The recent Indo-Pak joint statement sends no hope at all. We are actually back to the square one!
‘Once, two feudal lords were on a warpath to establish their writ and strengthen supremacy. With every passing season their hostilities turned more and more lingering. Incidentally, a poor peasant’s thatched hut separated the established estates of two warring feudal lords. Years and decades passed and their fights were leading nowhere. Once, one of the ‘zamindaars’ noticed occasional friction between the poor peasant and his rival. Exploiting this situation into a face-off, he instigated the poor farmer against his opponent, assuring him all support in taking a firm stand against his enemy. Poor farmer reluctantly shouldered the mission with a hope to win this lopsided battle with the help of his new savior. This protracted battle lasted for years and all of poor farmers energy got drained in fighting a proxy war between two feudal lords. One pleasant summer a much influential feudal lord from adjoining area visited the two warring zamindaars, prevailed upon them and eventually drew them to a situation of truce. The arbitration was concluded with the hypothesis of getting rid of the poor peasant and annexing his small thatched hut as a memorial and making the agreement historic in many ways. The two enemies under pressure and in the better interest of shared regional hegemony resolved their dispute, annexed their supposedly inauspicious neighbor’s petty thatched shelter and whipped him out’.
For last six decades Kashmiris has got squeezed in between two independent warring nations, India and Pakistan with their ego marching ahead of their any reasoning of reconciliation. These two nations along with Kashmir and many other fragments in the subcontinent were carved out of one body, thus the pain and agony of separation has made them more disconcerted and vindictive. The two erstwhile limbs of united India with many vestigial areas after their independence from British autocracy have experienced much of political drama influenced by both internal compulsions and external pressures. British ‘Raj’ while leaving this vast country left behind a huge legacy of geopolitical ambiguity, making this region a festering sore since 1947. Their best bet to pay combined India’s nationalist leaders was uniquely located and strategically positioned state of Jammu and Kashmir; they crafted a situation making this state proverbial ‘pain in the neck’ of independent India and Pakistan.
The internal politics and external policies of both India and Pakistan are influenced by the ‘K’ factor. No political dispensation in India or Pakistan can afford to ignore Kashmir issue and stay in power. Both these countries shape their international alliances and relationships only in the context of Kashmir issue. Kashmir is ‘Shah rag’ for one country and ‘Abhin ang’ for other and Kashmiries are the worst sufferers, both ways. Such is the level of their possessiveness about Kashmir, that these two countries fought many wars in the worst situation of their penury, extreme backwardness and underdevelopment. Their people suffered immensely but they kept fighting to have their false pride; unnecessarily trampling the once peace loving people of Kashmir. For last few decades their operations to browbeat each other are more covert than earlier explicitly open wars; settling their scores more in people’s habitations than in the battle fields.
Since June this year, favorable atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence was visible in the bilateral relationship of India and Pakistan. Thus, people of this region, particularly the people of Kashmir were hopeful of progress on all subjects including the most contagious issue of Kashmir. Everything was moving harmoniously, rapidly and in a most synchronized manner; better sense existed on both sides of the fence. After recent unfortunate Mumbai blasts, under charged atmosphere of fear both the countries firmly stood on the ground of mutual trust and confidence. Ambassadors, emissaries, and secretaries had parleys and began behind the scene home work to create an advantageous environment and an acceptable ground to initiate the talks of mutual trust, lasting friendship, better relations; ultimately leading to resolution of all pending issues.
In an atmosphere of hype, glamorous, young, and articulate foreign minister of Pakistan Madam Hina Rabani Khar arrived on Indian soil. Hina was especially preferred as foreign minister to give an impression of energy and tenderness to exciting Indo-Pak relations and prospective talks in this context. Hina Rabani created a storm in the diplomatic corridors of the subcontinent with her good looks, sharp wit and excellent articulation. She was dominant over her counterpart S.M. Krishna, a seasoned politician and learned academician, much senior to her by age and experience. Indian media as ever, instead of guiding the political leadership of two countries towards reconciliation created a ‘news’ market out of Pakistan foreign ministers good looks and trivia of her branded clothes and other accessories. Instead of discussing plight and sufferings of people of this subcontinent media talked about her frills, shades of her makeup and many other elements of least importance. Thus the whole exercise of reconciliation got over shadowed with glamour and several other unimportant issues. The two leaders this time round met in a more cordial atmosphere , with demonstrative approach and issued a joint statement to a great deal hopeful than the earlier ones but internal pressures and political compulsions at the back of their mind does not allow them to proceed beyond diplomatic niceties. The joint statement issued by the two foreign ministers confined to the rhetoric, affirming the importance of carrying forward the dialogue process with a view to resolving peacefully all outstanding issues; review of status of bilateral relations; underlining the need for sustained effort by both countries to build a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation; release of prisoners and fishermen; meetings of the Expert Groups on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs; Cross-LoC trade and travel facilitation for people of Jammu & Kashmir. But, for people of Kashmir and their vexed issue! The joint statement says, “The Ministers held discussions on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences”.
So, in real terms we are back to square one! They have again failed not only the people of Kashmir but their own people as well. Unless a strong political leadership in both the countries takes a tough decision without any egoistic approach, these summits will end up, only as deceptive photo sessions without any positive step forward; till then no Midas touch of any Hina Rabani or stunning personalities like her will do any miracles. Pinning hope on weak leaderships loaded with internal political compulsions and external maneuvering, for resolution of vexed Kashmir issue and other bilateral matters will be an aspiration in futility.