The Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) Delhi deserves all the credit for hosting Jammu Kashmir intra-parties conference in Gurgaon on 18 - 19 May. Over forty delegates representing five regions and European Kashmiri Diaspora deliberated for two days, under the most competent and directive leadership, with enduring stamina, of Dr Ajai Sahni, and culminating to a long list of resolutions outlining the principles for the future direction of the negotiations between the parties to the very long, protracted and complex conflict over Jammu Kashmir.
The success or failure of this very positive beginning depends on a variety of variables coinciding and coexisting for a sustainable duration.
Firstly, for, seemingly, the most sincere and committed present leadership of India and Pakistan over this issue, to consolidate their resolve to find a negotiated settlement of this conflict, they need to transcend the realm of symbolism and enter the concrete space of realism. They must harmonise their often contradictory stances between their public consumption drives and private positions. They must mean what they say in public and only say in public what they really mean privately. Anyone slightly expose to and aware of the foundational principles of the conflict resolution approaches knows that giving up the fixed and primary positions, by the protagonists to the conflict, is the name of this game, and a starting pr-requisite. In this context, the challenge to both the leaderships is start discharging, and be seen to be discharging, their internationally and bilaterally agreed upon obligations: protecting and preserving the life, liberty and property of the entire citizenry of Jammu Kashmir inhabiting the areas under their respective control. The catalogue of failure, on all three accounts, is too long to enumerate here. To ensure that no single life is further lost in anywhere in the state, the last vestige of mindless violence must be extinguished from the sacred and centuries old peaceful soil of the state. Pakistan has to take further bold steps in silencing the mercenary guns forever. This must be followed by demilitarisation of the state by both sides to mutual satisfaction of the JK populace. An open declaration must be backed by persistent action that there is no place of violence around the negotiating table.
As for the extending and consolidating the liberties to the people of the State, more needs to be done on people - to - people contacts and interactions. This would require opening up of more communication channels betwixt the various parts of the divided State. In addition, the peoples of Gilgit, Baltistan, Hunza and Nagar must be granted basic rights of political representation according to their choice. All the people of the State must be allowed unhindered movements of travel and trade in any parts of the State and beyond. All the displaced people, including the pundits of valley, must be rehabilitated with dignity in the homes.
The third element of the obligation relates to protecting the property of the State for its rightful beneficiaries: the entire populace of the State. Both India and Pakistan must ensure that until the final resolution of the conflict, the natural wealth of the State: the Waters, Minerals, Forestry and possible deposits of fossil fuels are utilised with primary interests of its people in mind.
In this context, the second variable is the diversity of Jammu Kashmir political voices. It has become ever more crucial, at this particular juncture, that this diversity, in its entirety, finds a common platform and a collective voice. In order for a long term and durable solution, which re-unites the divided people, regions, cultures and religions, the pluralist and secular traditions of Kashmiriat have to be revived and upheld by all the political opinions of the State. The principle of 'shifting positions' from the fixed base bases equally apply here too. The burden of responsibility is even heavier on the secular nationalist movement to unite its ranks for the common good to lead the way. All the different groups must come together on minimum programme to form a national platform and a consensual political programme. For heaven sake! Unite and become one!
The way forward lies in all the parties to the dispute working together for the re-unification and integration of the divided State and empowerment of its people without discrimination on the bases of colour, creed, ethnicity or political persuasion. The only category barred from this collective of democracy, pluralism and secularism is the totalitarian fascism with violent tendencies in the guise of religion or ideology.
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