Kashmir Bus or Buzz?

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As an upshot of prolonged interaction, Pakistan and India have, prima facie agreed to set off a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.

As news reports say the service begins with effect from April-7 this year on the basis of entry permits. The bus service is to benefit Pakistanis, Indians, and of-course the bona fide owners of the Himalayan State–”the Kashmiris.

No-doubt, the decision to resume the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service–”which remained intact until 1956–”is a positive development in Pakistan-India relations as one expects, such a course will optimistically generate goodwill between the two countries.

Towards this, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh’s visit to Pakistan was also important as part of the periodic interaction between the two countries.

What’s, however, significant is that the Kashmir Issue should not been side-stepped for the sake of elfin and frivolous matters such as the bus service (s). We have no illusion that if Kashmir Issue is resolved all these matters will be settled automatically.

Fascinatingly, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has, at the same time, asserted that the decision on the bus service will not affect New Delhi’s ‘stated position’ on Kashmir, though he has termed the bus service as ‘mother of all CBMs’.

Likewise, Natwar Singh had categorically repeated the old rhetoric; prior to his visit to Pakistan that Kashmir is ‘integral part’ of India and that there is no reason for New Delhi to retract on the position. And now he has come out with typical Indian mindset with the words; Talks on Kashmir need ‘conducive atmosphere’.

Not only this, Singh took another somersault, the moment he landed on his soil at the end of his visit to Pakistan by phrasing the outcome of his parleys–”with a ‘stress’ that; the peace process could be sustained only in an atmosphere free from violence.

‘There are differences between us and I underlined to the Pakistan leaders that the peace process can only be sustained in an atmosphere free from violence and terrorism,’ Singh pretended.

Though Singh is well-aware of the meanings of both the words; ‘violence’ and ‘terrorism’ if he consults lexicon–”by keeping Kashmir, close to his soul–”whereby the interpretation of this expression would be elaborated as ‘struggle against a tyrannical rule’ and ‘state terrorism, unleashed by India on the people, engaged in seeking their birth right of self-determination–”at all costs’.

By negating this realistic version, it seems that Natwar Singh is once again trying to take shelter of ‘If and Buts’. The reason being; that the remarks of the Indian FM in New Delhi would, perceptibly lift a lot of eyebrows vis-à-vis India’s actual intents.

If at all the Singhs [May he be Manmohan or Natwar] are sincere on CBMs for a lasting peace in South Asia, at least Natwar is ought to elucidate the essence of his statement–”explicitly on what he said; ‘an atmosphere free from violence and terrorism’.

As we look at it, if defined by the India’s twisting viewpoint, such a situation would hardly surface which would satisfy New Delhi in any style. As it is, in fact a very complex task to refresh an arrogant or tainted state of mind.

One fails to understand that amid such an ‘apprehension’, on his part, how did Natwar Singh articulate outright the topic of the resumption of the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service when he spoke to newsmen in Islamabad?

Yet another imperative facet, which is ought to be looked into is; that amid a hefty deployment of Indian troops along the Line of Control [LoC]–”how did India agree to the re-start the bus service in Kashmir–”and that too free from Visa.

Of-course it is, in no way required for Kashmiris, as it is clearly guaranteed by the United Nations Resolutions which allow free movement of Kashmiris, anytime they so desire–”sans any let or hindrance.

Even otherwise, the Law of Nature as well as universal law allows citizens of every domain to move freely–”within their area of jurisdiction any-time they deem apt and to their sweet will.

Such a course persisted in Jammu & Kashmir until 1956–”where after it came to an abrupt halt, obviously due to Indian maneuvers, making Kashmiri families in Azad Kashmir and held-Kashmir segregated–”least uptight about minimal essentials of humanity.

Simultaneously, an Indian proposal for identification of five points along the LoC to hold the reunions of separated families looks in the air. Yet some reports indicate that Pakistan is not likely to accept any thing, which would in the at the end of the day harm the dignity of the Kashmiri people.

That is why, by now, Pakistan has not yet conveyed its response to India on the proposal for reunions of Kashmiri families on LoC. It is still being examined but the chances of a positive response on the part of Islamabad are dim.

While touching this aspect, it would be apt to recap a story whereby Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had come up with this suggestion back in December 2004 when he held two-day talks here with his then Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar.

Saran, I assume, had identified five areas of Mandhar, Poonch, Suchetgarh, Uri and Tangdarh, saying the families from both sides of Kashmir could be allowed to meet on designated days at these points.

Nonetheless, Pakistan is of the view that any proposal [like this], which does not take into account the dignity and honor of the Kashmiris, could not be thought about.

Most probably, any negative response to this plan by India would not hurt the peace process which has, of-late received fresh impetus due to the landmark agreement on resumption of Kashmir bus service between the two nuke neighbors of South Asia.

At the same time, consultations are under way between the two Foreign Ministries to finalize schedule for the next round of talks on Kashmir and other issues to meet the requirements of the agenda of composite dialogue–”the podium of the CBMs.

Yet one has to keep in mind that it was at the foreign secretary level talks in December last year that the two sides agreed that meetings on six issues, including border disputes, counter-terrorism and drug trafficking as well as economic cooperation should be held at dates to be agreed between April and June.

The two countries also decided that talks on trade and dialogue as well as to build confidence on their nuclear and conventional arsenals would be held between January and June. Remember January has gone and June is also not very far off.

What-so-ever the eventual result may be; for the moment, despite traditional and customary swings of India, we look forward with optimism that the bus link between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar, despite possible odds shall start on the set date [April-7]–”without any pre-conditions or ‘If and Buts’ and shall stay in motion–”as smooth as the Silk of Kashmir.

Track record of India vis-à-vis the Kashmir Issue is virtually no good. Thus seemingly, it is evident that India is least interested in talks on Kashmir. And paradoxically, in that it has apparently, succeeded in alluring Pakistan to marginalize the Kashmir Issue.

Regrettably, Pakistan is giving in on Kashmir bit-by-bit. Isn’t it a travesty of the situation that India is not ready to budge on its illegal, illicit and immoral stance on Kashmir and is bent upon strangulating Pakistan through Baghlihar, Kishen Ganga and about a dozen other dams on rivers–”which were allocated explicitly to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty?

Even then, with a set of Kashmir leaders, Islamabad has the audacity to rejoice just over the Indian ‘avow’ to recommence the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service.

If viewed with a cogent approach, Pakistan has, in fact, failed to raise the Kashmir Issue in a vigorous, spirited and powerful mode and manner that it ought to have done during the Indian Foreign Minister’s interaction with Pakistani leaders–”last week.

On the other hand, India is perceptibly employing its habitual delaying tactics to gain time–”of-course to hoodwink the comity of nations, which by all perceptions looks at the Kashmir Issue–”as a nuclear flashpoint of South Asia.

The anecdote of ‘conducive atmosphere’ for talks on Kashmir is not a new-one. This idiom, dialect, tone and tenor has remained India’s subterfuge aver, ever-since JL Nehru and his dynasty–”stayed in the corridors of power in New Delhi.

With Nehru, who himself backed out of his categorical commitments for a free, fair and impartial plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir State–”under the aegis of the UN, how can one expect a positive response from his [Nehru’s] legatees?

Amid such a scenario, Pakistan has to wake up to the ground realities and eschew its pursuit for being soft and spongy even on Kashmir Issue–”just to appease Washington.

Instead, Pakistan’s apex leader, President Pervez Musharraf who has been giving a new fortitude to the voice the subjugated Kashmiris at every fora by advocating their Cause must come-out with yet another strong and soothing signal for the people of the Paradise on Earth–”the J & K State.

Expectantly in the same manner he had beamed to the globe on the ‘Solidarity Day’ [Feb-5]–”even this year, and I quote; “Pakistan believes that a just and lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute can only be found through a process of dialogue and engagement. It is with this resolve and purpose in mind that we embarked on the composite dialogue process with India last year.”

“Our effort was and continues to be to engage in a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue to seek a peaceful, negotiated and final settlement to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

At the same time, he added, Pakistan believes that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the principal party to the dispute, and must therefore be the principal beneficiaries of the Pakistan-India dialogue process.

“For this reason we have reiterated, time and again, our demand that the Kashmiri people be associated with the composite dialogue process. Any viable and final settlement of the Kashmir dispute must reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.”

"The observance of Kashmir Solidarity Day demonstrates Pakistan’s unequivocal support for the Kashmiris. We Pakistanis observe Kashmir Solidarity Day on February-5 every year to demonstrate our unequivocal support for the valiant struggle of the Kashmiri people to achieve their legitimate right of self-determination."

In the midst of such a categorical pledge, Pakistan has to continue its moral, political and diplomatic support and with a preserve–”with earnest and inmost humane touch so as to ensure that over a million sacrifices–”offered by Kashmiris in silhouette of migration from their abodes–”due to carnage, unleashed by the nasty Dogra ruler Hari Singh–”who was incited by India–”which claims to be ‘champion’ of ‘democracy and secularism’ subsequently, martyred almost point one million innocent men, women and children with a lot of more still missing since 1989–”does not go in vain.

We would, certainly like to welcome the concept of the resumption of the Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad bus service, which was first of all authored and beamed to the globe by a Kashmir-born British lawmaker, Lord Nazir Ahmed, the life-time member of the House of Lords with his utmost sincerity towards the Kashmir Cause–”only if it [the service] would prove as a prelude to the eventual solution of the Kashmir Issue–”strictly in line with pragmatic aspirations of the bona fide owners of the State–”the gallant Kashmiris.

And finally, India which seems too eager for love and affection via friendship with Pakistan through trade and people-to-people interaction and what not–”must get this veracity indexed in the folios of its political and diplomatic catalog that there can’t be anything like the one it is looking for–”sans the solution of the core Issue of Kashmir.

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