A G Noorani
Could the directors-general of military operations of India and Pakistan have agreed “to fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003” in Kashmir in a short phone conversation on May 29, unless it had already been agreed at the highest political level?
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has been urging a reluctant Centre to order a ceasefire in Kashmir, at least during Ramzan, after the “suspension of operations” against the insurgents in the Valley.
On May 9, an all-party meeting in Srinagar urged the Centre to consider a ceasefire during Ramzan and the Amarnath Yatra.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw no harm in acceding to her wishes. He values the BJP’s coalition with Mufti’s PDP in Kashmir. For the first time since Maharaja Hari Singh got the order of the boot from Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the Dogras acquired a political presence in the Valley; something for which its people are unlikely to forgive the PDP. It is little noticed that after India’s much-touted “surgical strike” across the Line of Control, the ceasefire all but ended.
Modi faced a total boycott when he went to Srinagar on May 19; as had all his predecessors since the outbreak of insurgency in 1989.
But minister of home affairs Rajnath Singh and minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj have both made clear that political dialogue must remain a distant dream. On May 26, Singh spelt out terms for a dialogue that he knew full well would not be acceptable to Pakistan or to the leaders of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. He said: “If Hurriyat is ready to talk, we have no problem, we are ready to talk to anyone. Even if Pakistan comes for a dialogue, we are ready for it,” but adding, that militancy, which he claimed Pakistan was promoting, had to end first.
Thus both his interlocutors have first to “beg” for talks. What has he to offer to them? On May 28, Swaraj said, “Why does Pakistan want to talk to India? Pakistan has been isolated in the international community… This is a success of Indian foreign policy. …We are ready for talks but there is a caveat. …Terror and talks cannot go together.”
India has always drawn a distinction between talks and negotiations. On August 14, 1962, Nehru told the Lok Sabha, “There is a world of a difference between negotiations and talks.” He was ready to talk; most reluctant to negotiate.
There is another problem. If the Kashmir dispute cannot be settled between India and Pakistan over the heads of Kashmiris, still less can it be settled between Kashmir and India by bypassing Pakistan, which is not only a party to the Kashmir dispute but a party within Kashmir. It resides in the hearts and minds of most Kashmiris. They view Pakistan differently from India. On November 30, 2007, then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad praised Pervez Musharraf to the skies as a unique conciliator. Days earlier, Mehbooba Mufti said on a local TV channel, “Naturally we are concerned. We have a sentimental and geographical affinity with Pakistan.”