Dialogue Must Go On
Composite dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad is inevitable, despite odds
By Inayat Jehangir
Srinagar: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart, Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani engaged in a customary handshake on the sidelines of the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, raising hopes in the Valley about resumption of composite dialogue process between New Delhi and Islamabad which would eventually address their issue — the Kashmir dispute.

However, New Delhi’s assertion that there would be no talks before Islamabad acted against the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai in 2008 acted as a dampener on the soaring spirits of Kashmiri leaders who were hoping that the brief handshake between the Prime Ministers of the two countries could lead to a longer and sustained contact.

While all the major players in the theatre of Kashmir are of the view that dialogue between India and Pakistan, with involvement of Kashmiri leadership in some form, was the only way to resolve the long pending dispute between the two countries, hard line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani disputes it saying that unless New Delhi admits disputed nature of the ‘territory under its control’, the talks will remain just that — talks.

Despite the apparent set back to the dialogue process, the moderate faction of Huriryat Conference and mainstream People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is the largest opposition party in the state assembly, are of the opinion that sooner rather than later the two countries will have to resume the dialogue process for reducing the tensions between them which would eventually pave way for resolution of Kashmir issue.

The Kashmiri leaders feel that New Delhi’s attitude of turning a ‘blind eye’ to the democratic expression of the people for their demand for a solution to Kashmir issue can lead to situation having dangerous consequences for the security of the region.
Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who heads the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, feels that if government of India continues to ignore the peaceful demonstrations held across Kashmir, it might force the youth of the Valley to take up arms again.
Recalling the massive rallies held in summer of 2008 during the Amarnath land row controversy, the Hurriyat Chairman asserted that it was the most peaceful and democratic expression of the aspirations of people of Kashmir.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti shares similar views. Both Mehbooba and Mirwaiz feel that India should not use Mumbai terror attacks as an excuse for extending the stagnation of the dialogue process with Pakistan. “Everyone has condemned the Mumbai attacks including leadership in Pakistan and here in Kashmir as well. But India is now hiding behind the Mumbai attacks and using this human tragedy to run away from the resolution of Kashmir issue,” Mirwaiz said.

Mehbooba, on the other hand, feels that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have to show courage like his predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee to resume the composite dialogue with Pakistan in order to make some forward movement in restoration of peace in South Asia, which will not be complete without addressing the Kashmir issue. “Despite Kargil and attack on the Parliament, Vajpayee rose to the occasion to start a dialogue process with Pakistan as there had been a realisation that no headway could be made other than by talking, discussing and deliberating on issues. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have to show the same courage and move beyond,” she adds.
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