When India invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Delhi for Narendra Modi’s swearing in, there was hope in Kashmir that the new dispensation would carry forward the peace initiative of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It didn’t last. Delhi soon took the confrontationist approach towards Kashmir and Pakistan, which is likely to be detrimental for all three parties.
The decision taken by Delhi to call off the foreign secretary-level talks with Islamabad just because we met the Pakistan high commissioner in Delhi is a move in the wrong direction and contrary to what the Vajpayee government stood for. The dialogue between India and Pakistan primarily focuses on Kashmir and there is no logic in keeping Kashmiris out of it. Delhi’s decision also goes against the basics of international law and justice.
For the past 60 years, Kashmiris have been fighting for their political rights. In the last 20 years, one lakh people have been killed, thousands widowed and orphaned, and close to 10,000 people have disappeared in custody. Kashmiris suffer for a cause, a right they were promised 67 years ago, both by India and Pakistan. Kashmiris have suffered because they wanted a say in the resolution of the issue. They wanted to be heard and their views reflected in any possible settlement. When India and Pakistan sit to discuss Kashmir, they are talking about people, and not cattle. It is our problem and it is about our future.
Delhi needs to understand that Kashmir is not like any other conflict, that it has a history and a context. Kashmir can’t be compared with any other internal dispute India has. Delhi came to this realisation when Vajpayee was in office. He talked about talks within the “ambit of humanity”. That prompted us to respond and we reciprocated the sentiment. We went to Pakistan, a trip that was facilitated by Delhi. In Pakistan, we discussed the four-point proposals, we talked about an out-of-the-box solution.
Pakistan believed that Kashmiri involvement could solve its problems too. Pakistani leaders believed that if Kashmir’s leadership agreed to an out-of-the-box solution, they could sell it within Pakistan as a resolution proposed and accepted by the people of Kashmir.
It was a beginning that could have taken us all a long way. But the UPA government didn’t build on the initiatives taken by Vajpayee, despite the many opportunities that came its way. It seems the new government is heading in the same direction — towards a confrontation with Kashmir and Pakistan.
A confrontation is not going to lead us anywhere. At the peak of the armed resistance in Kashmir, the pro-India political parties, including the National Conference, had an anti-Kashmir stand. Even they have realised that the Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved. The Hurriyat clearly stands vindicated.