The Jammu and Kashmir Situation: The visit of the APD and beyond

New Delhi, Sept.27 (ANI): Even as the pundits were debating whether the visit of the 39-member All Party Delegation (APD) to Jammu and Kashmir broke the ice or was an exercise in futility, the government has moved swiftly to announce an eight-point 'package'.

While the contents of the package can and will be debated, the fact that this has been done without any delay does generate hope and expectation that it would be the first step in a series of steps that would bring Jammu and Kashmir back from the abyss.

The mandate of the APD was limited to gathering all shades of opinion to provide inputs to the government to address the unending spiral of protests and violence that have rocked the Kashmir Valley. The mandate did not include any suggestions for finding a 'solution'.

In facilitating the mandate, clearly both the central and state governments bungled - the former by a lack of preparation and the latter by trying to sanitise the entire visit, especially in the Valley.

Security concerns, genuine or imagined, provided the excuse to shield the delegation from getting too much of a first-hand experience. The visit in Jammu was clumsy in that representatives of Pandits were first kept out, then clubbed together with other organizations and later given very little time.

Critics, who can see nothing positive in anything that India can do, have pointed out the following:

(1) What was the need for the APD to personally visit to assess the ground situation since it this was already well known?

(2) If opinion was being sought, why go to Jammu, which was not in turmoil?

(3) The All Party Meeting had in any case brought out the differences among parties that was replicated during the visit.

(4) The split over visiting the separatists neutralised whatever gains may have been made.

(5) Curfew imposed by the state government reinforced the artificiality of the visit.

It is to their credit that the seasoned MPs' demonstrated initiative and went the extra mile to call on the separatists. It is equally to the credit of Indian democracy, that being representative of diverse political out opinions, not everyone agreed with the initiatives. India secularism, too, had its moments, with both Sushma Swaraj and Sitaram Yechury visiting Hazratbal.

By going to the separatists, despite their boycott, the APD did break the ice and the move does have the potential of forward movement. Of course, it was only to be expected that the separatist leaders would not change their long-held positions, especially on TV.

The reality is that today, neither the Government of India nor the separatists have any space to manoeuvre between 'atoot ang' and 'azadi'. The positions are irreconcilable.

The APD, by meeting the separatists; by signalling the willingness of the Indian political class to begin the process of drawing the sting from the alienation and unending cycle of violence that has plagued the Valley; may just have succeeded in creating a tiny space, a sliver of hope for both the government and the separatists. This achievement must not belittled.

With the goodwill and opening made by the APD, measures announced now by the government would be seen as proof of the seriousness it attaches to addressing the problem and signalling its willingness to take the initiative to address the long standing issue of Kashmir.

The beginning has been important. It is significant that the government has followed it up with a series of measures. It now has to ensure that this initiative, like past ones, is not forgotten once a semblance of normalcy returns.

That would be catastrophic. (ANI)

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are those of the author Mr. Salim Haq

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