Saturday, July 21, 2012


No territory is more critical than Kashmir for both New Delhi and Islamabad. Wedged between India and Pakistan, it is the most crucial military, territorial and religious issue in South Asia. A renewed phase of trust-building appears to be in the offing. The two countries are talking trade,which could lead to confidence building and fresh start to talks over Kashmir and cross-border terrorism.
However, mixed signals are emerging from Pakistan's government and military establishment. The former talks about possible Taliban push into India and the latter demanding pullout from Siachen.Parjanya Bhatt talks to Sajjad Lone, Chairman of the People's Conference and tries to understand how Kashmir views the new development.

Q) India and Pakistan are talking to develop trade ties unlike Kashmir and cross-border terror. Your first reaction.
A) It is good if trade ties are developed between the two countries. Trade leads to economic interdependence and it is an imperative if you want two countries to sit and resolve issues.

Q) Do you think there is change of heart/approach on both the sides of the border? Can we expect that a sustained and result-oriented peace
process will ensue?
A) It does seem that they are moving in a new spirit.We can only keep our fingers crossed that the statements emanating will result in a decisive moment that we all are hoping for. It all matters on the leaderships in the respective countries. I for one want to believe that, yes it seem to be a stepping stone into a new era.

Q) India and China have put border and territorial disputes on the back burner (not in deep freeze) and trade is the first priority. Do you think New Delhi and Islamabad are following the same model?
A) I have no idea.

Q) Pakistani Army General Ashfaq Kayani has referred to resolving the Siachen, peaceful co-existence and demilitarisation of Siachen. Is this a positive sign? Will prioritising trade with Pakistan work?
A) A very powerful statement from a serving Army chief. It is certainly a positive sign. Demilitarisation of Siachen may not mean a lot in terms of physicality. It means a lot psychologically. It depicts a renewed phase of trust.

Q) Also, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik has warned India about possible Taliban push into India. In such a situation Kashmir could be the first victim. Do you think Pakistan is raising genuine case for peace with India?
A) Beyond a certain stage continued trouble in Pakistan could mean trouble for the most imminent neighbour, and that is India. Pakistani voices have to be genuine. They are also reeling from the menace.

Q) Hafiz Saeed is free and there is no guarantee that terrorists won't strike the valley or any other part of India, which can derail the little progress the two sides have achieved and the peace in the valley. Your view.
A) Nobody can stand guarantee for the actions of non-state actors, irrespective of the control that the state might have over them. An individual roaming free should not hold two nations hostage. No individual is so strong to derail the peace initiatives of two countries.

Q) What role do you see for the moderate voice and the hardliners from the valley? Do you think New Delhi will/should invite various stakeholders from the valley?
A) New Delhi as well as Pakistan need to understand the contribution of the moderates. They need to be encouraged and involved. Nothing should be done overtly or covertly, which is tantamount to encouraging hardline and extreme tendencies. Keeping moderates out of the process is a pass ice endorsement of extreme views.

Q) Pakistan gave shelter to Osama bin Laden and is now sinking in its self created chaos of state sponsored terrorism. What future do you see for Kashmir?
A) Future of Kashmir by its very political and geographical origins is linked to peace in South Asia.


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