Kashmir is India’s problem, not ours. For Pakistan, it is a bilateral dispute, period. That is why we use international forums like the United Nations to stake our claim on Kashmir whereas India uses its armed forces to resolve its Kashmir problem.
Occasionally New Delhi resorts to brief interludes of what it calls negotiations during which it plays a game of deception in the occupied territory pretending to be willing to resolve the problem through peaceful means.
But every time it has offered talks to the oppressed people of the India-Held Kashmir (IHK) it has restricted the scope of the talks to within the parameters of the Indian Constitution, the very document that has created the 70-year old problem in the first place.
The appointment the other day of Dineshwar Sharma, a former director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, as New Delhi’s interlocutor seems to signal a willingness on the part of the BJP-led NDA government in New Delhi to walk back from its oppressive position in IHK.
This comes three years after Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called such an exercise “non-productive”.
Sharma comes to IHK too long after the stone-pelting protests and the security forces’ indiscriminate use of pellet guns after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing hit normal life in the summer of 2016, and subsequently turned the valley once more into a bloody battle ground.
New Delhi has waited more than a year, in which time the valorisation of slain militants is said to have acquired its own momentum and the Azadi movement in the process has gained a new impetus.
Though the contours of Sharma’s mandate are not yet known, Rajnath Singh kept it open by saying, “Dineshwar Sharma will initiate …dialogue to understand the legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Why India is still not aware of the legitimate aspirations of the state’s people is because New Delhi has kept on deluding itself all these years into believing that it can suppress the Azadi movement with its brute military might.
If the new interlocutor only engages with the pro-India parties in IHK such as the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Congress and the BJP, then it would be yet another routine process, perhaps a time-buying exercise or a deception to divert the attention of the world.
Pro-India parties do not challenge the state’s accession to the union, so the talks will have to be with those who see India as an invader and occupier.
India’s National Investigation Agency earlier this year had registered a case against some Hurriyat members — but no dialogue can be productive without engaging with them.
And for dialogue to be more than a headline-management exercise, it has to be based on what former Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee had called Insaniyat.
The question is what had led to this change of heart at this juncture? Could it be that the international attention Kashmir has been receiving had prompted the BJP to want to let the world community know that it has a softer face?
Or perhaps it is a command performance to appease US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday, October 25 after stopovers in Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Bagram Airport.
Washington seems keen to nudge India and Pakistan towards bilateral dialogue. Perhaps the US envisages for India to assume a larger economic role in Afghanistan, so it needs to be liberated from its Kashmir problem and the way to do it is to get the two countries start peace talks.
Perhaps New Delhi too has finally realised that for India to achieve its international ambitions, it would need to get its foot out of the Kashmir hole.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2017.