The surprise visit to Kashmir by former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has rekindled hopes in the valley — of dialogues for the resolution of the Kashmir problem.
“I feel things have started to move,” said Sheikh Ashiq, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), who met Bondevik on Friday. “It seems good sense has prevailed on both the countries that something should happen on the ground.”
He said Bondevik’s visit to the valley came as a surprise to them. “It happened all of sudden,” he said. “He has played some positive role in the Sri Lankan peace process and that has generated a hope here as well.”
Bondevik, who is also the president of Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, visited the valley on Friday. He met top separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik besides delegations of the KCCI and the High Court Bar Association.
Ashiq said Bondevik was concerned about the worsening situation in Jammu and Kashmir and assured his help. “He told us that he is definitely concerned about the situation here, about the killings, about losses that we are suffering,” Ashiq said. “He said he will help whichever way he can and that he will take up the issues (with New Delhi)”.
Ashiq said the trade body apprised Bondevik of the situation in Kashmir valley. “We told them that on Kashmir issue there should be a meaningful settlement, a permanent solution,” he said. “We told him that business and commerce is meaningful only when there is guarantee of life. They agreed with us.”
“He (Bondevik) told us that they are concerned about the situation and that is why they are here. They told us that they are going to New Delhi and then to other parts of Kashmir,” Ashiq said.
“I feel, it is a good thing, if people come and start talking about Kashmir,” he said.
In his meeting with the J-K High Court Bar Association, Bondevik said that there “job is to defuse tension”. Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, general secretary of the Bar Association told The Indian Express, “He told us that it is their tradition to defuse tension.”
Bhat said they told Bondevik that the people of J&K should be involved in any process aimed at resolution of Kashmir issue. “We told them that how can only India and Pakistan talk between themselves. We told them, we are an important party (to Kashmir issue) and without our participation no talks are meaningful,” Bhat said.