Vantage point

Saturday, November 02, 2002


This whole issue of "TALKS" with reference to India, Pakistan and Hurriyat is so ridiculous, it has ceased to be funny now. It has been happening for almost a decade now and it seems as if its all well orchestrated so that all three parties benefit from keeping the issue burning.

First Pakistanis said we won't talk unless Kashmir is the main issue. Then they said they will talk but the Kashmir issue is the key to peace. Then Nawaz Sharif says Kashmir should not keep other issues hostage and Vajpayee ambles over to Lahore, where they decide to talk about business forst and Kashmir later. Then Mush gets rid of Nawaz and the stances harden. Then again Mush says he is willing to talk unconditionally. Sometimes he says that there is no terrorism in Kashmir. Then he says whatever is happening is a freedom stuggle managed totally internally. Then he says that he can't seal the whole Line of Control since it is porous. Then he says one should think about the core causes of terrorism. Similarly, first the Pakistanis said there are no outsiders in Kargil, but now, 3 years down the line, everyone is saying that Nawaz was bumped off because he made the Pakistani army withdraw from Kargil and something similar will happen to Musharraf if he turns off the terror tap. The Pakistani stand is full of ambiguity and contradictions.

India says it will talk to everyone but peace is necessary. Then Gujral meets Nawaz somewhere and chats him up. Vajpayee says we have to think of the issue in the framework of humanity, not just Indian constitution. Then he says Pak-occupied-Kashmir is legally ours and we should take it back (utterly impractical imho). Then he keeps saying that terrorists will be dealt with severely. There is word that talks are possible, but talks will be held with elected representatives. At the same time, government reps are sent to talk with Shabbir Shah and the Hurriyat. There are the usual bimonthly pronouncements of "India's patience has a limit" which prove exactly the opposite of what is stated. Then Jaswant says we won't talk to Pakistan unless cross border terrorism ends. This is funnily followed by a unilateral ceasefire against terrorists in Kashmir for 6 months, during which time the terror mongers keep stockpiling weapons and other destructive stuff. Jassu and Vajpayee keep repeating that "No talks until bloodshed ends", and suddenly one day, when Mush unconstitutionally elevates himself to the rank of President, India rushes to be the first country to officially recognise him as that. The Vajpayee personally calls him to "congratulate" him for becoming President, as if it was some tough contest Mush won. Then without any discernible decrease in terrorism, suddenly India says it is willing to talk to pakistan. Pakistan also makes conciliatory noises and Mush and his Begum come to get themselves photographed in front of the Taj Mahal (the Taj is polished cos Mush is-a-comin') and visit an old house in Delhi ( 2 children are thrown out of their homes so that an approach road could be built for the 'Villain of Kargil'). Then the talks were deadlocked because of some semantics where both sides realise they don't want to compromise at all. India blames Paki hawks, Pakis blame Indian hawks. After this the 6 month breathing period given to terrorists takes effect and attacks start with full earnest, assembly, then Indian aprliament, then kaluchak. As of now the stance is again "No talks until terror ends", but knowing the rank novices that determine the BJP foreign policy, it could all change in a week. The Indian stand is full of ambiguity and contradictions.

Then there are the buffoons from Hurriyat and Shabbir Shah who were terrorists at one time, but when they found out that the Indian army was too strong for them, outsourced the terror business to Pakistan, and started yakking. Their position keeps wavering too. One day they will say "We won't talk unless all three parties sit together". Then they will make overtures to the government about talks, but now the government is in a denial mode. Then when the government send someone like K C Pant, these people act haughty. The Hurriyat suddenly wants permission to go to pakistan to "talk" with people there. Then again the three-party thing comes in. All the while, someone like the Mirwaiz will say "We want independance, neither India nor Pakistan", while Gillani will say "Yes, I am pro-Pakistani. If you can be pro-India, why can't I be pro-Pakistani?", all the while forgetting that the bodyguards who protect his life are paid for by the Indian state. The Hurriyat itself is undecided whether it wants to join Pakistan or get 'azaadi'. When Abdul Ghani Lone was killed, his son Sajjad came on all channels of Indian TV and shouted "I am saying this to you people, Pakistan and ISI have killed my father", but next day he just kept saying "If Farooq had provided my father with more security, the killers wouldn't have gotten to him, so indirectly Farooq and hence India are responsible for the murder", cleverly sidestepping the issue of his statements that killers were Pakistani. Hurriyat talks to India's "Kashmir Committee" and agrees not to oppose the elections very vociferously. Then some elements from Hurriyat break away to contest elections. All the while, Hurriyat keeps saying "These are sham elections, and it's bogus voting" (In fact something funny, Pakistani newspaper 'The Frontier Post' reported that Ballot Boxes were stuffed with sheets stamped with NC candidate names, blissfully unaware of the fact that electronic voting machines were used at all centres, similarly PTV reported that in "Lolab", the army forced people to come out and vote, whereas, the elections in Lolab had been 'countermanded' a week before. The Pakistani media needs to be explained the meaning of EVM and ' to countermand').
However, as soon as the election results were announced and NC lost, the Hurriyat said "This shows that the people of Kashmir have voted against the NC and so against India". Now that is so funny. Because if you were saying that the elections were sham then how can you say that the results reflect anything? And while NC lost, the winner was the Indian National Congress which is even more anti-autonomy and pro-India in its stance than the NC. Now the Hurriyat says it is unwilling to talk with the government, while it requests Mush to give greater power to the Pakistani Kashmir committee. The Hurriyat stand is full of ambiguity and contradictions.

All three parties are just playing passing-the-parcel with the blame game in Kashmir. It is in the interests of everyone to keep the issue unresolved. And who are the ultimate losers in the whole issue?

- The Indian people who suffer the cost of maintaining a huge force in J&K and the brunt of terrorist attacks
- The Pakistani people who suffer the cost of keeping the terror tap flowing with all the Kalashnikovs and Uzis
- The Kashmiri people whose lives are being ruined.

It's a pity that such a small region is holding 1.2 billion people of India and Pakistan hostage and keeping them from the prosperity they both have the potential to usher in.