Congress’s state president Prof Saif ud Din Soz deserves credit for getting the foreign minister to Srinagar and encouraging him to talk as much as he can. A good speaker, having fond memories of his childhood in Kashmir and first hand information about what befell on the Vale for last many decades, Salman spoke on diverse subjects involving Kashmir. First he spoke at the Congress headquarters and later in a hotel room where his party has assembled its activists and ministers and packed it as Kashmir’s civil society.
Salman Khursheed has remained associated with the crisis management at the peak of turmoil when a resolution was about to be passed against New Delhi on the state of human rights in Kashmir in a UN body. By his own admissions, he won the battle and then flew to Kashmir and spent some time to understand the mess.
That is perhaps why when he was asked about Kunan Poshpora mass rape, he recognized the tragedy within a fraction of the moment and asserted the only response he has is shock and shame. But, at the same time, he asserted he has nothing much in mind to do on that!
This was just one part of what he did on day one (Friday). The visit came a day after the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson returned home. For reasons not known, both Dr Singh and Mrs Gandhi skipped most of the major issues that almost everybody in Srinagar were expected to listen. Thanks to foreign minister, Kashmir should feel wiser now.
While maintaining the inevitability of deliberations, in settling the issue, the minister was categorical in saying that in Kashmir context the talks seem impossible given the lack of mandate at various levels. Talking in diplomatic jargons, the minister said the only way out is to create a broader consensus on issues by doing small things even if it takes forty years. He was confident that Kashmir will change and contribute in the overall growth story.
On AFSPA, an issue that everybody has stopped talking about, after the Hyderpora incident, the minister was clear that it is apparently not possible to withdraw it. Though he asserted that he is not the person who has to take the call, he said the demand is neither sensible nor reasonable because the sense of loss and tragedy is not only limited to the civilian population but to the security forces also.
On the diplomatic front, the minister said as the situation devoured the composite dialogue, the new emphasis is on the sectoral engagements with Pakistan. That essentially means, the new process will have to start from smaller things.
Salman’s visit has helped a blurred picture to be clear now. It is status quo that is going to rule J&K for some more time. The government at the centre has eyes fixed on the next Lok Sabha polls and possible regional alliances. Kashmir will have to wait for some more time to be worth considering either for tackling its external dimension or reviewing its internal dimension. This is pretty explosive equation that has potential to push Kashmir inside the tunnel regardless of a hole in the Pir Panchal that was bored to create a new engineering feat.