Another face of Track II diplomacy

K N Pandita
Some spadework was done by a number of outstanding persons or NGOs of good repute in inducing the two countries to come around and give a proof of astute statesmanship about Kashmir imbroglio. However, no tangible result has been obtained so far.
Suddenly, a few days ago there appeared on Kashmir political scene an interesting personality to hold talks with Hurriyat leaders of both factions and also with some more dissenting people in Kashmir. Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik, two times elected Prime Minister of Norway is the founder of Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and enjoys the reputation of astute mediation in conflict situations. He, as the head of his organization, played a constructive role with the result that a peace deal was brought about between the warring LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government in 2005. There was much appreciation of Mr Bondevik skillfully and ably handling the negotiations culminating in the peace deal. It is a different story than that peace deal was derailed by the LTTE with the result that it met with its decimation lock, stock and barrel, and nobody among the world fraternity bat an eyelid.
Track II has to be shrouded in mystery. So was the narrative of the ex-Norwegian Prime Minister’s visit to Srinagar given a touch of mysteriousness. In a tweet, Omar Abdullah asked what the Norwegian dignitary was up to. Obviously, since Bondevik did not meet with the mainstream political leadership in Kashmir, Omar feels his party’s relevance has been undermined. Therefore he cannot be faulted for impugning negative attributes to the visit though strangely he has been very vociferous in demanding India talk to Pakistan.
Three local names have surfaced in the context of the visit of the Norwegian human rights activist. These are Sri Ravishankar, the well-reputed spiritualist from South India who has been figuring occasionally in the sphere of conflict resolution initiatives of various hues. The second is the father of late Burhan Wani, reported to have taken to somberness under the influence of Sri Ravishankar and the third is Imran Sheikh, a business corporate elected recently to Srinagar Municipality with support from Congress. He is now the Deputy Mayor of Srinagar city. In an interview given to the Economic Times (30 Nov 2018) Imran Sheikh said, “I, along with a representative of (Sri’s foundation (Art of Living) coordinated the meetings with the Hurriyat, Bar Association, business chambers, Gujjar Bakerwal delegation and others. I want peace but not at the cost of aspirations and sacrifices of the people of the state.” He added,” “I accompanied Sri on his last visit to the UAE. The emirs welcomed us. They wanted him to create some happiness ministry there. If he can work in Dubai, why not in Kashmir. Let the UAE also get involved in this initiative to make Kashmir livable,” he said. Interestingly, Imran Sheikh said that many more high ranking people would be coming to Kashmir in near future.
This removes ambiguity surrounding the visit of the Norwegian human rights activist to Srinagar. Conspicuously, he has avoided meeting with the mainstream political parties that have stakes in the State government. His meetings with the leaders of both Hurriyat factions were reported by the media. While Sri Ravishankar enjoys the respect of BJP and RSS echelons, Burhan Wani’s father is no alien to them. Imran Sheikh’s political clout on a national level is not far to seek.
After concluding his interaction with the Hurriyat and other separatists in Kashmir, Bondevik arrived in Muzaffarabad, reportedly on the invitation of the President of PoK Sardar Masood Khan. It hardly needs to be emphasized that invitation to him could not be extended unless the green signal was obtained by him from Islamabad. It confirms that the Mission Bondevik has the goodwill of sorts from both New Delhi and Islamabad.
Answering questions from media persons when back home, Bondevik said that in PoK he was taken close to LoC where fighting takes place and that he met many more people in PoK. Obviously, he must have been taken to some sites close to the border where there could be the marks of shelling from across the border. This move further confirms that Islamabad is taken into the loop as is New Delhi though both are making very discreet and subtle denials. A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said that the ministry was not at all involved in the visit of the Norwegian ex-Prime Minster. The Norwegian embassy in New Delhi also denied any role. These are patent polemical skills employed by those involved in Track II diplomacy.
Nevertheless, the ex-Premier of Norway has thrown some hints in the course of his interaction with the media persons which merit some elucidation. For example, he said that he has great respect for India but that there are some UN Resolutions and human rights violation reports. To knowledgeable persons, this is a rather loose and vague statement and only reflects his inadequate information on Kashmir issue. It is Pakistan which scuttled the resolutions and it is Pak-lobby which has manipulated the rights violation report. Likewise, the Norwegian dignitary says that there are three parties to the dispute. namely India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. This again is a distortion of the facts. The people of Kashmir have decided their fate through a resolution of the legislative assembly way back in 1957 and even earlier also. Secondly, the third party, meaning the Kashmiris is not a single solid homogenous bloc. The entire religious minority has been thrown out as a result of calculated ethnic cleansing of the valley. Which Kashmir is he talking about as the third party? Is it the secularist Kashmir under the Dogra rulers or the radicalized Kashmir under the so-called populist regimes? And if Kashmiris are a third party according to his perception, this is a fractured as long as the exiled indigenous people remain outside their native land.
We understand that the reputed human rights and conflict resolution activist ex-premier Bondevik has some good friends from Kashmir like Imran Sheikh, the Deputy Mayor of Srinagar and Ali Shahnawaz Khan, executive director of the Kashmir Scandinavia Council who is also a member of Bondevik’s party (Christian Democratic Party) with close links with Pakistani establishment. We expect these friends to place the Kashmir issue before the Oslo Centre in historical and right perspective enabling the NGO to frame unbiased opinion. The point to remember is that the Security Council Resolutions failed because the Security Council tried to put the aggressor and the aggressed on an even keel.


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