Kashmir: Pitfalls of Quiet Diplomacy

The assault on the pro talks senior Hurriyat Conference (M) leader, Fazal Haq Qureshi once again underlined the pitfalls of, “Quiet Diplomacy”, in Kashmir. The assault ascribed to militant groups opposed to the talks which the Hurriyat Conference Moderates have alleged is being instigated by hard line faction leaders as Syed Ali Shah Geelani and their provocative statements. Even as the old Mughal road is likely to be opened in next summer, it is evident that the twists and turns in the saga for peace and stability in the State are many. Hopefully the leadership has the courage and sagacity to to scale the summit.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the primary framework for a solution to the vexatious and long outstanding problem of Jammu and Kashmir stating that the boundaries will not be redrawn. "I have publicly stated that there can be no redrawing of borders (in Jammu and Kashmir)," the Prime Minister said. "...but our two countries [India and Pakistan] can work together to ensure that these are borders of peace, that people-to-people contacts grow in a manner in which people do not even worry whether they are located on this side of the border or that side," he told CNN in an interview.

Under this rubric there is enough evidence to show that the government is engaging the separatists in, “Quiet” talks with reports of a meeting between Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of Hurriyat's moderate faction with Home Minister P Chidambaram, though the Mirwaiz denied he had met Mr Chidambaram but was in touch only with interlocutors and track-II mediators. The demands of the separatists are withdrawing security forces from civilian areas, repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, releasing all political prisoners, lifting the Disturbed Area Act, stopping human rights abuses and allowing the Hurriyat leadership to interact with Pakistan and separatists based in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Wajahat Habibullah, a former divisional commissioner in Kashmir from 1991 to 1993, who has recently joined the state administration as Information Commissioner is likely to be chief negotiator.

However Mirwaiz has to contend with differences within his own moderate alliance, with National Front leader Nayeem Khan and Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah opposed to the quiet diplomacy. He has thus wisely decided to resolve internal differences before commencing further dialogue.

On the other hand, United Jihad Council (UJC) chairman, Syed Salah-ud-din made a call for taking all stake holders on board, “Quiet diplomacy or secret talks will serve no purpose, the dialogue process has to be transparent, meaningful and, above all, Kashmir-centric,” he said.

The four-point formula mooted by the former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf in 2006 may provide the starting point for a dialogue if not the ultimate solution. Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Omar was reported by Greater Kashmir, “Probably he (interviewer) might have been talking about Musharraf’s four-point formula. We had supported it as it was an interim arrangement. Even if it is implemented today it can prove to be the first step.” The four points included withdrawal of troops in phased manner from Kashmirs, local self governance, making Line of Control irrelevant and a joint supervision mechanism involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Given the multiple stake holders involved in the dispute in Jammu and Kashmir supported by one or the other state there would be many perspectives that would be emerge on how the issue should be resolved. In the overall scenario separatist lobbies are divided into four broad groups, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir based groups who do not seem to have any independent stream of thought and are primarily concerned with their own survival which depends on fanning the Kashmir issue from time to time. The next is the United Jehad Council, a Pakistan sponsored group of militants which is headed by Syed Salahuddin who is a Hizb Ul Mujahideen commander and is seen to toe the line of the Pakistani establishment.

The third group is the hard line Hurriyat Conference based in Srinagar also owing allegiance as per reports to the Pakistani establishment. These three groups are now in confrontation with the Hurriyat Moderates led by the Mirwaiz. With three of the four separatist groupings following the Pakistani agenda, it is unlikely that Mr Mirwaiz’s group which is also deeply divided will be able to bring about any change in the Kashmiri discourse in the near term.

Never the less with the government and the Hurriyat Moderates having decided to go for dialogue the space for a political solution in Kashmir has considerably expanded and a number of strands are emerging in the political space which has to be critically differentiated to make out the trends ahead. These are briefly summarized as follows:

  •  Nationalists
    These are parties aligned to New Delhi including the National conference and the PDP, however the latter is accused of dabbling in separatist politics for narrow political gains from time to time.

  •  Independence Group
    This is principally JKLF leadership which is oriented towards independence and has the backing of some of the diaspora.

  •  Separatists - Moderates
    Led by the Hurriyat Moderate this group comprises of various factions led by Mirwaiz and is looking for a compromise formula and could be satisfied with opening of the borders, free movement and so on which had almost come to fructification j before former President Musharraf had to leave office in a hurry in Pakistan.

    • Separatists - Hardliners
    These want to have an Islamic state aligned to Pakistan and are led by the isolated but vocal Mr Geelani who in his eighties is the main proponent of this ideology but does not find a large enough base to propagate though the UJC seems to be singing the same tune.

In the larger perspective, a three pronged dialogue with India, Pakistan and Kashmiri representatives alone will result in a political solution to Kashmir, while so far the process has been going on a bipartite basis a tripartite solution was evident in 2007 but fell through as then General Musharraf had to resign given that he was jetted out of power. Now the Pakistani military has taken a diametrically opposite approach of sponsoring terrorist groups with the killing of a BSF DIG a one star officer in an IED blast in the Jammu sector during the month a stark reminder of the complexities of resolution. So perhaps peace may be some time away in Kashmir. This will be amply evident with the survey of terrorist incidents in the State in the succeeding paragraphs. 


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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