Kashmir will be back in global fora, warn experts

August 27th, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 27 (IANS) With the mishandling of the land row, the Indian government has allowed Kashmiri separatists to create the spectre of a mass movement and give Pakistan a handle to internationalise the dispute, say experts.”Pakistanis will cash in on it. It serves their interest to liven up the issue. They have already livened up the border with ceasefire violations and increasing instances of cross-border firing,” Satish Chandra, a former high commissioner of India to Pakistan, told IANS.

“It will be internationalised and questions will be asked in the international fora,” Chandra, a former deputy national security adviser, said.

In the over-two-month-long turmoil over allotment of land to the Amarnath temple shrine board and its subsequent cancellation, more than 45 people have been killed.

Major General Ashok Mehta, a keen Pakistan-watcher, said: “India has succeeded in internationalising the issue after bringing it firmly in the ambit of the bilateral dialogue process. It’s a setback,” he said.

“Kashmir was being discussed in the back channels. It’s now out in the open and will encourage Pakistan to make it the main issue in the composite dialogue process,” Mehta said.

“For the moment, they are not taking full advantage of the situation. But they will do so,” he said while alluding to the collapse of the ruling coalition in Pakistan after Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan’s Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) withdrew from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government Monday.

Internal preoccupations, however, did not prevent Pakistan from hitting at India for “excessive use of force” and “human rights violations” in Jammu and Kashmir state after a separatist leader was killed in a mass protest two weeks ago.

New Delhi was prompt to react and warned Islamabad not to meddle in its internal affairs. But the damage was done. The 56-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference came out with a statement condemning “unwarranted use of force against the Kashmiri people”.

Without doubt, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will take advantage of this potentially volcanic situation in Kashmir, said Sumit Ganguly, a US-based expert and the author of “The Crisis in Kashmir”.

Kashmir also returned to headlines in the international media, especially in dailies in the Middle East, which otherwise were focusing mostly on the fate of the India-US nuclear deal in its India reportage.

“This is not a military issue any more; it is a mass movement. Kashmir is India’s Northern Ireland, its Basque problem,” said a strongly worded editorial in Arab News.

How is India gearing up to face difficult questions on Kashmir at the international fora? “We will solve these issues bilaterally. We want to be seen as fair-minded as the government defuses the crisis,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.

What’s the way out of this deepening quagmire? The deeper issues, according to Ajai Sahni, an expert on terrorism, are the alienation of Kashmiris and engaging the moderates in the state rather than focusing on extremists.

Sahni tries to dispel the myth that everything was going well - militancy had declined, tourists were returning in large numbers - till the land row erupted over the transfer of 40 hectares of land to the Amarnath shrine board that manages the annual pilgrimage to the 13,000 feet-high Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

“Violence had declined due to capacity constraints on the part of Pakistan due to its internal turmoil and increasing international pressure on Pakistan over Taliban and terrorism and not because of a change in the government’s policy,” he said.

“We have to be vigilant against Pakistan’s attempts to capitalise on unrest,” Sahni told IANS.

Mehta warned that a lot will depend on how soon elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir and whether the government will succeed in ensuring a reasonable turnout and the widest possible participation of political parties.

“Elections are a crucial component of this process. Militants will do everything to make it a more eventful and violent election,” Mehta said.

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