P V Narasimha Rao- the wily 10th Prime Minister of India- once told a visiting American scholar, contain a conflict long enough and it will go away. The reference was to the dispute over Kashmir. This has been and remains the default strategy and approach of the Indian state towards Kashmir despite the transformation of the dispute from a conflict over Kashmir to a conflict in Kashmir and over Kashmir. Validation of this can be inferred from the state’s dilly dallying over dialogue (or talks) with Pakistan with dark clouds hanging over the much hyped NSA level talks between the two countries. The state this time is upset over Pakistans insistence of inviting Hurriyat leaders to Delhi. The Hurriyat pretext may turn out to be the bogey that derails the NSA talks. This is not to merely indict the Indian state for obstructionism; Pakistan does not also come out smelling of roses when it comes to finding a lasting solution to Kashmir.
Be it the Indian state’s containment strategy or the Pakistani state’s irredentism vis a vis Kashmir, what is elided or ignored is the state of affairs in Kashmir. Its has been more than two decades since a full blown insurgency erupted in Kashmir; while the insurgency has been contained and stanched largely through the forces of attrition, popular sentiment and feeling remains alienated. Moreover, the Kashmiri psyche is conflicted. This adds a layer to the conflict. A new generation of Kashmiris, incubated during the years of insurgency, will gradually replace the older cohort. If this generations (Gen Next)- educated , self aware and having a keen sense of history- aspirations, dreams and future are frustrated or remain unmet- they may take recourse to the bullet over the ballot. Delineating this is not in the nature of positing an alarmist threat but is premised on extrapolation from the past and the inner world of Kashmirs Gen Next. If this scenario pans out, then even the Hurriyat may become irrelevant to the dynamics that define Kashmir. This may have implications for regional and even global security.
It then behoves power that be across the Indo Pak divide to abhor their stale approaches to the conflict over and in Kashmir. Both must listen to each other, Kashmiris and not merely talk at each other. One good start would be to resume dialogue which in the present context means sticking to the letter and spirit of the NSA talks. These should inform a dynamic that leads to a broader dialogue of a structured variety. India and Pakistan must also realize the world is interested in their quarrel only as far as it affects their geopolitical and security interests. This must concentrate minds across the divide and prudent statecraft taken recourse to resolve the conflict and make history. Otherwise, history is happening as this article goes to press, in the minds of young Kashmiris and other people. It is about time that this process is accorded a positive direction by engaging all stakeholders lest ht5he future make all irrelevant.
—-Wajahat Qazi is an editor with the Kashmir Observer
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