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EDITORIAL: 1-15 August 2000

DON'T SQUANDER THIS OPPORTUNITY

The three parties to the Kashmiri problem, India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris are equally responsible for almost closing the window of opportunity which opened last month with the Hizbul Mujahidin’s dramatic, if belated, offer of ceasefire in the Valley.

The ceasefire which started with a unilateral HM announcement on 24 July barely lasted two weeks during which one session of discussions between HM commanders and Indian officials was held in Srinagar. Unlike the Hurriyet Conference (APHC) overtures, GoI was quick to respond to the HM offer for the simple reason that it represents the strongest militant force on the ground and could be relied upon to deliver its side of the bargain compared to the discordant and feuding lot in the APHC. Just two days later HM supremo Syed Salahuddin added a rider to the earlier offer from Islamabad: no talks will be held with India unless Pakistan too is invited. A deadline (5 pm, 8 August) was given for the Indian positive response. This after-thought was probably a result of his Pakistani hosts’ pressures or due to the condemnation by other ‘Jihad’ outfits chasing a mirage in Kashmir and hurting the ordinary Kashmiris alone in the process. 

Ever since the Kargil episode, which was in clear violation of Shimla Agreement and Lahore declaration, GoI has used one excuse after another to shun talks with Pakistan although Kargil, J&K militancy, Pak nuclear power and undue defence burden on both the countries, should play as a powerful impetus to both the countries to settle contentious issues through talks. Later after the Pakistan Army coup, New Delhi started parroting the illogical line that it will not talk to a military dictatorship. True, military dictatorships are abhorred all over the world but India cannot dictate to its neighbours how to run their countries. Indeed it may be easier for us to do a deal with a military regime than a civilian one responsible to parliament and masses. In an indication that there is no real permanent positions, most recently Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has said during an intervention in Parliament that India will talk to Pakistan no matter who is the ruler there. 

The stand of not talking to Islamabad or not allowing it to participate in the HM-GoI talks goes against a basic Indian policy, i.e., the Kashmir issue is a bilateral problem between India and Pakistan and they will sort it out in bilateral talks. In this age-old formula even the people of Kashmir do not figure. This formula also rejects the independence option for Kashmir since it is a bilateral issue of India and Pakistan and that the territory can go in full or part only to these two countries. It has even been hinted that India would prefer to give Kashmir to Pakistan than allow an independent state there which would be a source of constant headache to both the countries and most possibly a base for a foreign power like the US. A country with no economic resources, it will be kept running on US aid like the Palestinian Authority and will pay a heavy political price in return.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is making it only difficult for a coalition government in Delhi by openly supporting, financing and arming militancy in the Valley. This undeclared, proxy, war is against all known norms of State conduct, Islamic and non-Islamic. Islam does not allow a Muslim state to wage open or secret war against another country with which it has treaties. It will have to renounce those treaties publicly before indulging in such an activity howsoever justified from its point of view. Islam does not allow treachery in private or State conduct.

HM, on its part was pressurized by the agony, pain and endless sacrifices of the ordinary people of the Valley in a struggle which is heavily weighted against the militants and there is no hope that such an insurgency will ever make New Delhi acquiesce to the demands of the militants or Pakistan. The Valley’s economy, educational system, tourism industry and infrastructure lie in tatters. The HM offer should have come at least five or six years earlier.

The GoI is under undue saffron pressure which would like to give a new shape to the J&K state by trifurcating it. This plan, spelled out publicly by the RSS, was even suggested by Mr LK Advani to Dr Farouq Abdullah, if the latter is to be believed. The brigade would like to keep the cauldron boiling since it serve its long-term plans to create mayhem leading to a ‘new’ India which would shun its liberal outlook and equal rights to all citizens and would usher in a fascist system. Free reign for saffron goons in Gujarat and official largesse to sadhus and sadhvis in UP, clean chit to criminals attacking minorities, are only broad indicators. For the first time all minorities have started to feel that the system is unable to protect them, that they have to fend for themselves against criminals in saffron and uniform.

HM’s ceasefire was considered the biggest Kashmiri news in a decade. Squandering that opportunity will be the next biggest news.
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