With the regime change in Pakistan, hopes got renewed that Islamabad might attempt re-engagement with Delhi. It did happen. The cricketer Prime minister had written a letter to his counterpart Narendra Modi suggesting the two neighbours must talk on issues that have dogged their relations for a long time. Pakistan has its own pressures to talk, especially its economic condition. One way forward to wriggle out could be reviving its trade links with India.
Initially when the report of Imran Khan’s letter appeared, Delhi immediately denied. Now, when the reports re-appeared, it led to the announcement of the two countries holding informal talks in New York at the foreign ministers level. Whether or not the intent of talking had changed their speeches at the UN general assembly, the talk about the talks would have helped cool the tensions in this part of the subcontinent.
But that did not happen. A day ahead of the announcement, came the reports about Pakistan released, in July, a set of 20 postal stamps in memory of certain Kashmir events and individuals. If Foreign Office in Delhi did not know of it before it became news two months later, then there is something seriously wrong in Delhi’s man in Islamabad. The news led to routine reckless debating and became the new cannon fodder for the jingoism that, off late, is coming more from media than the military.
A day later, militants took three cops by surprise when they were home in their respective villages down south. And later, all of them were shot dead.
The two incidents were cited as the main reason by MEA in Delhi to cancel the informal meeting with Pakistan in New York pertinently on the day of International day of peace. This was most disturbing in the entire chain of news emanating from Srinagar, Islamabad and Delhi. The planned meeting had given the two neighbours sort of a thumbs up from most of the diplomatic circles that are crucial to the region.
It is understandable that Delhi regime can ill-afford any peace moves with Islamabad because it is facing a general election at a time when the popularity graph of the nationalist rightwing is nose-diving fast. This also is a fact that public posturing apart, the two countries have rarely stopped talking with each other.
But the larger question is that if either of the two countries was unwilling to re-engage formally, what the requirement of announcing a meeting at all was. Both countries are aware of the reality that any peacemaking effort will not be silky smooth as the vested interests will be keen to push them to nothingness. This has happened in past. In fact, the fate of the so called composite dialogue was sealed by a chain of violent incidents.
India and Pakistan may afford staying as enemies to each other for as long as they wish. But Kashmir cannot afford it at all. The only chance for Kashmir to survive as a healthy society is in making the two countries talk. They may have their own issues in not talking what everybody in Kashmir would want them to, but it is important that they start talking.
While India and Pakistan have the primary responsibility of ensuring a dialogue, the other stakeholders within and outside the Indian subcontinent must also understand their responsibility in making it happen. Failure of any kind of engagement between Delhi and Islamabad has Kashmir as its main casualty. The faster Kashmir learns it, the better it is for Kashmir.