Hurriyat subplot in India-Pakistan script needs delicate handling
Both India and Pakistan need to act with finesse rather than thumbing noses at each other. Reciprocity before talks is as essential as in the course of hard-bargaining across the table.analysis Updated: Aug 21, 2015 03:07 IST
The faultlines that have surfaced in the Ufa understanding even before the first round of talks between India and Pakistan bode badly for the ultimate objective -- a promising movement towards resumption of a broadened bilateral dialogue.
That the commitment to start talks was a ‘hurried promise’ ostensibly made under international pressure is evident from the re-emergence of the same sticking point: Islamabad consulting Hurriyat leaders before substantive talks with New Delhi. In August a year ago, the Narendra Modi regime had called off discussions at the level of foreign secretaries on exactly the same issue!
The question is should the Prime Ministers not have come to terms at Ufa on the Hurriyat subplot New Delhi wants excluded and Islamabad is bent upon retaining in the bilateral script. The hiatus between the two sides is evident from their conflicting positions on Kashmiri separatists: Pakistan describing them as stakeholders in the Kashmir dispute and India a ‘third party’ lacking a locus in bilateral negotiations.
In fact, New Delhi has escalated its rejection of Hurriyat by branding it a third party -- a term hitherto reserved for the UN and other foreign players Islamabad sought to co-opt on the Kashmir question. The stance was predicated on the argument that the 1972 Shimla Pact, the essence of it was bilateralism, superseded the UN resolutions on Kashmir.
The terminology used for the Hurriyat would mark a paradigm shift if the Modi regime persists with it. As explained by a former foreign policy hand, the position can draw legitimacy from the fact that the grouping’s leaders never showed themselves as citizens of India barring for the purpose of obtaining documents for foreign travel.
In the same vein, their refusal to contest elections under the Indian Constitution makes one ask on what basis do they claim to represent Kashmiri “aspirations” Islamabad often cites in its standard recipe for settling the dispute. If not diplomatically, the evolving NDA policy makes sense in the domestic perspective of the BJP having in place now an elected coalition regime in J-K.
Islamabad indeed can hold consultations with the Hurriyat without being demonstrative about them. In the changed Indian political scenario, its proclivity to hype the interaction makes its domestic compulsions run counter to that of the Modi dispensation.
The ground rules in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Manmohan Singh eras were different, the former’s administration having also set up an abortive dialogue with the separatists. The engagements weren’t trilateral then. But they certainly had the trappings of a three-way dialogue.
In the new arrangement, both sides need to act with finesse rather than thumbing noses at each other -- a case in point being Pakistan’s refusal to invite the speaker of J-K assembly to a Commonwealth meet its hosting. Reciprocity before talks is as essential as in the course of hard-bargaining across the table.
Post-script: The Centre must desist from any action that might earn the Hurriyat sympathy in Kashmir. The first sufferer of it would be the PDP-BJP regime -- which is another word for India’s interests in the Valley. At least for now!