How to Negotiate

Once again some quarters have questioned the ability of the pro-resistance leadership to negotiate with New Delhi on Kashmir.  According to them, “the separatists have no paper or plan with them to negotiate with India.”

Yes, the Hurriyat leaders lack the art of talks. But who has it?  The late Zulifkar Ali Bhutto was known for his intellectual, oratorical and negotiating skills. But he was so helpless during his `historic’ talks with Sardar Swaran Singh that he felt like beating his chest. For five days he could not make out what the Sardar was up to.

Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg was no ordinary person. He talked with Parthasarthy for several years. What did he get? Before signing the accord, Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg issued a series of statements wherein it was mentioned that New Delhi had agreed to restore the pre-53 status. But the most important point found a place at the bottom of the 1975 accord.  “No agreement was possible on the question of nomenclature of the Governor and the Chief Minister and the matter is therefore remitted to the Principals.” (Para 6)

The Hurriyat leadership also talked to New Delhi. In their meeting with the Prime Minister, the leadership shockingly sought the release of political prisoners. New Delhi responded by releasing two persons. One of them was involved in a sex racket. The leadership alone knows why and how they were interested in the release of person involved in a sex racket.

Dr. Nazir Gilani of the JKCHR has rightly said that the leadership must hire experts for talks. The chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Muhammad Yasin Malik has a better option. According to him, the job of talking to New Delhi must be entrusted to civil society actors. He has even identified a team, which by our local standards is credible, honest and also acceptable to all shades of opinion. This can ensure transparency as well.

The art of negotiations also includes the ability to decide the timing of the talks. And, last but not the least, the person must know why he is talking. Right now, New Delhi is not even ready to accept ground realities. Interlocutors have been appointed but their terms of reference have not been decided. The first point in Syed Ali Geelani’s five point-formula has not been accepted. It seems that New Delhi wants to engage the leadership in talks on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), removing bunkers from urban areas, unemployment and development.

When people say the leadership has no paper or plan, many people will exercise their right to differ with him. What happened to the National Conference’s autonomy document? It was passed by the Legislative Assembly by overwhelming majority. New Delhi did not even read it.

And, what happened to the Re-Settlement Act? It was also passed by both houses of the state legislature. The Governor referred it to the Supreme Court. The apex court returned it after two decades without any modifications, which made it an Act. What happened?

Why was Sajjad Lone’s Achievable Nationhood document thrown into the bin? He did not seek sovereignty. Why was the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Self-Rule Document ignored?

New Delhi did not even accept General Parvez Musharraf’s four points. It was not framed by Kashmiris, but a section of the Hurriyat leadership saw the beginning of the resolution process in it.

The JKLF chief, Muhammad Yasin Malik toured the entire Valley. He collected more than one million signatures in two years. The signatures were presented to the Prime Minister in the form of a memorandum. Did anything move?

Why should the pro-resistance leadership have a roadmap, by the way? The on-going struggle is not a question paper of a high school examination and the leaders are no examinees. Nobody sought a roadmap from Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru in black and white.

All Kashmiri leaders have time and again made clear that post independent Jammu and Kashmir will take care of the minorities, their rights and cultural ethos. Why should anybody in India be concerned over the post-independent survival of Jammu and Kashmir? They should be more concerned about the six hundred and fifty million Indians who defecate on the roads. They should be concerned about the 46 per cent of the world’s malnourished children that live in India. Shockingly, even sub-Saharan Africa has a better record of child malnourishment at 30 per cent while China records eight per cent and Pakistan 37 per cent.

The provision of restricted self-determination in one of the resolutions of the United Nation’s Security Council has been widely debated and resented. But the steps for the final settlement laid down by the resolutions are flawless and can make a good roadmap for resolution if at all it (roadmap) is necessary. The most important point at this juncture is to make New Delhi address the basic issue. Once this is done, all capable persons who unfortunately are on other side of the fence will come back, join hands and sit together with the leadership to chalk out future strategy.