IT is a great pity that a unique conference in Muzaffarabad, held early last month, has not received the attention which it so richly deserves. On Nov 5, the first-ever delegation of women civil activists crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir to attend a conference.

The first such cross-LoC conference was held in Srinagar in November 2007 and the next in Gulmarg in September 2011.

This was a unique conclave in that women from all the five regions of the area — Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Ladakh, Jammu and the Kashmir Valley — participated. Its reportage fell short of its importance. Tariq Naqash’s report in Greater Kashmir (Srinagar) was an exception.

Three broad topics were discussed. They were ‘gender and peace-building’: understanding women narratives’; ‘empowering women in peace-building’; and ‘women-inclusive security and sustainable peace-building in Kashmir. The consensus statement issued at the conclusion of the conference is far more specific than what we have so far been treated to by other Pakistan-India talking shops.

It suggested a smart card to facilitate travel across the LoC and pleaded for increased interactions between women entrepreneurs, educationists, lawyers, journalists, students and conflict-resolution experts.

Two specific steps were suggested. One was a working group to develop a shared vision of peace to repair fractured relations between the communities and bridge the perception gaps between west and east Kashmir. The other was a task force of women on both sides of the LoC on human rights, humanitarian and other issues.

In the context of the virtually stalled peace process, the conference made an important contribution by suggesting relocation of heavy artillery, removal of land mines, demilitarisation of Siachen and its conversion into a peace park. The proposals made are practicable, precise and relevant to the situation.

The ‘moderate’ faction of the Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq will visit Pakistan in the middle of December. On Nov 16, he declared: “We will meet all sections of society, including trade federation bodies, lawyers and educationists to seek opinion from them about the different social, political and economic facets of the Kashmir issue.”

He has been in active politics for the last two decades since the dastardly assassination of his father in 1990. One hopes that these years were not wasted in his neglecting to inform himself of the views of these people on the issues facing Kashmir.

He has often promised to make concrete proposals but has failed to do so. The failure is understandable; not so the unreal hopes he pins on external powers none of whom is interested in the problem. There is not a single major power which would alienate India or Pakistan by making specific proposals which, in the nature of things, will displease both sides.

Yet this is the complaint which the mirwaiz made: “International organisations had a responsibility to solve issues like Palestine, Burma, Syria and Kashmir, but unfortunately they have failed in performing their responsibilities.” This is a tall order.

When did the UN Security Council last discuss the Kashmir question? The ceasefire resolution of Sept 20, 1965, which ended the war asked the UN secretary general “to seek a peaceful solution and to report to the Security Council thereon”. He made no such effort and none asked him why he did not. Nothing has happened since.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, to which the mirwaiz turns time and again, cannot do a thing in the matter except help him project an image of hectic diplomatic activity.

The Security Council is not a vending machine in which states insert a problem and receive a solution. It is led by five powers, each armed with a veto, and each acting not as a judge but as a state governed by its own assessment of its own national interest.

All five seem to have formed the assessment that their interests are not affected by the continuing Kashmir dispute unless there is a threat to peace. Is it not time that delusions of old are shed and the people are not misled?

Kashmiri leaders across the board can help to improve the lot of their people by voicing their support for the consensus statement of the women’s conference; by demanding improvement in LoC travel and opening of new roads.

On Nov 8, Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Kashmir, assured a delegation of industrialists and businessmen that he would urge New Delhi to open the old Jammu-Sialkot road for trade and travel. The route is still intact and is used by United Nations observers. Another proposal on the table is opening the road between Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh.

All this sounds less ‘romantic’ than slogans for ‘UN resolutions’, ‘tripartite talks’, etc. The mirwaiz means well. He was among the first to support the four-point consensus. He would render high service by using his trip to Pakistan to devise practical measures of immediate relevance.

The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

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Comments (10)

Reyaz Ahmed
December 1, 2012 12:38 pm
Not these fashionable women,we need women who know the true meaning of the core issue,not those who are picked and chosen by government of India.
arpan
December 1, 2012 4:38 am
Very sensible and practical. We need more people like you in the teams that talk on Kashmir.
Reyaz Ahmed
December 1, 2012 12:35 pm
We reject this Pro-Indian women delegation. Not a single person of this delegation represent the true soul of Kashmiri women. These women never tasted the brutalities and difficulties faced by our mothers and sisters but they were enjoying movies and coffee in their bed rooms when whole kashmir was burning and our mothrs and sisters were tortured , molested and raped, sons killed in front of their mothers, their homes burnt, their husbands killed. What expectations should we have from the wives of Pro Indian politicians, buerocrates, policemen? How you call them the members of the civil socity? who gave them the right to represent Kashmiri women which is suffering day in and day out?
Rajeev Nidumolu
December 1, 2012 5:30 pm
As long as there is section of people who believe in solving the problem by violent means there can be no opening up of borders and roads between two sides of Kashmir . It is impracticable to have free movement along loose borders when the militants from one side of the border want to infiltrate and cause a mayhem
kausik
December 1, 2012 9:27 pm
Religion and even language is not a unifying force without true democratic expression as proven by Arab spring and turmoil in India and Pakistan with linguistic sentiments as evidenced by linguistic states in India and separation of Bangladesh on linguistic separation from Pakistan even though India played a role in separation it cannot be denied Bengali were clamoring for separation.we unfortunately let British to divide ourselves instead of staying united and compromise on sharing power.
raika45
December 1, 2012 12:32 pm
If only the politicians with their self vested interests stay away and let the people from both sides work with one another, both in trade and social meeting,peace will prevail . Not forgetting the financial gain from trade that will augment their income.A few extra rupees to the poor means much for them.
Rocky
December 1, 2012 9:34 pm
As far as regional issues in India are concerned, Kashmir is one such issue to be tackled. Kashmir doesn't have a higher priority than, say, Assam or Talengana or Adivasis in MP etc. Pakistan also needs to prioritize its issues which affect its national cohesion. Sole focus on Kasmir is making the rest of Pakistan more unstable.
malaydeb
December 2, 2012 2:28 pm
@Reyaz Ahmed The core issue is not what you think it is. You are choosing a period in time that suits your opinion. The core issue is, that a piece of land that belonged to Hindus and Buddhists has come back to it's original owners after being usurped by Muslims since early 14th century when Rinchin, a Ladakhi took over the reigns and converted to Islam. Know the history of succesive Muslim invaders and rulers of the valley and how it affected the change of demography of Kashmir. Time has come to correct it. That's the core issue.
Surinder Singh Kade
December 1, 2012 5:16 pm
Most important,no military hardware/personal allowed between China/Pakistan and no army near Siachan from China.This is stictly between India/Pakistan. How about return of Kasmiry Pandits theis safety and return of their property which they wer forced to sell.Price of repurchase should be Basic price paid plus interest compounded. Most important their SAFETY Surinder Singh Kade New York
Chaman
December 1, 2012 1:09 pm
More power to the women of the region. Women can promote peace better than men were ever able to. Good luck to all our sisters in their effort to promote peace and prosperity in the region. Enough blood has been shed without any positive outcome.
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