WEB DESK: When Narendra Modi arrived in Srinagar last week he was welcomed by black flags, shuttered down bazaars and violent street demonstrations, resulting in death of at least one protester.
During his previous visit, on August 12, he received equally embarrassing welcome, but had the cheek to lay the blame on ‘proxies from across the border’. What proxies these must be that ever since forced annexation of Muslim-majority Kashmir by India some 67 years ago they won’t let an Indian prime minister get an open-armed welcome at Srinagar airport. And how many are they that more than three quarters of a million armed to the teeth and licensed with draconian powers Indian troops cannot secure peaceful welcome of their prime minister.
This happens because they are not the outsiders’ proxies; they are the sons and daughters of Kashmir and they won’t welcome the oppressor power’s prime minister, much less Narendra Modi – even when the Vichy government of Mufti Sayeed is out at the apron with garlands. Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of the partition, and declared as a dispute by the United Nations Security Council at the request of New Delhi.
Its future is to be decided by none else but the people of Kashmir through a plebiscite. And until then it is a hanging fire between India and Pakistan, ever on the edge to explode as it had a number of times, but now perhaps with far more lethality. It’s not that peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute was never tried at; there had been many rounds of bilateral and multilateral talks between Pakistan and India.
At times, New Delhi appeared quite amenable to walk the talks, though at times it was evasive. The offer for a Composite Dialogue to discuss multiple issues, including Kashmir had come from New Delhi, and so was the Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 1999 historic yatra to Lahore and his presence at Minar-i-Pakistan to lend Indian authentication to the two-nation sub-continental truth and LK Advani’s visit to Quaid’s mazar to pay homage to the founder of Pakistan.
One such constructive engagements took place when President General Pervez Musharraf was in power, and he ‘nearly’ succeeded in clinching Indian agreement to a four-point ‘framework’ to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Said to be a ‘historic opportunity to resolve long-standing disputes’ between India and Pakistan the engagement is narrated in some detail in the then foreign minister Khurshid Mahmoud Kasuri’s ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’, which was also launched at Karachi on Monday.
“Never have all disputes been so close to resolution than in our time,” says Pervez Musharraf. One may have some beef with the end-products of the ‘framework’, but the fact cannot be denied that this had become possible only because the two sides were talking to each other. Sharing ex-president’s take internationally-recognised peacenik and India’s former minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, highlights the imperative of talks by pointing out that while Americans were bombing North Vietnam mercilessly in 1972 the representatives from the two sides continued negotiations in Paris, which led to an agreement. “If we talk we may come to a conclusion.
But if we don’t talk, I am certain that we may never reach a conclusion,” says Aiyar. It is understandable that Prime Minister Modi took a hard line position on talks with Pakistan essentially to appease his Hindutva-based vote bank. But that can hardly help him pull out some of the troops from Occupied Kashmir and earn a bit less hostile welcome at Srinagar. His Pakistani counterpart had acted differently.
Nawaz Sharif had agreed to a joint statement sans any mention of Kashmir at Ufa, Russia, and thus walked an extra mile to drive home the imperative of talks with India. Ample evidence is on record suggesting that in inter-state relationships muscular foreign policy is a poor option. Narendra Modi may be a net gainer for such posturing, but India is not. “Talks will start eventually regardless of the fact it is Congress or BJP in power,” says General Musharraf.