But certain questions stare us in the face.
For the last many years several official and unofficial individuals and groups tried to restore negotiation channels and break the ice regarding long-lasting stalemate in Kashmir. In addition to these overt efforts some behind the curtain communication networks—track two options were always live but without any significant development. Much talked about Dileep Padgaonkar led interlocutors, Sitaram Yechury and Yashwant Sinha headed delegations and individual efforts of Ram Jethmalani and many others could do nothing substantial beyond photo-op sessions and media hype. Significantly, Mani Shankar Aiyar is one smaller but credible voice pursuing Kashmir issue with an open mind and much clear perception about complications involved in resolving Kashmir conflict to the best wishes of people of Kashmir, the best interest of Indian nation and satisfaction of neighbouring stakeholders. There seems not an iota of doubt in the mind of intellectually rich Aiyar about the existence of Kashmir conflict as a festering sore within the body and soul of not only India and Pakistan but the whole subcontinent. A flashpoint that can devour the whole region with slightest military provocation by any of the stakeholders. No one can deny the integrity of other delegations of reconciliation but some people follow an issue with a conviction for its resolution even if it has to be out of box solution, while others just hunt for a result without looking deep into the genesis of the issue in right perspective. There are several people who have been trying hard to fix Kashmir problem but Mani Shankar stands tall out of them.
This was what Mani Shankar thinks of Kashmir as a political, geographical and a humanitarian issue. Now the question is what Mani Shankar and people of his thinking intend to do and can do on Kashmir! The first and foremost aspect of negotiating and, drawing a roadmap and resolving a long pending matter like Kashmir is authority and acceptability of the delegates. Mani Shankar has his own political ideology but within his own political flock he would always put his voice on Kashmir matters very loud and clear. His political adversaries outside his party too would value his views on Kashmir even if they don’t agree with him. So, by all standards, Mani Shankar, his interpretation, and articulation of Kashmir conflict vis-à-vis Indian interests and peace in the region is respected by all. However, for long Aiyar has been following Kashmir issue of his own with several other like-minded people without any formal patronage and nod from the political and governmental authorities. Even during the Congress rule, no legitimacy was given to his voice and efforts regarding Kashmir. Under these circumstances, the present hot pursuit of his position on Kashmir in the middle of heightened unrest seems something weirdly thought-out political voyage or maybe is a serious adventurism. His current visit otherwise did not create many ripples in the political circles of Kashmir, but then again fresh statements from none other than home minister of India about unconditional talks with all stakeholders and a permanent solution of Kashmir is bound to give some significance to Aiyar visit.
The present scenario of tough talk by the security grid and extreme hardline by the ideological leadership of political party in power and a concurrently soft approach by certain reliable sections of the government unfolds a typical Kashmiri situation ‘hamiem damiem’( blow hot blow cold)— a desire and a hawkish eye for making some positive move forward without losing any popular mandate. Under these circumstances, the role of socio-political point man like Aiyar becomes more important. And people like him with some acceptability within Kashmiris can be rightly and efficiently used to access the mood and mind of Kashmiri people and their leadership; break the impasse and provide a valued feedback to people in authority to decide on Kashmir matters reasonably. Anyways, whatever the intentions of BJP led government at center, they should come out of over-exploited hyper-nationalism cocoon and empower and strengthen the efforts of Mani Shankar Aiyar and people like him and help intellectuals and civil society in other parts of the country to set a cord with all stakeholders in Kashmir and create an atmosphere of trust. Ultimately, making better sense to prevail and carve out an honourable and acceptable solution that will usher a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. And the negotiators will be remembered for times to come.