Srinagar Peace Talks
By Sumit Chakravarty, Editor: `Mainstream
Jammu : Recently, on August 6, 2000, The Sunday Times of India carried a highly revealing piece by the well-known Pakistani columnist for The Dawn, Ayaz Amir, entitled "India has lost thehigh ground." The burden of the argument advanced in the piece wasthat the Government of India's talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen was a
clear admission of the indigenous character of the Kashmiri resistance. As he observed: the good in the Hizb's offer, .. from Pakistan's point of view, is immediately apparent. In one stroke,the focus has shifted from "cross-border terrorism", the stickwith which India was beating Pakistan since Kargil, to the internal situation in Kashmir. Negotiating with the Hizb is a tacit admission of the indigenous character of the Kashmiri resistance. By the same token, it is an acknowledgement that the Hizb is not an ISI surrogate, the brush with which India has tried to tar every Kashmiri resistance outfit post-Kargil. If this were not so, would be Indian government be putting its prestige on the line by negotiating indirectly with the ISI?
Without holding any brief for the Government of India one has to, as a
dispassionate observer, set the record straight by replying to some of the points made in
the aforementioned observation. First, it is no one's case that the Kashmiri movement
against the so-called "occupation" of the Valley lacks any indigenous
This has offered adequate testimony to not just Pakistani influence but in effect active involvement on the part of Islamabad in the militants' operations against the Indian "occupation"forces. (A group of senior journalists, including this writer, was witness to the "contrast" in the so-called Azad Kashmir early last monthwhen the first briefing during the conducted tour in Muzaffarabad on July 3, 2000 was by the Pakistani military officers, including prominent ISI personnel, who went into the details of the "genesis" of the Kashmir problem. This in itself was ample proof of the correctness of India's characterisation of the region as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK, notwithstanding the Pakistanis' tall claim of the remarkable "autonomy" enjoyed by the Azad Kashmir populace)
The Pakistani-or rather, the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI's--role in the events in J&K has been established beyond question by the events last week when over a hundred innocents were indiscriminately gunned down in J&K by Pakistan-backed militants mainly belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba, and the victims included a large number of Amarnath pilgrims at Pahalgam. Instead of unequivocally denouncing the series of terrorist acts claiming so many lives the Pakistani authorities resorted to their standard diversionary tactics: trying to hold the Indian security forces responsible for the crime as if these forces targeted their own people to lay the blame on Pakistan! (Noteworthy is the fact that the same kind of propaganda was let loose by Pakistan after the Chattisinghpora incident in which a large number of Sikhs were killed during Bill Clinton's India visit).
The incidents early this month in J&K were obviously intended by the Pak-Afghan or pro-Pak elements in the militant camp, avowedly opposed to the Hizbul's three-month unilateral ceasefire announced on July 24, to derail the peace process in the Valley. This peace process was actually set in motion by (a) the Hizbul's ceasefire declaration;(b) the Indian Army's response to the move by declaring a halt to all actions against the Hizbul Militants; and (c) the Government of India's invitation to the Hizbul representatives forunconditional talks. Despite the grave provocation of the other Pak-backed militants, primarily the Lashkar-e-Toiba dominated by foreign mercenaries, in the shape of a series of terrorist acts killing over a hundred persons on August 1 and 2, the Union Cabinet took the considered view (through its bold decision) of going ahead with the proposed talks with the Hizbul and the first round took place in Srinagar on August 3 when the Hizbul team had a meeting with a delegation of the Union Home Ministry headed by Home Secretary Kamal Pandey to discuss the modalities of the ceasefire. The very holding of the talks, in such a grim setting following the large scale mayhem and massacre in the State, was indeed a positive development generating hopes of peace eventually descending on the stife-torn Valley (although one was not in the least oblivious of the uncertainties dogging the foreseeable future on account of the numerous minefields that had to be negotiated at every corner of the path ahead).
What has intrigued objective analysts is the undue and unseemly haste with which Islamabad exerted pressure on India through theHizbul's supreme commander based in the Pakistani capital, Syed Salahuddin, to reserve its own berth at the Srinagar talks. In fact the talks had just begun and the two sides were engaged in merely discussing the modalities to ceasefire. At this point of time what was the urgency of Pakistan coming in (unless its whole purpose was to act as the spoiler and torpedo the entire exercise)? At a later stage when the two sides were to go down to the brasstacks and discuss the problem in its entirety could there have been a logic in favour ofPakistan's participation. But it was in a great hurry to enter the Srinagar deliberations as the third party. There could be only one reason behind this behaviour on the part of Pakistan: it was fearful to peace gaining the upper hand in the Valley as a result of the ongoing Hizbul-GOI negotiations and thus acted through its mouthpiece Salahuddin to prevent that from happening. This fully exposes Islamabad's real motive in Kashmir; to foil any possibility to a return to peace. Needless to underline, this runs counter to the interests of the people in the regions as also Pakistan's own citizens.
All this points to the untenability of Ayaz Amir's argument.True, the Hizbul Mujahideen is by and large an indigenous movement tof the Kashmiris--rather, there is a substantive indigenous content in the ranks of the HM. Yet its supreme leader Syed Salahuddin, who is in Islamabad, has allowed himself to be manipulated and used as the mouthpiece of the Pakistani authorities to call off the ceasefire.
This is a vivid illustration of the hold Pakistan has been able to exercise by various means over militancy in Kashmir. And this was all the more manifest in the terrorist acts of August 1 and 2 in J&K bringing out in sharp relief the Pakistani hand behind the "operations" which resulted in the loss of over a hundred innocent lives. Hence the term "cross-border terrorism"imagination but a hard reality in no way different from the bitter truth of the indigenous nature of the militancy in J&K which, however, has lately been substantively transformed by the foreign elements inducted into the Valley for the sake of jihad Pakistan's Chief Executive never tires harping on (without realising how much he is, by such a pronouncement, interfering in the internal affairs of a neighbouring country).
It is no one's--least of all this writer's--business tooverlook the
Indian high-handedness (that definitely includes not just excesses but also atrocities by
our security forces) in Kashmir. But any attempt to glors over the nefarious Pakistani
designs in the Valley would doubtless expose oneself to the charge of being partisan and
biased. Likewise to remain blind to the perfidious role played by Islamabad in frustrating
the peace talks in Srinagar is to invite the same charge, the hall-mark of subjectivism
which regrettably the liberal intelligentsia in Pakistan have yet to overcome.
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