With the appointment of the deputy chairman planning commission, K.C.Pant as the negotiator for holding talks with a broad spectrum of Kashmiris the government of India, on the face of it, has pushed forward the peace initiative taken by prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On Monday Pant announced that he had formally invited the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and others for talks. The list of the parties invited by him includes mainly those that have aligned themselves with the stand taken by the government of India. The main political alliance demanding right to self-determination for the people of the state has publicly expressed its unhappiness about Pant sending invitations to every Tom, Dick and Harry of Kashmir politics. The conglomerate on Monday dismissed government’s announcement that it had begun a political dialogue as nothing more than an eyewash. Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, chairman of the APHC accused Pant of having converted the Jammu and Kashmir dispute into a “fish market”.
There can be no denying the fact that the government of India of late has realized that the perpetuation of the 53 year old dispute was not in the ultimate interest of the Indian nation. There can also be no denying the hard realities that there has been considerable pressure on government of India from International community for resolving of the dispute amicably. The question remains whether talks with whom India describes as people with representative character will help it in averting the international pressure. It may temporarily help it in building up an impression that it was serious about removing the source of tension in the South Asian region. But, sending a mere message will not be sufficient, world has literally shrunk to a tiny village and it would be very difficult for the foreign office to make global community to believe about India’s seriousness in finding a solution to the problem lingering for more than half a century now.
Even if New Delhi is serious in its endeavor for bringing lasting peace to the region the contradictory signals emanating from New Delhi will make it difficult for the diplomatic corp to convince the world. It seems that the variability of perception between the prime minister’s office and home ministry persists even after New Delhi having announced its negotiator for holding talks. Much before initiating a formal dialogue there is need for removing the confusion within the government of India.
It would be a misnomer to call meeting crowds identified by the government of India or by K.C.Pant a dialogue. It seems that the Pant’s brief is to make an assessment of the situation. But he needs to make the agenda for talks with Kashmiri leaders transparent. There is also need for identifying the principle parties for holding a dialogue. True the appointment of K.C.Pant as a negotiator is a step forward but without identifying the parties who could form the core of the process, the exercise to be undertaken by Pant would be another whistle in the darkness.
The gods plant reason in mankind, of all good gifts the highest. (Sophocles)
Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.