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Volume 3, No. 11 - May 2004

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Who is sincere in peace talks?
K. N. Pandita

Contrary to all expectations, interface between India and Pakistan at the 60th session of the UN Human Rights Commission at Geneva was bizarre and loaded with more gunpowder. The six Ė week long session came to an end on 23 April 2004 leaving both India and Pakistan badly mauled and bruised on Kashmir issue.

More than the two acrimonious countries, the NGOs, including the ones with ECOSOC status have adopted partisan attitude. Kashmir is the corps on which carnivorous animals subsist. A week or ten days prior to the beginning of the session on 15th April, Pakistani head of the UN Mission in Geneva threw a sumptuous feast to some of his partisan NGOs at the College of Tourism lounge outside the main gate to the Palais de Nation. Reportedly a dozen NGOs were feasted lavishly on anti-India baiting.

The first salvo from Pakistani side came on 16th April when, during the specified time for the interventions from high-level segment, her representative churned eloquent phrases on global peace but harkened his audience that Kashmir remained central to all Indo-Pak talks. He said that it was the right of his country to open Kashmir Pandora box on all available at all international fora. He disregarded the protocol of not raking up bilateral issues when countries speak thematically. Prior to him, the Indian Foreign Secretary, Mr. Sheshank had delivered a truly high level statesmanlike statement on the global issues, particularly terrorism, as the greatest menace now. In comparison, the Pakistani representative took his audience, so to say, for a ride and in turn proved adamant to show no resilience.

These precursors suggested that the so-called peace process remained elusive despite Indian Prime Ministerís intervention to carry diplomacy to the cricket field.

The London-based Hurriyat representative, now a strong aspirant to step into the shoes of late Ayub Thukar, was more active in Geneva than usual. In a run up to the passing of Commissionís anti-Israel resolution on the killing of the Hamas terrorist leader Yasin -- a resolution tabled by Pakistan on behalf of OIC but voted against by the US -- Majid Tramboo, rejoiced on what he considered a unique achievement of moving similarly resolution on behalf of 25 NGOs. Obviously, the NGOs that comprised the group he led, are in one way or the other consider themselves as champions of faith. This is the new alliance forged at the UN Human Rights Commission of which the Pakistani Missionís chief in Geneva made the beginning.

A plethora of pictured literature on expensive glazed paper with captions that speak of Indian security forces using muscle power against the civilians was placed in heaps at every possible vantage point. Curiously it was published in the name of All Part Hurriyat Conference but the place of publication was shown Muzaffarabad. Was it to create an impression that the Hurriyat had not been faced with a split?

Most of the Pakophile Kashmiris masqueraded, as human rights activists at the lobbies in the Commission are familiar figures except for the induction or two new female faces. All that these teams pursued showed in no ambiguous terms that there was not an iota of impact of the peace process initiated at the highest levels.

Some observers were disposed to believe that resumption of acrimonious stances at the UN Human Rights Commission was only skin deep for the two authoritative echelons did not want to create a sense of retracting on their stands in an officially public place like Geneva. But I would have serious reservations to that perception. The world community cannot be hoodwinked in that fashion although it is a different matter that fourteen years of ceaseless flow of rhetoric has made the world community totally fed up with Kashmir and the Kashmir issue.

No wonder that not a single NGO commandeered by either side took the initiative of pursuing the peace process and suggesting a direct dialogue between the two groups of Kashmiris indulging in accusations and counter accusations. It was a Russian lady delegate who very poignantly remarked in a briefing outside the UN complex that she had been watching the Kashmiri delegates from two sides of Kashmir trading accusations and counter accusations for last one decade. Why could not they come together and sit round a table and talk instead of hurling abuses at one another inside the conference room, she asked? It sounds somewhat bizarre from one whose own country is caught up in a bloody conflict with the separatists.

But to me it appears that there could be a possibility of a tie up between the Kashmiri delegates traditionally representing two shades of opinion. One is led to believe that the Indian side has fully weighed the pros and cons of making a tactical move as a result of which, by and large, the cadres from the Valley, Poonch and Doda replace those from among the displaced segment.

Actually the Indians are expecting too much from a group of two - dozen emigrants from the PoK temporarily settled in Europe or the West. The pressure group would have been really effective if it had a good following on the ground. An hour-long demonstration by this group in front of the UN in Geneva or their handouts of a long lament of oppression and suppression by the Pakistanis is not going to cut ice. Yet the Indians are as gleeful as a child that this happens with or without their blessings.

That Geneva is the open battleground for the ISI and RAW heavyweights is what the more cynical NGOs mean to convey by coining the term GONGO -- the abbreviation of Government Non-Government Organizations. After each bout at the Commission or the Sub-Commission, each side sits down to take stock of the damage it has inflicted on the adversary or to lick the wound adversary has inflicted on him. But in one thing they are sharing a common denominator, and that is misleading the superiors to all extents and limits through exaggerated or suppressed reports lest they lose their bite at Kashmir cake.

Nobody is in the smallest doubt that Kashmir question will neither be resolved at the UN level nor on the actual ground. It is closely and decisively connected first to the power thirsty Pakistani military and now in addition to the stranglehold of Islamic jihadi militia in and outside Pakistan. At least the current century will not see peace in Kashmir. Yes, peace could come if the people of Kashmir want it. That they want it is what they on both sides of the LoC have to prove to the world before the international community comes to their support.

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