New Delhi must talk to Kashmiris: Pran Chopra
I consider it wrong to say what is it that we can give them, what apology is it that we can make to them. We have done them harm, says Pran Chopra, free-lance journalist and eminent political comentator.india Updated: Sep 20, 2002 11:03 IST
Q: Can there be a solution to Kashmir issue?
PC: Why not? There has been instances of more bitter issues being settled amicably, then why can't Kashmir issue be resolved. The first phase, at any rate and probably the more primary phase of the process of getting to the end of this problem is a dialogue between Srinagar and New Delhi. It is only in accordance with the progress of that dialogue and at such stage and in such manner that it might emerge from that dialogue that other parties may then be brought into the dialogue.
Therefore, I think that the processes of including other parties, howsoever essential they might be ought really not be made the starting point, they ought to be made an emergence, a fact, somewhere down the way, after the dialogue between Srinagar and New Delhi has shown us, to some extent, the way forward.
Q: Do you think the talks between New Delhi and Srinagar should be unconditional?
PC: Yes, I entirely agree with them that the dialogue must be without condition. It should entirely be without condition. Such people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir that we are able to contact and there should be no limits placed upon as to what issue is it that they want to put on the table. There should be no limits upon the agenda of the dialogue with them.
Q: With whom the dialogue should be started?
PC: I see no harm in talking to all groups, whether separatists or militants as long as they represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The representatives should not be thurst upon the people of J&K but they should be true representatives of the people whoever they are. We should, without any hesitation, set in motion those kinds of dialogues, those kinds of discussions, those kinds of reopening of doors by which we can get to the stage where conditions can be created in the state of Jammu and Kashmir wherein elections may take place which can be regarded as authentic and free. This will help in making available the true representatives of the people of state.
Q: Will free and fair elections in J&K be helpful in solving the issue?
PC: The purpose of a dialogue should be to invite the Kashmiris to consider ways in which the democratic process may be restarted in Jammu and Kashmir, to consider ways in which they might wish to put proposals before the people of Jammu and Kashmir so that the people of Kashmir may be willing to establish those conditions in which elections can take place. After all, if we - not we alone but even the militants themselves or those who speak for the militants - go before the people of Kashmir and say we would like free and fair elections to take place, the people of Kashmir would know what is it that they would get at the end of that, for all the sacrifices that have been made.
Q: What should India be prepared to give to the Kashmiris?
PC: I consider it wrong to say what is it that we can give them, what apology is it that we can make to them, what amends is it that we can make to them. We have done them harm. But with what means are we going to assuage that harm? It is not concessions made to Kashmir, it is penance
offer to Kashmir for what has been done to Kashmir. Then should take place the discussion about specifics, including the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India, the status of the different regions within Kashmir.
Q: Due you think it necessary to talk to Pakistan?
PC: Just as it is important that there should be a dialogue between Srinagar and New Delhi, it is also important that there be a dialogue between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. It is from those dialogues that explorations will begin which might also tell Pakistan what is the price of throwing away an attainable agreement because the price of throwing away attainable agreements may well be for Pakistan something which Pakistan can afford even less than we can afford, what the militants are demanding from us. I think it is very necessary that this kind of mutual learning of compulsions in Azad Kashmir and compulsions on the Indian side should be carried forward between the two. And if that emerges from this meeting, a very considerable gain would have been made.