Monday, August 26, 2013

Anyone listening? - Kashmir Times

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's forceful plea to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for saving the India-Pakistan bilateral peace process from further deterioration and also for playing a pro-active role in restoring the channels of communication is quite in line with the known aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the ground reality seems to be at odds with Mufti's understandable quest for peace in the larger interests of his state. The situation along the Line of Control (LoC) is spiralling out of control with disturbing escalation of ceasefire violations. Both sides are blaming each other. Meanwhile the casualties are also going up and, generally, the border population is, once again, face to face with uncertainty after having tasted relative calm and peace for over a decade.

The worst part of this situation is that India at the moment seems in no mood to listen; much less act upon the sane advice to retrace. Undoubtedly, this situation has come about as a result of recent series of provocative acts from the other side. But this has not happened for the first time. Pakistani civilian government's inability to check so-called rogue elements within its establishment as also the role of uncontrolled non-state actors are old story. Prime minister Nawaz Sharif's pro-India statements, during and after the recent elections in Pakistan, have not endeared him to these elements whose philosophy is incorrigibly pivoted upon hatred towards this country. As it is, the Pakistan prime minister appears to be sincere in his overtures towards India and, therefore, his initiative, against known domestic odds, deserves to be duly reciprocated.

It is this point which Mufti rightly stressed at his press conference in Srinagar on Sunday. His contention that J&K and its people are directly hit—and hit hard—by the animosity between the two countries is unquestionable. Therefore, every right thinking person would support de-escalation and hope for early resumption of the bilateral process. Moreover, there appear to be no insurmountable obstacles in the way of restoring calm along the LoC now that India has had its share of offensive retaliation to send the message across, as it were.

Relationship between India and Pakistan is a highly complex and complicated web of historical contradictions. It is also a multi-dimensional phenomenon. More importantly, its internal dimensions are further complicated by the pulls and pressures of the fragmented domestic politics of the two countries. It is this particular exigency which is exerting itself so viciously. Unlike in the past, 'India' and 'Kashmir' figured only marginally in the recent Pakistani elections culminating in Nawaz Sharif's convincing victory even as he stuck to a positive line on the Indo-Pak relationship. He has been consistently following this course after the elections and, despite tension on the LoC and pressure from within, he has stood his ground. That should dispel apprehensions about his commitment to his avowed objective.

The PDP patron is justified in urging Dr Singh to reciprocate and engage purposefully with his Pakistani counterpart when they meet in New York next month. Virtually, it is a distress call for salvaging the bilateral peace process whose prospects, otherwise, seem doomed. Electoral compulsions of the UPA2 government in New Delhi are quite understandable, especially with the BJP and the Sangh Parivar out to queer the pitch. Stakes on either side are undoubtedly pretty high. Even so, sacrificing larger interests of the country, including the imperatives of normalising relationship with Pakistan, can be overlooked or sacrificed at too heavy a cost. It is to avoid such an exigency that Dr Singh and Nawaz Sharif need to engage fruitfully in New York.

Looking from here, it appears that the scenario is vitiated with the rising profile of Narendra Modi as a contender (or pretender) in the contest. His anti-minority domestic image gels with the Parivar's overall hostile external image vis-a-vis Pakistan. High stakes involved in playing this game have never bothered them. Congress leadership is expected to do better than indulging in one-upmanship over such a combustible issue. Demarcation of forces in the arena needs to be more clear and more distinct than is the case at present. Mufti's plea, if heeded by those to whom it was addressed, would have been a timely intervention.

News Updated at : Monday, August 26, 2013


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