The way forward

IT’S hard not to get sentimental about Kashmiri leaders’ visit to the other side of the LoC. It’s a historic journey by any standards. The emotional welcome accorded to the separatist leadership by Kashmiris on the other side speaks volumes about the tragedy of Kashmir.

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Published: Sun 5 Jun 2005, 10:33 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:45 PM

It also went to drive home the message to New Delhi and Islamabad that despite torn apart by an artificial wall; the Kashmiris remain united in spirit and resolve to find their common destiny. As the charismatic Yaseen Malik of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front pointed out in Muzaffarabad yesterday, regardless of how Indian, Pakistani and world media chooses to describe Kashmir — as Indian-administered Kashmir and Pak-administered Kashmir — the fiercely independent people of the Himalayan state cannot be divided by artificial barriers.

Yet the Kashmiri identity today faces formidable challenges. Much water has flowed down Jhelum since the Kashmiri leaders first raised the demand to visit Muzaffarabad in order to confer with Kashmiris on the other side. Today the Kashmiris are able to interact with each other thanks to the dramatic thaw in Indo-Pak relations after a gap of half a century.

The spring in Indo-Pak ties has of course contributed to bringing down barriers offering the Kashmiris the much-needed opportunity to evolve a common strategy. But there are apprehensions too that the Himalayan shift in Pakistan’s traditional position on Kashmir may lead to undermining of Kashmiri interests. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the pro-Pakistan leader of breakaway Hurriyat, has already accused Pakistan of letting down Kashmiris.

He boycotted the Muzaffarabad visit as a mark of protest. This is not a minority view. Even the so-called moderates Mirwaiz Omer Farooq and Yaseen Malik have warned against "a sellout of the blood of 80,000 Kashmiris killed in 15 years of uprising".

Evidently the Kashmiris are genuinely worried about getting a raw deal and being left out even as India and Pakistan ‘resolve’ Kashmir between themselves. This is, as the Kashmiri leadership has persistently warned, no way of resolving the Kashmir business. No resolution of Kashmir is possible without the involvement of Kashmiris. Any solution that doesn’t have the backing of Kashmiri people cannot bring lasting peace and stability to Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan must understand this reality.

The Hurriyat leaders have talked of new ‘ideas’ to resolve the conflict. If India and Pakistan are serious about finding a credible solution to Kashmir, they should give these proposals a serious thought. Delhi and Islamabad have debated Kashmir long enough. Now it’s time to turn the two-way dud dialogue into a three-party meaningful discussion.

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