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Monday, June 09, 2014  

Hina Rabbani Khar's India visit: Pakistan's soft face offered no hope for resolution of 'Kashmir' Issue

"The recent visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar might have become a glamour event for most Indian media, but it still bore enormous importance for the Hurriyat members, believed by India to be the separatists otherwise, and the Kashmiri Hindus who live under tremendous pressure in their own land or are almost forced to live outside Kashmir. Every talk or diplomatic sharing makes a lot of sense to both the Kashmiri Hindus and the Hurriyat members since Kashmir has often remained the central issue of any talk between India and Pakistan. However, everyone wants a resolution of the Kashmir Issue. Here are the views of Dr. K. N. Pandita on the possibilities for resolution of kashmir Issue and how the recent visit of Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is going to impact Indo-Pak relationship and help resolving the issue of Kashmir."

Dr. K N Pandita

   

India-Pakistan détente: the components

Recent foreign minister level Indo-Pak meeting is somewhat noteworthy. In terms of trust it may not be extraordinary. However it was devoid of usual rancour.

The noteworthy change is that Pakistani side did not exude its usual rhetoric on Kashmir. But that does not mean there is any significant change In Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.

Speaking about a young female as its new foreign minister, Pakistani Prime Minister said he wanted to present the soft face of Pakistan to the Indians.

Krishna-Qureshi spat of 2010 was seen by Washington as a hindrance to its overall strategy in South Asian region. The hindrance lay in Pakistan fielding a foreign minister with strong hate-India psychosis.

Washington is treading cautiously on Pakistan Army-ISI turf. It is in no mood to give space to a military coup. But the wings of Army-ISI combine need to be trimmed. This has been made clear to the two top men.

Conversely, the elected government is provided with maneuverability. First of all, it must deal with home-bred Theo-fascists who receive covert patronage from Army-ISI nexus. ISI is conniving at infiltration of jihadis in the rank and file of armed forces. Mehran airbase attack is an eye opener.

But Washington is also apprehensive of a backlash from combined armed jihadi groups and the conservative elements in armed forces working in tandem.

Partial reduction of US military aid is a mild reprimand but the door has been left open for its revocation under some conditions. As ISI chief travelled all the way to Washington to do some damage controlling exercise, he had to agree to the return of a good number of CIA sleuths to Pakistan to carry on their important mission.

De-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan is part of American strategy in South Asia. Hitherto the Indian desk at Pak foreign ministry has been manned by Army-ISI combine. New Delhi had for long desired that a dialogue could progress only if on Pakistani side, it was entirely the affair of her elected government. Washington worked on the theory, and now as Prime Minister Geelani said, Islamabad has put forward its soft face.

Meaningful and positive progress in Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir can be possible only if Islamabad government succeeds in keeping the Army-ISI factor in the backyard. But to expect Pakistan to wash its hands off Kashmir is not that simple.

Therefore the entire Indo-Pak détente depends on how deftly Islamabad civilian government manages to contain or convince the Army that a revised vision and approach to Indo-Pak relationship is the need of the hour. This could be a long process and that is why the Pakistan foreign minister wants it an uninterrupted and uninterruptible process. That is true.

Obviously this has to be a multi-cornered initiative and the meeting between the separatists of Kashmir and the Pak foreign minister in New Delhi fits in the scheme of things.

US--Pak interaction, Pak civilian government--Army interaction, India--Pak interaction, India--Kashmir separatist interaction and Kashmir separatist--Pakistan interaction are the components of this strategy. There could be more layers to it.

Indian Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the question of redrawing the boundary lines in J&K does not arise. Internal problem in Kashmir is essentially the problem of good governance. For addressing this problem a comprehensive exercise of on spot study and recommendation process has been in progress. Some of the recommendations are already on the threshold of implementation. Panchayati Raj is one among these. Reduction of unemployment through the induction of mega Indian Corporate in industrialization programme is also underway. Return and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons proposed under composite twin-city formula is gaining official attention and public approval by degrees.

But Islamabad will have to spell out how it would work towards empowerment of the people in Gilgit and Baltistan, ensure their ethnic, demographic and cultural identities, and provide assurance about non-violation of the international border.

One crucial question which the Hurriyatis of Kashmir Valley will have to clarify to both the countries is their demand of “aazaadi”. The objections to this demand are almost identical between India and Pakistan. With China casting greedy eyes on the territories beyond her western border (apart from southern border) the entire security strategy of Central and South Asia comes under focus. As such, the concept of “azaadi” so dear to Kashmir separatists will not evoke favourable response either from the US or the European powers including Russia. We hope this aspect has not escaped the attention of either the Kashmir separatist delegation or the Pakistani foreign minister during their meeting in New Delhi.

Hina-Hurriyat bonhomie

Hurriyat’s meetings with Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi or the visiting Pakistani Foreign Ministers or other top dignitaries of that country are nothing new. Ever since New Delhi deviated from its long-stated policy of rejecting any interference in her internal affairs, particularly in the case of Kashmir dispute, it provided ever widening space to separatists of Kashmir to make them relevant to any Indo-Pak dialogue. By adopting grossly ill-advised state response to armed insurgency in Kashmir, New Delhi created a situation for itself that now looks straight into its eyeball. A government which allows separatist groups to meet freely with those who played prime role in providing them logistics, from advice to arms, is like a rudderless ship heading towards some disaster. Indian policy planners ludicrously call it the resilience of their democratic institutions. That is only an alibi for its indecisive and wavering Kashmir policy.

Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister, said to be her country’s soft face, emphasized on a new direction in Indo-Pak relationship that would relegate six decade long acrimony to dustbin. It is a noble and statesmanlike sentiment that we need in the context of current situation. But inviting Kashmiri Hurriyatis did not fit in this scheme of things. Pakistan is the sponsor and provider of Hurriyat organization --- its ideology, logistics, funding and direction. As such, Pakistan itself represents them. What then was the wisdom of inviting them separately? Pakistani foreign office needs not to be convinced that Hurriyat’s “aazaadi” slogan is a mask for accession to Pakistan . After all, was not the slogan forged in the corridors of ISI?

The Hurriyatis demand “aazaadi” from India for the State of Jammu and Kashmir , for the achievement of which purpose they heartily welcome and host the armed terrorists raised in Pakistan and infiltrating into Kashmir . They met the Foreign Minister with the primary purpose of imploring her to accelerate armed infiltration and subversion in Kashmir on the basis of assurances of sustained logistical support from Hurriyat and its components. This is proved by the fact that the Hurriyatis demand withdrawal of India troops from Kashmir but they never demand withdrawal of armed Pakistani terrorists from Kashmir or their laying down of arms. Depletion in the ranks of foreign terrorists operating in Kashmir is a cause of serious concern for the Hurriyat.

On the face of it, Pak Foreign Minister’s invitation to them means indirect expression of her “concern” for the dissenting voices in Kashmir . If this is the logic guiding Pakistan ’s foreign policy, then the question arises why Pakistan Foreign Minsiter did not invite the dissenters of Gilgit and Baltistan also to ascertain their grievances and demands. Why did she confine it only to the valley-based dissenters? And if this logic is to be the principle of a sovereign state’s foreign policy then the Indians, too, can and should openly exercise the option in regard to the dissenting elements in Gilgit-Baltistan or Baluchistan: Gilgit-Baltistan more importantly because it is part of the entire J&K State which has formally acceded to Indian Union but illegally occupied by Pakistan. Their political rights, identity, culture and ethnicity are at stake. If India does not respond, we shall lament ineffectiveness of her policy towards Pakistan on Kashmir .

It is India ’s large-heartedness to allow the Hurriyat to meet with the visiting Foreign Minister. New Delhi allowed it to happen, albeit reluctantly, but with the sincere desire of realistically giving a new direction to bilateral relations. Pakistan or Kashmir separatists should not take it otherwise. That is why our External Affairs Ministry did put out a mild note of disapproval. Hurriyat’s (M) claims that only they represent the people of Kashmir , is not tenable. They boycott assembly elections, they boycott talks with interlocutors, they never denounce armed insurgency and innocent killings, spurn all offers of joining democratic process, make the mosque its political platform, give frequent calls for strikes and hartals, whip up hate campaign against the Indian Army and the State, and swear by exclusivist ideology. Yet they claim to be the representatives of Kashmiris. Does all this suit Pakistan ’s new Foreign Minister? If yes, then Pakistan needs to revise its anti-terrorism policy and not cry foul of home-bred terror. When the Hurriyat refuses to talk to New Delhi representatives but is frantic for a meeting with any Tom, Dick and Harry from across the border, what does it show? It shows that undoubtedly there is bonhomie of sorts.

(Both the pieces written by the same author were circulated among Members in Assembly in Exile for Kashmiri Hindus)
 

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