On New Delhi’s Ceasefire and Talks Offer

Nilesh Kunwar
May 26, 2018 OPINION 303 Views
On New Delhi’s Ceasefire and Talks Offer

India and Pakistan were never good neighbours but seldom in the past did their relations reach the abysmal lows that we are today witnessing. That’s why Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement of New Delhi being not only willing to extend the ceasefire in Kashmir but also open to the idea of talks with the Hurriyat as well as Islamabad has had two positives- it has silenced critics of the center’s Kashmir policy and has also come as a big relief for people living on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). Given the prevailing state of high animosity between the two countries this is by any standard an extremely encouraging development and so there are good reasons for being optimistic.
A word of caution: due to the ‘baggage of the past’ which both countries insist on carrying, it is a foregone conclusion that initial dialogue is not likely to achieve any spectacular or immediate results. Yet there is no cause for despair because for starters, at least senseless killings along the LoC will cease and the inordinately high cycle of violence in Kashmir will subside and this in itself is a great achievement. New Delhi’s offer has squarely put the onus of ensuring an environment which is conducive for dialogue on Islamabad as well as the separatist camp and militant groups. Unfortunately their initial response to the Ramadan ceasefire announced by the center hasn’t been very encouraging.
The Pakistan army responded to this ceasefire announcement with the most fierce and intense bombardment of villages on the Indian side of the LoC that have claimed lives of many innocent men, women and even infants. At the same time infiltration of militants continues unabated and just yesterday five of them who were attempting infiltration were killed by the Indian army on the LoC. Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) has totally “rejected’ the idea of any ceasefire and incidents of militant attacks on security forces in Kashmir are showing an upward trend. With the Hurriyat also rejecting the center’s ceasefire offer there are presently no takers for New Delhi’s peace initiative.
But with Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook saying on Friday that the Hurriyat leadership would extend full support to every serious effort aimed at bringing peace, stopping bloodshed and resolving the Kashmir issue, there’s hope that the separatist camp may like to reconsider its decision of rejecting the Ramadan ceasefire. As every stake holder talks about peace and normalcy New Delhi’s ceasefire and talks offer is in fact the real testing time for everyone.
Just last month Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Pakistan was committed to peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue and the chance to do this has come. The Mirwaiz has said, “If Government of India says they have ceased the gunfire in the Valley then political dialogue should be started” and now that New Delhi has offered talks with Hurriyat, the joint resistance leadership should have no reasons for rejecting the ceasefire proposal! As far as militant groups are concerned, Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC) Chief Syed Salalhuddin has said he has no problems with any dialogue process that is sincere, so he too should cooperate and at least give peace a chance by temporarily suspending operations.
The path of talks and negotiations isn’t smooth going or easy to traverse and the biggest problem to the dialogue process however comes from those who benefit from the status quo. After the Pathankot airbase terror attack no one less than Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawja Muhammad Asif himself admitted that “Some elements want to sabotage the talks process between the two neighbouring countries through such terror acts.” He thereafter declared with a flourish that such elements “would not succeed in their nefarious designs,” but the sad part is that they ultimately did and the dialogue process was abruptly shelved!
Dialogue can only commence if the parties concerned agree to sit down and talk with minimum preconditions and by respecting each others’ sensitivities: and talks can only succeed if the participants ensure that they exercise utmost restraint and have patience in abundence. Attempts to dominate or be obdurate appeals lot to domestic audiences but these invariably spell disaster for talks and therefore the temptation of playing to the gallery during negotiations is best avoided. Similarly, selective interpretation of laws, statutes and other rulings will only complicate matters and lead to a conflict situation.
Just a few days ago a high powered delegation of legal experts from Pakistan approached the World Bank to order India to halt the Kishanganga project on the grounds that it violated the 1960 Indus Water Treaty. The World Bank refused to oblige as Islamabad’s allegation was based on selective interpretation of this treaty and this incident ended with Pakistan Foreign Office threatening that water issues with India could lead to a “dangerous situation.” A holistic interpretation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty could have saved Islamabad an embarrassment that has (to save face) been transformed into another unnecessary point of friction between the two countries.
Therefore, if Islamabad really cares for the people of Kashmir and sincerely wants resolution of the Kashmir issue through a plebiscite as mentioned in UNSC resolution 47 (as it so vociferously claims), then it must declare its readiness to fulfill all its obligations that are contained in the UNSC resolutions, both in letter and spirit.
In this regards the first thing that Islamabad will have to do is express its willingness to vacate Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) as the instructions on conduct of plebiscite contained in UNSC resolution 47 specifically stipulates this requirement before any plebiscite can be conducted. Then to allow a free and impartial plebiscite, it would also have to take action to repeal sub-clause 7 (ii) of ‘Azad’ Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act 1974 that states “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.”
The fact of the matter is that the Kashmir issue has remained unresolved for seven decades simply because of Islamabad’s insincerity. Because had Islamabad really been serious then in these 70 years wouldn’t it have moved a formal proposal in the UN demanding implementation of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir instead of shouting about this from rooftops?
Now that New Delhi has offered talks, the ball is in Islamabad’s court soon we’ll see whether Pakistan reciprocates positively or chooses to play its old game of orchestrating incidents that vitiate the working environment to such an extent that no Indo-Pak dialogue is possible, thereby ensuring that the Kashmir issue perpetually remains in the backburner!

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