Delhi Isolates Kashmiri Hardliners But is That a Lasting Solution


Kashmiri leaders with PM Singh, Below troops search Srinagar after a shootout

By Arun Rajnath

NEW DELHI, September 10(2005): The New Delhi Government has finally succeeded in isolating the hardliner Kashmiri leadership by talking to the moderate faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) which agreed to cessation of all violence in the disputed territory.

Though the talks attracted media and international attention, it has raised the question on the relevance of the APHC. Already there are many signs that the APHC leaders were receiving a cold shoulder from the common Kashmiris.

Informed sources told this correspondent that surprisingly no one went to the Srinagar Airport to see off the APHC leaders to Delhi, though in contrast, when these leaders were allowed to visit Pakistan, people were so excited they drove with them to the Pakistan border. But this time nobody turned up. It means that Kashmiris do not give much importance to the talks with New Delhi as much as they liked talking to Islamabad.

Secondly, this is the first time that the APHC leaders did not speak to anybody before going for talks with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. They did not even visit the Pakistan High Commission before the commencement of talks, a must checkpoint in the past. They had visited the Pak High Commission when they last came to Delhi to officially hold talks with the then Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani.

Thirdly, this time they locked themselves in a house situated in the NRI Colony at Mandakini under tight security and enhanced vigilance of the agencies. Nobody was allowed to meet them or talk to them even on telephone before meeting the Prime Minister.

Fourthly, the Government of India has been trying hard to bring these separatist leaders to the negotiations table with the help of its interlocutors NN Vohra, Congress Party leader from Kashmir Saifuddin Soz, Kashmiri bureaucrat Wajahat Hibibullah and former RAW Chief Amarjeet Singh Daulat.

The involvement of the Indian intelligence agency RAW cannot be ruled out in persuading the APHC leaders to come to the negotiations table as Amarjeet Singh Daulat was appointed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) for Kashmir Affairs in the Prime Minister Office by the Vajpayee Government.

Though Daulat left the office after the defeat of the NDA Government, the new Government continued to utilize his services. The new Government later decided to appoint Saifuddin Soz as the OSD for Kashmir Affairs at the PMO, but Soz is more interested in the backdoor rather than official politics.

When the APHC leaders met with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh the two sides agreed to carry forward the dialogue process so that “all regions and shades of political opinion in Jammu ad Kashmir are involved.”

Dr. Singh hinted at a reduction of the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir if violence ceased and infiltration ended. A brief statement, read out by the Prime Ministers’s Media Advisor Sanjay Baru, after nearly three hours of the first round of talks with the five member Hurriyat delegation, said several issues concerning the rights of the people were raised.

Welcoming the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister, the Hurriyat delegation said the dialogue process should lead to the resolution of all outstanding issues. The delegation also stressed that an honorable and durable solution should be found through dialogue. It was agreed that the only way forward was to ensure that all forms of violence at all levels came to an end.

The Government of India has always been trying to isolate Geelani, and now this time the APHC (Mirwaiz Faction) has also joined hands. Secondly, Government of India also wants to send a message to the international community that it is serious about the resolution of Kashmir dispute, and Pakistan should move further. Thirdly, Dr. Singh wants to take something with him to the UN when on the sidelines he would meet President Bush and General Musharraf.

But Kashmir watchers pose a question whether it would be cogent to isolate the faction that is headed by Sayyad Ahmed Shah Geelani?

It is a well-known fact that other than Mirwaiz, his contingent comprised lightweights who neither have any base nor they have any political agenda as compared to Geelani. It is to be noted when the Pakistani government invited these leaders, they immediately cashed in the opportunity “expose Geelani’s position”.

Government controlled Pakistan Television also did the same and changed its priorities. This change of priority by Pakistan Television was seen as the Pakistani Establishment approving the political stand taken by Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq led by APHC and rejecting the stance taken by Geelani. It has been ironic that both the groups pledge to finding a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem.

Observers say that the question as to where the two groups differ is still unanswered? Geelani who is known as a hardliner believes in adhering to the demand of right to self-determination as guaranteed by the United Nation Resolutions of 1948 and 1949.

Geelani draws strength from the long history of this problem. In support of adhering to his stand of right to self-determination Geelani invariably quotes from a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to his counterpart Liaquat Ali Khan, which read as follows: “Our assurances that we shall withdraw our troops from Kashmir as soon as peace and order are restored and leave the decision regarding the future of this State to the people of the State is not merely a pledge to your government but also to the people of Kashmir and to the world.”

Mirwaiz at present enjoys a pat from Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. But where this would lead to? One should not forget that Geelani is growing older. He may not live long, but his ideas are still relevant. There is a large section that follows him, and would continue to follow him even in his absence.

It needs to be understood that Ali Shah Geelani is not an individual but represents the silent majority. Ignoring this majority may be easier but may not lead to a lasting and peaceful solution.

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