In a democracy, talking is always good. So, an all-party delegation going from New Delhi to Srinagar was a good initiative, even if a belated one. The visuals of Muslim leaders from mainstream Indian political parties hearing and conversing with separatists from Kashmir, along with leaders from other national and regional parties, have their own therapeutic value. Even the worst political adversaries must be seen talking all the time in a plural and democratic polity. It is not clear if any concrete results will come out of this initiative, but that should not be the basis of evaluating its purpose. If the streets and homes in Srinagar can return to a modicum of normalcy, and people feel more reassured about their safety and security and the governmentâs commitment to zero tolerance for both terrorism and human rights violations, that in itself would be a huge achievement. However, the next steps are now as important.
The time has come for all political parties in Jammu & Kashmir to first resolve their own differences on the resolution of the problem of Kashmir. New Delhi can wait to see what kind of consensus emerges. Political parties that have already contested elections have established their representative credentials. Even those that have refused to contest elections should be viewed as representing a prevalent viewpoint, howsoever limited their constituency of support. Let a hundred ideas bloom from the ground. Delhi has made its position known, and the prime minister must work with national political parties to get a consensus around his own ideas. In Pakistan, the government of the day must do its bit, taking the process initiated by former President Pervez Musharraf forward. If all these conditions are met, further progress is possible. If not, status quo would drag on. Those who harp constantly on poor governance in Kashmir must accept that there is nothing unique about either the so-called "human rights violations" in Kashmir, or the high-handedness of government and security forces. Millions of South Asians routinely complain about these problems all across the region. Improved governance, respect for the rule of law and plural and representative democracy are the only options open and that is as true for Kashmir as for any other state of India, or nation/region in South Asia. Secession is no solution anywhere â be it in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka or India. The Manmohan Singh-Pervez Musharraf formula for the resolution of the problem of Kashmir could be the final solution if a significant majority in India, Pakistan and on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir endorses it, even if a vocal minority refuses to join the consensus.