Make back channel a serious business

B L Saraf
After last week’s political theatrics that preceded and followed the Governor’s order of dissolution of the J &K Assembly, atmosphere in the State turned quite depressing. Now that a couple of developments have taken place at the national level and in the Valley, pray, our mood may get a lift. Suddenly, we breathe air blended with a fragrant positivity. Wish, it holds on and the ever floating political dirt doesn’t pollute it, again.
Back channel diplomacy is at work. While we were busy to discuss the Assembly dissolution, a scene unfolded in Srinagar. Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik met Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The meeting was organized by the Art of Living Foundation. May not be with its blessings, however, Government of India can’t be ignorant of it. Bondevik, then, travelled across the L O C and met local leaders there. We have no access to the outcome of the meetings. Nonetheless, meeting of former Norwegian PM with the prominent leaders of the Hurriyat in itself shows that people in Kashmir have not given up hope for the revival of peace initiatives.
Then, we witnessed opening of Kartarpur corridor across India and Pakistan Punjab which, hopefully, could be a sign of other peace initiatives to come, particularly in Kashmir. Kartarpur agreement has been widely welcomed by India- Pakistan experts. We hope that peace initiative on Kashmir will follow. Observers say that Modi Government’s acceptance of the Kartarpur proposal might have been prompted by the desire to garner credit, especially for the alliance partner Akali Dal. Be that so! Often good things come out more by default than by a design.
India’s participation in Moscow Format to settle the Afghanistan problem, where Taliban also was present, is another welcome development. More, for the reason that stereotypes are getting shattered.
In Kashmir, the security forces are doing a good job. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal some 400 persons have been killed in J&K this year, more than half of whom were militants. This is the highest toll since 2009, when the figure was 375 in the whole year.
It is a good military strategy to go after the gun wielding persons and neutralize them. But killing the terrorist alone won’t mean much where there is a long queue waiting to join the ranks. With the result, instead of any decline in the terrorist activities we see a rise in them. It is quite disturbing that while as in earlier years Pakistani jihadis kept terrorism afloat there has been a sharp increase in the local recruitment. Security forces have had successes earlier also, due to which there were long periods of relative peace in the state. However, in the past the Governments both at the Centre and in the state failed to build upon those successes and remove the underlying cause of the unrest. New Delhi will have to offer something more than the military advance. A political plan must be in place to consolidate the gains yielded by the security plan. To borrow the words of Governor Satya Pal Malik ” terrorism has to be fought in the minds.”
It is to state the obvious, at present Valley’s emotional relations with the Union stand impaired. It will not be in the national interest if there is further erosion in these relations. Why should there be different priorities in Punjab and J&K ? Minister of State for External affairs, General V K Singh the former Army Chief recently spoke of delinking the Kartarpur corridor from 26/11 Mumbai attack case.Why not consider Kashmir CBMs in the same spirit ? We can adopt same approach to address situation in Kashmir and don’t get trapped in the conditionality.
Kartarpur corridor can be replicated across LOC in J&K. It could start with Sharda Peeth being opened for Kashmiri Pandit pilgrims. Here, it may be worthwhile to note that efforts for reopening the Shrine have been on from other side of the LOC, as well. Notable persons like doctor Mohsin Shakeel- a Urologist in Muzaffarabad – is doing a remarkable job, in this regard.He has resurrected Sharda script and his work is in progress. So are some academics in Islamabad putting in their best capabilities to restore the spiritual glory of the Peeth. People in the state and Delhi have been agitating for long in this connection. Services of the people – across the LOC can be utilized to build a corridor to Sharda Peeth, on the lines of Kartarpur corridor.
It is hearting to note that the former C M Mehbooba Mufti has called upon both New Delhi and Islamabad to ” follow Kartarpur initiative by facilitating the Sharada Peeth pilgrimage between the two divided parts of Kashmir.”
Jammu business community has welcomed the opening of Kartarpur corridor. It is their long pending demand that more routes be opened between the two parts of the state to facilitate trade and commerce and add on to the people to people contact process. The community, rightly, feels that opening of more routes between the two parts will be a big economic boost, not only to the Jammu region but also to the whole state. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor has given strength to this demand.
It may be of some help to recall what the Vice-President said on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the Dera Baba Nanak -Kartarpur Sahib corridor. He termed it as “passage of humanity, humility, faith and universal brotherhood.” These words may constitute an underlying principle that should be held dear while India and Pakistan enter into mutual engagement to solve all pending issues. For Center’s engagement with all the stakeholders in J&K, to sort out the problem, adherence to this principle is sine quo non.
It is desirable to keep Back Channel diplomacy alive and kicking. Front door of the possibilities has to remain open always. Now that Assembly has been dissolved it is better to have elections soon. We trust the new dispensation that occupies chair in J & K is ideologically compatible and representative of all sections of the society. The electorate has a huge responsibility to discharge. It is time to rise above petty considerations in the larger interests of state and the nation.
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here