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Indo-Pak NSA Slugfest: When Ego Clashes Supersede Peacebuilding – OpEd

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Two major nations of our vast subcontinent – India and Pakistan – have proved yet again, irrefutably, that ego clashes take precedence even at the national level, over admitting that insane terror has been wreaking havoc in both countries and causing the inhuman loss of numerous lives. The unproductive culture of denial and debate carries on indefatigably, defeating the very cause or raison d’etre of the vital peacebuilding process.

With the anti-terror talks being derailed at the eleventh hour, because Pakistan stubbornly refuses to hold talks with pre-conditions and India is adamant that terror form the fulcrum of the talks and emphatically underscoring the point, a vital opportunity to keep open the channels of communication and whatever meager progress could have been made, has been lost once again.

After the NSA level talks were called off, Pakistan justified its stand and treated the separatist brigade of Kashmir as equal stakeholders; however India criticized such a stand and delivered an ultimatum that Pakistan choose either the separatists’ or the Government of India. While the radical separatists argue that the Kashmir issue has never been an internal matter of India and that they are the primary stakeholders in the matter, Indian authorities have hardly acknowledged the same.

While the mainstream leadership is highly criticized for their hollow cries and no practical role so far in the Kashmir solution, the separatist camps are also not eulogized much by a significant section of society on the issues of their (separatists) internal divisions and lack of unity. At the popular level, though, currently there are not many political leaders who enjoy complete credibility among the masses, but that does not make the Hurriyat totally irrelevant in Kashmir Valley, where this group still has a tremendous following. A majority of the people on both sides may, however, want the talks between the two nuclear states for the sake of peace, because after all it is the people who continue to suffer.

The eople also understand the reluctance of both the states against or for talks on Kashmir as ego-politics and perceive it as a power-game show of India and Pakistan against each other at the cost of lingering conflict in the Kashmir Valley. The NSA level talks were a golden opportunity for peacebuilding and both India and Pakistan should have surmounted stubborn stands and ego clashes to progress forward and aim at resolving or, at least, softening the issue somewhat.

However awkward it might be for Pakistan to do away with Kashmir and inch closer to India, considering that Pakistan has supported Kashmiris’ for a long time and also has fought three wars for it and, further, that Pakistan’s slight change in approach towards the all-important Hurriyat may be seen as succumbing to Indian pressure or, alternately, deceiving the separatists, this can have negative consequences for Pakistan and its politicians with regard to Kashmir.

Bewildered Kashmiri

The politically savvy and rights conscious people of Kashmir, at the end of the day, are voicing certain vital fundamental questions such as “Who are we, the Kashmiris, in this whole political game when the Indian government does not even recognize any role that our leaders can play for a peaceful solution of Kashmir? Does our opinion matter really as people of Kashmir? Do we have the discretion to explain our position at any such diplomatic platform?” Maintaining that the two nations continue to settle scores while Kashmiris are dying every day, unaccounted for and unsung, amid the mockery of probes and reports, they lament this distressing state of affairs.

No Way Forward

A shift is being witnessed in political aspirations in Kashmir. While Pakistan is eager to increase its stance on the vital Kashmir issue, the stake holders in Kashmir want to cash in on every such hasty opportunity. However, the new government at the center, which has been maintaining that the Kashmir issue will be resolved within the ambit of humanity, seems irritated by such developments and treats such steps of Pakistan merely as interference before the time.

Actually peacebuilding should have been the priority of all such stake holders, but the problem is that they perceive the process of peacebuilding as a non-political activity and the lack of institutionalization of the little peace that had been manufactured in the Valley has led to mass anger, uncertainty, mass alienation and indignation on the part of the youth who feel that their voices have been gagged and they have been unfairly prevented from speaking the truth. With personal spaces decreased and democracy denied, they are highly aggrieved, fueling hatred, public anger and counter anger.

Convinced that whosoever is involved in politics here, is a traitor, they are acutely disgruntled and not happy with the government, opposition or the separatists and despairing over the status quo. At the ground level the people report that they hardly see mainstream politicians after election campaigns or even separatists after protests or demonstrations, reflecting the vital lack of reaching out by the leaders in the Valley and ameliorating the attitude of pessimism.

After meeting the common masses in my area recently, I picked up some clues of Kashmir’s politics of uncertainty. People have been giving extra importance to personalities and a personality of cult politics has emerged that has sent rationality to the gallows. Certain people talk much about the need for effective leadership without knowing that effective leadership needs inclusive ideas of peace and development, which are far from their mentality or motivational aim.

The people also talk of handling things better in Kashmir and are firm on the idea that things have never been handled better in Kashmir politics, but actually the reverse has been happening. The accuracy at handling violence in Kashmir has been lessening as we go along, which is why today we see the growing monster of new militancy. People talk of the conspiracies of manufacturing dissent and consent in Kashmir historically without even knowing that the very idea they cling to is also manufactured through excessive political socialization and decades of indoctrination.

Last Word

Pakistan’s taunting attitude and tantrums and India’s stubborn stand hardly benefit the Kashmiri cause or its people. Perceptions, approaches and attitudes in tackling the vexatious Kashmir issue have necessarily to change and the historical mistrust between the two states permanently removed. The continuous tumultuous situations, perpetual leadership crisis in Kashmir, continuing status quo on Kashmir talks, continuous human rights abuse and the ongoing killing spree has left the masses in the valley, literally confused and terrified about the future. Instead of drawing red lines for each other, at least both the countries should begin with the DGMO meeting, followed by NSA level talks and later the Prime Ministers should also make peacebuilding a serious agenda. Prime Minister Modi, with his astute assessment and leadership, must put an end to the concept of endangered peace and bring a lasting peace and stability to the beautiful vale and restore the smiles on people’s faces.

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and Social and Political analyst.He writes his columns for various reputed international and national media groups. He has been writing on South Asia's Socio-political realities especially on Kashmir sociology and Conflict Situation at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is a Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor since January 2014. His recent publications include his three books (1)"Kashmir-Yearning for Peace: A Socio-Political history of Uncertainty and Chaos,2016" (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6), (2)'Social Science Research in Conflict Zones,2017' (ISBN: 978-620-2-47937- 0) and (3)'Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive,2018' ( ISBN 81-8324-919-1)].. Reach him at [email protected]

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