Relations between India and Pakistan over the last year have fluctuated between a brisk simmer and a rolling boil, with the latter currently prevailing. There has never been any truly significant move towards resolution of the Kashmir issue since independence, and it is not an inch closer to being resolved today. The Line of Control (LoC) is a narrow band of managed instability where the temperature fluctuates but neither side makes any move upon the territory of the other. Artillery fire goes both ways and casualties, both military and civilian, trickle into their graves. Political rhetoric in response to military activity is predictably bellicose, and of late much coloured by an Indian PM who is significantly more martial than his predecessor and who pushes the nationalist hot-button at every opportunity. A grinding toxic stalemate prevails.
Now the chief minister of Indian-occupied Kashmir has weighed in after the latest set of incidents in Kashmir by saying that war is not an option and dialogue with Pakistan is the only way to end the violence in a valley that retains its beauty despite the bloodshed. Mehbooba Mufti recognised that she might get labelled as ‘anti-national’ by the talking heads on the evening political programmes but claimed it mattered little, and that the only way forward is dialogue with war not being an option.
Coming so soon after an attack on an army base in the held valley that India blames squarely on Pakistan much as it always does; the call by Mehbooba Mufti is something of a cry in the wilderness. The Pakistani position for the duration of the current government has generally been conciliatory but the Indian response to all attempts to move towards dialogue has been dismissive and unconstructive. The current PML-N government is now intensely pre-occupied with the forthcoming election and it is unlikely that there is going to be any significant foreign policy moves or developments before a new government is installed and settled — which will be around a year hence. We commend Mehbooba Mufti for being a voice of reason and we wish that there were others like her.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2018.