The third Round Table Conference (RTC) on Kashmir in New Delhi on Tuesday would move closest to addressing internal dimension of Kashmir issue. It will, however, be just one step short of defining a clear relationship of this Himalayan State with rest of the country.
Sans separatists, the third RTC will take up all the recommendations made by four of the five working groups constituted by Prime Minister at the end of the second RTC in Srinagar May 24-25 last year.
"This is unfortunate, as the most important aspect of the Kashmir problem - political-one- is not on the agenda," regretted National Conference president Omar Abdullah. The fifth group addressing the question of Centre-State relations in terms of Self-Rule, autonomy is yet to finalise its recommendations.
Independent experts, however, feel that the RTCs have opened a vast field of promise, and the process is moving toward a consensus. "That is a sign of hope and promise," commented international affairs expert and Jammu University Vice Chancellor Amitabh Mattoo.
"The process has taken off. There is no looking back," he said.
For the Congress-led coalition Government, in the State, April 24 is going to be a big day. "This would lay out a positive direction in our endeavour to place the State in resolving the issues confronting the State and our people," said Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
He said the recommendations of the working groups have potential to transform the landscape of the State,
These groups have recommended return and rehabilitation of migrants, return of Kashmiri youth from Pakistan controlled Kashmir; strengthening of cross-LoC relations, increase in people to people contact and opening of trade between the two parts of the State; balanced economic development of the State, allocation of more resources to the state to address the problems of unemployment, transfer of 390-MW Dul Hasti power project and steps to ensure good governance with more responsive and accountable administrative system.
"This is what all we had been looking for decades," Azad said. It has thrown windows of opportunities wide open for all of us. It is the time to seize them."
In a rare stroke of unanimity, his predecessor and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed sees the third RTC as a milestone in the "most practical" way of doing things, though he wished that separatists should have been part of this forward-moving process.
He felt that the working groups recommendations "would consolidate the process" in addressing internal dimension of then problem and in opening ways for the cross-LoC measures, like the cross-LOC travel moving beyond the confines of the divided families, free movement of youth, trade, cultural exchange and so on. "This is very concrete step of doing things and addressing peoples' issues. Mufti said that these measures were "very positive".
"But where are we if all sections of political shades are not with us," asks Hakim Mohammad Yaseen, Transport Minister and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Front. Sans separatists, it is not a round table conference at all."