“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Bukhari saheb is putting too much emphasis on the State-Centre talks when the real challenge lies elsewhere

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Quiet Diplomacy: The idea didn’t work sir jee?

The response from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference to Union Home Secretary G K Pillai’s “optimism” came barely after 24 hours of the statement he made to All India Radio. In other words Mirwaiz proved him wrong since he could be the only significant player in this kind of an overture. Pillai’s statement came at the time when the news about Prime Minister’s proposed visit to Kashmir is making rounds. The noise about “Quiet Diplomacy” has been on for last several months and it was seen as something new to address the internal dimension of Kashmir problem. On its face value people did not pin much hopes with this initiatives as the past experiences are so bitter that this pill can’t be swallowed easily. Nevertheless, there were many who had expectations that something positive was in store. Home Minister P Chidambaram proved to be very sharp by coining this word as it gives a diplomatic edge to New Delhi and the process as such cannot be held accountable at any stage.

Like all past initiatives aimed at finding an “understanding” with those who are out of mainstream, this also was fraught with dangers. After some selective leakages in the press about “secret meetings of some separatists” with home ministry officials as part of “Quiet Diplomacy”, Fazl Haque Qureshi, the suave face of separatism became the target and had miraculous escape. Qureshi had played an important role in brokering peace between Hizbul Mujahideen and New Delhi in 2000 though the ceasefire did not last for more than 12 days. Making Qureshi a target was clear message from those who do not want that any of the parties should sit across the table. Earlier in 2004, Mirwaiz himself had to pay the price for entering into dialogue with New Delhi when his uncle was shot dead and 100 year old school was burnt. Like those abortive attempts this time too the Quiet Diplomacy has not shown much progress on the ground.

In this backdrop the statement from Union home secretary that it was yielding results is something which needs to be debated. It has become more important since Mirwaiz has termed as a notion to create confusion in (separatist) ranks. If at all the Quiet Diplomacy was progressing well who are the players. Here in Kashmir the separatist camp is well defined in three quarters. One led by Syed Ali Geelani, who is deadly against any direct engagement with Delhi, another is on a “middle path” not aligning with any side, moderate in nature and headed by JKLF Chief Yasin Malik, the third one is obviously of Mirwaiz who has outrightly rejected the Quiet Diplomacy.

Here the statement of Mirwaiz gains weight to an extent when he says that it is a notion to create confusion. New Delhi’s problems in dealing with Kashmir are well understood, but it is surely on a soft peddle at this juncture as the important player in this game in Pakistan which has been grappling with its own problems, giving an advantage to India. This was the time New Delhi could have found a ground in Kashmir by a “serious and sincere” engagement with the separatists who challenge India’s presence in Kashmir. It remains a fact that the problem cannot be resolved overnight but extending it too far also leads to complications. Quiet Diplomacy could have been the best way to address this dimension but as of now it seems that it had failed to take off despite the support from the state government and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party. The results of this diplomacy are not visible on the ground as the conflict in Kashmir is not showing the way towards any reconciliation. This is also vindicated with the speech of Mirwaiz at the commemoration rally of his father at Eidgah on Friday where he hardened his stand asking Prime Minister to come forward for meaningful dialogue with Hurriyat and Pakistan. Nowadays Mirwaiz is not in the “good books” of Pakistani establishment but he still looks towards Islamabad than New Delhi and advocates in favour of former. This erosion makes it clear that the confidence and trust deficit with which New Delhi has been “managing” Kashmir has not gone down.

The “Quiet Diplomacy” was seen as something New Delhi announced under American pressure as Pakistan began to bargain with Washington on Kashmir in lieu of its “unflinching” support to war on terror. If the experts are to be believed it was purely done to satiate the “American feelings” which in turn assured Islamabad that “something was happening” over Kashmir.

Past experiences have shown that with such “half hearted” moves the separatists in Kashmir only get discredited among masses which in turn gives New Delhi a “room” to further delay any meaningful exercise over Kashmir. With Mirwaiz rejecting it again, New Delhi should think afresh to move forward positively on Kashmir. The talks in 2004 and 2005, the Working Groups and similar “Track II” initiatives have not made any difference on ground. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s sincerity may not be subject to scrutiny but the way his “Kashmir handlers” are going, the confidence is on decline. During his visit he should walk a mile more to send a positive message and remove the apprehensions Kashmiris have always attached with New Delhi’s moves. In case something has really moved on “Quiet Diplomacy” front; it is time for Dr Singh to make it public which certainly will show a way forward.