Jammu, March 27, 2011
Kashmir is looking for an opening for peace in a meeting of the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in Mohali on Wednesday when rest of the world would be watching the outcome of the clash of clashes in the cricket world cup between two countries .
Prime Minister Manmo
han Singh’s invitation to his Pakistani counterpart Mohammad Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the match has made the difference for the Kashmiri leadership. The acceptance of the invitation by Gilani has soared the hopes, as both the mainstream and the separatist leadership here had been looking for such an interaction between the two countries at the highest level.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah described Prime Minister’s invitation to his Pakistani counterpart as “an act of statesmanship which speaks of his great understanding that symbolism plays a great role in reducing suspicion and distrust and whenever that happens, Jammu and Kashmir is the direct beneficiary of that.”
The historical testimony to the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has ” benefited or suffered” by the hostile or the friendly nature of the relationship between India and Pakistan , has made the leaders in the state look more keenly toward the possible meeting between the two prime ministers . This fact is acknowledged and articulated by all the political groups, whether mainstream or separatists in this border state, where tensions between Delhi and Islamabad result in violence and displacement .
And whenever there is peace, the state experiences relief as it happened during 2003 to 2008 until the terrorist assault on Mumbai.
That process too had started from a cricket stadium. It was on April 18, 2003 , the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had extended hand of friendship to Pakistan from Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium in Srinagar, which not only surprised his audience in the Valley but across the globe.
Pakistan was quick to respond and accept the hand of friendship and thereafter rolled the Confidence Building Measures between the two countries.
Similar element of surprise was there when Manmohan Singh extended invitation to Pakistani leaders to watch the match. Again Pakistan was quick to respond.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Omar hoped that the ” meeting between the two Prime Ministers would help bring back the derailed dialogue process on tracks and Jammu and Kashmir would be the beneficiary of that.”
“It augurs well for us because we have seen positive change in the state whenever there is an improvement in the relationship of the two countries,” Omar said.
Way back in April 2005, then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had visited India to hold talks. Among others, he had met the Hurriyat leaders of both the factions as well.
Senior separatist leader and former Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Abdul Ghani Bhat hoped that the ” interaction at the highest level would result in addressing all the issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.’ ” It is an opportunity, which i hope that the two Prime Ministers would avail in full measure.”
This state that has suffered the worst ever violence since 1990 which left more than 50,000 people dead and more than half-a-million people displaced and economy and social fabric in tatters , has seen the tensions and violence going up as and when India and Pakistan are in hostile mode and reaped the dividends of good tourist seasons and relative peace when the two nations were engaged in dialogue.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti who had described the invitation extended by Prime Minister to Pakistani leaders as a ” cataylast to improve ties” was enthused by the ” reciprocity by Pakistani Prime Minister” and hoped that the two would ” make a beginning , and I am sure that it would be good beginning.”
Tough it is a small step, it can act as a catalyst to improve the relations between the two countries,” she said.
She also hailed the Centre’s decision to extend the stay of the people coming from Pakistani part of Kashmir to Jammu and Kashmir upto six months.
“But more important is that the travel procedure should be eased, communication network should be set up between the two sides and the travel facility should be extended beyond the divided families.”
While cricket fans in the two cricket crazy nations are waiting for the clash, Jammu and Kashmir and it leaders are waiting for the meeting between the two Prime Ministers and the result thereof.
Arun Joshi, Hindustan Times