Bull's Eye

The MEA, Hurriyat and the Sangh parivar together have created a crisis in Kashmir. To resolve it, an all-party panel will not be enough.
Bull's Eye
Musharraf quit early last week. Indian politicians did everything possible to help him stay. Musharraf’s only chance to survive lay in making the Kashmir situation internationally tense. India did raise the temperature. Fortunately, the Pakistan army did not create a cross-border crisis. Pranab Mukherjee criticised Musharraf for referring to Kashmir in his Independence Day address. "Don’t interfere in our internal affairs," he warned. "We never interfere in yours!" This was two days after national security advisor M.K. Narayanan had said that Musharraf’s removal would create a vacuum to strengthen militancy. Was that not interference?

Other Indian politicians also helped Musharraf. Consider the current Kashmir crisis. The PDP ministers granted land to the Amarnath shrine board to create amenities for pilgrims. Omar Abdullah, "the proud Muslim and proud Indian", justified an agitation against ceding "our" land. Sensing electoral danger, PDP ministers quit the cabinet. They then falsely blamed the departing governor, General S.K. Sinha, for the decision.

The Jammu Hindus started a counter agitation. Their reaction was understandable. Less understandable was the BJP supporting a blockade to choke the Valley. L.K. Advani launched a nationwide protest. Arun Jaitley’s claim that the blockade was not effective became irrelevant. The BJP’s blockade call gave Hurriyat leaders a handle. As shortages crippled the Valley, and farm produce remained unsold, the demand followed inevitably for opening of the road to Muzaffarabad. Excessive force by the police led to avoidable deaths. The government never guaranteed safe passage to farmers along the road to Jammu.

The MEA, Hurriyat and the Sangh parivar together have created a crisis in Kashmir. To resolve it, an all-party panel will not be enough. India, Pakistan and the people of undivided Kashmir will have to talk for a final settlement. The general mood for this has never been better. People on both sides of the border are fatigued. But fatigue should not be allowed to degenerate to desperation.

Last Sunday, two senior columnists in The Hindustan Times and The Times of India respectively suggested that India should abandon the Valley. Abandonment would make things worse. It would make the Valley vulnerable to hostile foreign forces and endanger South Asian security. This scribe has consistently advocated self-determination for all segments of Kashmir. But it must be preceded by an agreement between India and Pakistan to create a South Asian Union that includes Kashmir, whatever its future status. The time to seriously discuss that proposal has arrived. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should initiate talks with Prime Minister Gilani.


(Puri can be reached at rajinderpuri2000@yahoo.com)

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