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Symbolic, but little else

As regards Centre-State relations, there is no word on more autonomy or self-rule.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 02:44 IST
Jay Raina

Marred by the Hurriyat boycott and the absence of the BJP and Ladakh Buddhist Association, the second Round Table Conference on Kashmir can be billed high on symbolism but low on breakthrough.

Five Working Groups are to be set up as a follow up of the conclave. They have an agenda that encompasses issues that range from good governance, rehabilitation of militancy-victims and Kashmir Pandits, simplification of procedures to facilitate travel across the LoC to balanced region-specific development and strengthening Centre-State relations. Surprisingly, the political aspect of the Kashmir issue is missing.

And the task, from setting up the groups, based on consensus among mainline political parties, to their actual work and recommendations, could well take months. Moreover, observers feel there is nothing new in the agenda.

As regards Centre-State relations, there is no word on more autonomy or self-rule. Several past accords such as the Indira-Sheikh Accord of 1975 had analysed these relations. Not a single recommendation has been implemented till date.

That apart, it is obvious the separatists -- especially the moderate Hurriyat -- will shy away from similar conferences in future. This may finally lead to two-track talks--one with mainline parties under the round table nomenclature and another with the separatists comprising their concerns on the political plank of the dispute.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has often said he intends to reach to the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris. Apparently, the Round Table Conference concept has a great deal to do with that intent.

For the man on the street, however, the conference meant only disruption. The valley was totally shut down. Even cricket-loving children did not venture out to play in the empty streets. That apart, the security overdrive frightened the few who ventured out.