The optimism among separatist and mainstream groups in Jammu and Kashmir has grown for a possible Kashmir solution in not so distant future owing to improving atmosphere of trust and bonhomie between India and Pakistan—two crucial players in the solution seeking exercise.
This optimism rests on certain recent developments—decline in the trust deficit between India and Pakistan—manifestation of which is the joint anti-terrorism mechanism, surging public opinion in the two countries for an end to the cult of violence and the perfect chemistry that exists between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and president Pervez Musharraf.
The international attention too is more on Kashmir solution, without making a bid for intervention. And there is a clear unanimity that the Kashmir solution, in whatever form it emerges should be applicable to all parts of the state on the two sides of the Line of Control (LoC).
Most optimistic among them is the moderate separatist conglomerate All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has his own concept of United States of Jammu and Kashmir ready. He would carry it to Pakistan in January.
"But that time many things would be clearer than those appear today," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told Hindustan Times. "We will exchange our notes with President Pervez Musharraf over the Kashmir issue and give our inputs, so that hiccups, if any, are removed."
"To me Kashmir solution is very much on the cards."
Peoples Conference headed by Sajjad Lone has already prepared his group's "roadmap on Kashmir".
Sajjad feels that "India and Pakistan are doing their bit, but the leadership of Kashmir is absent from it. That is a cause of concern. It is not that India or Pakistan have excluded the leadership of Jammu and Kashmir, the leadership itself has excluded itself from the process".
More worrying for Sajjad is "not the weak leadership in Jammu and Kashmir but the absence of leadership in the state."
Sajjad, however, is a votary for an early solution of Kashmir crisis, and hopes that once the Jammu and Kashmir leadership steps in to fill the vacuum, the process would gain pace.
National Conference, the pre-eminent political force in the state, is sticking to its stand that greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir is the only way out. It has stuck to its guns and steered the course with wits continued commitment to the idea of greater autonomy—that envisages semi-autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
NC president Omar Abdullah has reaffirmed his view a number of times that the "time is running out and India and Pakistan in consultation with Kashmir leadership should draw a time table for Kashmir solution."
Omar is happy that things are picking up, but wants those to be speeded up.
PDP—a major partner in the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, has launched a state-wide campaign in favour of its concept of self rule, which lays stress on the economic integration of the state, currently divided between India and Pakistan.
Thereafter, it wants to tackle the political aspirations part of it—empowerment of the people of all regions—first within the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir—a model that would be a suitable thing for the regions in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to follow.
"This is the only way out, where the Indian and Pakistani viewpoints converge- the boundaries become irrelevant and the borders are not redrawn," PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti says underlining the two major concepts that have emerged out of the notes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf.
Singh has voiced his part of Kashmir solution—reducing boundaries merely to lines on map without redrawing the boundaries on the basis of region or religion. Musharraf wants the boundaries to become irrelevant. "Self rule also allows the two sides to retain their political sovereignty over their respective geographical areas."
The only people who are showing no signs of optimism, are the hardliners. Hard-line leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani says that what it appears to him is that all sides are working in the direction of a status quo.
"That is unacceptable to all of us. It is not going to work. The government of the day in Pakistan may work out for this, but the people will never accept it. Even if it is worked out, it is not going to be a lasting one."
But his is the only voice of pessimism in the overall optimism.