PM’s June 24 meet: PAGD and others must stay clear of needless irritants and avoidable pitfalls

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By Mohammad Asgar Khan

In July 2015, when India and Pakistan premiers met on the sidelines of SCO Summit in Russian city of Ufa, they issued a joint statement which had no mention of Kashmir. And as far as one can remember, it has been like this all along.

It’s not been unreasonable, because this is how states conduct their business. Particularly, in a situation when there is a lot of trust deficit between the parties sitting across the negotiating table, wisdom lies in not racking up the touchy and itchy issues which have a potential to derail the entire engagement process right in the beginning. Such issues are dealt with only after some trust has been cultivated, rapport built, and when parties feel that now is the time to engage meaningfully and constructively on the issues of mutual heart-ache.

So if the current breed of Kashmir politicians would bother to expose themselves to REALISM — which should be the practical approach in their understanding of the politics – they will enter the June 24 meeting with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi far more confidently, and without anything bogging or hankering them down. They will have no invisible strings attached, which besides adding to their own poise and conviction, will also not turn off the other party!

The leaders of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) must understand that whenever two sovereign states engage – in war or in peace – they always prioritize their own state (or national) interests rather than wasting time, energy, efforts and ‘adversary’s goodwill’ on talking about the peripheral issues or possible irritants. So they too should stick to their own script, the one revolving around their own people’s needs, and not someone else’s position and interests.

While it is appreciable that the PAGD has realized the importance of the opportunity at hand and decided to participate in the meeting, this is the time for it to prioritize the needs, interests and positions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (and by their own claims of Ladaklh as well). As far as Pakistan or for that matter India are concerned, these are two sovereign countries and they know who to secure their respective interests. Neither of the two needs the Kashmiri leaders’ person or counsel or advocacy on this count. Therefore, harping on or insisting that Pakistan too must be engaged is a needless irritant, a red flag, which being avoidable must be treated likewise.

How-so-much one may want to put Kashmir at the centre-stage of Indo-Pak engagements, reality is that the two countries would do only what suits their own interests. And history stands witness to it. In fact their engagements have, even at most testing times, continued, and mind it, it has not always been about and around Kashmir!

There are two facets to trouble in Kashmir – one is where it is seen as an issue between India and Pakistan. Here they have a bunch of bilateral pacts and agreements like Simla Agreement, Lahore Declaration, and countless non-papers emphasizing that they would try and resolve it bilaterally without any third-party interventions. The ‘third party’ would mean not only the other countries and international institutions, but also every single individual who is not part of the political executive in either country at any given point in time.

Remember: irrespective of who negotiates, and who affect and sign international treaties, final reading is that they are between the two sovereign nation-states; period. So India-Pakistan negotiations, it goes without saying, are beyond the pale and mandate of the PAGD or Abdullahs and Muftis or any other individual within or without! Any meddling by them in this arena is going to be a mistake, which no Kashmir politician could afford at this critical juncture.

Another aspect of the Kashmir concerns the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi. This is purely within the domain of India’s domestic politics, and must be seen as that. This is the area which must concern PAGD, or for that matter any other political formation within J&K.

Those who think that Pakistan could stake its interests for the sake of Kashmir are living in proverbial fool’s paradise. And unfortunately it is this absurd thinking which has pushed generations after generations in Kashmir into sure-loser confrontations, with poor, ordinary people attracting every kind of harm – physical, material and psychological — and paying for it through their life and limb.

Honest analyses of the politics within Kashmir underscore the need for a thorough review of strategies adopted thus far. Unrealistic and unreasonable defense of the politics which seems leading nowhere without even acknowledging the great deal of miseries it has brought to the people across the board is like shutting eyes to the realities of life and politics. It is akin to refusing to accept, acknowledge and understand the politics of change and recognizing the world as it is. Indeed this has been the biggest shortcoming of the politics in Kashmir –that those at the helm are unable to appreciate the ever-changing nature and relativity of even the basic truths of politics.

A simple truth of political realism demands — a much-wanted and long overdue — break from the web of illusions, from raw emotionalism which has been a permanent USP of politics in the Valley. The political leaders – not only the ones who are participating the PM’s all party meet, but all others as well, would do themselves and the people of Kashmir a lot of good if they start looking at the situation as it is and then only try to change it into what they think it should be like. Reality is certainly different than the dream-stuff. Gold dust of fantasies have no value in the market of reality – there what is needed are the gold bricks!

Instead of relying on the inputs of their immediate coterie of sycophants who only show them their preferred world (boss is always right!) it’s time when the Kashmiri leaders must take a plunge into the world of reality. They must see the world as it is – “an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest”. Whether anybody likes it or not, reality has it that we live in a world where political claims and slogans are made for the lofty aim of “the common good” and then acted out in life on the basis of “the common greed”!

Once the Kashmiri leaders move into the world of reality, they will begin to shed every fallacy. The prime illusion they need to rid themselves of is their conventional view of two Ps — Politics and Pakistan. And once they do it, and severe the link between the two, they will no longer be looking towards anyone else for an endorsement of their popularity and political credentials. Should it happen, they would automatically be invested with lots of credibility. This will add to their bargaining power which is desperately needed for negotiating and securing the needs and interests of J&K with New Delhi.

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