J&K and the Indo-Pak Peace Process: New Delhi, Islamabad and the Hurriyat

15 Jan, 2013    ·   3791

Zainab Akhter discusses the possibility of sustainable peace through trilateral talks

Zainab Akhter
Zainab Akhter
Research Officer

After a prolonged ceasefire between India and Pakistan since 2004, the Line of Control (LoC) has recently witnessed a violent outburst. Despite the continued bus and truck services, hostility has returned to the LoC. In this regard, what further measures can be pursued? Recently, the moderate Hurriyat visited Pakistan; without the tacit understanding of both countries, this visit could not have happened. Do they provide a space for both countries to reach a plausible solution?

Before embarking on the visit on 17 December 2012, the head of the moderate Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, stated the purpose of the initiative was to stress on Islamabad, the need to bring Kashmir and the Hurriyat to the forefront of its political engagement with India.

India, Pakistan and the Hurriyat: Differing Strategies
Both India and Pakistan were flexible in terms of allowing the visit of the moderate Hurriyat to Pakistan. At the time, one of the reasons given for such a strategy was that both countries will face general elections in 2014 and thus have a motive to sell something to their people, for which the moderates serve the purpose.

Over many decades, successive governments in Islamabad have treated Kashmir as a bilateral issue and as such explored the possibility of settling the issue through the process of dialogue with New Delhi. Post the visit, the statement by the Hurriyat (M) that Pakistan is in favour of making Kashmir a trilateral matter by involving a representative of the people from Kashmir, has set all eyes on New Delhi to see whether the Congress-led UPA Government would support the trilateral process of dialogue or not. If Delhi supports triangular talks, it means that the Hurriyat Conference leaders, as well as others who are on the other side of the fence, should expect an invitation from the Government of India for talks.

Within J&K, a section believes that India has succeeded to a degree, in taking the moderate Hurriyat on board in its “plan to weaken” the Kashmiri resistance movement. They are of the opinion that because of its weak position at the centre, the Congress wants to play the Kashmir card. This time, having the Hurriyat on board, would be with the objective to win Indian voters; who want peace to prevail so that the pace of economic prosperity continues. Hence, in a way, this is one more exercise to keep the “pot boiling” and the Kashmir issue “alive”.

For Pakistan, the issue of Kashmir may indeed be popular; but according to a report in Dawn, listing Kashmir as the core issue in any negotiation with India after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks does not suit Pakistan. It further says that Kashmir is no more a priority for Pakistan and that the Pakistan government has remained over-cautious after Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was secretly hanged in Pune.

The invitation by Pakistan to the Hurriyat could be understood in two different ways. Firstly, Pakistan might be trying to give an impression that they have not ignored the Kashmir issue; and secondly, that they are trying to take the local leadership in Kashmir into consideration. But, does the present stand-off at the LoC imply a complete deviation from the above strategy?

The Hurriyat used the visit to convey their dissatisfaction with both India and Pakistan. Taking part in a discussion at the Institute of Strategic Studies of Islamabad (ISSI), the moderates stressed that though intra-Kashmir Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) need to be strengthened, the people of Kashmir should also have a say in this regard. They urged Pakistan to give unconditional support to the people of Kashmir in determining their futures and were of the view that an alternative settlement negotiated amongst India, Pakistan and Kashmiris would be the more doable approach towards reaching a solution. The need for channelizing Pakistan’s support into policy was also brought forward by the Hurriyat.

What Next?
Can India and Pakistan channel the Hurriyat visit to instigate CBMs? Mirwaiz termed the visit as successful and is in favour of CBMs between India and Pakistan, to address the Kashmir issue. All separatist factions need to be accommodated and must be involved in the political process. New Delhi should invite them for talks since, given the current crisis across the LoC on the disruption of the ceasefire agreement, New Delhi will have to restart the peace process, both at the bilateral level, as also within India vis-à-vis the Hurriyat.