Import of Elections

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The four-day visit of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca to India has spawned many speculations in the capital. The visit coincides with the second phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir and an American embassy spokesman was quoted as saying that Kashmir will be one of the key issues of discussion, she will hold with the Indian officials.

After September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the United States has been making an utmost effort to strike a balance in its relations with India and Pakistan. But the remarks made US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill a few days ago about infiltration from across the Line of Actual Control has ruffled many a feathers in Pakistan and the controversial remarks evoked a sharp reaction from the Islamabad government. It is not a new phenomenon; the United States government has all along been taking keen interest in Kashmir elections. In 1996, the then US Ambassador to India Mr. Frank G Wisner visited Srinagar number of times to convince and motivate the All Parties Hurriyat Conference to participate in the elections. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference at that juncture had presented the same argument which they present now for their non participation in the polls primarily meant to elect a government to run the day to day affairs.

Elections in the state have been held in the past also but these elections could not change complexion and complexity of the Kashmir problem. There can no denying that the Government of India made an effort to make election-2002 transparent by escorting few New Delhi based diplomats to some polling booths in the state. A fairness certificate about polls in Kashmir by these diplomats might help Indian foreign ministry to put across India’s point of view before the International community but these elections tilting International opinion in favour of India would be expecting too much from it.

If statement made by former Hurriyat Conference chairman, Mirwaiz Farooq is authentic then the United States government is looking at the Kashmir situation beyond viewpoint of its Ambassador at New Delhi. Mirwaiz who prior to his departure from Washington, DC, met some officials at the State Department and the National Security Council has stated that US policy makers understand the viewpoint of the Hurriyat Conference. The statement made by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has many a positive indication about the United State intending to play a pro-active role for the resolution of the Kashmir problem in near future. It would be naéve of New Delhi to expect miracles out of the state assembly elections. The state assembly election would end up either in installation of Omer Abdullah as Chief Minister of the State or relegating the ruling National Conference to opposition benches. The massive boycott by electorate in Srinagar city and major other towns is an indicator to the public mood. New Delhi needs to understand the message. It would be appropriate to initiate a dialogue with all the contending parties to the dispute and settle the issue once and for all. The issue has dogged the relations between India and Pakistan and turned this piece of earthly paradise into a hell for its inhabitants.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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