Enabling resolution of Kashmir issue
In 2004, India and Pakistan initiated the composite dialogue with a view to removing the decades-old mistrust through confidence-building measures (CBMs), and to resolve all the disputes including the core issue of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the dialogue was stalled due to Mumbai attacks on 26th November 2008. After a long hiatus of four years, the recent overtures from both the sides are reflective of the realization that peace is indispensable condition to the prosperity in the region, and of course, the disputes between the two countries need to be resolved. The dialogue process will not only narrow down the differences on Sir Creek, but also work out amicably the comprehensive resolution regarding demilitarization of Siachen glacier. From a Kashmiri perspective, the leaders of both India and Pakistan should be encouraged to continue with the good-will initiatives/confidence building measures they started some time ago, which could be a stepping stone towards a sustainable and lasting peace in the region.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s invitation to 8 members of the executive council of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to visit Pakistan from 15 to 22 December 2012 has been well received by India. The initiative has been taken to begin a consultative process between the political leadership of Pakistan and pro-movement leaders of Indian Occupied Kashmir, to prepare groundwork leading to the peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue. Kashmir watchers and experts believe that such visits by the Hurriyat leaders would suit India and Pakistan, as APHC could act as “facilitator” in deciding things which are in line with aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Some Indian media hawks and hardliners, who want to derail the peace initiative, adopt restraint and over-cautious attitude towards upcoming trip of Hurriyat leaders. At this point in time when both sides radiate an aura of optimism, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declined President Zardari’s invitation to visit Pakistan stating “there should be conducive atmosphere for his visit”.
Anyhow, New Delhi and Islamabad had announced on February 10 that they would resume comprehensive peace talks which were suspended after Mumbai episode. Experts say that a great majority of Indian populace want peace to prevail so that the pace of economic growth and resulting prosperity continues. But some segments of Indian media have started a negative campaign against the visit of APHC leaders branding them as “separatists”. Some hawks from India do not want improvement of relations between Pakistan and APHC leaders. Experts opine that India may once again show her intransigence in facilitating travel documents because (i) some elements from India are not sincere towards resolution of Kashmir issue through consultative process (ii) They do not want Kashmiri leadership to visit Pakistan and meet Pakistani political leadership (iii) They want to jeopardize the consultative process initiated by Pakistan (iv) They are aiming at creating division within the pro-movement camp by allowing only few leaders to visit Pakistan.
Pakistan has the still same old stand on Kashmir, and is committed to extend diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir. Pakistan sincerely wants the Kashmir issue should be resolved as per the wishes of Kashmiri people and as provided in the UN resolutions that bestowed the right to Kashmiris to decide joining India or Pakistan through the plebiscite under the aegis of the UN. The US and Britain often express concern over the looming threat of war between two nuclear states - India and Pakistan. Former prime minister Gordon Brown had been candid in his statement during his premiership that the solution of the Kashmir issue was vital for world stability, which was indeed encouraging. But he should have taken the initiative and persuade international community to help resolve the dispute, as it was unfinished part of the partition of the subcontinent. President Obama has many a time expressed his desire that the dispute between India and Pakistan should be resolved but short of playing an active role in resolving the dispute.
Pakistan has many a time urged the international community at the United Nations to persuade India to end its repression in Kashmir so as to pave the way for settling the decades-old dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions. The human rights of the Kashmiri people must be respected, and their voices heard to create an enabling environment for a peaceful solution of the longstanding Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Of course, India has recently shown its willingness to improve relations with Pakistan by lifting the ban on foreign investment from Pakistan, showcasing goodwill to achieve ultimate goal of establishing good-neighborly relations with Pakistan. The decision, on its face value appears to have its merits as Pakistani citizens or any entity incorporated in Pakistan will be able to make investments in India in fields other than defence, space and atomic energy. India claims to have taken a positive initiative to build trust and confidence between the two states with a view to finding a way forward to address conflicting issues and resolve disputes such as Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and water disputes.
In the past, India’s stance was to first promote trade and take confidence building measures that would help resolve the outstanding disputes. On the other hand Pakistan wanted to see tangible progress in the resolution of disputes including the core issue of Kashmir before giving India the status of most-favored nation. With gestures from both sides, there has been an unprecedented development. Today in Pakistan, the government, the opposition and establishment are on the same page, and they want to give peace a chance. There is a window of opportunity, which should not be wasted by India. Pakistani media has been supportive of such moves, but Indian media has yet to play a positive role in creating enabling environment for resolving disputes and for everlasting peace in the region. Though narratives of both governments on the issues/disputes are at variance, yet both countries could reduce their defence-spending and allocate more for social sector to improve the lives of teeming millions.