Talks After The Talks

Talks After The Talks

23 February 2011
The News International
Zubair A Dar

New Delhi: The governments of India and Pakistan should restore the autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir state in its original form, urged prominent citizens from Indian, Pakistan and both sides of Jammu and Kashmir at the end of a two-day conference organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation in New Delhi last week. The conference, titled ‘Common Interests, Common Future: Dialogue Across the LoC’, was held following renewed efforts by the Indian and Pakistani governments to resume talks on all outstanding issues, particularly Kashmir. Participants, including former diplomats, discussed India-Pakistan relations confidence-building measures (CBMs) like trade and movement of people across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and state autonomy. “Without prejudice to the political settlement of [the] Kashmir problem, we suggest as a starting point that the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir in its original form should be restored. This must lead to maximum autonomy to three distinct regions of Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu and the process should be carried forward to district, block and panchayat levels in keeping with the wishes of the local population. If necessary, changes in the constitution and laws should be made for this purpose,” stated the resolution adopted by all participants. Speaking at the introductory session, former Pakistan foreign secretary Dr Humayun Khan termed as “over optimism” former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s assertion about Kashmiri leaders’ consent to his four-point formula. “I think the disclosures by Musharraf and Kasuri that Kashmir was near solution were over-optimistic. The views of Kashmiri leaders remain a major hurdle in concluding talks. Moreover, no public opinion was solicited, especially in a country like India where public opinion demands that something like this is debated openly,” said the former diplomat, who was involved in track II deliberations between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and other issues. Dr Khan agreed with former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and former President Musharraf that no solution to Kashmir was possible without including the people of Kashmir. “Both India and Pakistan are conscious of this need,” he added. But he expressed doubts about Musharraf’s claims that he had taken not only Azad Kashmir (leaders) into confidence but also separatist leaders into confidence. He also expressed doubt about Pakistan’s support to fresh efforts at Track-II dialogue efforts between India and Pakistan, as Islamabad appears to be keener to discuss Kashmir through a front-channel. “The Army seems to be having second thoughts about Track-II,” he said. “There are other differences in perception: Indians are saying, we’ve made considerable progress through the back channel, let’s take it up from there, but the Pakistani side is in an apparent reversal of position, are saying that the back channel is not valid anymore, so let’s open it up to the front channel. I think all channels should be kept open. The back channel should be pursued and the front channel too.” “Action must be taken against the perpetrators of Mumbai attack on Pakistan to infuse new life into the dialogue process,” Dr Khan said. “Dialogue has been restarted but I do not think that it absolves Pakistan of the responsibility to act against people responsible for outrageous act in Mumbai. If dialogue has to progress, action on Mumbai remains imperative.” At the same time, India also has the opportunity to show that it is taking vigorous action on the Samjhauta attack. “I think that would be even more helpful for the dialogue”. Participants agreed that India and Pakistan should facilitate engagement of all stake-holders in the process of finding a resolution to the festering issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Prominent participants from both countries included former Pakistan foreign secretary Aziz Ahmad Khan, former Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider, former Vice-Chancellor of Jammu University Prof. Amitabh Mattoo, Prof. Gul Mohd Wani of the Dept. of Political Science in Kashmir University, President, PML (N) Gilgit-Baltistan Hafeezur Rahman, former Chief Justice Azad Kashmir High Court Justice Majeed Malik, President People’s Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Information Commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah, CPI(M) member Yusuf Tarigami, and Finance Minister J&K Abdul Rahim Rather. Abdul Rahim Rather told the participants that New Delhi had eroded the autonomy of the state by issuing presidential orders in violation of the agreement reached between New Delhi and Srinagar. He said that the trust deficit between New Delhi and people of Jammu and Kashmir was a result of the erosion of autonomy. At the end of the conference, participants unanimously adopted a resolution calling for both India and Pakistan to remove all bottlenecks for smooth and efficient implementation of Jammu and Kashmir-related confidence building measures that have already been initiated “including trade and people to people contact.” The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. Email:zubairadar@gmail.com


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