Published On: Mon, Oct 30th, 2017

Dialogue on Kashmir – New Interlocutor

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nazir-gilaniDr. Syed Nazir Gilani
A ‘plebiscite’ and a ‘referendum’ have been accepted as a dialogue, over the centuries. Switzerland was the first country when in the 13th century, people gathered and took votes on issues with the show of hands. Switzerland is called as the referendum capital of the world and the country incorporated the practice of referendum into the Swiss constitution in 1847. Today any issue that receives over 100,000 signatures in 18 months goes to a public vote. There were 9 referendums in 2016 and 180 in the last 20 years.
Ireland voted to adopt its constitution in October 1922 and the process was called ‘plebiscite’ and any subsequent vote to amend the constitution is called a ‘referendum’. Referendum is also conducted to determine the question of self-determination, involving both internal and external sovereignty. In 1958 Gabon, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Congo, Chad, Niger, all voted to secede from France.
Although US constitution does not have a provision for a referendum, yet 24 States hold referendums. First referendum was held in 1788 in Massachusetts and the last one was in 2008 in California. After Catalonia referendum on independence from Spain, the latest referendum was held on 22 October 2017 in Veneto and Lombardy — two northern regions of Italy.

These two regions opted to vote “yes” to more autonomy.The referendumswere calledby the two regions’ governors, both of whom are part of the right-wing Northern League — a party that once favoured secession — and wereaimed at securing further powers over spending, immigration, education and healthcare.Five regions in Italy already boast autonomous powers, including Sardinia and Sicily, as well as Veneto’s neighbour, Friuli-Venezia.Lombardy includes the city of Milan, and Veneto has Venice as its capital.

Government of India has decided to restart dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir, on its side of the cease fire line. People of Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmiri leadership are not trained in the art of dialogue. The best instrument of dialogue would be the expression of their choice through a ‘vote’. India and Pakistan have the need to enter into a dialogue on the future of Jammu and Kashmir and the people of the State shall have to participate in this dialogue through their vote supervised by the United Nations.

People of Kashmir have no other fair and reliable means of entering into any dialogue with India, except through a free and fair plebiscite. The process has been duly crafted by the United Nations and the two countries have accepted the format.

The decision to restart a frozen political dialogue in Jammu &Kashmir, prima facie, is a sane step and should be welcomed in principle. However, the appointment of former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as the New Delhi’s new interlocutor, has no merit and is unconvincing. As a start Kashmir is not an administrative or a security problem that could be entrusted to an intelligence officer. Dialogue with the people or the representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir on the Indian side of Kashmir could not be trivialised in this manner.

Government of India is faced with an estoppel as a result of its application pending at the UN Security Council since 01 January 1948. It has to face the wisdom settled at the 606 meeting of UN Security Council held on 6 November 1952, when United Kingdom stated that, “The ultimate objective of a fair and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations has, after all, been written into solemn agreements by the two Governments and endorsed by this Security Council. These agreements have been affirmed and reaffirmed by the two governments many times during the last threeand a half years. The transformation of this agreement into the reality of the actual voting ought not to present insuperable difficulties. We have recently seen the tremendous achievement – if 1 may say so, with respect – of the Government of India in organizing and carrying through a fully democratic election throughout itsvast territory. From this great example it is clear that the will of the people of Kashmir and Jammu in this question of accession could be ascertained without any insuperable difficulty.”

A former IB chief unless he uses his training to fracture and dupe the Kashmiri leadership, is no match for the earlier efforts made to create an atmosphere of equity among the parties. It is a challenge to Jammu and Kashmir government which had said that its General Administration Department (GDA) will work as a nodal department for five working groups announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the second Round Table conference on May 24, 2006. Government issued a notification that GDA shall be the nodal Department in J&K State for the Working Groups.

The five working groups were constituted and mandated as follows:

1. N C Saxena was to head the working group to deliberate upon the matters relating to good governance in Jammu and Kashmir.

2. National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari was to head a working group to deliberate on measures to improve conditions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir affected by militancy and schemes to rehabilitate all orphans and widows affected by insurgency.

3. M K Rasgotra, a former diplomat, was to head a committee to recommend measures to simplify procedures to facilitate travel across the Line of Control, increase goods traffic and expand people-to-people contact, including promotion of pilgrimage and group tourism.

4. Former Reserve Bank of India Governor C Rangarajan was appointed to be the Chairman of a working group to deliberate on balanced economic development, employment generation, balanced regional and sub regional development, employment generation, within the state.

5. The former Chief Justice of India Justice A M Ahmadi was to be the chairman of a working group to deliberate on matters relating to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union and methods of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the state.
Government of India failed to live up to the announcements made by the Prime Minister of India at the Round Table Conference in Srinagar. In October 2010 pressured by the popular uprising on the streets of Kashmir, Delhi named a group of three interlocutors to hold sustained dialogue with all sections of the people. Noted journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, Prof. M. M. Ansari, Information Commissioner and Prof. (Mrs) Radha Kumar, trustee of Delhi Policy Group were appointed as interlocutors. They had been entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to understand their problems and chart a course for the future.” New Delhi failed to consider and act upon the report. It was a tactic to mislead the people at home and fool the world community.
Government of India has the report of the Autonomy Committee constituted by the J & K government and passed by the two houses of the Assembly. New Delhi has shelved the report and has kicked the elected government in the teeth.

Hurriyat and other Kashmiri leadership has been put through a scanner of National Investigation Agency, on the question of alleged terror funding. It has created an iniquitous situation and the people of Kashmir would not trust Hurriyat, even if they go into any dialogue in the best interests of the people of Kashmir. People of Kashmir, independent and non-Kashmiri experts would not buy any climb down from the stated position in the Hurriyat constitution, to a sit through with an intelligence officer.

The way forward for Hurriyat is to carry out an internal audit of its ability to take part in a dialogue as identified by New Delhi. Hurriyat should reject to sit with an intelligence person but should not reject the principle of a dialogue outright. It should structure its team of experts. It should make a request to the United Nations and Government of Pakistan to assist and guide it during any dialogue with a representative from India. Hurriyat should also come out of its shell and look for Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri experts, who are duly credited for their knowledge and expertise in Kashmir case. United Nations and Government of Pakistan could be requested to identify these people, in addition to providing their own assistance in any dialogue process.

Unless a guidance from United Nations, Government of Pakistan and a team of Kashmiri experts is available to Hurriyat, it would not be able to measure up to the colossal expertise, available to Government of India. Without a comprehensive input and guidance, Hurriyat and other leaders from Kashmir would not be able to sustain any dialogue with India. Hurriyat should not run the risk in believing that it has the ability to complete the circle of wisdom on its own on Kashmir dispute.

The author is the President of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He is on UN Register as an Expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court. Author could be reached at dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com

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