Shun Bilateralism  

The Hurriyat (G) chairman, Syed Ali Geelani’s decision to boycott the Pakistan High Commissioner’s Eid Milan has evoked appreciation in Kashmir. Mr Geelani has made clear yet again that the people of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be taken for granted, not even by Pakistan which is an important party to the dispute.  One fails to understand as to why India and Pakistan shy away from taking the people of Kashmir on board.  India talks to Kashmiris and so does Pakistan. But when it comes to sharing the negotiating table with the people of Kashmir, something goes wrong and the two neighbours switch over to bilateralism.  In principle, it is the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have to adjudicate on the claims of India and Pakistan, and this is exactly what the UN resolutions have laid down. Moreover, the governments of India and Pakistan have repeatedly said that the final decision with regard to the future of Kashmir would be taken by its people, but in actual practice the two countries are allergic to their participation.

Unfortunately, the Kashmiris have been treated like cattle from the very beginning, and this is where the problem lies. The past six decades have proved it beyond doubt that they are averse to decisions imposed on them by India and Pakistan, and the on-going movement has made it crystal clear.  Despite facing an administrative, legislative and judicial onslaught aimed at diluting the gravity of the issue over time, Kashmiris are out on the streets demanding a resolution, steadfast on their stand as in 1947.

What, however, has changed is that in the contemporary era, when Kashmiris have offered huge sacrifices, there is no scope for repeating Tashkent or Shimla.

Bilateralism has to end now, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir given a berth at the negotiating table.  Both countries have to bear in mind that Kashmir continues as the core issue between them. Matters like Sir Creek and detained fishermen can be settled bilaterally, but so far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, it involves the future of 1.20 crore people. India and Pakistan cannot decide it on their behalf. Kashmirs are mature enough to take a decision for themselves, and no one can take them for granted.