Norway Follows Up On Kashmir

More than a month after the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik made a pitch for the resolution of Kashmir during his surprise visit to the state, the current PM of the country Erna Solberg who is on a visit to India has made similar noises on the state. In an interview to the NDTV,  Solberg expressed a desire for mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir provided both countries sought it. She  also let it be known that there was "no military solution" to the long festering issue and advocated a solution that emanated from "popular support". Coming in the wake of the Bondevik's visit,  Solberg's remarks assume some significance - albeit she made it clear that Bondevik's visit was private in nature and that the Norwegian government wasn't involved.   

Arriving in Kashmir on November 23, Bondevik had held meetings with the top Hurriyat leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. This was the first meeting of a foreign dignitary with the separatist leaders in six years which surprised many in Valley. More so, as Bondevik  is now head of Oslo centre for peace and human rights.  He later visited Pakistan Administered Kashmir and met the stakeholders there. 

In a sense, Solberg has  tried to take forward the effort begun by  Bondevik. But she has also drawn the important distinction between her offer of mediation and the Bondevik's visit. She made it clear there was no relationship between the two. However, this shouldn't detract from the significance of the Bondevik's talks with the stakeholders on both sides of the Kashmir divide. This seemed to indicate that New Delhi, otherwise deeply sensitive to any third party mediation,  had no objection to the involvement in Kashmir of an international NGO working towards settlement of long running political disputes. Top government functionaries in New Delhi have stayed tight-lipped about Bondevik's visit signaling some tacit understanding.   This, despite the prodding by the opposition parties including by the former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. 

However, as far as New Delhi's direct handling of Kashmir is concerned, a political outreach remains the least preferred of its methods to resolve the turmoil in the state. On the contrary, the trouble in the state has been sought to be put down through the use of disproportionate force. And as the past four and a half years have underlined, this approach has only worsened the situation. Now at the fag end of its current tenure, the union government can hardly be expected to review its approach. But what it can do is to let the non-government international groups to help make some difference. As pointed out by Solberg, this conflict has been going on since 1947 and it is time to bring down the tension in the region.


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