leader Sardar Qayyum in New Delhi. Below: Moderate Umer Farooq
India Betting on the Same Horses in Kashmir
Mohammad Sayeed Malik
DELHI, September 23: The ground reality in Kashmir suggests that,
in the given circumstances, the Indo-Pakistan peace process can
go in one direction only -- forward. It might slow down for one
reason or the other but there is no going back -- for Pakistan
or India. The politico-psychological impact of the fragile peace
process carries too high stakes for both to retract easily.
in the past, this phase of the peace process has generated a reasonable
hope about some breakthrough. It is because for the first time
nearly everyone is onboard and there is a perceptible movement
in one direction. The ice has been broken with both, India and
Pakistan having subtly moved from their respective stated positions
on the Kashmir issue. Their attitude towards 'accreditation' of
the Hurriyat Conference shows it.
Pakistan has all but jettisoned extremist Syed Ali Shah Geelani
and his hardline faction of the Hurriyat in favor of the Mirwaiz
Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat. India reciprocated by acknowledging
the latter's representative credentials.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's
recent meeting with the Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi was preceded
by their visit across the Line of Control and consultations with
Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf.
It is now confirmed that the advice
given to the Mirwaiz camp in Pakistan was to play ball with Delhi
and simultaneously strive to create political space for themselves
on the ground in Kashmir. The Mirwaiz camp had been unsure of
itself till then.
Its response to Delhi's dialogue
offer was vague or evasive. That was largely because Pakistan
had not accredited the moderate Hurriyat while its government-controlled
mass media projected the Geelani faction as the 'real' Hurriyat.
The positions changed drastically with the visit of the Mirwaiz
group to Pakistan administered Kashmir and Pakistan last June.
This development makes the Mirwaiz Hurriyat as the commonly acceptable
prop for pushing the peace process, which is unprecedented in
the history of Indo-Pak peace moves. It certainly does not amount
to acknowledging the Mirwaiz Hurriyat as the sole representative
for dialogue or ignoring the basic fact that this outfit is at
best an entity confined to the Kashmir valley only. Never before
have India and Pakistan backed the same horse in pushing the process.
Corresponding to this development,
Musharraf for the first time publicly acknowledged the representative
character of the political forces operating within the Indian
constitutional framework in Kashmir. The untouchability of this
class of 'puppets' (as Pakistan establishment used to describe
them) has vanished, for the time being at least.
This is the second major development
flowing out of the peace process, again for the first time. Whether
Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, National Conference President
Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party Chief Mehbooba Mufti
eventually travel across the LoC and visit Pakistan is not so
important as the fact that this proposition is being debated within
the realm of possibility at all in Pakistan.
Not so long ago, it would have
been patently foolish to even entertain any such idea. One's darling
invariably used be the other's villain and vice versa. Writing
a common script might take some time, but drafting a common cast
is already there.
While these developments have
generated dynamics of their own to propel the peace process forward,
to sustain its tempo and thereby its credibility as well it is
necessary to effect concrete measures on the ground. More so to
ease the harshness and indignity of life in Kashmir. Cessation
of hostilities by the major contending forces, over ground as
well as under ground, reduction of troop levels and abrogation
of draconian laws is the minimum requirement to consolidate the
gains for India.
co-opting 'acceptable' Kashmiri representatives in the peace process
will sound hollow to the people until the ground situation is
relaxed and they realize its benefit physically.
logic of the course of events suggests the probability of the
Pakistan-based United Jihad Council also being brought onboard
by Musharraf once he has something to show back home. Troop reduction
is obviously the starting point.
The UJC is a key factor in the
under ground line-up. For understandable tactical reasons, the
UJC's present position makes it an ally of the Geelani-led Hurriyat.
If and when it is brought on board, the UJC has the potential
to tilt the balance of forces on the ground.
To achieve that, some concrete
action by India is called for, if only to enable Pakistan to make
its next move. Till then, I am afraid, the level of violence might
not come down. Pakistan's internal political situation being what
it is, Musharraf cannot risk his own survival by conceding inch
after inch without having anything to show in return concretely.
common sense suggests that a visible, timely reciprocity is a
high-returns investment. Popular goodwill generated by the recent
confidence building measures can sustain only with some positive
action. Any setback to the process or its credibility is unthinkable
considering the dividends it has been paying and promises to pay
in future. - Courtesy Rediff.com