The rhetoric of bilateral talks

By K.N. Pandita

We understand the concerns of the Chief Minister about soured relations between India and Pakistan. He is genuinely worried by innocent killings that take place either as a result of militancy or firing and shelling across the LoC of International Border.

He has been advocating for continuance of bilateral talks believing that differences could be sorted out through peaceful talks. As a matter of principle it is what everybody will say.

But there is much beyond wishful thinking. Foremost is that you need to understand your adversary, his fundamental approach to the issue and the philosophy to which he adheres and which becomes his motivation.  

Pakistan wants Kashmir. She invaded Kashmir in 1947, 1961, 1999 and now the proxy war begun in 1990 which still continues. She did not succeed.

What are we to talk to her? We will ask her (a) stop playing religious card in Kashmir (b) close down your terrorist training camps on your soil and stop sending terrorists to our side (c) stop raising Kashmir issue on international platforms (d) stop inciting religious sentiments of Kashmiris and their anti-India campaigns.

On which of these issues does the Chief Minister think Pakistan will relent and accommodate us? Have we not been saying these things time and again for last six decades and has it ever had any positive response from Pakistan

Now on Pakistan side, they will ask us (a) withdraw all Indian troops from J&K. (b) dismiss the elected government in J&K as it is illegal (c) put J&K under the administration of UN (d) hold plebiscite in Kashmir on two option of either India or Pakistan.

Which of these options Omar Abdullah is prepared to concede so that talks become fruitful?
Therefore when he speaks of continuing talks with Pakistan, he must also explain which of the conditions he is prepared to reconcile with. If he does not say it in public, he can talk to the Union government in Delhi and hammer out a formula on the basis of which talks will continue.

Now he says that New Delhi should not have called of foreign secretary level meeting and hopes that the process will be resumed. Again as a matter of principle we agree that there is no alternative to talks because use of force is not the way.

Well, the Pakistani side invited the separatists and secessionists for a meeting week ahead of the actual meeting between the two foreign secretaries. The Hurriyatis, separatists and secessionists are reported to have told Pakistani side that (a) Indian army should vacate Kashmir (b) Government of Omar Abdullah should be dismissed because the elections are illegal (c) J&K be placed under either the UN or joint supervision of India and Pakistan for holding plebiscite (d) third option meaning “aazadi” or independent Kashmir should be accepted.

Now which of these conditions is acceptable to Omar Abdullah or Pakistan or India? He has to explain and clarify. Evidently he will not accept any of these conditions. Then what remains there to be talked about?

Not only Omar Abdullah but each member of his party and each person in Kashmir knows that neither India, nor Pakistan nor the Chief Minister of J&K or PoK is going to relent on their respective stands that has been stated above. Is there any meaning in demanding India to resume talks?

Observers say that the Chief Minister is making repeated calls for resumption of talks only to mollify separatists and secessionists. What message does he want to send across? Does he think that separatists and secessionists will take him on his word and trust him to be ready for a negotiated settlement?

No, he is disillusioned. Separatists say that it is his grandfather and father who engineered the accession of the State to India. As such they consider him and the Sheikh dynasty as the biggest enemy of Kashmiris.

If by repeatedly asking for continuance of talks he wants to convey a message to India that J&K will remain only acceded to India and not integrated into India, then he is again in a state of self-delusion. India is holding fast to the decision of the people of the State, directly as well as through their elected representatives that it has acceded to the Indian Union.

The question of integration or non-integration is irrelevant. J&K receives its due share in the developmental plans of the country, be it the five year plans or annual plans (previously routed through the Planning Commission). As long as J&K continues to be the beneficiary of planning and financial support and as long as it follows Indian political arrangement (democracy and secularism) it remains integrated into the Indian Union.

The State government rushes to New Delhi every week to ask for enhancement of allocations for one or the other project, or for waiver of one or the other debt, or modification and central assistance for one or the other scheme, which means that the deficit state is dependent on financial support from the Centre, be it energy, food supplies, services, security or any other area, the State remains integrated into the Indian Union. We are talking of practicalities and not theories.

The Chief Minister knows that Pakistan’s agenda is to grab Kashmir. Aazadi is a façade of the separatists behind which they opt for Pakistan. What purpose do his soft statements serve? He needs to do some introspection. We believe that he should bluntly tell Pakistan to (a) forget grabbing Kashmir either through force or arms or through other stratagem (b) close down terrorist camps on her soil and stop luring Kashmiri youth to those camps (c) stop promoting infiltration of armed terrorists into our side of line, and (d) rein in anti-India terrorist organizations in Pakistan like LeT and JM and others.

This would be positive contribution of the Chief Minister in building an atmosphere of peace and tranquility so that the two countries begin talks about trade, commerce, transfer of technology, energy, and interaction in so many other areas. That is the path which will lead to peace, development and stability in the region.

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