Pak-India talks and Gilgit, Baltistan

Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday May 24—-30,2008

The foreign secretary-level talks between Pakistan and India started in Islamabad after about six months. In the beginning of the composite dialogue, both the countries announced to release prisoners from their prisons as a sign of confidence-building measures. The topics which came under discussion in the fourth round of the dialogue included peace, Kashmir, terrorism, Siachin, Sir Creek, Wooler Barrage and maintenance of trust between the two nations. Both the sides also exchanged some proposals calling an end to cross-border infiltration, promotion of trade, increase in bus service, launching of Muzaffarabad-Sri Nagar postal service and operation of weekly bus service. The Indian Foreign Minister Partnab Mukherje also met President Musharraf, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan and discussed ways to further promote the peace process.It may be pointed that no new progress has been seen in the current dialogue process between the two sides. Even after so many rounds of talks between the two nations, misunderstanding among the actual party to the issue cannot be removed. However, notwithstanding the reservations and aspirations of the Kashmiris, India and Pakistan want to develop friendly relations with each other to pursue their own interests. Therefore, there seems no silver lining as far as the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are concerned.It may be noted that since the issue of Kashmir was taken to the United Nations, both India and Pakistan have followed their own policies which created complications instead of solving the real issue. Wrong policies of the two nations also led to many wars in the past and there also seems no remedy with the two countries to compensate the destruction and suffering faced by the people of the region due to the volatile situation in South Asia. India has always termed Kashmir its juggular vein and on the basis of Maharaja’s accession has considered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as its constitutional parts. It has also been central part of India’s foreign policy since the very beginning not to compromise on its so-called rights on Kashmir. Due to intransigence of Indian rulers no progress can be made on the issue despite the fact that the issue remained on agenda of the UN. On the other hand, Pakistan kept changing its policy on Kashmir and blindly trusted US promises and assurances on the issue and failed to win the confidence of the international community. Pakistan also failed to achieve the desired objective on Kashmir because it kept the people of Kashmir as well as Gilgit-Baltistan deprived of their basic rights besides doing nothing for elimination of poverty, public frustration and unemployment in the area. It also supported Muslim Conference and Hurreyat Conference which were not in favor of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan not only failed to win world support but it also created the reservation and skepticism of the people of Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan. The worst victims of the over 60 year-long drama have been the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Kashmiris living on either side of the Line of Control have access to some sorts of facilities of life but people of Gilgit-Baltistan have long been exploited and denied their basic social, economic, social and constitutional rights. The region has also been kept away from any sort of political process. The injustices meted out to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan during the period cannot be described in these lines.We also understand that the role of the two countries in the ongoing dialogue process is hostage to the interference of some outside powers. The purpose of excluding the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from the peace process means that the two countries want to make an atmosphere for their own economic and social well being; they are not sincere with the future of the affected people. If the two countries are serious to resolve the issue, they have to end rampant human rights violations in both Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, restore old historical and old routes in the region and withdraw troops from the state. Under the UNCIP resolutions, Pakistan had to end its administrative control on Gilgit-Baltistan and honour the wishes of the local people. It is also important to remind the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan that if they failed to determine a clear-cut goal for themselves, their future would be decided by outsiders. This is stated because during the last over 60 years they have failed to visualize a clear path for attainment of their goal due to the fact that the ruling class and its coteries created such a situation in which the common man was kept away from the national affairs. If the Kashmir issue is left to India and Pakistan to decide, it is clear that the final outcome of their deliberations would not be in the best interest of Kashmiris and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. If such a decision is taken at any stage it would not only be disappointing for the affected people but would also be disastrous for both Islamabad and New Delhi. Therefore, a joint and united resistance movement in Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan can only lead the people towards a positive solution to the problem because leaving the future of the region at the hands of India and Pakistan will tantamount to keeping the area in perpetual slavery.

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