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Mufti, Omar walk different roads to peace

A generation apart and political opponents, Omar Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed think differently on how a solution to the J&K can promote peace in S Asia.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 02:06 IST

Political opponents in Jammu and Kashmir and a generation apart, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and National Conference president Omar Abdullah think differently on how a solution to the J&K problem can promote peace in South Asia.

Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative 'Peace Dividend — Progress for India and South Asia' here on Friday, Mufti and Omar set out the broad contours (though different in content, tone and tenor) of a possible solution for the Kashmir issue.

Moderated by Asian Age Editor M.J. Akbar, the session on 'The Kashmir Tangle - What is the Way Out' was heard with keen interest by delegates from Pakistan, former and serving Indian bureaucrats and N.N. Vohra, the interlocutor for the Vajpayee government's dialogue initiative in J&K.

The Mufti described J&K's history as "small but very intense and troubled". But, he said, placing the problem in "water-tight compartments — Islamic militancy, cross-border terrorism, secessionist insurgency, ethno-national demands — does less good and more damage to the sheer complexity of elements that have caused the problem".

Ready-made solutions only "distort the image of what the problem actually is" and "models make a mockery of the specificity of the issue", he said.

The Mufti enumerated the major strands in the "resolution paradigm" — internationalists who look towards a "marginalised" United Nations, 'status quoists' who favour converting the Line of Control into the international border, and autonomists who want a return to the pre-1953 position.

The Mufti's contention was that the beliefs of the status quoists and the autonomists could at best form part of the solution. The position of autonomists, he felt, was flawed. Even if there were political autonomy, the state would not enjoy fiscal autonomy since it was dependent on central resources, he pointed out. Hence, he said, solutions to the problem "will have to be looked for in the future, rather than in the past".

He felt that "failure in governance" was the "causal factor in the politicisation of the ethnic identity issues". Patting his government on the back, the Mufti said that for the first time a state government "is not in an adversorial role while talks are being conducted with the separatist groups".

Omar Abdullah agreed that converting the LoC into the international border and autonomy were not the only solutions. But, he said, one or two good elections were also not the way out.

The NC chief said both the "external" and "internal" dimensions of the problem needed to be worked at. "We have to look for peace internally. If we seek solutions externally, the initiative will be doomed to failure," he observed. The feeling of alienation among the youth was one of the reasons for the internal discontent, Omar said.

Abdullah said the ongoing dialogue with separatists and the moderate elements within the Hurriyat Conference "is giving rise to feelings that the government is prepared to do business with one section while completely ignoring the other".

Drawing attention to the "core feeling" in J&K of the "fight to save Islam", Omar said unless attempts were made to stop the youth from "going across" (to Pakistan), no agreement -- internal or external -- will be able to stop terrorism.”

First Published: Dec 13, 2003 00:00 IST