Ceasefire must be followed by political dialogue

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The dialogue process between the two nations will provide a vital opening to push forward with the peace process

By: Mudasir Dar

Given the complicated channels of power that operate in Kashmir, the gesture of a ceasefire needs to be supported by backchannel dialogue with Pakistan and cultivating a strong domestic constituency for peace. Despite the sabre-rattling on the surface, there may have been signs of a thaw in recent months. The other day, for instance, both the Indian and Pakistani DGsMO seemed to speak the same language,  and came into a ceasefire agreement with each other from February 24, generating hope for the people of Kashmir for a political dialogue on various issues between the two nations. The Ministry of External affairs statement reads “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the border, the two DGsMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have propensity and lead to violence. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings, and cease firing along the Line of Control with effect from midnight 24/25, February 2021.”

The same statement has been widely welcomed by Kashmiris and by the world also but the important thing that should be associated with this all is that of political dialogue. The dialogue process with Pakistan could provide a vital opening to push forward the peace process. In the past, Pakistan’s military and political leadership have pulled in different ways (unless the generals were indirectly in power), often undermining dialogue with the civilian government. This could be an important moment to engage both.

Let’s get one thing right. Nothing in Kashmir will improve unless India’s relations with Pakistan improve. Figures suggest that there were more than 4052 ceasefire violations in 2020, highest in two decades; in the year 2019, more than 3200 ceasefire violations were reported. Earlier, there have been 405 violations in 2015;583 in 2014;347 in 2013;114 in 2012; 62 in 2011; 44 in 2010 and 28 in 2009.This suggests that the relationship deteriorated over the last 15  years and the results of these violations had been quite brutal and bloody with human lives being lost on either side of the LoC, be it soldiers or civilians.

The spike in violations in the last two years has been explained as due to the abrogation of 370 but these violations are mostly meant to make the infiltration possible. However, if both the governments decide to scale down tensions and reduce the hostilities, they have to engage with each other and that engagement may, indirectly, help scuttle infiltration attempts. Such agreements would be a great relief to those living on either side of the LoC, who are the worst victims of ceasefire violations.

As has been asserted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi many a times in his different speeches, the two countries share most of the problems including poverty, corruption and many other issues that the two countries need to fight for. The initiation of a  meaningful dialogue shall bring succour not only to the people of J&K, reduce tension on borders and help the people displaced because of hostilities, return to their homes, but shall also be a huge relief to the people of the subcontinent. A country with the one-third population living below the poverty line without access to basic amnesties of life like health care and safe drinking water can ill afford to spend ten billion rupees to fight and contain infiltration and militancy and twenty-four billion rupees to retain control over a few hundred square kilo-meter glacier without a trace of life. The meaningful political dialogue shall facilitate the use of precious resources for the welfare of deprived and downtrodden people of India and Pakistan.

It is such a delight to read the spy chronicles, a book co-authored by two of the most famous spymasters, former RAW  chief AS Dulat and former ISI chief Asad Durrani. Their conversations took place in Istanbul, Bangkok and Kathmandu. They are not as sinister as we may think. They mostly discuss about lost opportunities. The two spymasters are warm and frank with each other, often offering perspective into why our two nations continue to conflict with each other. Their conversation shows that we could have, as easily, chosen to be a a peaceful region and what was perhaps needed was more imaginative political leadership on both sides.

Talking has always helped to resolve the most complex conflicts. Unlike the Arabs and Israelis, Indians and Pakistanis have a strong cultural bond. We have shared literature- a common love for Manto, Sahir, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. A shared cinema – an undying love for Bollywood. A shared obsession with cricket India, Pakistan matches (rare, very rare nowadays).

The spy chronicles try to tell you what has gone wrong. The warmth of the engagement between the two spymasters makes us realise that there is still hope that future leaders may be able to bring the two nations closer and create an atmosphere where we can meet freely, share ideas and experiences and celebrate our common heritage without being seen as anti-nationals. If the two spymasters can break bread together and risk-sharing memories, so can our political leadership. If for no other reason, for the sake of the most beautiful place on earth – Kashmir.

  • Author is student cum social Activist, is recipient of Presidential Award in world Scouting and can be reached at [email protected].

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