Not Without Kashmiris

There are, on the whole, two possible ways of looking at the so-called Pakistan-India dialogue process. One is the view that the two nations can’t have anything but a snail’s-pace sort of dialogue given the ‘intractability and complexity’ of the unresolved issues. The other view would hold that the two remain fundamentally opposed to each other, and all talk of having talks is simply a show as they continue to try to best each other at various levels. Here, the ‘dialogue process’ could better be described as perpetually talking about having talks as means of continuing deferral. The relative truth would probably lie somewhere in between, in the zone better described, in meteorological terms, as stormy but with the chance of a silver lining. And now, after the meeting between the respective PMs on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Ufa in Russia, commentators have begun to see the outlines of that silver lining. But, for Kashmiris, does this really mean anything? Can Kashmiris, as the centre-piece of contentions between the nuclear-armed neighbours, realistically hope to see some tangible improvement?

The simple answer, if things are left entirely to these two nations, is no. Until and unless Kashmiris initiate, maintain, and even increase the pressure – in whatever realistic ways they can – on Islamabad and New Delhi to start having a dialogue with an end-result as the target, not much movement can be expected in even the medium-term. The danger, of course, is that both Pakistan and India might ‘agree’ to put Kashmir on the back-burner, leave a resolution for future generations, even as Kashmiris continue to suffer in the myriad ways they currently do. No amount of diplomatic double-speak should stop or discourage Kashmiris from stressing their centrality in the ‘core issue’; as well as the fact that they themselves remain the ‘core party’ to this core issue.

It goes without saying that much of the responsibility lies with New Delhi. It has, largely, either refused to talk, or taken a stand that nothing with regard to Kashmir needs to be talked about, or simply attempts to utterly set the agenda for what might and can be talked about. This stance can only change with India realising that it can’t keep the Kashmir millstone around its neck for ever. And rather than leave it entirely to Pakistan to convince India of that, Kashmiris should start thinking of how they can play a more pro-active role in bringing it about.