No peace without Kashmiris

PRESIDENT Pervez Musharraf is back in India after four years. A lot has changed in India with a change of guard in Delhi. Pakistan has undergone a sea change too conscious as it is of the changed realities of the post September 11 world. In fact, the whole world has changed beyond recognition since Musharraf took that landmark visit to Agra, the city of Taj Mahal, in the monsoon of 2001.

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Published: Mon 18 Apr 2005, 10:22 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:28 PM

However, as an Indian TV channel has sought to point out by naming the Musharraf visit as “Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon” (I have come back with the same heart), there is no change in Musharraf’s mission to India. He is as focused on Kashmir as ever. He may have appeared more spirited and more at home during his second visit as Indian media went delirious over the dashing General, but his sights remained right on the target: Kashmir, the single great irritant that has poisoned India and Pakistan ties over half a century. As Musharraf had hinted in the run up to the India visit, the Pak leader indeed watched cricket and talked the K word with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The critical importance of the issues on Musharraf-Manmohan agenda for once took the shine off the Indo-Pak cricket encounter — ever the most exciting affair in the subcontinent.

So have the neighbours managed to make any progress on Kashmir? A smiling Musharraf informed the eagerly waiting media and through it the people of India, Pakistan and Kashmiris that he was happy with his talks with Manmohan and that the two leaders discussed all bilateral issues including Kashmir. The two sides agreed on opening more people-to-people channels including a rail link between Rajasthan and Sindh. There’s also talk of a joint business council and exchange of Kashmiris across the Line of Control.

These are all of course positive steps that are sure to help Indo-Pak ties. However, those who expected dramatic outcome of this equally dramatic India-Pakistan summit, they had been disappointed. While the world is certainly a better place with India and Pakistan talking and common people of the two countries demonstrating unprecedented bonhomie and warmth for each other, we cannot deny the fact that the South Asian giants have yet again failed to make any substantial progress on resolving the Kashmir tangle. In the end, the summit was high on symbolism and low on substance. Since the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus was flagged off, there has been talk of turning the so-called Line of Control into a ‘soft and porous’ border between the two parts of Kashmir. All Kashmiris and peace loving people everywhere would welcome bringing down all artificial divides. However, recognising LoC as the border between the divided Kashmir wouldn’t resolve the dispute because in the current scheme of things, LoC is anyway the virtual border. Besides, the Kashmiris, who must ultimately determine their own future, would never accept it.

Resolution of the Kashmir knot is possible only when the three parties to the dispute — Kashmiris, Indians, and Pakistanis — sit together and talk. India and Pakistan may continue to talk and talk but without the Kashmiri involvement, these talks cannot lead to any solution. It’s good that Musharraf and Manmohan both are meeting Kashmiri leaders the same day in an effort to involve them in the peace process. The next logical step should see the Kashmiris sharing the summit with Manmohan and Musharraf.

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