic part of external dimension.

Notwithstanding her assertion that Kashmir remains a core concern for Pakistan, Hina has clearly indicated that Pakistan needed to review its policy over Kashmir. However, she is cautious enough, keeping in view the opposition from hardliners—both in Pakistan and Kashmir. In the same interview to Iftikhar Gillani she maintained that it was time to find convergences without compromising on the centrality of the issue. "Let me first clarify, movements on other issues should not be misinterpreted, that we have compromised on the centrality of Kashmir issue. For us, the issue means rights of Kashmiri people and also to stop ammunition to hate mongers, who are out to destroy our relations," she said repeatedly referring to hate mongers on both sides, who according to her should not get ammunition in the shape of keeping the issue (of Kashmir) as burning port. “We need to disarm them from this ammunition”.

What is evident from the tone and tenor of Pakistan Foreign Minister is that Islamabad has hooked itself back to Musharraf’s four-point formula though not owning it publicly. The much talked about formula had been favoured at various levels not only in India and Pakistan but also in Kashmir where the Hurriyat Conference faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had publicly endorsed it. The extremist line adopted by hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani was well understood at that time. But for any changed policy on Kashmir, Islamabad needs to take the hawks on board. Kashmiris were genuinely disappointed over “no mention” of Kashmir in the just concluded talks, but if this “silence” is for a broader solution then wait could be worthwhile.

In the past, however, Kashmir was discussed substantively in the bilateral dialogues and the Confidence Building Measures across the Line of Control where in sharp focus. After a major breakthrough in November 2003 with the ceasefire along LoC, a new chapter was opened in the relations between two countries with focused attention towards Kashmir. It was followed by the historic resumption of bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakot. The dialogue continued in February 2005 but was derailed with 2006 train bombings in Mumbai, which later came to know was the handiwork of home grown militants. Both countries were back on the table and the November 26 attack in Mumbai derailed everything. Its origin was traced to Pakistan. In all these cases whether the home grown terror in India or the terror linked to Pakistan, Kashmiris have been made to suffer.

Besides a mellowed approach on Kashmir from Pakistan, delinking the issue of terrorism from the ambit of composite dialogue has in a sense helped both countries to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. Both sides repeatedly maintained that they stick to their guns on Kashmir and terrorism but the movement forward on easing the visa regime and other cross border issues could be a well beginning for addressing all the issues at a larger well. In any case Khar’s statement should not be addressed in isolation but it needs to be looked at with a broader perspective in the backdrop of losses gains of past 60 years.

Political future of Kashmir has been fantasized

 Dr Vijay Sazawal

This is in response to the article, “Pakistan’s Reality Check on Kashmir” written by Shujaat Bhukhari in Rising Kashmir. I have read the article with great interest. As much as some Kashmiri commentators and columnists like to fantasize on the political future of Kashmir, the reality is that what will happen at the end, to a large extent, will depend on the deal that India and Pakistan will cook among themselves and get the major powers to endorse. Kashmiris can have a decisive role in the process, but that will not happen unless Kashmiris realize that such a role will only come out of a well thought out political strategy and not because these parties will come begging to Kashmiris to hear their wishes and grant them unconditionally.

Kashmiris have two choices – they can continue to ignore reality and aspire for impossible dreams (in my childhood we would call such wishful thinking as khayali pullao), or we can make the best out of a bad situation. The former approach is not only a favorite of the hard-core lobby personified by Syed Ali Geelani, but I would also lump the JKNC and the PDP with the same lobby, since fuzzy rhetoric apart none of those entities really want to see a change in the political status quo.

The Mirwaiz faction, on the other hand, knows the reality but this group does not command loyalty or passions to the same pitch that leaders of the status-quo lobby do. The media could show its smarts, but prefers the wishful thinking in so far as the solution to the Kashmir dispute is concerned. So Farooqs, Bhats and Lones do not know how to carry masses along. The net result is that the political status quo will continue.

In my commentary on “The American Policy and Kashmir Dispute,” published by this esteemed newspaper about 6 weeks back, I mentioned the prescription that some American policy makers have suggested. I strongly believe that if Kashmiris are proactive in demanding demarcation of the international boundary, many options for self-governance are possible on either side of the international border that will not be finalized without the assent of the major powers who do want to see Kashmiris treated with dignity and fairness. In return, the entire deal – from international border demarcation to quality of self-governance – forms a single package that will involve approval of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). I would like to propose that we move towards that goal now, rather than later, when India has a strong possibility to be a permanent member of the UNSC.

Such an approach will require courage on the part of Kashmiri politicians, and Kashmiri commentators and columnists have to get real to allow such a process to proceed. In my humble view, we can continue as usual or do something remarkable to bring peace and prosperity in the entire region.

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