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Staying engaged

Terrorist acts across India and continuing infiltration across the LoC would suggest that prospects for a solution to the Kashmir issue are bleak. But a closer look gives us a different picture: the dispute could well be edging towards a settlement.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2006 02:01 IST

Terrorist acts across India and continuing infiltration across the Line of Control would suggest that prospects for a solution to the Kashmir issue are bleak. But a closer look at the activities between India and Pakistan gives us a different picture: the dispute could well be edging towards a settlement. The latest sign is the Pakistan visit of Omar Abdullah, president of the National Conference, the party that ensured that Jammu and Kashmir became a part of independent India. Mr Abdullah carries on his shoulders the burden and legacy of past agreements reached between the state’s political class and New Delhi. By all accounts, he was able to put across his perspective in his talks with Pervez Musharraf.

What has now become apparent is that since India and Pakistan are trying to arrive at a negotiated settlement, the formulation has to have a win-win character, or at least a ‘win some-lose some’ one. The task is particularly difficult for Pakistan that has over the years had to sharply lower expectations of annexing the state to the point of accepting some version of self-rule. Because India has always maintained that J&K has a special status and extensive autonomy, its task is simpler: to give life to agreements that have been watered down in the last 50 years or so. Despite zigzags, Mr Musharraf seems to be moving in the right direction. As the estrangement between him and the Pakistani Islamists grows, he is being compelled to institute a genuine crackdown on terrorist elements operating in Pakistan.

The fact that militant groups ranging from the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen to the Jaish-e-Mohammed and al-Badr are now openly criticising the Pakistani government is a mark of the distance that the general has travelled. There may be some confusion — and honest difference — between what he means by self-rule and what India does. But their vocabulary is becoming similar, the main difference now is that of timing: the general wants quick action, while India insists on making haste slowly.