Monday, June 25, 2012

Elite Conferences giving elite Solutions

During last few years there have been a host of conferences and interactions within Kashmir and outside to find a solution to the problem pestering not only the sub-continent but entire South Asia. Most of the time the conference venues have been high end places in metros and sometimes in world capitals. The amount of money spent on these events must be sizeable. However, in spite of these efforts and initiatives taken in good faith we do not seem to be anywhere near the final solution. At the most the people have been able to outline the broad parameters of approaches to the ultimate solution. Even these road maps, approaches, back-channels have been going round and round in circles for quite some time. There is not a single day when one does not come across some conference or interaction, seminar being held to resolve Kashmir in one or the other part of the world. The process has now been going on for 65 years! Two generations of Kashmiris have passed away without evening getting a glimpse of the ultimate solution. Yes, all of those people had been yearning for the ultimate emancipation called “Azadi”. Even some of our elders have willed it that the people should come to their graves and announce the good news about Kashmir being finally, “Free”, whenever that happens! In the recent years, some of the approaches suggested had raised many hopes. One of these is the Musharraf’s four point formula. In fact, it was not a solution but a way forward to let a solution evolve by easing of curbs and allowing the meeting of people on the two sides of the divide. Identifying the areas of trouble on two sides; demilitarising these; allowing these areas self-governance, and a mechanism for joint control including the representatives of the people of these areas. This set up could go on for ten years and after that it could be reviewed. It was expected that the solution would automatically evolve. One of the important components of the process was making the Line of Control irrelevant. This would mean totally free movement of the people as well as the goods. The road map as such seems quite practicable and in line with the present status of the area. However, the basic requirement is the honesty of purpose and absolute mutual trust. The two most important ingredients which have so far remained totally elusive in this part of the world. There have been many other models for resolution of the dispute proposed from time to time by different personalities, agencies and organisations. Among the recent ones was the Irish model. The Trieste model was also suggested by some. Then there has been the famous Dixon Plan proposed by Sir Owen Dixon in 1950. There is a long list of proposals which has accumulated since 1947 when the dispute first initiated. There have been proposals for UN mediation. European Union was also asked to mediate. There have been proposals for division along the line of control. The list goes on and on. However, most of these attempts have failed because of intransigence of one or the other stakeholder in the dispute. The greatest tragedy is that the main stakeholders, the people of Kashmir who are directly in the line of fire have remained uncared for and have never been formally consulted by any international agency. Nor have they ever had a say in the bilateral dialogues between the two warring neighbours. This fanatic intransigence of the governments on two sides is because of the feeling of deep mistrust which gives rise to extreme animosity. The Hindutva brigade on the Indian side and the religious extremism on the Pakistani side supported by its army do not allow any bilateral initiative to succeed. In spite of increasing trade, symbolic movement across the line of control, the mistrust refuses to go away. In fact, every confidence building measure gets derailed due to “Security” considerations from both the sides which override everything else. Most of these “Security” considerations have communal undertones. Just recently, three meets failed to reach any consensus. The dispute over the most tortuous cold battle-field of Siachen remained unresolved. There was no agreement on Sir Creek either. Even the already agreed to liberalised visa regime remained unsigned. A friend believes that the problems of the sub-continent can be resolved only between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Pakistan army. If these two come to an understanding, there will be total peace in the sub-continent! A beginning in this regard was seen during Vajpayee-Musharraf exchange. Things may have worked out well but unfortunately, both the rulers disappeared from the scene. The problem with “Elite Conferences giving elite Solutions” is that the grass roots people suffering because of the conflict are nowhere in the picture. No solution would be practical unless the people are on board. There cannot even be any progress unless the common people on both the sides engage with each other freely and evolve a solution by consensus. To achieve that one has to go beyond the cosy environs. Firstly, there has to be political will on both the sides. Without strong and decisive leaders in both the countries at the helm, no progress is possible. Their initiatives would have to include the reigning in of their respective “Security” grids. This can happen only if these leaders have popular backing for their initiatives. Popular support can come up only after the common people on two sides freely meet each other and create a powerful constituency for reconciliation and peace. To do that one has to go beyond symbolic confidence measures. The massive partition walls being continuously strengthened with latest technology and gadgets have to be demolished. Until that happens, we will continue to hold endlessly “Elite conferences giving elite solutions” and the final goal will remain as elusive as ever!

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