Barring the saner elements, who are in a pitiful minority, the jingoist sections of people raised a hue and cry at the visiting Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf’s much-hyped meeting with the leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) during the high tea the country’s high commissioner, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, hosted at the Pakistan House on Saturday. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) went to the extent of boycotting the function with even senior BJP ministers painstakingly digging out precedents against visiting dignitaries offending’ their hosts’ sentiments.
Viewing various discussions on the electronic media, the inescapable impression one gathered was that a sizeable section of Indian intellectuals looked at the Hurriyat Conference as a ‘rogue’ organization liable to be condemned without even being given the right to be heard. The tone and tenor of some of the participants in these programmes, specially those from the ruling alliance, reminded one of the despotic past which the great Indian nation had itself suffered for hundreds of years before wresting its own independence.
Jammu and Kashmir, as perhaps the whole world is aware of, is high on the agenda of the Indo-Pak summit going on at Agra under the gaze of that historic monument of love. Obviously, the Hurriyat Conference would be within its legitimate right to demand a tripartite effort to address the 54-year old dispute which has a direct bearing on the people of the ‘wounded paradise’. That it merely sought an audience from president Musharraf and prime minister Vajpayee was the least it could have done. And, when it addressed identical communications to the two leaders, the centre chose to perceive it as the villain of the piece even as the Pakistani leader responded positively.
Not long ago, the government of India was itself seen trying to woo the Hurriyat leadership as a necessary step to finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute. At one stage, the home minister, L K Advani, had described the Hurriyat leaders not as separatists but as dissidents, ‘our own people’. More recently, the center’s interlocutor, K C Pant, had also made some desperate attempts to get the Hurriyat leaders board the ‘crowded’ train.
Why then did the Indian government stir a ‘storm in the tea cup’, innocuous though, is amazing. One can only wonder that even when the Hurriyat leadership offered to talk to the two leaders, the government of India did not respond to its request. There could not have been a paradox greater than this. The government’s double standard manifested itself emphatically when only recently, a prominent Indian intellectual went on record for saying that India could not afford to surrender Kashmir even to Kashmiris.
There is no gainsaying that at the global level, Kashmir is viewed as a potential nuclear flashpoint. If the vexed issue is not addressed in right earnest, it could well trigger off a holocaust of unimaginable magnitude. Former US president, Bill Clinton, described it as the most dangerous place in the world. Obviously, any further delay in finding a lasting solution to the dispute could only multiply the miseries of millions of people besides jeopardizing peace in the region. That would lead one to conclude that without taking Kashmiris – the worst sufferers of Indo-Pak hostility – into confidence, the dream objective will remain elusive as it has been so far.
Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.