LOOKING at it from the Kashmiri point of view, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s concerns can be understood. Speaking at a seminar in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, the chief of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference couldn’t help saying that, after 2008, Pakistan was not playing the role expected of it. Similar sentiments were voiced by another APHC leader, Abdul Ghani Bhat, who felt that, instead of prioritising other bilateral matters, the Kashmir issue should be resolved first. The impediments arose after the Mumbai tragedy that saw India freeze all talks with Pakistan and call off the ‘composite dialogue’ the two sides had agreed upon in Islamabad in 2004. Talks were later resumed after the two prime ministers’ meeting in Thimphu. But even after that, and despite many high-level meetings on the sidelines of international conferences, the two governments failed to take steps that could be called a thaw in the frosty environment.
The Mirwaiz’s concerns stem from the fact that most of the time Islamabad and New Delhi have been talking about other, secondary issues — Indus waters, Sir Creek, Siachen and cultural contacts — in a manner that may give the impression that Kashmir is no more on Pakistan’s agenda. In fact, Pakistan has made a conscious effort to take up all outstanding issues with India. Islamabad believes that attempts to resolve the Sir Creek and Siachen disputes or to liberalise trade creates the kind of conducive atmosphere that is needed for comprehensive talks on Kashmir. It is a pragmatic policy aimed at improving relations and does not relegate Kashmir to the back burner. On its part, India, whose human rights record in the occupied territory has been severely criticised, knows full well that unless the Kashmiris are given the right to self-determination, chances for lasting peace in the region will continue to be remote.