Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yearning for peace, burying of hatred is what people like the most

After Mohali Summit, India and Pakistan are looking forward to foreign secretary level talks between the two countries with the intention of moving towards a comprehensive and broad-ranging engagement. Despite somewhat modest forward movement on 26/11 issues, Pakistan agreed to the visit of judicial commission from India during the recently concluded talks between the home secretaries.

Though the Cricket diplomacy-as it is popularly known- could not attract many in the state of Jammu and Kashmir given the cricket- mania, as watching world-cup somehow was more important for people here than the engagement of the two countries at the highest political level. The disillusionment of people viz-a-viz the process that has a very long history of vicissitudes at its back can be cited as yet another reason for not generating much fanfare among the people. Having said this, the resumption of dialogue process between the two countries and the momentum created by the Mohali Summit cannot and should not be wished away as the world scenario is rapidly changing which, of course, has a direct bearing on the two nation states of Indian-subcontinent.

However, what effect the discussions between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan have on the situation within J&K state remains to be seen. The least one can expect is that the situation in Kashmir will remain peaceful if the renewed engagement is not allowed to dither away by any sort of eventuality created rather pushed by the vested interests.

The efforts to ascertain the truth about the happenings in Jammu and Kashmir by various non-state actors and the response of the peace-loving people of J&K makes it emphatically clear that people have little faith in war as a solution to the problems confronting them. More relevant in the present scenario is that majority of people in the conflict ridden Jammu and Kashmir state feel that dialogue-though often marred by inconsistency and indecisiveness of the political leadership- is the only viable option available at present to take recourse of.

The overwhelming support to dialogue between the two countries when General Parvez Musharaf was at the helm of affairs in Pakistan is still considered as the bed-rock for any sustainable engagement between the two on a whole range of issues. But to the extent that the views of the people in J&K are to be taken into account, the members of Indian civil society interacting with the people in Kashmir over past few months can provide useful pointers.

The overall mood in Jammu and Kashmir reflects an overarching dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs and a yearning for change. However, what will surprise many is that the people in both regions view the main problems as political but economic - unemployment, corruption, and poor infrastructural development never evade from their minds. However, human rights situation is a solid cause of concern for Kashmiris. It is clear that these issues that affect their personal lives along with human rights abuses are uppermost in their minds, dissatisfaction on these grounds being particularly high in the Kashmir Valley.

Being a close watcher, what has been interesting for me to note through all these month’s developments is that India being powerful, prosperous and stable, could afford to make a bold and generous gesture that would sap the hatred and suspicion that has been eating up the vitals of the two countries for decades now. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they started playing each other at cricket – three wars, in fact, since 1965 – and the enmity between the two is as bitter as anything in the Middle East. A lot has been written about "cricket diplomacy" and the sub- continental wounds it might heal. On the other hand, by stressing and preserving national difference, what can it do for a problem like Kashmir? It has seen cricket come and may well see it go, and it will depend for a solution on new ways of thinking about borders and nation states.

In terms of solutions, there are few takers in the state for diametrically opposite views being expressed by right-at-centre and statesmanship of course demands that many other considerations like a sense of history, strategic and economic interests, and a feel for what is do-able within national and political contexts be factored in. And leaders are meant to lead people rather than be led by them.

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