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Any Indo-Pak dialogue "incomplete" without involving people of Jammu & Kashmir

By Syed Mujtaba*
Kashmir has been a zone of chaos for long. It is one of the highest militarised zones in the world. Kashmir is also a bone of contention between two nuclear-powered countries. Indeed, the independence of India and Pakistan gave the birth to conflicts, chaos, and hatred here. This is the state of affairs ever since two independent dominions of Pakistan and India were born on August 14 and 15, 1947, respectively.
Princely states were a peculiar issue. They were technically free to accede to either dominion or to remain independent. The idea of independence, according to Lord Mountbatten, the first and last British governor-general of free India, was merely a “theoretical option”; he therefore urged them to merge either with India or Pakistan.
Except Junagarh, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), all others chose their dominions. Junagarh and Hyderabad were annexed in the Indian Union subsequently. J&K till October 1947 was independent. The idea to remain independent by Hari Singh put the future of the state at stake, and till date the state is being sandwiched between the relations of two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. This has led to unprecedented tragedy to millions of innocent persons living here.
For over 70 years, unarmed Kashmiris, including men, women, school-going boys and girls, and aged people have continued to witness mental, psychological as well as physical humiliation and torture. Every day there are incidents of gashing of eyes, use of ever-new methods during unending curfews, torching of villages along with crops, and destruction of business as well as economic life, which is in utter defiance of international human rights and humanitarian laws.
The Kashmir conflict is a legacy of the past. The international community had given Pakistan and India many chances to resolve their outstanding issues. Ever since the Partition, apart from United Nations Security Council resolutions, various agreements, mediations and talks have taken place between the two nations. Tashkent Agreement, Shimla Agreement, Lahore Declaration, Agra Summit, Peace Process, and Confidence Building Measures are some of the glaring examples.
At the bilateral level, the political leadership of both the countries have failed, because prior to every sincere approach towards resolution, politically-motivated opportunistic preconditions are placed, which are not acceptable to one or the other stakeholder to the dispute.
Also, stakeholders incorporate political interests while seeking to “discuss” disputes, maligning the spirit of unconditional dialogue. Over the last three years, there have not been any productive and substantive talks between India and Pakistan.
In international politics, there are two basic strategic options: (a) defensive posture (b) Offensive posture. In a conflict, states display offensive and defensive behaviours. Both offensive and defensive behaviours can involve the use of force and aggression.
In the geopolitical scenario of South Asia, Pakistan-India animosity is the major subject, which has a decisive role. The geopolitical and strategic importance of J&K has put India and Pakistan on formidable wars, hostility, and low intensity conflicts. Both nations are nuclear powers and are rivals in non- military issues, too, including economy and politics.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that regional forums like South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are inactive due to various political reasons of its members. SAARC members have made postponements of their summits on five occasions: 1991 (6th Summit in Colombo), 1999 (11th Summit in Kathmandu), 2003 (12th Summit in Islamabad), 2005 (13th Summit in Dhaka) and 2016 (19th Summit in Islamabad), and recently in 2018.
All regional powers are aware of the fact that the blame game between the two nations is spoiling the geopolitical landscape of South Asia. This is not making things any better domestically. If India and Pakistan want to make South Asia a peaceful and prosperous region, they have to adopt the ideology of non-violence.
Kashmir bleeds, and for the past seven decades, the people of Kashmir remain trapped in this status quo. The baggage of history weighs heavy on us, and a change is possible only through sustained unconditional dialogue. Dialogue, as we all understand, is currently the most civilised and humane way to resolve conflicts.
At the same time, there is an urgent need to address past and on-going human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering from several decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to end cycles of violence and unaccountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redressal for the victims.
Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir. India and Pakistan should resume the dialogue process and engage all the stakeholders, including the people of J&K, in a sustained manner, unconditionally and with the aim to resolve the Kashmir issue, which will be imperative for a lasting peace in the South Asian region.
In order to move forward on Kashmir, there should be a proper mechanism. India and Pakistan should deal with Kashmir in such a way that the future generation is not forced to take up arms. The two should learn a lesson from Germany and France, who were once bitter neighbour, fought against each other two global wars, but now are part of the European Union, sharing a free border, both using the same Euro.
India and Pakistan should repair the damage they have done from the past 65 years and pledge to cooperate in economic, technological and social areas. This can be achieved with a soft hand, turning the Line of Control into Line of Cooperation to diminish and eliminate mistrust and stubbornness.
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*Human rights activist, observer of socio-political contexts. Contact: jaan.aalam@gmail.com

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