In the recent times, the hostilities between India and Pakistan are growing high while the situation in Kashmir is also alarming. Amidst such situation, India is hinting for a dialogue with separatists in Kashmir and Pakistan. In view of such a significant political unfolding, a senior separatist leader Prof Abdul Gani Bhat talks at length with an editor of The Legitimate Asem Mohiuddin what it holds for the future of Kashmir and for entire South Asia.
There have been lots of tension between India and Pakistan and militancy is also up. How do you see the future of talks?
I am born with optimism and have never been a pessimist. I believe in the element of good in human individual ultimately triumph and the agents of doom and darkness will disappear. India and Pakistan share history, geography culture and if I move a step further they share poetry and taste.
But the politics somehow or the other I don’t want to get into details led to a partition into Bharath and Pakistan where unfortunately the dispute of Kashmir arose. India came to Kashmir with a roar of the gun and mixed this roar with the noise of democracy and said these on record in unambiguous words that as soon the normalcy returns to Kashmir the people of Kashmir will be given an opportunity to decide to be on the side of India or Pakistan.
This marks the beginning of the dispute and later India went to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) with a complaint and UNSC also agreed to India and said that as soon the normalcy returns they will ascertain the political will of the people of Kashmir and that is there. But both the countries fought wars on Kashmir not only at the UNSC but at other forums as well. The dispute has really strained the relations between India and Pakistan. What do we need do is that India and Pakistan is a nuclear country.
We shall also understand the undercurrents of our times. Our times suggest that we should rise above the yesterday in any case and develop an approach which is in tune with humanity and should live as humans on earth not as brutes and beasts fighting all the time. Now in the world, we live we should understand the dynamics of history. The world is converting into a global village and tensions have no relevance.
Therefore, India and Pak should understand the reasons of economic compulsions and political requirements of the situation and then start talking, talking to each other, not only for pleasure but to achieve tangible results in terms of resolution of the dispute between themselves.
Quite often the separatists in Kashmir stress on India to resolve Kashmir as per the United Nations resolutions. In such resolutions, Pakistan is first asked to withdraw its forces from Pakistan administrated Kashmir. Don’t you ask it to Pakistan?
Well, when I refer to the UNSC I refer to the genesis of the dispute of JK. While referring to it I reach to UNSC but this world body has all along been very insensitive with regard to future dispossession of JK. They, I think never proceeded on principles. They addressed the parties, not the principles. The principle involved would be that the forces shall be withdrawn from Kashmir and UN shall take over it and the dispute would have gone. But they pleased both the parties.
They asked Pakistan to withdraw its troops as India said it has committed aggression in Kashmir which is its integral part. That was the problem. So UN asked Pak to withdraw its forces from Pak and India would also withdraw its bulk troops but will stay back along with the troops from UN. Pakistan would not have normally liked it and then in the same breath it said that the plebiscite will be administrated in the region to ascertain the choice of people. That never happened.
But I don’t want to abide by the undercurrents of history. Whatever has happened has happened. We don’t have to go back and start talking about history. We will have to ensure better tomorrow and peaceful South Asia.
Do you agree that the world body has been playing tricks with the people of Kashmir?
Well, I don’t have any method to measure the sincerity at global or regional or local level. I am not a mufti to issue a fatwa. But I would like to tell you that the situation has developed now in a manner in which both the countries, India and Pakistan can’t do without talking. Talks have to happen and we have to generate an environment for talks that produce results. That is what is important. I am concerned about tomorrow, not yesterday.
I want better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren for Pakistan and India and if I go a step further I say better tomorrow for whole south Asia. As a human individual nothing is dearer to us than our children so let’s start talking with purpose and talking comprehensively for a brighter tomorrow.
India too wants to have talks with separatists and Pakistan. But both separatists and Pakistan want to have talks as per United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir. What is the future and possibilities for talks under UN resolutions?
Even UN directly or indirectly wanted talks to happen. Probably more relevantly talks to happen so that India and Pakistan can live in peace. That is there and which is where Mr Dixon’s approach to the dispute needs dispassionate consideration. He reproduced an outline and idea which contradicts the basic approach of UN in Kashmir as a plebiscite to happen.
He wants a partial plebiscite. So you explore possibilities when a dispute arises and pushes you to the extent of insanity you have to explore the possibility, possible to ensure that the issue is resolved and the relationship is built to last.
Therefore, talks assume the only relevance and assume the position as far as human relation and resolution of disputes is a concern. As I take this liberty here that talks must happen. We must ensure that we generate a political climate, a climate which pleases everyone not only in the subcontinent but across the globe.
What is the future of UN resolutions in present times?
Well, I can’t say I am perfect in approach to my life. But let me tell you that the world has to take a serious view of issues not only to build relations but to what constitutes a potential threat to our tomorrow. You must rise above yesterday; rise above prejudice, intransigence and hostilities. I believe in the leadership of both the countries of India and Pakistan that they are conscious about the dangers of the ongoing dispute inherit in the situation and will address the Kashmir and find the solution for the peace across the globe.
Despite the militancy in Kashmir at the highest level, BJP took an initiative for dialogue though it has a tough policy on Kashmir and Pakistan. What is your approach?
Well, it has to be a conjoined effort. If they take a step here, I want a step to be taken there too (Pakistan). I want a step to be taken in Kashmir as well as only conjoined efforts will produce results.
If you take isolated steps or half steps to achieving the goal which is significantly relevant to tomorrow we will reach nowhere. We need conjoined effort by all Kashmir, India and Pakistan to ensure peace, security and prosperity of the region as a whole.
Last year New Delhi appointed interlocutor for Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma. Though it was a very small initiative it could have been the beginning of the political process. The separatists boycotted him?
Muslim Conference has taken a position which may probably sometimes; unfortunately create a problem for it and for our other friends. But let me go on record we trust that the dialogue is the only way out. Dialogue at what level, dialogue with whom is not relevant to our approach to the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. What is relevant to us is a conjoint effort, do the talking whosoever wants to talk to us, we should do it.
We have taken a position that our doors are wide open to anyone who wants to see me and my party and wants talk on Kashmir. We don’t want to create problems. Kashmir issue has created lots of problems; it consumes lives in India, Pakistan and more importantly in Kashmir. We are losing our blossoming and budding youth to this problem and we don’t want that shall continue to happen. We want our youth to grow into mature human beings to contribute for better tomorrow, therefore, we will talk to anyone as levels don’t matter for us.
Kashmir is a 70-year-old problem. While resisting against Indian rule in Kashmir we resort to the tactics where we deconstruct our social and economic structures that hit the rock bottom. Is it because we lack a vision and are continuing a failed strategy to inflict deep wounds on our social and economic structures?
Many things have been muddied which you don’t want to see or visualize happen. I am sad about so many things and I have no doubt about it. But I recognize in case of crisis where worries develop human beings suffer and that is where our collective conscience will prick us to an action and action which will commensurate with the beat of hearts, commensurate with sombre political realities as well. And if that happens I think we will be able to deal over with lot many problems to ensure better and brighter tomorrow for us to move with peace and tranquillity.
In recent times we see lots of youths in Kashmir picking up the gun. Do you endorse their way of resistance while losing the precious lives when they could have contributed better while living?
Well, I would have to repeat again. Waters have been muddied probably I would say dangerously muddied. Many things happen which I probably want to refer to the reason being a dispute on Kashmir. We will have to address the dispute in any case whatever happens. And by doing it we may have to learn yet another lesson which is calling spade a spade. While you move with preconceived notions you can’t achieve a breakthrough particularly on issues like Palestine and Kashmir. You have to move with imagination you have to move with a realism that is what is needed.
We have seen that the dispute of Kashmir is related to Palestine very often. What is their relevance given to the tough situation faced by people in Gaza?
In my opinion, politics consists three things, reconciliation not confrontation, balancing and interpreting forces of opinion. As far as both are a concern I don’t want to draw parallels between the two disputes. That they are doing it at their level and we are doing it at our level but we belong to the same times. We live with the times of understanding and effort to achieve peace and dignity on earth. So they too want to live the same way.
But do you correlate the aggression of Israel to Palestine with the Kashmir by India?
Kashmir and Palestine probably may not be connected with the origin of their disputes. The reason is that we belong to two different geographical, historical, politico-social backgrounds. Therefore at some point differences may emerge while talking on Kashmir and Palestine together. I don’t want to do that. I simply want Kashmir is addressed and resolved. And Palestine is addressed and resolved. May God grant us patience and courage to undertake a journey towards peace and progress.
Kashmir is not resolved in 70 years and the future of it is still uncertain. It may take some more time may be a decade or more 70 years. What is our strategy until then? Should we continue to lose our young lives?
I can’t make a prediction for tomorrow. I don’t know what it holds for you and what it holds for me. As you said 7 decades have passed and it is not resolved. Yes, 70 years have gone it is still unaddressed. I would say if you don’t recognize it for seventy long years how on earth can you predict that you forget the dispute on Kashmir tomorrow.
What shall be our strategy without losing lives and suffering economically?
In a dispute or in conflict zones such things happen and things never happen the way you want. Without choosing to remove the bone of contention peace is not possible.
But what is the role of leadership to safeguard its people?
Well, you can ask the leadership about it. I feel concerned about the loss of lives in India, Pakistan and more importantly in Kashmir as the consequences of Kashmir dispute on LoC and here. I pray good sense prevails and the leadership start talking peace.
Concerns and condemnations are a regular phenomenon. But leadership must have a solution?
I may choose to agree with you to some extent. But there are problems sometimes that leaders are busy in trifles rather in bigger issues
Do you agree that you lack the vision to lead the people?
People are the masters in Kashmir and elsewhere as well. The masters understand what is what and who is what. And I believe in the collective intelligence of Kashmir and I know the decision will emerge tomorrow or day after, maybe we take more time but the decision has to be delivered for consideration probably at much higher levels if we don’t rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity to lead people out of remorse, out of tensions, turmoil and conflict that we need a conjoint effort.
Can we say that the problem is left to the people as of now and you as separatist leaders don’t have the critical role?
I don’t want to draw the lines between people and leaders. You are as good as I am and I am as good you are. But the nature of job and task I have undertaken may be different. But intrinsically we are similar in our beat of hearts, in the beat of our cries and souls. Similarly, in our effort to build a civilized society in Kashmir as also in Pakistan and India, we need to move together with a commitment to a growth towards peace and stability in the region.
Some people in Kashmir say that you are stooges of Pakistan in Kashmir and serving their agenda instead of the people of Kashmir?
Let me tell you one thing. We are the arbiters of the problem, not the party. Let the India and Pakistan do the talking as they did it for a long. I have not seen any Kashmiri except Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who led the delegation at UNSC and delivered the speech. It happened because Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru understood Sheikh was the leader of the times and represents popular aspiration of people for sometimes.
Whether he succeeded or not I don’t want to pass the judgement but he did represent it for some time. India and Pakistan met in Tashkent, Shimla, Lahore, Islamabad besides in United Nations and discussed Kashmir. I haven’t seen any Kashmiri in talks between India and Pakistan. That is why I believe we are arbiters and the masters of our will. The demand of Kashmiris is deep-rooted in political morality and in international law. When a Kashmiri raises a slogan “we want freedom” my answer is that they recognize that they are the masters of their destiny though technically not the party to the dispute.
Do you think in present times India and Pakistan can talk?
India and Pakistan can never fight a war. No military solution, therefore, can happen. It may happen in dreams and if the war happens between India and Pakistan it must spell a total disaster and no country chooses disaster for its people. So no war only talks. Secondly, considering insensitivity of UN, I think UN may not help but only talk. We need a breakthrough in Pakistan, India, Kashmir and elsewhere in the world. You see even recently the US wanted India, Pak to talk. There is no alternative to talks. Therefore talks must happen.
China is in Pak with CPEC, Isn’t it a violation of UN resolutions?
You want me to pass the judgment on all issues confronting the world. No. We belong to an era where economic aspirations prevail over everything. No doubt Pakistan and China have developed a specific economic relationship but remember China never wants a war between Pakistan and India. China has invested huge sums on projects in Pak. They will never counsel on Pak to have war with India.
The Russians would also want to talk between two countries. It is in India’s economic interests to have Kashmir resolved with Pakistan. They will have to join heads together in anyway and circumstances. Maybe they may take a year or longer but there is no other option.
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