Analysis

Kashmir problem: PM’s stand

What should one understand by several efforts being made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to solve the Kashmir-problem? His words suggest that he himself is not sure of whether the Kashmir problem has neared the stage of a solution. This indicates that concerned authorities engaged in apparently resolving the Kashmir problem have yet to define a specific formula for the same. While addressing the Lok Sabha recently, the Prime Minister laid stress on his government’s plans to solve the issue.

One is, however, tempted to view these plans’ significance as plain rhetoric. A different view would have been expressed if the Prime Minister himself had appeared confident of the Kashmir-issue nearing a solution and had made some reference to positive steps actually implemented in this direction.

Elaborating on his government’s approach to the Kashmir problem, Prime Minister Singh said: “Our approach to the problems of Jammu and Kashmir is that we will give no quarter to secessionist elements. We will do everything in our power to strengthen the hands of the state government to provide a fairer deal to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, to provide avenues for gainful employment.” Critically speaking, this also amounts to the centre virtually accepting the loopholes in their policy towards Jammu and Kashmir. The Prime Minister’s words may be rephrased to read that the hands of the state government are not sufficiently strong, the Kashmiri youth do not get a fair deal and that avenues of gainful employment are not available to them. Equally relevant is the fact that the needed measures in this direction have not yet been substantially implemented.

With reference to the turmoil in Kashmir, particularly stone-pelting, which led to more than 100 deaths last year, Prime Minister said: “Since then the situation has improved. But we keep our fingers crossed. Come this summer, I hope we will be vigilant enough to ensure that the unfortunate events that took place in the last summer in parts of Jammu and Kashmir do not take place.” He expressed the same stand during his recent visit to Jammu. Addressing the third convocation of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology here, he said: “We recognize that there are genuine political, social and emotional grievances of the people. We are trying honestly to address these issues.” “The problems of Jammu and Kashmir are complex, and each of the regions…whether it is Kashmir, Jammu or Ladakh have their own problems, which require attention,” he said. Clearly, the Prime Minister has frankly and openly accepted that the “complex” problems of Jammu and Kashmir “require attention.” Six years in office, his government is, however, still only in the stage of “trying honestly” to address the same.

A step taken in this direction, as pointed out by Prime Minister Singh, is the appointment of interlocutors to “facilitate a continuous dialogue with all sections of the people of the state.” Highlighting the significance of this approach, he said: “There is no way forward but through sustained dialogue and the resolution of all problems under a constitutional framework that, I believe, has the flexibility to accommodate honourable and durable solutions for all.”

Certainly, the interlocutors have been engaged in holding talks with Kashmiris. They are also of the opinion that a “dialogue” is a must. As expressed by them, “The political settlement has to be found only through a sustained and inclusive process of dialogue with all the stake-holders, including the separatist outfits and the civil society organizations.” The three interlocutors are journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Prof. Radha Kumar and bureaucrat M.M. Ansari. Laying stress that the “dialogue process” may be disturbed by any outbreak of violence, Padgaonkar said that they must “move away from rigid positions and act in concert to focus tightly on four issues of critical importance for the future.” The four issues, he pointed out, “include the need to preserve the unity and integrity of the state, assert the state’s special status in the Indian Union, seek the most practical and effective way to respond to the diverse political, economic, social and cultural urges of the people.” In addition, he said, “the mainstream political parties in every region would be required to evolve a consensus on a political settlement and then seek a similar consensus with other regions of the state.”

Please note, the interlocutors’ attempt may have brought them closer to whatever is considered as the “practical and effective way” towards evolving a “consensus on a political settlement,” but they remain fairly unclear on what exactly is this way. Besides, it isn’t as yet clear, whether this “dialogue process” has the participation and approval of all Kashmiri representatives concerned about solving the Kashmir-problem. In other words, howsoever serious, honest and concerned the centre may be about solving Kashmir problem through dialogue, they still remain miles away from this goal. Even the dialogue process has yet to begin, with consensus of all regions in the state. It isn’t surprising that the Prime Minister considers the Kashmir problem as “complex” and apparently prefers keeping “fingers crossed” over it!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2011 on page no. 14

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