India and Pakistan have had more than 150 official rounds of talks in the last seven decades to discuss conflicts and differences between them. The by-product of every round of talk was an agreement to meet again to talk. In consequence, the peace process between India and Pakistan has always remained an illusion. Talks have always proved barren because both India and Pakistan have never defined the parameters of talks. The talks were never meant to be time bound with specific benchmarks that would define and characterize progress. What was the common goal of talks? What are the objectives? To settle differences? What are the differences? How will they be resolved? When? Should we identify steps to resolving differences? Who are the important actors involved in those differences? How are those differences being revealed?
Nevertheless, the world knows that the central bone of contention regarding tensions between India and Pakistan is the ongoing 70-year conflict over Kashmir. The two countries are both nuclear armed and they continue to have re-occurring border clashes and cross-border raids that threaten the safety and stability of both. People are getting killed on both sides. More than 100 people were killed this past summer with many thousand injured by pellets. But while this violence occurred due to the refusal of India to foster peaceful relations with Kashmir and acknowledge its interests, the focus of the press, egged on by India, was on the relationship between India and Pakistan and the responsibility of Pakistan in allegedly stirring up trouble in Kashmir with false propaganda. It is as though there is nothing to discuss. The whole nation of Kashmir rose up in resistance, but no one could talk about anything but Pakistan and the militancy across the border. Kashmir has never been a focal item of the talks but just one of the eight points agreed to by both India and Pakistan in talks which they called the Comprehensive Dialogue Process.
Curiously, the primary party pertinent to the issue, the Kashmiri leadership, has never been included in the talks. Why not? Are they not the principal representatives of the people, the true stakeholders who may claim the greatest interest in what happens to Kashmir? Doesnt it matter what they think? Are they mere spectators or the real actors in the theater?
Kashmir is the only nation in the world, which shares its borders with three nuclear powers of the world. Kashmir still remains the nuclear flash point, as the tensions between the BJP-lead government in India has suspended the so called peace talks between New Delhi and Islamabad. The potential of nuclear war has always been there between these two nuclear rivals, but because of the suspension of the talks, that potential is now real.
Any dialogue process demands compromises for the sake of greater good. All parties including India, Pakistan and Kashmir need to show some flexibility in order to reach a final settlement. The contours of compromises should be discussed at the table and not beyond it.
It is time for the war of words between two capitals to stop. The reckless statements by Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister of India who lusts for Azad Kashmir and seems inclined to grab it by force, will not pave the way for a better understanding. Such rhetoric needs to end on all sides.
The leadership of both India and Pakistan must show their statesmanship for the sake of peace and stability in the region of South Asia and beyond.
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