Wither India-Pakistan relations

During the last two weeks, New Delhi has taken a number of measures to further lessen the level of its relations with Islamabad. Though the current status of Pakistan-India relation remains unprecedented, the last lowest downturn in relation was witnessed during the troubled times of Dhaka fall. The Indian power brokers are working on different fronts to deal Islamabad once for all. In the current phase, New Delhi has put increased pressure on Islamabad by not only ‘routinely’ expelling its embassy officials but also by registering a case against its acting high commissioner Jalil Abbas Jilani under notorious act, Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

At the same time, the Indian government has already tightened the circle around the Hurriyat Conference. Most recently, the APHC’s New Delhi office has been closed down while its bureau chief jailed. Besides the government has deprived Mirwaiz Umer Farooq from his right to move around by canceling his passport. If that was not enough, the Vajpayee regime has shown greater adamancy in not releasing old and bed-ridden top Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani. The 74-year-plus veteran leader is suspected cancer kidney. The ‘merciful’ Indian establishment, however, succumbed to the massive diplomatic and political pressure and has ordered the release on parole of former Hurriyat Conference Chairman Geelani for the time he would remain hospitalised. This ‘favour’ for the Kashmir leader comes after about nine months of detention. The Indian Deputy Prime Minister, however, made it clear that they would not tolerate those raising Pakistani views in Jammu and Kashmir.

Simultaneously, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his fired-brand deputy LK Advani have consistently been harping against Pakistan even after withdrawing forces form the Pakistan border. For instance during his recent visits to Singapore, Qatar and France, Advani made it a point to criticise Pakistan while his main agenda was to isolate Pakistan in the global political arena and depict the Kashmir struggle as a terrorist movement.

Eminent Indian writer Praful Bidwai very correctly observed in the current issue of Frontline: “The reality of terrorism as a growing phenomenon in India (although it can be exaggerated) has influenced some otherwise liberal-minded people to view the BJP’s ‘anti-terrorist’ platform with a degree of sympathy. The BJP has decided to use this perception to its advantage. Thus, party president M.Venkaiah Naidu recently summed up the reasons for the BJP’s success in Gujarat: “As the election process peaked, national perceptions crystallized on the central issues of terrorism and extremism… Our adversaries were rightly recognised as willing to compromise on national interests… . The people had been watching the country being bled by terrorists… . The Gujarat elections offered an opportunity to effectively articulate their concerns on these larger issues… .”

With this statement one can easily understand the anatomy of India’s Pakistan policy and its forthcoming implications. Reasons of the Indian inflexible attitude are very simple. Successive development on the International political scene has gone in the Indian favour, especially, the developments following the 9/11 events. They had drastic implications on the Kashmir struggle and its relations with Pakistani establishment. Although the Kashmir conflict made more headlines in the international media, plus references to Kashmir were made by various world leaders after 9/11 events. However, by and large media as well as the world leaders projected the Kashmir in wrong and negative perspective.

World community is already against Muslims viewing Kashmir struggle an offshoot of global Muslim terrorism. The American and British officials and media have not only been opposed to the armed struggle but have also been helping India diplomatically besides offering technological help to deal the turmoil. For instance, the United States Ambassador to India Robert D Blackwill recently visited Srinagar and condemned the ‘terrorist violence’ only to avoid a meeting with the Hurriyat. At the same time, the British ambassador to India held a meeting with the Hurriyat but advised them to join the political main stream. Most recently, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko supported the Indian point of view just a few days ahead of Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Moscow. The Russian president himself has expressed similar views in his recent visit to Delhi.

With these developments at the international front going to their advantage, the Indian leaders are confident to control the Kashmir struggle. The Indian decision-makers believe that the world community, especially Washington, not only understands their concerns but also pursues Pakistan to quit its support for Kashmiris.

The international as well as domestic indicators give Vajpayee administration a reason to “continue its current polices regarding Pakistan and Kashmir struggle”. The worst form of Indian oppressive measures is gradual cut in the political space available for the APHC and other pro-freedom political and human rights groups which is likely to vanish soon. Moreover, POTA and other black laws will be used against the remaining Hurriyat leaders. For a beginning, Delhi police has already registered a case of money laundering against Abudl Ghani Bhut, no one but the Hurriyat Conference chairman.

To the utter dismay of the Kashmiri people, Mufti Sayeed’s entrance to the power corridor has caused more anxiety and frustration against the hopes they had attached with his political resolve. Many observers hoped that Mufi would bring some fresh cure to the wounded Valley. It took him less than a hundred days to bring more despair and disappointment to the poor people. Release of prisoners, repeal of the POTA and disbanding of task forces as well as the special operations groups have not materialized and there is little hope for the same in future. Moreover, he has also completely failed to prevail upon the BJP’s hawks in his desire to initiate unconditional talks with the Kashmiri resistance leadership. Interestingly though, Advani had expressed willingness to start talks with all sections of society including ‘separatists’ during his recent visit to Jammu but he refused the same to political umbrella of Kashmiris i.e. APHC when he returned to New Delhi. It goes without saying that the Kashmir independence struggle is passing through a very critical juncture, particularly bad times persist for the political leaders of the state. Like his close ally, America, India is also failing to understand that reduction of space and advantage to political leadership gives a natural reason to militants and extremists which are said to be their real targets. To the disappointment of many Pakistanis as well as Kashmiris, the Islamabad’s ruling elite is also running out of innovative ideas to frustrate Indian aggressive designs. Tit-for-tat approach is no doubt a natural reaction but it is in the interest of Pakistan’s to envisage a fresh approach which should not only challenge the India policy designs but also forward the country’s own national interest positively as well as independently.

The writer is a specialist on dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir conflict and India-Pakistan relations. He has recently visited Indian-Held Jammu and Kashmir.