The repetitive manner in which Kashmiri politics play out year after year has become downright boring and fatiguing. Ever year, as the winters pass by there is an increase in infiltration and cease fire violations. Alongside starts the tourist season in Kashmir marked by breathless calculations of the tourist influx to prove that everything is normal in the Valley. Next is the pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Amarnath which is heralded by verbal duels about the number of pilgrims that can be allowed and the manner in which it is to be managed.
As the tourist season and the Amarnath pilgrimage start to wane separatists attempt orchestration of social disruption. They blow the tiniest incident out of proportion with the fervent wish that it triggers a mass uprising. Fortunately, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his team have become well versed with the separatist bag of tricks and such attempts, over the last few years, have been pre-empted and nullified. In this the administration is helped, in no small measure, by the determination of the people to avoid disruption at all costs having been terribly victimised by the same over three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010.
As the winter approaches, infiltration, disruption, pilgrimage and other such activities become increasingly difficult, the state administration moves to the winter capital – Jammu and there is nobody worthwhile left in Srinagar to be hounded. This is the time for separatists to switch over to discussions, seminars, book releases, meetings and above all calls for talks with the Government of India.
True to form and a little earlier in the year than before, the separatists have got into the ‘talks mode’ this year also. The stage was set with the futile meeting in New Delhi with Sartaj Aziz, the national security and foreign affairs advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, followed almost immediately by a statement that there was scope for opening a ‘dialogue with the Government of India.’
What is quite astonishing is their cheek when they confidently lay down, not only their demand for a dialogue, but also the manner in which it should be carried out. This time round the separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wants a Vajpayee-type dialogue, ‘within the ambit of humanity’. To press home their point captive Kashmir based media is bending backwards to give an impression that Track II efforts are already in progress. After the meeting with Sartaj Aziz separatist leader, Abdul Ghani Bhat, camped in New Delhi to contact anybody and everybody who he thinks can help initiate the dialogue process. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has, in the meantime, stated that his conglomerate is ready to “cooperate and facilitate any process aimed at resolving the vexed Kashmir issue”. These acts and statements give a clear indication of the desperation that is prevalent in the Hurriyat camp for initiation of a dialogue.
BJP has termed the meeting separatist meeting with Sartaj Aziz as a ‘diplomatic blunder’ without acknowledging that there is nothing new to it. In July, 2011, separatists congregated in New Delhi to meet Hina Rabbani Khar, the glamorous foreign minister of Pakistan in the Pakistan People’s Party government. A year later in July, 2012, they once again enthusiastically trooped to Delhi to meet Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Gilani. The second meeting is marked by some cosy pictures of Syed Geelani holding the face of the foreign secretary in both hands with Pakistan’s High Commissioner Salman Bashir looking quite disgusted in the background. The separatists came out of this meeting bickering, as usual, about initiation of the dialogue process. The hardliners insisted that any exercise of this nature would be ‘futile’.
The high point came in the winter of 2012 when the separatists, fed up with the freezing winter of their land, decided to go for a paid holiday to Pakistan in December, 2012. The host Nation laid out a well packed itinerary including meetings with the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, leader of the opposition etc. At the end, Pakistan had nothing more than some good words to offer. Quite embarrassed and considerably chastened, the separatists came back and made frantic demands for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It looked like the proceedings in Pakistan made them get off the high horse. The meeting with the Prime Minister did not come by, instead, the weather changed and the summer cycle came into motion. Now that winter has once again approached it seems that the separatists wish to take off from where they left in January this year; hence, the call for a dialogue.
Notwithstanding the proposed dialogue the fact remains that the conglomerate is beset with internal dissensions and policy paralysis. It is purported that even Sartaj Aziz recommended forging of unity to the separatists to achieve the ‘right of self determination.’ In a weak attempt to put up a united front Abdul Ghani Bhat has stated that that disunity and disintegration in the separatist leadership is not an impediment towards resolving the Kashmir issue. In other words he has admitted that there is disunity and disintegration.
Hurriyat is not interested in the talks that it is pursuing so enthusiastically. It is simply trying to get over the setback caused by the dilution of support from its all time ally – Pakistan. The neighbouring country, gripped by internal strife can barely keep alive its “moral and diplomatic” support to Kashmir; in real terms, the unending flow of funds is severely restricted which spells disaster for the separatists. Now the conglomerate wants to ride on the shoulder of the Government of India to offset its precarious position.
As things stand there is no reason to open dialogue with the separatists at the moment. They should, instead, be encouraged to stand for elections, create a representative character and then make demands as the legitimate representatives of their people. The changing of colours with the change of weather is now an old, shoddy philosophy which should be discouraged.