2nd Roundtable Conference – Barometer of Success and Failure
By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani


Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani is a jurist. He is secretary general of JKCHR-NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations. He is an expert in Peace Keeping/Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions.

Common sense demands that Kashmiris around the Table should not only reflect a full circle of politics and composite wisdom of the civil society, but should have the basic ability to address Delhi without prejudice to their 'best interests'. They should be plural, inclusive, non discriminatory in their composition and substantive in their agenda.

The second Round Table Conference convened by Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh on 24-25 May in Srinagar is over. It could be seen as a successful or semi successful or failed and semi failed conference on the principle of glass 'half' filled with water. More so the various interest variables in politics - main stream and separatist, leaders of civil society, human rights advocates, militants and the common man, woman, unemployed youth, people distributed on either side of LOC, affected families, youth stranded on the other side of LOC or in hiding, for a variety of reasons, Kashmiri diaspora, Delhi and Islamabad, Srinagar, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit and various other identities have their own 'barometers' to gauge the outcome of the Round Table.

It is interesting that an initial list of 80 was trimmed down to a minimum of 35 and then raised again to 48. Out of the last 48 invitees 11 boycotted for one or the other reason. The Round Table at Srinagar needs to be looked at from various dimensions. It is not in any way a failure in principle because life in aggregate is not all about 'star' politicians. There is more to it - and common misery and the 129 years old struggle remain at the core.

If Hurriyat A or Hurriyat G or other non Hurriyat political schools have not participated, it is not the end of the road. They (barring Syed Ali Shah Gilani) have been meeting on a regular basis and they have missed just 'one' opportunity. Centre has assured them of a sustained engagement.

It is important that such Round Tables have an impressive circle of politics and are serious to assure a full circle of overwhelming wisdoms. Putting up a show of numericals to serve a 'proxy' interest would be extremely dangerous. It is even morally binding on the participants to dig deep into the recesses of their conscience and seek a mandate that they are fit to be around the Table. It may suit Delhi to have fewer challenges and less substantive agendas around the Table.

Common sense demands that Kashmiris around the Table should not only reflect a full circle of politics and composite wisdom of the civil society, but should have the basic ability to address Delhi without prejudice to their 'best interests'. They should be plural, inclusive, non discriminatory in their composition and substantive in their agenda.

Everyone is likely to address the positives and negatives according to his/her level of ability to understand the jurisprudence of the case and the associate wisdom of the Prime Minister's travel, stay and announcements.

The political theme that the full circle of Kashmiri wisdom needs to focus on, is Prime Minister's political stand in terms of two dimensions. He has made it clear that Kashmir has two dimensions, one is an interaction between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the other is with Islamabad. Of course, the people of Jammu and Kashmir would mean all those that the Government of India took upon under the disputed Bilateral Agreement of 26 October 1948 and as defined in the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister of India is an elected constitutional office and there should be no doubt that he would only mean 6 or 9 Kashmiris from Srinagar or a few more from Muzaffarabad, Gilgit and diasapora. India has to live along side with Pakistan and this equation makes it abundantly clear that Delhi is out to woo Islamabad for a peaceful co-existence. Delhi is quite clear about the ability of Pakistan to stir up dust in Srinagar or spread death and doom.

Of course any dimension in India Pakistan relations embeds on the one hand Pakistan's position on the Right of Self Determination and on the other a much more important interest in the water resources of Kashmir. This India Pakistan dimension concurrently throws up the question of Kashmir on the Pakistani side of LOC. India and Pakistan by virtue of the jurisprudence of their respective controls in Jammu and Kashmir, have committed themselves to the entire people and geography of Kashmir. It is in no terms as simple as the bureaucrats and most importantly the intelligence agencies ISI and RAW appear to understand.

Under these circumstances the thinking Kashmiri and a decent Indian and decent Pakistani in all disciplines of life have a crucial role to play. This statement rules out any successful or substantive role for mere numericals. On the contrary it charges the wise people in all the three administrations of Jammu and Kashmir and the Kashmiri diaspora with an immediate duty to step in and assure the best interests of their own people.

The circle of Kashmiri wisdom spread in all the three administrations and in the diaspora, have a challenge in regards to the jurisprudence of their case, jurisprudence of the geography and the commonly accrued liabilities of India and Pakistan. It is no more a question as to who sits around a Round Table but the political escalator has moved one step higher, in relation to substantives.

If second Round Table was a serious move, then it has set a new direction, that is, to institutionalise things. It necessitates a rethink in Kashmiri circles and the process demands that many leaders may become redundant, just on their inability and non understanding of the Kashmiri variable in the Prime Minister's two dimension political agenda.

Prima facie Kashmiri's claim that they have yet to make a decision in respect of their future. To a successful degree they are a separate people under the State Subject Law of 20 April 1927. The Law defines them as Kashmiris, in the same manner in which Indians and Pakistanis are defined under their respective constitutions. India and Pakistan do not dispute it. However, we have a problem in this regard in Gilgit. And if all decide to gear up to a common wisdom, Pakistan shall have no choice but to correct it error in Gilgit and Baltistan on the question of State Subject and on other institutions.

Second Round Table Conference is far different from the first one. Prime Minister has gone full stretch in seeking an institutional base for an assured success. The creation of five working groups has established a reference point to locate a success or to point out a failure.

One can see that the deliberations of the 2 day ICM Kashmir Conference at Heritage Village, in Manesar have been taken into account and the creation of 5 working groups, charged with an institutional duty, are an advance of what ICM conference deliberated and resolved. However, success of this programme rests on the composition and quality of these groups. If these groups are created like any other working group or semi Government body, one need not expect much from them. These groups have to be a new and have independent approach. They need to have non party experts to add to the institutional wisdom and pave a path ahead.

The first group to deal with measures to improve the condition of the people affected by militancy shall have to look beyond the LOC into the two administrations controlled by Pakistan. Although the principal affectees are on the Indian side of Kashmir but there is a spill over. Kashmiri youth in the valley is unemployed and idle. All that is at hand is to sub contact politics. The society is dangerously politicised. They have suspended to discuss the quality of life and are content with a 'process' alone.

Unemployed youth cannot wait. India and Pakistan have to come up with joint economic and employment packages in India and Pakistan and on both sides of LOC. Pakistan can revise its self serving interest of parading Kashmiri sentiment before the 57 OIC countries for a political statement and seek a comprehensive package for the unemployed Kashmiri youth. India is highly valued in the European Union. She could negotiate an equivalent for the unemployed Kashmir youth with the European Union. Kashmiri diaspora could equally play an important role in this regard.

In regard to affectees of violence the return of Kashmiri Pandits is very important. Their return would give back the habitat the face of plurality and dignity. Although Kashmiri Pandits seem to have kept the sheen of their excellence in various parts of India and abroad, yet their right to return in 'safety' and in 'dignity' has no estoppel Muslims too have been victims of violence in and after 1990. The question of displaced people exists since 1948 and the state constitutions recognise them as such.

The second measure of evolving a mechanism to encourage flow of people and simplify the travel is going to bring down the barriers of hate, ignorance and mistrust. It includes opening up new routes such as Kargil-Skardu. Pilgrimage and tourism across the LOC and more people to people contacts could be worked out.

In the third measures, the question of common grievances within various parts of Jammu and Kashmir has been addressed. A strategy shall be evolved to assure a balanced economic development and employment generation and a balanced regional and sub regional development within the State.

The fourth group will work on measures to give the people good governance. The fifth group will be charged with the responsibility to deliberate on matters relating to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union. It will look upon methods how to strengthen democracy, secularism and rule of law in the state. Another group shall be looking at the effective devolution of powers among different groups to meet regional, sub regional and ethnic aspirations.

Human Rights advocates have a special reason to complement the outcome of the Round Table. If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet succeed to live up to his statement that "there would be zero tolerance of human rights abuses by the security forces operating in the state", one can say that India has decided to understand the role of its security forces (in number and in appearance) and it has decided to understand the stipulation of protection of 'life' in the instrument of accession, it has decided to listen to various variables and above all it is addressing itself to its election to the recently constituted UN Human Rights Council with an unprecedented world trust.

However, as the challenges are colossal much, much and much more is needed to give the people of Jammu and Kashmir a serene habitat where they have a protection of 'life', 'property' and 'honour'. Plural sovereignty of the people and a serene habitat are the twin titles that need to be saved at any cost.


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