Zardari comments stir Kashmiris in Delhi

October 7th, 2008 - 5:41 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) From concern to condemnation, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s description of militants in Jammu and Kashmir as “terrorists” has led to varied reactions from Kashmiris in the Indian capital. Many Kashmiri Muslims living here are also happy that Zardari has decided to bring about a qualitative change in India-Pakistan relations by declaring that New Delhi posed no threat to Islamabad.

Both statements of Zardari have gone against the thinking in the establishment in Islamabad that has for decades armed, financed and funded militants in Jammu and Kashmir fighting Indian rule.

“Zardari calling Kashmiri militants terrorists is objectionable,” pointed out Sohail Ahmed, a research scholar at the Jamia Millia Islamia University here where a large number of Kashmiris study.

“Actually this is what Pakistan’s policy has been since it joined hands with the US for the so-called war on terror. Zardari’s only crime is that he said it openly,” Ahmed told IANS, reflecting an opinion among many Kashmiris. “This is what (former Pakistan president Pervez) Musharraf had done though he never said it publicly.”

To that extent, Zardari had to be lauded for being “bold” and “honest”, the scholar said.

“I praise him for being bold. Good or bad, I hope he is honest enough in saying what he believes in. They (Pakistani rulers) should no longer befool us (Kashmiris) by showing us politically romantic mirages,” Ahmed said.

Idhries Ahmed, a tech journalist in Gurgaon, said Zardari’s “historic statement” — made in an interview to The Wall Street Journal — did not surprise him, “though labelling Kashmiri militants as terrorists is a bit too much”.

“This statement apart, Zardari would be wise if he really develops friendly ties with India and lets the Kashmir issue not impede the peace process. Let him pave the way for both the countries to build stakes in each other’s territory. The same is also true about Indian rulers. They will be forced to solve the Kashmir issue without any confrontation.

“If he views India as no threat to Pakistan’s existence, then it’s a good omen for the two countries to come closer,” said Ahmed.

Zardari’s comments, which have surprisingly drawn a mild response even in his own country, were published Saturday. “India has never been a threat to Pakistan,” he said, adding the militants in Jammu and Kashmir — whose separatist drive has left thousands dead since 1989 — were “terrorists”.

Unis Hamdani, a BPO employee in Noida near here, views the shift in Pakistan’s position as an appeasement of India.

“Zardari, who rules the land of Mohammed Ali Jennah (founder of Pakistan), is being too dovish towards India,” Hamdani said.

“It is a violation and digression from the consistent policy of Pakistan. They have pushed us to the wall and now they are backing out. I wonder what the Kashmiri leadership would do now? Continue singing for Pakistan or open their eyes to the reality?”

Added Syed Burhan, a management student of a business school in west Delhi: “It was always foolish to expect the Pakistan government to deviate from a policy that has Washington’s approval and was pursued by Musharraf. But our separatist leadership don’t want to understand that.”

“Against the backdrop of recent mass separatist protests in Kashmir, the statement of Zardari has demoralised and disappointed Kashmiris and further eroded our faith in Pakistan’s support for our struggle,” he said.

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