Panos South Asia organised a ‘media retreat’ in Istanbul on 2-3 December 2005 to discuss critical issues related to solving the Kashmir problem. The meeting was attended by seniormost Indian and Pakistani ‘media gatekeepers’ and a panel from India- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir — Sardar Qayoom Khan, former prime minister of Azad Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of the Srinagar-based Hurriyat Conference, and Ved Bhasin, chair of Kashmir Times of Jammu.
The media persons participating were, from India: N Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu; Shashi Shekhar Gupta, group editor of Amar Ujala; Uday Shankar, CEO and editor of Star News; and Om Thanvi, editor of Jansatta. From Pakistan: Hameed Haroon, publisher of Dawn; Talat Hussain, director of Aaj television; Rehana Hakim, editor of Newsline; Mujibur Rehman Shami, editor of Daily Pakistan; and Mehmood Shaam, editor of Jang. Also participating were Panos South Asia Executive Director A S Panneerselvan and Himal Southasian editor Kanak Mani Dixit, moderator of the Panos India-Pakistan media retreats since the beginning.
The Istanbul media retreat followed on three earlier meetings between Indian and Pakistani journalists on the following topics: the India-Pakistan ‘composite dialogue’ (Bentota, Sri Lanka, September 2004), the nuclear weaponisation of Southasia (Bellagio, Italy, July 2003), and conflict and the India-Pakistan media (Nagarkot, Nepal, May 2002).
Himal presents here an edited summary of the discussions held in Istanbul as well as selected statements by participants. The transcribing was done by Assistant Editor Prashant Jha.
The politics of violence
Moderator: In this session, let us try to look at how perceptions of violence, which has been the continuous motif accompanying Kashmir for so many years, difer among the participants here.
Om Thanvi: Violence is a real problem and needs to be condemned — be it in Kashmir or in Nepal. When we – the intellectuals, writers or politicians – discuss such issues, there is often a tendency to justify or ignore violence. We must recognise that violence cannot be a part of any political process based on talks and dialogue. Not condemning violence unequivocally is a dangerous approach to adopt.
Uday Shankar: The only association that the rest of India has with Kashmir is that of violence. Kashmir registers on the Indian consciousness only if there is a violent side to it. If the peace process is to be pushed ahead, we have to pay attention to this perception. Kashmir is beginning to fall off the national consciousness of young Indians who tend to see it as a problem and little else. In any newsroom today, the standard response to a Kashmir story is whether there is a violence angle to it – the number of casualties, whether any big personality was involved.
What I am saying is that It has suited the Indian leadership to convey that Kashmir is a problem of violence. The responses that have come from across the border have reinforced this perception. The perception is not rootless either, there has been a lot of violence in India because of Kashmir.
Sardar Qayoom Khan: While we believe that violence must end, it must be recognised that violence in Kashmir has emerged out of a long historical process. It is also true that violence in Kashmir – whether we call it freedom movement, jehadi struggle – has been a major reason for world attention. Earlier political efforts did not succeed in doing this. If there is a roadmap for the process ahead and people feel their aspirations can be fulfilled by peaceful means, the violence will automatically subside – nobody wants to commit suicide. Unless people see a way out of the deadlock, this criminal bloodshed and violence will continue. President Musharraf has made desperate efforts to control Pakistan-based militancy but the other side needs to reciprocate now.
We should also not ignore the fact that, in the past decade, there has been an influx of non-Kashmiris into the movement, who are neither under Pakistan’s control nor the local militant groups. They may continue, they may run away – everyone should not be treated alike.
There is a fence on the Line of Control, 16 feet high, with steel wire and electrified parts. 800,000 troops guard it on both sides. If someone succeeds in crossing that fence, then he deserves an international gallantry award. But there are people in the state already in significant numbers with a generation-long commitment to the movement. They need to be dealt with sensitively and I believe a roadmap could help reduce the violence.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: Violence is one part of the problem but it is not the whole problem. I believe there is lack of information about Kashmir among the Indian people and it is important to inform them about the actual situation. Violence in Kashmir must also be related to the politics of the region. Vested groups have been created in Kashmir, which are working for their own interests – both on the militant and military side. Their interest lies in the violence continuing. One way to reduce the violence is by taking the indigenous groups on board. The government of India needs to take the initiative in this regard. We went to Azad Kashmir earlier this year and met Kashmiris who are involved in militancy. They are willing to talk, but need to be provided with some incentive.
N Ram: I don’t think it is smart politics for the government to raise the stakes in this way and link anything Kashmir-related that happens in Kashmir or outside with cross-border infiltration, terrorism, and what Gen Musharraf has failed to do. They may think that it puts pressure on the other side but it distorts the situation.
The decline in violence since June 2002 has been real. It appears that Gen Musharraf has at least part delivered on his 2002 promise to end cross-border terrorism. But at the same time, the violence is also real. The same people who romanticise the Kashmir quest for a solution try to underplay the political influence and role of these groups. The Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are major players, eclipsing the role of the Hurriyat and others. This is a real problem.
It is said that the roots of violence lie in the oppression of the people of Kashmir, the denial of justice, the atrocities and human rights violations that take place. No question about that. Some horrible things have happened in J & K. But I do not see any organic link between those root causes and the fact that Lashkar and Jaish are at large in Kashmir and in other parts of India, and free to strike the way they do. You need to get them on board and put it in the same basket as other grievances. Otherwise, I do not think politically it is realistic or sound.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: One cannot deny that some groups are working in Kashmir independently. Gen Musharraf gave us a commitment in Amsterdam in 2004 that Pakistan is willing to address the issue of violence as far as India is concerned. We have started taking measures to address those concerns as well. But it is important to recognise that Jaish and Lashkar are in a position to work because they enjoy public support to some extent. Once there is a genuine movement for the people of Kashmir to see and realise, I am sure that the support to these organisations will automatically diminish. There are still people who believe that violence is the only means to compel India to come on to the negotiating table.
Ved Bhasin: The violence is no doubt there, but it is not the only problem. In fact, it is not the predominant problem. Violence has in fact come down during the past two-three years.
Uday Shankar: It is a very big problem for the rest of the country.
Ved Bhasin: The Indian state has fed the public with many lies, emphasising that only cross-border terrorism exists in Kashmir and denying that there is also a popular revolt against the Indian state. Violence undoubtedly exists but it is not one-sided violence. The Indian security forces kill innocent people as well. Women are raped, some by militants but largely by the Indian security forces.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: The violence is affecting the Kashmiris more than anyone else, and it is showing both its facets in Kashmir. Violence begins, and the state responds with its counter violence. A person in Kashmir once told me how the militants dress like the military and how the soldiers grow their beards long. This dual-sided violence has now begun to eat up Kashmiriyat and once that happens, your movement will go completely astray and lose focus. The movement is now being considered a terrorist movement.
Hameed Haroon: The conventional notion in India is to define terrorism as a weapon to perpetuate independence. In Pakistan, it is the use of violence as a weapon by the Indian state forces to perpetuate terrorism. There are two points regarding violence here, that it serves to mobilise public support or it serves the purpose of intended manipulation. I am not looking at the public support theory, of guerrillas living in an ocean of sympathy from the people, instead I am looking at the intended manipulation. For example, the recent bombings in the Valley appear to have been intended for Ghulam Nabi Azad who had taken over as Chief Minister a few days earlier. The targets chosen were very strange –why were the people of the Valley attacked? In Kashmir, like elsewhere, terrorism becomes the format for what is essentially a crime and not a political move. I put it to you that trying to change the government’s composition by such actions, if indeed it was the case, is in fact using terrorism for a power agenda.
The other example is the recent attack at Lal Chowk. Why would any force, Laskar or any other group that cares for the Kashmiri people, launch an attack after the earthquake? I would suggest that to answer this question and understand the issue of violence in Kashmir, it is also important to consider other regional developments. For instance, developments on Pakistan’s western borders – the US policy, the attempt to woo the soft Taliban, the internal politics of these outfits, the massacre in Quetta – all have their implications for Kashmir.
The minorities of J & K
Moderator: Even though the question of Kashmir is seen to revolve around the question of Kashmiri rights, is there not a possibility that other communities will come forward to demand a fair hearing once a solution is seen to draw near?
Om Thanvi: While discussing the Kashmir issue, we tend to forget about Ladakh and its Buddhist population. They too are an integral part of the state and must be included in the process that determines the future.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: Let us also remember that a large section of the Kashmiri people – the Pandits – were sent from Srinagar to Jammu. When they live in camps in Jammu, the general impression that emerges is that because Jammu is a Hindu dominated area, they are safe there, their shops, homes, lives and land are unsafe otherwise. They are your people who are refugees in your own land and your state. Something must be done to address this issue.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: We all agree that the return of Kashmiri Pandits should not be conditional to the issue of Kashmir being resolved. We have been interacting with the Pandits at different levels and had invited Pandit leaders to come to the Valley. The Hurriyat is planning to go to their camps in Jammu. However, there is an element of uncertainty. When we started interaction with the Pandits, the next day there were threats from unknown organisations threatening them not to return. We would like to take the responsibility of their return but are not in a position to guarantee their safety and security. If something happened tomorrow, either by design or accident, the whole effort would collapse. So, there is need for caution.
We also disagree with the state government’s plan to have separate Hindu colonies in the state, protected by armed forces and the police. The Pandits also want to live the way they used to live with their Muslim brethren, as friends and neighbours.
Ved Bhasin: For the last 150 years, Kashmir has been a united state and for a number of years, it was an independent entity. It is essential to preserve the diversity and the pluralistic character of the state. The shattered trust between the two communities has to be restored. The return of the Kashmiri Pandits is not possible without goodwill of the majority community in Kashmir. While there are efforts in this direction, there is a powerful vested interest – both in Kashmir and among the Pandits, which would not like the Pandits to return and live with their Muslim brethren. Kashmiri Pandits are being used as an excuse to highlight what is happening in Kashmir, the violence, and atrocities, and to project the Kashmir movement as a communal, fundamentalist movement. The plans by the state government to set up separate clusters for Kashmiri Pandits must be opposed – if they are to live in separate camps and clusters then there is no reason for them to go back.
Sardar Qayoom Khan: Let there be no departure from the fact that that Jammu and Kashmir state, despite its diversity, is one unit. If I had the authority, I would give Kashmir’s non-Muslim minorities a blank cheque to sign on future arrangments. Whatever the political arrangements, we can live together the way we have for so long in the past. I fully support the return of the Pandits. The Pandits have lived in Kashmir like the Muslim community itself and this is the one spot in the Subcontinent where there has been no ethnic problem whatsoever. The state will have to play its role in their return to Kashmir and their security will have to be assured at the hands of the majority. And the Pandits, together with the Muslim community, will have to fight back in some of the cases if security problems do arise.
The media and Kashmir
Moderator: It is important to discuss the role and the attitude of the media in India and Pakistan vis-a-vis Kashmir. I would like to make a few suggestions in order to feed the discussion. For one, we should look at the power of what may be called the ‘language’ or ‘vernacular’ media, Hindi and Urdu and Sindhi, Punjabi and so on. If it is important to sensitise the larger mass, which will then understand the political aspects of the Kashmir issue, is it enough to just consider the English language press? We should also perhaps examine how the media in the southern extremities of the two countries is dealing with Kashmir – is the Sindhi and English press in Karachi different from Lahore and Islamabad, and how is the Chennai press different from the New Delhi press? We must also study the power and impact of television, considering that satellite television has cross border footprints. Also, if we want to change attitudes, it may be important to begin with terminology. I would like to suggest that instead of ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’ and ‘India Occupied Kashmir’ used by the opposing sides, it is time to start using ‘India Administered Kashmir’ and ‘Pakistan Administered Kashmir’.
Hameed Haroon: For the ethnic press in Karachi – the evening papers and the popular papers affiliated to parties – Kashmir was a distant problem, a Punjabi problem, though it has been a long time since Punjab ruled Kashmir. It had to do with the violence and killings but little beyond that. Interestingly, things have changed in the last 60 days after the earthquake, when the city of Karachi surpassed all others in providing aid and skilled personnel. A humanisation of Kashmir has taken place. The Sindhi press carried this emotion and has been involved in the earthquake coverage. Sindhi broadcasting has been covering this as well.
Azad Kashmir has been poorly covered because of its absurd geographical situation where it takes six-seven hours for a newspaper to reach. There is no integration mechanism, most papers do not have a Muzaffarabad edition, and the state of communication in Muzaffarabad has been poor. For its part, the Azad Kashmir government has delegated its powers two years ago to the Pakistan government to regulate their frequencies, which is why they do not have FM radio today in the true sense, and lack all other kinds of decentralisation opportunities in media. Unless the Azad Kashmir government takes that power back, Kashmir will continue to be deprived of real micro reportage, which is the essence of any good media anywhere.
Mehmood Shaam: Kashmir is an emotional as well as religious issue in Pakistan, so a completely free and independent approach is difficult in such a context. However, things have changed, particularly after the 9/11 attacks. People are convinced that only peaceful negotiations can solve the Kashmir issue and the national press is supporting the talks with India. At the same time, there are some newspapers and magazines owned by religious parties which advocate jehad as the only solution. They accuse Pakistan of being either over-cautious or too flexible, and believe India is not moving an inch from its stated position.
Pakistan’s Urdu national press is in fact discussing the different options in Kashmir – demilitarisation, self-governance, or the seven regions proposal. There are debates on whether trade relations with India should be contingent on the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Before 9/11, these debates were not possible in the Urdu newspapers. There are very few papers which support militancy. Sometimes in our Urdu papers, a speech by the Indian prime minister can make the lead story. However, we do not find such coverage of Pakistani leaders, or this kind of support for the peace process in the Indian newspapers, either English or Hindi.
N Ram: There is considerable coverage of the détente process and support for it in the Indian press as well as in television discussions. However, we cannot say much regarding coverage of Kashmir in the absence of a proper information base. A small study did find that the media tends to tail official policy on Kashmir. But there should be in-depth study of the coverage of Kashmir by the different streams of the media, to gauge the credibility of coverage of the human rights situation or of election campaigns.
The press also has to play a more vigorous investigative role in Kashmir. Is the media in India performing its educational role – on providing interim solutions, gauging the mood of the people, and suggesting more enduring solutions? The commentator A G Noorani and a few others are doing rigorous analysis that the matter deserves. While the media cannot claim to set the public agenda, it can surely participate in building it. Finally, there is the propaganda role – manufacturing consent for what the Hurriyat see as unjust, oppressive or failed policies.
Kashmir and its leadership get a lot of news coverage, even in the south. There is a lot of information presented, and a lot of images. Kashmir’s very articulate leaders representing different strands are active with the press and get adequate coverage. There may be an unfriendly editorial position, which you have to take in a sporting spirit.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: In discussing the role of the media, we must also focus on the changes within J & K. The dailies Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran have editions in the state now and the readership for Hindi is growing. When we began our own reporting in Kashmir, instead of terrorism we decided to focus on core issues that affect daily lives – electricity, education, clean water, health facilities, transport and so on.
Mujibur Rehman Shami: Since Kashmir is such an emotional issue, I do not think we can use the terms ‘India Administered Kashmir’ and ‘Pakistan Administered Kashmir’ in Pakistan. We can do so only if the governments of both countries agree to do so as a gesture of goodwill. As far as Pakistan’s stand is concerned, the whole nation agrees that Kashmir is occupied by the Indian forces. I suggest that newspaper publishers and owners and editors in India and Pakistan should prepare a code of ethics for the coverage of events on each side.
At the moment, you can say that the Pakistani press is divided, but with only a small section supporting the jehadi struggle. Most of the newspapers believe in the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem. A few papers suggest that the problem be settled under the UN resolutions and a plebiscite be held, but the consensus is that this is not possible and we should try to find a solution to the satisfaction of both the countries and of Kashmiris. While historically the Pakistani press has seen Kashmir as a problem between India and Pakistan, since 1989, most sections of the press believe that Kashmiris must be involved in the process of dialogue.
Talat Hussain: As media persons, we need to follow very closely the change in the official idiom and the description of issues. Nowhere in recent documents is Kashmir described as a dispute. It is an issue. It is not ‘Kashmir ka jhagda’. It is ‘Kashmir ka mamla’. And in none of his statements made on Indian soil has Gen Musharraf described occupied Kashmir as ‘occupied Kashmir’. I guess we are all beholden to our own perception of what the reality is.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: I do believe that there needs to be new thinking by the media on the Kashmir issue. The media can perform an educational role by informing the people of the actual situation in Kashmir. While Kashmiri leaders might be given publicity in the media, very few editorials and commentators are suggesting new ideas. For its part, the Kashmiri leadership does need to have more interaction with the Urdu and Hindi press.
Talat Hussain: Mirwaiz Sahib, the reason media does not do bold analysis of Kashmir at this time is the absence of information. The print and television media has become highly competitive, and if you want to drive out negative propaganda you must provide information. Without it, we are handicapped and the fact is that the main political players are holding on to information as a closely guarded secret. All the media can do under the circumstances is present speculative analysis and ‘bold thinking’ that has no link to reality.
Ved Bhasin: The media, both in India and Pakistan, is still a prisoner of the mindset of 1947. The media has been used by each state to demonise the other. After 1989, the media has not been able to express their views and ideas freely because they have either been under threat from the militant groups or from the state forces, particularly the latter. When some of the newspapers reported about human rights violations by the army, they were called enemies. Many media people have been eliminated, victims of the security forces and the militants. While the situation may have changed to some extent, it is still difficult to write anything that does not serve the interests of the state. The situation must change, and media persons from the both countries must be allowed to freely visit both sides of Jammu and Kashmir.
Hameed Haroon: Seven militants were shot at and injured a month ago in Srinagar near Lal Chowk. Now the entire media corps wears crash helmets up there. Death is a real possibility for many of these journalists. At the risk of arousing controversy, let me say that militants know how to get their point across to any journalist if they want to. There is a real atmosphere of threat from the militants.
Ved Bhasin: A large number of journalists in Kashmir have been defying the dictates of both the security forces and the militants and have been working with independence.
The earthquake and the peace process
Moderator: The October 2005 earthquake was an immense tragedy that visited the people of Kashmir. Even in tragedy, it provided an opportunity to push the peace process forward, open the window for Kashmiris to meet up, and generally usher greater empathy and understanding among the two state players. Was the tragedy ‘utilised’ to accelerate rapprochement? Is there still time to do so? How has the Indian media covered the plight of Azad Kashmir?
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: We are very disappointed. This was definitely an opportunity to let people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control share their pain and grief. But the Indian and Pakistani governments were making statements more to score political points than out of sincerity. It took India ten days to decide on establishing telephone links between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad, and even then we were allowed access to make calls only at four points. The decision to open five checkpoints came too late, and it came with too many restrictions. A person living in Tanghdhar has to come 120 km to Srinagar, apply in the passport regional office, wait for the security clearance, then the IB and CID clearance, and only then be given permission to cross over.
We saw international agencies assisting in relief work in Muzaffarabad but India categorically said ‘No’ to all aid agencies and international donors. The Indian Army did a good job in relief work but please recognise that the army has always occupied these areas. There is no civil administration. In fact, at times it looked like it was more a public relations exercise for the army than a genuine relief effort for the affected people. All in all, I think there is still time to do more. Procedures must be simplified for people to move across the ceasefire line, more people-to-people contact is essential. In the longer term, we can think of intra-Kashmir trade and commerce.
Sardar Qayoom Khan: The efforts made by the Pakistan government, the people and the international agencies were good – whatever was humanly possibly was done. The Indian government, for its part, offered four helicopters and I believe that Pakistan should have accepted the offer. There was no security problem involved; this kind of thing is just baggage from the past. The earthquake did provide an opportunity to build confidence, but it has been missed. The procedures involved in trying to move across the LOC are actually prohibitive – they have allowed something but do not want it to happen.
Hameed Haroon: Look at the peculiar nature of the situation. This is territory that India and the Indian government claim as belonging to them, but then the Indians did not react with the required protocol. What is essentially required in Azad Kashmir is helicopter-based relief. If India and Pakistan had acted with the required alacrity, lives could have been saved in the upper Neelam and Jhelum valleys, which are accessible from the Indian side. Looking to the future, the spate of respiratory diseases, particularly for children, is going to be immense. The Indian medical establishment, by a multiple of many, is larger than the Pakistan establishment. We have seen the results of Bangalore-based hospital diplomacy. Even the movement forward for a few symbolic cases will generate a positive momentum. I have strong faith in Indian civil society – if they are sensitised to the situation, they will come forward.
Uday Shankar: On the Indian side of Kashmir, the Indian media was there in full force and for about two weeks, every television channel I know of had at least five or six camera units deployed there. However, in the absence of strong professional linkages with the media in Pakistan, I think the Indian media did not fully grasp the scale of the tragedy on the other side. The television channels did cover the earthquake extensively but still did not do justice to the enormity of what had happened. There was also the problem of access, with Indian journalists prevented from going to the other side. Television and newspapers in the two countries must build stronger linkages.
Talat Hussain: All of the linkages were there to understand the scale of the tragedy in Azad Kashmir, and the Indian government was fully aware. For instance, the meteorological offices and the seismic centres were co-ordinating with each other. The reason why the Indian media did not focus on the issue or understand its significance is that the Indian government was not interested in taking it up. The Indian media simply followed that lead. The tragedy was there but since the mainstream policy parameter was set in a manner that it was not exactly playing up the tragedy, the media followed suit.
N Ram: I think it was a great opportunity missed. This was in contrast to the reaction in the aftermath of the tsunami, when India rushed in with relief and assistance to Sri Lanka. We followed the earthquake in detail but the Indian television channels were handicapped. I do agree that it is the tardiness and the insensitivity reflected in the Indian government’s response that set the terms for this. The government’s response was poor. There was a response from the media, encouraging the Indian government to open up, but sometimes the power of the media is not only over-estimated, it is a myth. Now I do not know how we can mobilise opinion at this late stage. It did not happen – people did not feel that they could intervene and do something in this situation. I don’t think it will happen now.
Shashi Shekhar Gupta: I would like to talk about the earthquake within the framework of the hope it generates, and the dangers it points towards. In the last five years, only two pictures have been published in the Indian newspapers in poster size. The first was the photograph of the re-opening of the bridge that joins Kashmir with Kashmir. The other was an image from the other side of Kashmir where some people are getting ready to board a helicopter after the quake. These images point to the hope – hope of a connect between the two sides.
But I also see danger in the fact that we could not see an emotional response of the people in Jammu and Leh in relation to humanitarian relief required for the earthquake victims. We must consider the reasons for this, and ask whether the people of Jammu and Leh have started considering themselves as the colony of Kashmir, and whether a situation is developing where they cannot attach their emotions to that of the Valley.
Moderator: Our discussion has focused on the massive scale of the tragedy on the Azad Kashmir side and the coverage or the lack of it on the Indian side. For many reasons, from the weakness of the media entities, to the lack of access, to poor information across the frontiers, there was not enough coverage on the Indian side. In turn, this seems to have failed in pressurising the state to open up. But while we might have missed the immediate opportunity of news coverage, we must look ahead to the harder task of covering the longer-term tragedy through the upcoming winter and beyond.
Kashmir, the way forward
Moderator: We should perhaps now look to where the question of Kashmir, the sawaal of Kashmir is headed, and what the media can and should do about it.
Talat Hussain: I have two questions for the panel – the geographical compartmentalisation of Kashmiri politics has also led to the rise of what I call constituency politicians, who owe their first allegiance to constituencies, which could be religious or secular or local or anything. How will constituency politics translate into being a part of the process for a final solution of the Kashmir problem? How will leaders leave their constituencies in terms of practical politics, and sit around the table and develop a vision? What will be the mechanics of internal dialogue and reconciliation?
The fundamental assumption of the Pakistan government seems to be that we are not going to get the whole of Kashmir; that Kashmir is probably not going to get independent. They seem to believe that the best deal possible could be self-government, or an upgraded version of self-government that comes close to self determination, and to see a solution take shape through the opening of borders and free trade.
But the assumption of the Indian government seems to be that the Kashmir solution has to be found within the four walls of the Indian Constitution. If that is the case, how will the negotiation ever move forward?
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: We have been grappling with this issue as well. When we began talking to Delhi, we were saying that the dialogue should not be held under any constitution. But my suggestion is let us recognise that stand as India’s maximalist position. If you are engaged in serious dialogue, there is bound to be a fallback position as well. We need to figure out India’s minimal position. The Indian prime minister has referred to a situation where Kashmiris don’t feel the difference between being in Srinagar or Muzaffarabad – such a reference is definitely to open borders and trade. For us however, these are CBMs and not solutions.
N Ram: May I point out that the Indian Constitution can be amended quite substantially to accommodate higher degrees of autonomy. So, by saying ‘within the constitution’ does not mean being tied in a straitjacket.
A S Panneerselvan: Some issues have repeatedly been brought out by India and other players but we have never heard the Kashmiri response to it. When Inderjit Gupta was the home minister in the H D Deve Gowda government, he had for the first time talked about reducing the presence of the Border Security Force and flagged off the issue of demilitarisation. But then immediately 13 blasts happened within three days and he could not answer even a single question in Parliament. Another interesting observation is that the moment the composite dialogue was conceived as 2+6, Kashmir was accorded an important position. The centrality of the Kashmir issue has been accepted which means that Delhi is not suffering from the time warp we try to believe it does. Additionally, Manmohan Singh ordered withdrawal of troops, and the first batch withdrawal did happen and then it stopped. There was also a move away from interaction led by bureaucrat-interlocutors and towards political leadership. These are some of the positive trends for which we do not know the Kashmiri reaction.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq: All political groups in Kashmir welcomed the announcement of withdrawal of troops. However, they did use the term ‘redeployment’, and there was no difference at the ground level. They got the BSF out and the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) in. It was more of posturing than giving concrete relief to the people. In fact, despite the fact that violence has reduced in the past few years, in Kashmir sandbag posts are giving way to bunkers of concrete, brick and cement. The people fear that irrespective of whether violence goes up or comes down, the Indian security forces are here to stay. While India may have accepted the centrality of the Kashmir issue, we see little other movement in New Delhi on the Kashmir issue. They are unwilling to give concessions at the ground level.
A S Panneerselvan: One other key issue is that Kashmir has become the reason for the being for both India and Pakistan. For Pakistan, having a Muslim majority province as a part of the country confirms the two-nation theory and the reason of its birth. For India, retaining its Muslim majority state confirms its secular credentials. The way forward, as the Bombay-based advocate A G Noorani has been emphasising, is to find a solution that should be accepted in Delhi, Islamabad and Srinagar.
Hameed Haroon: I think the point about the two-nation theory is no longer relevant. The two-nation theory died in Pakistan the day Bangladesh became separate. The theory called for two countries as majority areas, one for the Muslims of the Subcontinent and one for the Hindus. That of course is clearly no longer the case. If anything, Kashmir maybe in line for a four nation theory because a third nation has already been established and that’s Bangladesh. Both India and Pakistan accept that reality. The second thing, which is dead in a practical sense, is India’s battle to prove itself secular. India’s fears of its secularism being under threat is also some sort of a bygone in the sense that the Indian nation is there to stay in whatever form it decides.
N Ram: There have been suggestions by the leaders of Kashmir and others that the solution rests completely with the people of Kashmir. I would suggest let us not romanticise the quest for an internal solution by Kashmiris themselves. I fully understand the powerful nature of the aspirations of the Kashmiris. But let us recognise that independence for Kashmir is a pipe-dream, as much as independence for Eelam is a pipe-dream, given the geo-politics of Southasia and all the other factors involved. It is also important not to romanticise Kashmiriyat. The issue has to be redefined largely as a democratic question rather than as a national question.
There are good and constructive tendencies within the Hurriyat but I see it as largely drifting. It is your political duty and mandate to think out of the box. The interim is terribly important but that does not mean that you need not think hard and precisely about what solution may fly and what may not. The Hurriyat has a reactive strategy. There is also a confusion, are you after independence or are you wanting to remain within this whole process. Let us not fail to give credit to Vajpayee and Musharraf, and to Manmohan Singh and all other politicians – they have at least come up with some creative thinking with their policy-making establishments behind them. Gen Musharraf’s ruling out what is unacceptable to both countries took the process forward quite some way.
Talat Hussain: Both Mirwaiz Farooq and Sardar Qayoom have emphasised the need to look at interim measures at this stage and later aspire for a final solution. What is more likely to happen, however, is that the ultimate solution is not going to be an out-of-ordinary solution. It is going to be the outcome of all the confidence building measures that you put in during the interim. What you get in terms of CBMs is going to be foretelling you about the ultimate outcome.
Among the matters that are unacceptable to either India or Pakistan, we have heard that India has made it clear that they are not willing to have any negotiation with Pakistan on Ladakh – behind closed doors or publicly. For its part, Pakistan has made the Northern Areas an absolute no-no as far as negotiations with India are concerned. India is also believed to have excluded Jammu from the agenda. Therefore, we are essentially talking about the Valley and Azad Kashmir. There is some confusion about the Poonch area. Pakistan thinks that is up for negotiations whereas the Indians tend to say that all of Jammu, including Poonch, are non-negotiables.
Uday Shankar: It is clear that you cannot have all these discussions under the glare of public scrutiny. You need to retire to the inner chamber with the stakeholders. In order to do that, it is important to let the rest of the two countries move on with their other concerns so that the stakeholders can sit down and have a completely emotionless discussion on the various issues. This can only happen if the issue of violence is addressed.
Mujibur Rehman Shami: We have spoken about the nature of the possible solutions, but it is important to focus on evolving a mechanism to reach a settlement. Historically, the resolution of disputes between India and Pakistan has been possible only through third-party intervention. The boundaries of the two countries were drawn by Radcliffe; the ceasefire of 1948, ‘65, and ‘71 were possible with UN intervention; the Indus Water Treaty was signed because of the involvement of the World Bank. Since India is firm on not accepting a third party, we need an arbitrator or a forum from within. I would therefore suggest that a high-powered joint committee be set up by the two parliaments. This committee should include an equal number of members from both countries. The decision of this committee should be binding. This committee should, first of al, decide how to involve the Kashmiris in the process.
N Ram: The idea of a joint parliamentary committee is new and a welcome suggestion, but it cannot be binding. It is a forum where the parliamentarians can meet for serious discussion, however. I think the slogan of self-determination must find concrete expression in a demand for maximum autonomy, and we can think about how it can be shared. This was subverted starting with the Nehruite policies, and since then every government has failed to deliver on what was promised in the Indian Constitution – what has happened is unconstitutional and has occurred through executive interpretations. There has also been a reneging on promises made during the last decade. Sovereignty can be internal. In fact, in the Indian constitutional discourse, it is well recognised that sovereignty is shared between the centre and the states, so it is possible to work around this particular problem.
The solution is going to lie in maximum autonomy and in demilitarisation agreements. We are very concerned about the military administration of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, I believe the Hurriyat must think hard about its decision not to contest elections. They must think about how they relate to the legitimate political parties, which are mass-based. Twenty four percent may be what the National Conference gets, the Congress gets a little less than that and PDP gets 16 percent, these are real numbers. There is an Election Commission which has done a good job, relatively speaking, in the recent period. These are real-life issues, and you can’t live in a world of your own, saying I will not legitimise the process. Even the LTTE does not believe in that. It sets up its surrogates to contest elections, which is why the LTTE is a real force in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
Ved Bhasin: The mainstream parties in Kashmir are also divided about the future set-up of Jammu and Kashmir state. The BJP stands for abrogation of Article 370 in the Constitution and wants erosion of the state’s autonomy to bring Jammu and Kashmir at par with other states. At the same time, the BJP and some of the ‘Parivar’ outfits like the RSS and the Jammu Mukti Morcha are also working for the communal division of the state. I don’t think the Congress is opposed to a greater degree of autonomy but they will support only if this is a decision of the central government. The National Conference is committed to the restoration of the state’s autonomy to the pre-1953 position. The PDP is not very clear on this issue but is by and large not opposed to greater autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir state. They are also emphasising greater financial autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir state, whatever that means.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq No to LOC, no to status quo
There is a clear consensus among Kashmiris that it is time to address the Kashmir problem. At a recent seminar where I shared the platform with the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party for the first time, despite our political differences, we agreed that the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved with the people of the region a necessary part of the dialogue and reconciliation process.
Delhi seems to have realized the need to address the problem as well. What is lacking, however, is the will and determination on their part. The only concern of the Indian establishment seems to be the violence in Kashmir, ignoring the political aspects. The Kashmiris still do not trust Delhi because of what has happened in the past, actions that have also made it difficult for people like us who are categorised as ‘moderates’. It is easier and safer to be a hardliner in Kashmir, holding secure positions. It is also unfortunate when opportunities to build better relations are missed, such as the earthquake. People felt that if such a tragedy could not move India and Pakistan to let Kashmiris share their pain and grief with each other, what would?
At the same time, there is definitely a change in sentiment. A new generation has emerged in Kashmir that is willing to think anew. Indigenous parties and groups, even those who have adopted violent means, are willing to move to something that is acceptable to people on both sides of Kashmir. The change in attitude is discernible from their reaction to the Hurriyat’s decision to talk to the Indian government – in 2004, when we started the process, we were condemned; this time around, there was no support but neither was there condemnation.
Instead of seeking a final solution at this stage, we must adopt a gradual approach. Once the process is in place, a solution will emerge from that. Kashmiris belonging to different regions, religions, ideologies and cultures must be allowed to interact. The dialogue process between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir also needs to be consolidated. We do recognise that Hurriyat is not the only player representing the people of Kashmir, and we must get other groups on board. Even those outfits that have taken to violence, particularly the Hizbul Mujahideen, are willing to be a part of the process if there is change at the ground level that can help them convince their followers.
We need a change at the ground level and a move towards genuine dialogue so that people feel the difference in their lives from the peace process. Apart from the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, we have seen no Kashmir-centric or people-centric confidence-building measure. The hosilities must also end for the process to move forward. Unless and until there is peace on the ground, no CBM or action by India and Pakistan is really going to take effect in the real sense. There should be a halt to violence from the militant’s side as well as from the military side.
In the Kashmir context, it is difficult for any party, including the Hurriyat, to take a single position. We can declare that the majority of the people want independence – and there is no doubt about that fact – but that does not mean we are unwilling explore other ideas. People realise that an independent Kashmir may not be a possibility because it does not serve the interests of the other players in the region. While we are willing to be accommodative, two things are clearly unacceptable to us – the conversion of LOC into a permanent border, and the status quo. Besides this, the Hurriyat is ready to discuss all other possible options with all other parties, irrespective of their ideology.
There are different ideas emanating from Islamabad as well- one can agree or disagree with them but it is important not to discard them. I believe that Pakistan has moved beyond its stated positions. The question now is whether India is willing to move beyond CBMs such as trade, bus links and people-to-people contact and towards a solution. What we encounter is complete silence on the Indian side. There is fear that India is trying to buy time and maintain status quo.
Sardar Qayoom Khan – Independence is romanticism
The India-Pakistan relationship is stuck on Kashmir. It is imperative that Kashmiris on the two sides are allowed to meet and talk freely. For the past five decades, they have been denied this opportunity. Given the fact that they are suffering the most in the conflict, Kashmiris would certainly try to find ways to reduce the tension. The situation in Kashmir must be normalised as it would provide moral support to all sides as well as serve a humanitarian purpose, and this can happen without any party having to surrender its claims to sovereignty.
It is important not to talk of a final, permanent, lasting, durable solution. The focus should instead be on the procedure for moving ahead. Interim steps have to be taken before arriving at a model to resolve the dispute, and these may be discussed in the media on both sides. The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, for instance, is a good step but has not been effective due to many restrictions. We should think of processes and interim steps and not insist on particular form, shape or model. We need a gradual, systematic process rather than an ambitious, grand plan.
There are several ideas that can push the process forward – the withdrawal of troops from population centers, release of prisoners, and allowing movement of Kashmiris on both sides. A few years ago, I had suggested the creation of a small demilitarised zone on the ceasefire line where the Kashmiris can meet freely. Before 1956, people were allowed to move on the two sides by producing identity cards certified by the local deputy commissioner. All routes blocked since 1956 could be re-opened. President Musharraf, for his part, has also come up with some ideas – a seven-region formula and self-governance.
I believe that the majority of people in Kashmir want either accession with India or with Pakistan, not independence. While there are a few sections, including international players, who support the idea of independence, we must recognise that independence is romanticism; it is not available given the situation or as per the Partition Plan or the UN resolutions.
There can be a solution only if all sides are talking – there must be talks among the Kashmiris; between India and Kashmiris; Pakistan and Kashmiris; and between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris. The Kashmiris need not have a specific seat on the table but their involvement is essential, either by proxy or directly. A government in Pakistan that does not consult the Kashmiris on the issue cannot survive. The question could be who represents the Kashmiris, and it is important that Kashmiris of all denominations are consulted and taken into confidence. Several ways can be devised to include them: for instance, if it is difficult to give them a seat on the table, Kashmiris from each sides can be included in respective Indian and Pakistani delegations.
For effective movement forward, the Indian and Pakistani leadership will have to act but they need our support. On the Pakistani side, especially, it is important to be conscious of the difficulties of the Indian government because they operate in a democratic set-up. Additionally, the Indian Army in Kashmir has constitutional authority on some matters, and unless the constitution is amended, the Indian government cannot go beyond certain limits. On both sides, we need to understand each other’s constraints and help each other overcome them. For this reason, it is important not to advance any one-party agenda, from the Indian, Pakistani or even the Kashmiri side. An agenda solely driven by one party will not work even if it is based on gospel truth. A joint agenda must be evolved.
Uday Shankar- Discard the cocoon
Let us recognise that, as in other areas, journalists make mistakes while reporting on Kashmir. This need not be due to a grand conspiracy, but because of the ignorance of the journalist in question or the conditions in which he is operating. Reporting in Kashmir is difficult – there is little transparency; access to location or event is not always there; sources often have partisan positions; and from all sides, a lot of misleading information is fed to the reporter. You have to ‘de-intentionalise’ and ‘de-sensationalise’ media mistakes.
For way too long, Kashmir reporting has been hostage by Delhi journalists. Politicians of Kashmir, of different hues, spend a disproportionate amount of time and attention on the journalists of English-language newspapers, whose reach has been highly exaggerated. A large number of politicians in India today neither read any English newspaper nor care about what it says. But they have a very effective voice in policy making, in legislative decision-making, and they have to be engaged. You could say that there has not been any attempt by any Kashmir interest group on a sustained basis to engage the rest of the country. For instance, the readership of the Hindi dailies Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala together is anywhere between 40 to 45 million. If you do not address this mass of Indian people, then there is no way you will be able to get out of the cocoon in which you are trapped.
For its part, television suffers from a lot of ignorance because the entire television-reporting contingent is still very young – with a physical energy sometimes not matched with intellectual rigour or deduction skills. However, it is also important to understand the nature of the beast. Television has linear delivery and it has to suffer the remote control button. People switch channels in seconds. To avoid that risk, news editors just drop a story where a clear perspective does not come through. And they can do so, precisely because Kashmir is not such an important issue in India if you divorce it from its violent implications. There is clearly a problem of understanding and a crisis of credibility in the whole process of what is happening in Kashmir.
Talat Hussain – Generational change in media
We must recognise the fact that media does not create reality. If the ground reality in Kashmir does not change, the media is not supposed to be creating its own agenda and trying to put an alternate fiction of what reality ought to be. Things have to change in Kashmir, between India and Pakistan, and among Kashmiris, for media to be amplifying the reality. We should also remember that, generally speaking, the media also follows the flag of nationalism. The Indian and Pakistani media have not been exceptions to that rule, and coverage has been very lop-sided and subject to the considerations of state policy rather than independence. Most of us have fallen in line in varying degrees. Since the level of tension has come down, there is now a greater opportunity for the media to cover the reality more objectively.
The bigger the issue at hand, the greater the stakes are, the more cautious the media becomes. Mainstream media cannot do sustained coverage of a large issue over a period of time that strikes off from the mainstream policy parameters. We also tend to take a romantic view of media independence, and forget the environment within which newspaper and television journalists work. On coverage of Kashmir, for example, it is not necessarily the independent journalist but the larger media conglomerate which sets the parameter. Let us also understand that journalists are not sitting there brooding over the fate of earthshaking issues. For people to think that journalists are studying big tomes on Kashmir, working out great solutions, and peddling editorial lines is a little unrealistic to put it charitably.
A generational change has taken place in the Pakistani media, and the young journalists are not burdened by history. There is greater tolerance for diversity of views being expressed, not just in newspapers but also on television. The media has become more even handed in giving room to stories that do not necessarily fall within the boundaries of government policy. A cross-fertilisation of ideas and commercial interests has contributed to increasingly liberal coverage of Kashmir as well as India-Pakistan relations. There is more openness when it comes to presenting the Indian point of view, and articles from the Indian press are reprinted in Pakistan. Television’s own interest in the larger arena of India-Pakistan peace is also fuelling its more liberal coverage of the Kashmir issue. The three big players in Pakistan – GEO, ARY and AAJ – have developed huge stakes in terms of co-production and joint programming with Indian channels and do not wish to see those jeopardised.
Ved Bhasin – Need for a ‘Kashmiri’ solution
A few myths that dominate the discourse on Kashmir need to be exploded. For one, the issue is often considered a bilateral problem between India and Pakistan, when it is actually a problem concerning the human rights, justice and dignity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmiris are at the centre of this dispute. The second myth, spread by the Indian state and sections of the media, is that the problem in Kashmir is essentially one of violence. However, the gun is the consequence of suppression of fundamental rights with people resorting to it only after all options of democratic protest were closed. The fact that there is a popular revolt in Kashmir coupled with massive human rights violations by the Indian security forces has been concealed from the Indian people.
Jammu and Kashmir is also seen as a territorial problem, with suggestions that the state could be divided on regional and communal lines. However, the state is in fact a single entity, despite its diversity, and any division would create further problems. A solution can be found only if we respect the pluralistic character, unity and integrity of Jammu and Kashmir. We must also recognise that there are multiple voices and divergent aspirations in Jammu and Kashmir. While India and Pakistan have started talking, with sections of Kashmiris given a half-hearted invitation occasionally, there has been no effort towards initiating a dialogue among the Kashmiris themselves. No peace process will succeed unless an internal dialogue among Kashmiris begins to reconcile the divergent aspirations, respecting the viewpoint of the majority yet accommodating the sentiments of the minority.
To pursue an internal dialogue however, a climate of freedom must be created. As long as the Indian troops are present and the Indian state is meddling in the affairs of the state using draconian legislation, such an atmosphere of trust cannot be created. For intra-Kashmir dialogue, some confidence-building measures must be introduced. The ceasefire on the LOC is a good step but the guns must stop and hostilities must end within the state so that people are able to express their views freely. Only then will this process be genuine, meaningful and realistic. Opening up routes and borders in all regions could be another important CBM. The Muzzafarabad-Srinagar bus link has not helped the common people because there are too many restrictions and curbs. Release of prisoners, rehabilitation of victims of violence (whether by militants or security forces), and the repeal of the draconian laws are some of the measures that will pave the way for dialogue and a negotiated settlement.
Possible solutions to the Kashmir problem have been suggested, but at this stage we must look for interim measures. While exploring any solution or alternative, certain ground rules must be respected: one, Kashmir is not a territorial dispute but concerns the people of Jammu and Kashmir; two, the state entity as existed on 14 August 1947 should not be changed; three, the plural, democratic and federal character of the state must be preserved and strengthened; four, the interests of the religious and linguistic minorities must be safeguarded.
Neither the option of joint control or conversion of the Line of Control into an international border can be acceptable. Sovereignty must rest with the people of Jammu and Kashmir state, and it is for them to choose to surrender whatever quantum of autonomy to either India or Pakistan, or to both jointly. Even in the Instrument of Accession which India recognises, the state has been promised autonomy in all areas except foreign affairs, defence and communication. This status must be restored. Azad Kashmir too should have identical autonomy within Pakistan.
One possible way forward towards a solution is by holding free and fair elections on both sides under international supervision, for the assembly in Azad Kashmir and the assembly in Jammu and Kashmir. Then there could be a common council elected in proportion to the population of both sides to deal with common issues like trade, tourism and environment. Such an arrangement should continue for five years or maximum up to ten years. There should then be a joint session of both assemblies, which can decide on the future status of Jammu and Kashmir. By that time, Kashmir will cease to be the emotive issue both in India and Pakistan, and it will be possible to look at a conclusive solution. All parties would be required to respect the decision of the two assemblies, even if it were to be complete independence for Jammu and Kashmir.
A S Panneerselvan – Noorani’s proposal
The ground rules that both India and Pakistan have agreed to with regard to the Kashmir issue include negating those outcomes that either side finds unacceptable. While India has ruled out the question of a plebiscite, Pakistan has rejected the option of converting the Line of Control into an international border. India has also made it clear that there will not be any partition of the region on communal lines. From what we have heard, Pakistan has agreed to retain this composite nature of Jammu and Kashmir.
The advocate and commentator A G Noorani has written extensively on devolution of power and examined different models that can provide a framework for solving the Kashmir issue. He writes, “History teaches by analogy and not identity. No two cases are alike but Trieste, Northern Ireland, South Tyrol and Aaland provide considerable guidance on both the process of conciliation as well as it’s end product.” The Aaland Islands agreement, signed between Sweden and Finland in 1921, is most relevant for Kashmir. Under the agreement, Finnish sovereignty over the islands was internationally recognised; autonomy for the 25,000 people of Aaland Islands, largely reflecting their Swedish character, was internationally guaranteed; and it included a component of demilitarisation and neutralisation. In Kashmir, the state could have an autonomous character and an assembly of its own. India and Pakistan would exercise joint sovereignty, with each having the right to see that the other is implementing promises on its own side, thus involving a mechanism of mutual guarantees.
In this context, A G Noorani has sought to rework the notion of sovereignty completely with reference to the region. This is indeed a difficult task. How are you going to re-negotiate the notion of sovereignty? How are you going to make the LOC genuinely porous? What is the type of system you are going to put in place? It took 70 years – the agreement was signed in 1921 and implemented in 1992 – to make the Aaland provisions work. In most of these models, the people’s representatives acquired a voice only when the states had embarked on a serious negotiation and the outlines of an accord were discernible. Noorani believes it is unrealistic for Kashmiri leaders to demand a seat on the table now, when the main hurdle is yet to be overcome – the recognition of Kashmir as a state whose future is yet to be determined. This precludes neither the parlance with New Delhi nor India-Pakistan talks. In the end, all three will have to agree on the terms of settlement.
The issue is fundamentally about transfer of power, sharing of power and empowering. In the final analysis, as in South Tyrol and Aaland, international guarantees of autonomy through agreement with Pakistan and the Kashmiris is the only alternative to secession. Repression and suppression have been tried – they have failed. India not only refused to hold the plebiscite it had promised but also wiped out the autonomy it had guaranteed. However, a settlement is achievable with Pakistan as well as Kashmiris; it will not violate the criteria set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; it involves no secession, only creativity, and a sense of justice and fair play. The Aaland solution shows
that this can be accomplished. Therein lies its great merit.
Hameed Haroon – Ten concerns
It is essential to look at concerns and modalities structurally. You cannot talk of dismantling a power structure without replacing it with a concept of sovereignty and operation. I have ten concerns regarding the present process. Firstly, Pakistan should explain to the satisfaction of India why the militants cannot be satisfactorily reined in. Secondly, is it realistic for Pakistan to speak of controlling the militants without a regional solution to the militancy problem, i.e. vis-a-vis Afghanistan? While these regions may be separate, the theme of arms and sacrifice of one’s life is common to those engaged in the struggles. For them, state boundaries do not exist. Any attempt to find a solution to just the Kashmir side without addressing the source of the problem is not going to work.
Thirdly, let us try and understand the precariousness of the moderate Azad Kashmir leadership vis-a-vis the militants and the militants in the intelligence agencies. There has been official and unofficial undermining of the moderate position for so long that it will take a while before people like Sardar Qayoom can shake off the persistent vilification campaigns within Pakistan. The fourth concern revolves around the precariousness of Mirwaiz and the Hurriyat vis-a-vis the militants, and the intelligence agencies of India as well as Pakistan.
The fifth concern is the role of the army on both sides. The earthquake has exposed very clearly, whether it is in Uri or in the Neelam Valley or the Jhelum Valley, who are the bosses of the regions that are affected. It is the army on both sides, and not civil society, which wields real control. This should be addressed. Then, sixthly, India should provide assurance that a cessation of hostilities would not be used to dispose off an onus to structurally alter the operation of the two Kashmirs to India’s advantage. Would such cessation allow India the opportunity to change or repair the situation to its own advantage, as opposed to the advantage of the Kashmiris? This is as serious a concern on the Pakistani side as militancy is on the Indian side. The fear is that the next five years will be utilised to calm the Kashmiri problem for the moment – its more virulent aspects, to draw out the militants and remove them from the scene, and then to impose a new unilateral solution.
The seventh concern is to factor in the difference between the Hizbul-Mujahideen on the one hand and the Lashkar and Jaish on the other. While their concerns with respect to Kashmir ought to be addressed, we should not legitimise their element of decision-making in resolving the Kashmir problem. My eighth point is that it is also important to recognise that the Kashmiri diaspora residing in the West has emerged as a powerful force. They too can be a part of the solution, through access to material resources and sympathies in legislatures outside Southasia, which might help towards seeking a solution.
My ninth concern is regarding the international aspects of the Pakistan-China border interaction, which would be shaken by the Northern Areas going into former territories of Jammu and Kashmir state. How the Pakistan-China physical border would be affected by the unitary aspect of the old Jammu and Kashmir state, will have to be considered. Finally, tenth, everybody has forgotten that the Kashmiris too have a right to the waters of the Indus basin. Do the people through whose territory the rivers pass have a right to their benefits or is there only a downstream right? The right to water is crucial because in the long term, the politics of Kashmir will be about water.