Kashmir Report

Advocating “meaningful autonomy” and speedy development, the three interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir submitted their report to Home Minister P. Chidambaram recently, a year after they were appointed to draw a roadmap to peace. From whatever we have seen, the report is quite disappointing as it has failed to come out with out of the box ideas. Whatever may have been the expectation of the Government of India to appoint such a panel in the first place, many would have expected the report to atleast suggest new approaches or ways in dealing with the decades long problem in the region particularly the Kashmir Valley. Even in the area of advocating ‘meaningful autonomy’ for whatever reason the report has reportedly avoided the term ‘Pre-1952 Status’. The other recommendations mentioned in the report appear to be old ideas and a rehash of points raised by similar committees in the past. These include withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act from the State and also the all too familiar developmental councils and devolution of powers. Such government appointed panel or interlocutors also end up recommending the all too familiar and populist “economic packages” to tackle the so called unemployment or assist in major infrastructure development.
So the most vital political question of revisiting autonomy as it existed prior to 1953 has also been given the cold shouldering. When it comes to the issue of Jammu & Kashmir, the Morung Express has always taken the position that meaningful autonomy should be the starting point towards full resolution of the Kashmir dispute. If the Government of India cannot even come halfway to this point, it is highly unlikely that the problem will ever be resolved. Granting genuine autonomy as part of a middle path solution is what this column had been commenting in the past. The situation in Jammu & Kashmir demands an appropriate political response from the Government of India. This is an opportunity for New Delhi to take certain steps which may or may not resolve the issue completely but will restore trust and give confidence to the people in the State. What J&K require at this juncture is a political ‘package’ and not economic packages. The latter has been employed in the past so many times. The political establishment in New Delhi must realize that pouring in money and promise of development is not the sole answer to the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. The Congress led UPA government has the wonderful opportunity to actually do something on this front. The question of autonomy deserves a serious look in by the PM and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Off-course the full report has yet to be put in the public domain. As such much of what people are commenting about is also somewhat speculative. We will just have to wait and see. Nevertheless, there is a sense that even if the latest report aims at a permanent political settlement of the Kashmir problem, as pointed out by Dileep Padgaonkar one of the interlocutor, the more important question is whether the Government of India will accept the report in totality and not just selectively as per its fancies. Many people believe that the report is just an “exercise to buy time.” In the past also there has been many committees appointed by Delhi to break the ice on Kashmir but recommendations remain on paper. Sincerity and political will on the part of India is lacking and people are not inspired enough to hope for an amicable political solution. This is also a good opportunity for New Delhi to fill up the trust deficit and reach out. But for this, it must remain honest and sincere in its approach.