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Who's the general to preach to us'

Who's the general to preach to us'

Author: Omar Abdullah
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 4, 2001

Keep talking, people tell us. They advise us to show restraint, when we are suffering due to the lack of restraint by another country. India has restrained itself since Independence and even after Kargil. How many countries can be so when their territorial integrity is challenged and soldiers killed? But others have taken advantage of that and attacked US.

Keep talking, people tell us. But what would be the sum and substance of such talks? We've had a round in Agra, and the situation on the ground got worse.

To facilitate dialogue, Pakistan should have reduced violence in J&K. Instead, Gen. Pervez Musharraf is constantly talking about his Kashmir agenda, Kashmir plan, Kashmir programme. Even in his cabinet meeting he said, "If we had not supported the US, our Kashmir plan would have been jeopardised." If you talk of India only in the context of this agenda, if you are unwilling to make progress in other areas, what will be the focus for the next meeting? Will you agree to one prior to the talks? Or will you conduct the same talks in the media which Gen Musharraf seems to like so much, rather than within closed doors? And talk in a language which tells India to "lay off" and "hum chudiyaan nahin pehente"?

Such statements give us no reason to talk to Pakistan. Particularly today, when its attention is primarily focused on Afghanistan. We don't want to be used by Pakistan to lower the pressure on Musharraf If he meets Prime Minister Vajpayee in New York or wherever, he'll only talk Kashmir, Kashmir, Kashmir, so that he can go back saying, "Look I'm such a great guy! I'm sacrificing Afghanistan but only because of Kashmir." We're not the fall guys for his own stability back home.

We have to fight our own war against terrorism. And it has to be fought on more than one front. First and foremost, we should tackle militants coming from across the border. We must secure our borders. At the same time, we cannot overlook developmental activity in J&K. And we have to go on with preparations for the assembly election, due next year. In looking for solutions to the 'Kashmir' problem, some people have suggested that perhaps the time has come to break the state into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Trifurcation along the existing lines appears a simple solution but would be dangerous and damaging. It will only reinforce the two nation theory that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together. This will be the first step towards handing over Kashmir to Pakistan.

Unfortunately, some petty-minded politicians in Jammu cannot see this. They are also pushed into this thinking by people who talk about taking into account the public opinion in Kashmir. When Musharraf talks of people's opinion, why does he talk of only Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh? He must also include Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He must talk of the part of J&K they very kindly gifted to China. On the contrary, successive governments never allowed public opinion in PoK to come to the fore. Even the constitution of PoK very clearly lays down that nobody will question its final accession to Pakistan. Parties that do not toe the established Pakistani line are not allowed to fight elections. Ask JKLF: they cannot fight elections because they do not believe in PoK's accession to Pakistan. We, on the other hand, are even today telling the Hurriyat, "Come, fight the elections; let's see how much support there is for your line of thinking." So, who's the General to preach to us?

(The minister of state for external affairs spoke to Ratnottama Sengupta)

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