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#1269, 14 January 2004
SAARC Summit – A Growing Hope among Kashmiris
Amin Masoodi

As the whole world looks forward to the forthcoming SAARC summit, the same has generated a tide of emotions amongst beleaguered Kashmiris. People in the valley hope for a further fillip in the ongoing peace process paving way to a broad based dialogue with Kashmir. Two unsuccessful attempts on President Musharraf’s life within a span of two weeks raised fair amount of security concern and much to the displeasure of Kashmiris, there was a mounting concern that Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee will not fly to Pakistan to participate in the SAARC summit. But now as Vajpayee is all set to participate in the summit, there is renewed hope in the valley that the occasion will bring two countries more nearer and both will reiterate their commitment to resolve all the bilateral disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful means.

"Considering the situation in the sub-continent, the summit is expected to go down in the annals of history as exemplary.. Both countries should utilize the opportunity and commit to resolve all bilateral disputes, responsible for instability and insecurity in the entire sub-continent," as stated by Prof. Ab. Gani Bhat, former, Chairman All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). When asked should people expect any contribution from APHC on the occasion? Prof. Bhat said "we would love consolidating towards the peace process. APHC has always been advocating peace and whenever we will see any opportunity opening up, we will contribute generously."

People hope that unlike previous failed agreements including the lately Agra summit, the leadership of the two nations will not let this opportunity go futile. They will put their best at the occasion to strengthen the ties and resolve all the bilateral issues including Kashmir. They believe that the summit will prove to be a turning point between the two nations with regard to Kashmir. It appears that there is a valid reason that has led to the growing hope among valley people. People have been eyeing and encouraging the peace process gathering momentum. Also, they observed the friendly atmosphere building-up between India and Pakistan. There is no denying the fact that the people deeply anguished over increasing violence and bloodshed are yearning for peace to return to the valley. So any move in this direction is whole heartedly appreciated.

Ab.Hafiz Shah, a KAS officer commented that, “the world is looking forward to a breakthrough between the two countries on this occasion. The Kashmiris are the worst sufferers. The understanding demonstrated by both India and Pakistan in the past few weeks towards the normalization of relations is in fact something to cherish about and has given some hope to the beleaguered people who have been reeling under deadly guns for 14 long years. SAARC has come as an important opportunity for the leadership of two countries to explore new vistas aimed at reinforcing the peace process. Obviously, Kashmir is a burning issue which has aggravated the ties between two countries. Let’s hope both countries will try to explore more possibilities towards the resolution of Kashmir issue through a broad-based dialogue."

A senior citizen in Srinagar had this to say, “The SAARC summit happens to be a gifted opportunity for two countries as it has come at a time when peace process between the two countries is gathering momentum and fortunately both have dropped the prolonged antipathy towards each other. Both countries should explore new ways and means to resolve all the bilateral issues including Kashmir. It is great to see too much distanced and detached countries coming closer after a long time."

It is interesting to note that whenever there has been a breakthrough between the two countries, it has come much to the satisfaction of the valley people. The thaw in Indo–Pak relations is being seen as a great development and appreciated by one and all. Kashmiris denounce violence in all its manifestations. After the recent resumption of air links between the two countries, Kashmiris are eager to see restoration of Srinagar- Muzzafarabad bus service as it will provide an opportunity to many separated families to meet each other.

Habibullah Shah, reporter for the weekly Kasful Qaloob, comments, "The thaw in relations of two countries is a good gesture more for strife-torn Kashmiris than India and Pakistan - the two strong contenders. It is good to see Indian peace initiatives being reciprocated by Pakistan and vice-versa. The countries should now resume the bus service between Muzzafarbad and Srinagar to allow many displaced families meet their near and dear ones on other side of border (Pakistan)." It would be great if there is a one-to-one talk between Musharraf and Vajpayee on this occasion, which will add a new dimension to the peace process, adds Habibullah.

As the Kashmiris expect a successful SAARC summit, bringing the two neighboring countries close and exploring more possibilities for a broad-based dialogue on Kashmir, it yet remains to be seen whether the two countries demonstrate genuine concern for the beleaguered people.

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