India’s sharp reaction to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UN general assembly does not come as a surprise. Indian diplomats have parroted the same old lines on Pakistan’s stand vis-à-vis Kashmir, only that this time it is laced with the hawkishness of a saffronised foreign policy. In the latest war of words between the two countries, particularly New Delhi’s bullish posturing, there is a lesson for pro-India parties in Kashmir because their inconsistency and expediency is partly responsible for encouraging India to thwart peace building.
Sharif told the world body that there is a need for demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir. In a way, he was only repeating what Muftis and Abdullahs have been asking for on various occasions. Reducing the number of soldiers from civilian areas has been a long standing demand of a majority of the “elected representatives” of the state. Only yesterday, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was quoted by a local daily as telling a gathering of top army officers that their role in maintaining internal security is over and they should shift their focus on securing borders. Mufti’s assertion was in the backdrop of blatant occupation of state land and properties by the army, even after huge chunks of land have been allotted to it in the land-scarce Valley. New Delhi’s belligerence on Sharif’s call for demilitarisation actually shows its contempt for the mass sentiment in Kashmir, particularly for the so-called elected representatives who often get brickbats for “being the stooges”. In the past, India’s moves to defeat any possibility for a resolution of Kashmir have met with highly sanitised press statements of pro-India politicians, in which Muftis and Abdullahs express the readily-available “concern” over setback to peace moves. It is time to move beyond such clichéd postures, take strength from the electoral mandate and build pressure on New Delhi.
In his speech, Sharif told the UN that Kashmiris are an integral part of the dispute and consultations with them are essential to evolving a peaceful solution. He also said that three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal oppression. Now, both the National Conference and the PDP have positioned themselves as the facilitators of any dialogue between dissenting Kashmiri leadership and New Delhi. Also, by and large, both parties, the NC especially, have often referred to New Delhi’s broken promises. On this count, there is absolutely nothing which should hold them back from criticising India’s latest bout of belligerence.