Published On: Mon, Dec 23rd, 2013

Noble land and Duty to It

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

In the introductory article for “Eden of the East” by S N Dhar published in 1940 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru writes, “In prison or outside, Kashmir haunted me, and, though many years had passed since I had set my eyes on its valleys and mountains, I carried the impress of them on the tablets of my mind…Friends in Kashmir invited me repeatedly to go there. Sheikh Abdullah pressed me again and again, and everyone who was of Kashmir reminded me that I, was a son of this noble land and owed a duty to it.”

It had been over two hundred years since his ancestors had migrated from the Valley in the early eighteenth century. This son (Nehru) did not fail in his sense of duty to the noble land (Kashmir). The tragedy with this noble land has been that its sons have failed to continue to be dutiful sons and regard the land as noble land. Today we find that we have hurt the habitat (land) and its inhabitants (people) in a manner beyond belief.  The sense of duty has been anaesthetised and there is a need to bring it back to normal. We have gone to war against our symbols and the land. Today we can’t agree upon a uniting symbol and all symbols that surfaced between 1846-2013 have been dislodged and discredited. History takes a step after a century and we have bloodied the path and our walk into a reassuring tomorrow seems uncertain.

It is because we have ceased to be ourselves. We refuse to accept that Governments of India and Pakistan and the leaders of the two countries have a duty to their people first. We also fail to appreciate that the world at large is bound through United Nations and through bilateral agreements with the people of India and people of Pakistan. Kashmir does not have any such direct bond or agreement with the world. One may say that it is either a fluke in the affairs of history or the heavens were kind to these people that Kashmir surfaced at the UN for the interest and adjudication of the world. Over and above the respective concerns of India and Pakistan the people of Kashmir became a legitimate concern of the world. Unfortunately the sons of this noble land failed to agitate the duty of the world and decided to take the matter into their own hands. They tried a prescription which has hurt the land and the people beyond endurance.

At the close of 2013 we need to take stock of our militant resistance and of our political vision of these 23 years from 1990. The authors of militant resistance have turned off the switch and the political scene is fragmented in a manner, that it would not be able impact the attitudes of India, Pakistan or the world at all. The authors of the international diplomacy were caught weeing in the early hours of the morning on the streets of Washington, Brussels and London and attracted the adverse attention of these capitals. Humbled and humiliated, we had to pack up lock, stock and barrel from the streets of Washington, Brussels and the London. The symbols created by the establishment failed to endure the weather and came down like pieces of heavy lead.

A new beginning seems to be taking place around us and we need to find our role in it. India and Pakistan being the nuclear states can’t afford to go to war any more. Pakistan has admitted the fact that it could not win any conventional war against India in the past and there is no scope of any success in the future either. People of Kashmir too have admitted the fact that they lost a generation in their war (militancy) against India and may have been ill advised in the tactics. Kashmir will need another 25-30 years to have another generation ready for any military activity (if at all) or to rehabilitate the societal imbalance caused in our lives.

The new beginning is the rigorous backdoor diplomacy conducted to bring India-Pakistan closer. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs has rightly stated that India-Pakistan relations have greatly improved and backdoor diplomacy is helping bring the two sides closer. He said there was no more deterioration in relations and things had greatly improved. Aziz made the remarks during a debate in the Senate (upper house of parliament). His remarks came against the backdrop of a downturn in ties over ceasefire violations and fierce exchanges of fire along the Line of Control (LoC).

India and Pakistan have matured into wisdom that war or infiltration across the LoC are no solutions. Therefore, fresh and serious efforts are afoot to respect the ceasefire agreement of November 2003, which is considered the main CBM between India and Pakistan regarding Jammu and Kashmir. It has led to two other major CBMs — cross-LoC bus in 2005 for meeting of divided families living on either side and cross-LoC trade between two sides in 2008. Without prejudice to the three varying interests and claims (Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri) in the resolution of Kashmir people’s freedom of choice, we should move forward to be partners in the process, however, in a transparent manner to remain credible as a party.

Minutes matter in the life of a nation. It took only 35 minutes to India, Pak Armies to hold flag-meeting on 18 December 2013 to ensure calm and peace along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. “Both delegations were led by Colonel-level Officers and discussed ceasefire violations and the need to abide by the tenets of the existing ceasefire agreement between the two countries.” The talks were held in a cordial environment and both sides have agreed to give due consideration to the issues raised by the other side. It is important to point out that this meeting was proposed by the Indian side with an aim to restore peace and calm along the Line of Control.

The second major step to normalise the relations and discharge a duty to their people is the planned meeting of the director generals of military operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan at the Wagah border near Amritsar on December 24 to discuss ways to restore calm along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. The meetings is taking place after 14 years and the last one was held in 1999. It is encouraging to note that the Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) of Pakistan has invited his Indian counterpart for this meeting to strengthen the mechanism to ensure ceasefire on the Line of Control. At the meeting, the Indian side will be represented by DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia while Pakistan will be represented by his counterpart Maj Gen Amir Riaz. The two DGMOs usually talk to each other on hotline on Tuesdays. The meeting between the DGMOs was agreed to when the Prime Ministers of both countries met in New York in September on the side-lines of the United Nations General Assembly. The proposed meeting is taking place less than a month after General Raheel Sharif replaced Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Pakistan’s new army chief.

Peace between India and Pakistan is not a bilateral issue. The region is likely to profit from good neighbourly relations between these two countries.  China was quick to welcome the improvement in relations and the proposed meeting of the DGMOs of India and Pakistan. The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said, “We welcome the efforts made by Pakistan and India for a ceasefire at the Line of Control in Kashmir”. “Both Pakistan and India are important countries in South Asia,” said spokesperson Hua Chunying. “The improvement of relations between the two countries is of vital importance to regional peace, stability and development,” Ms. Hua added. “As the neighbour and friend of Pakistan and India, China will, as it always does, support Pakistan and India in properly resolving relevant disputes through peaceful dialogue.”

It is encouraging to see that on its military front Pakistan seems to be moving in favour of the supremacy of the elected civilian government. Pakistan had suggested to include civilian diplomats in the proposed DGMOs’ dialogue. The US had also asked India to accept the suggestion. US believed that involving civilian diplomats would help strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan and the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the offer was turned down by the Indian side. Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was quoted as saying that the LoC was a military issue and New Delhi “did not see a diplomatic role in what was essentially a military issue.”

The DGMOs will discuss measures to ‘strengthen’ the ceasefire that came into force along the 198-km International Border (IB) in J&K, the 778-km Line of Control (LoC) and the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in the Siachen-Saltoro Ridge on November 26, 2003, as a major CBM between India and Pakistan.

It is high time that Kashmiri leadership and the people of Kashmir re-orient the merits of their contribution to peace between India and Pakistan and use the emerging trust between the two countries, to press their own grievance individually against India and Pakistan and collectively as well. Kashmiri people have a case as an ‘equal people’ and the exit ramp is detailed by the Indian application made to the UN on 1st January 1948. Engagement and dialogue are the only way forward. The duty to the noble land has yet to be discharged.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He could be reached on email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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