Talks with Taliban?

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Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement that Taliban should be engaged in an unconditional dialogue has generated quite a few strong reactions from Jammu and Kashmir. Two former Chief Ministers – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – have raised questions saying why the same approach is not adopted in Kashmir. Both the leaders have a point if their statements are seen in the backdrop of some statements made by the General in recent past vis-à-vis Kashmir protests wherein he said that those marching towards encounter sites would be treated as ‘over ground workers of the terrorists’. If General could be so tough towards unarmed civilians of Kashmir, how can he be so soft towards Taliban who have waged full-fledged war against Afghan government and NATO forces?  If General believes that dialogue is the only way to resolve conflicts, he better look towards his own country and suggest such things for here.

That said, India is gearing for general elections this year and it would be too naïve to think that there could be any opening of dialogue either with Pakistan or Kashmiri separatists. The tensions between India and Pakistan are once again touching a crescendo. Almost every day there are skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir with both countries blaming each-other for violating the ceasefire. Both claim it is the other side which resorts to firing and shelling and that their own forces are only retaliating in a “befitting” manner. In the prevailing confusion, it is impossible for anyone to ascertain the reality as to who actually the aggressor is, and who is retaliating in defence. But irrespective of who could and should actually be blamed, fact of the matter remains that innocent people on either side of the border, those who live and work close to the LoC – the poor people of Jammu and Kashmir in both sides — are once again at the receiving end of the Indo-Pak hostilities.

Now the question is: why is all that is happening along the LoC and international border in J&K, happening? Is India deliberately raising the temperatures along the borders as the new elections are approaching? Or is Pakistan doing it in retaliation to India’s spurning its latest peace initiatives in the aftermath of two countries agreeing to open Kartarpur corridor? Or is it that both the countries are doing it under some tacit understanding so as to ease their respective domestic political pressures? There are certainly many more reasons which could be cited as being the possible motivation for the each party to do what all they are doing along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, whatever the cause, the unfortunate reality again is that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are once again caught between the guns of two countries. The protracted conflict between the two neighbours, which has been raging since their inception in 1947, is as ever, still being fought in Jammu and Kashmir over the heads of the poor people of this God forsaken region. And what is still more unfortunate is — that it is the strategic thinkers of the two countries sitting in New Delhi and Islamabad who determine the fate of the people of living along both sides of the Line of Control.

In such a scenario, Omar and Mehbooba’s “dialogue cry” may have no takers but the two government’s will have to come to the negotiating table if intention is to have peace in the region. Fact of the matter is that pitching for Kashmir dialogue at a time when BJP is gearing for a tough battle ahead is of no use. But still the stake holders have to keep on reminding the two countries that unless they open up communication channels, they can’t ensure peace in the region. May be, once the new government is in place in India, the dialogue threads would be picked up from where these were left years back.

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