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Kashmir: Tripartite Talks Are Essential

A just and honourable resolution of the Kashmir problem through reconciling the aspirations of the Kashmiri people with the interests of India and Pakistan is not possible without tripartite talks.

Breaking off the ceasefire within a fortnight of its offer by raising a new demand for holding tripartite talks, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) has queered the pitch for dialogue. It has also damaged its image by signalling that its arms were twisted by the Pakistani military regime. The original three terms which accompanied the offer for a three-month ceasefire had called for ending atrocities, free expression and the opportunity for the people to decide unhindered by the government or the militants. A demand for tripartite talks was not raised, though Hizb has never concealed its pro-Pakistan leanings. It is significant that whereas HM’s offer was made in Srinagar, the announcement of the new demand and withdrawal of the ceasefire offer as well as the appeal to Pakistan to join the war against India were made in Islamabad. Not even in Muzaffarabad.

The ceasefire-offer could be faulted for being unilateral and hasty, but none could deny it was a bold initiative which broke the impasse over a dialogue. It was an impasse created by the government of India which could not decide whether or not it was willing to talk to the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). It was also reluctant to declare that talks would be unconditional. It was HM that provided the breakthrough. It became difficult for GoI to not respond. The acceptance of the offer within three days by a government notorious for dithering is proof of that. Having taken this bold step, HM’s withdrawal appears inexplicable. The advantage rested with Hizbul. They stood close to qualitatively altering the political equation in Kashmir. By allowing itself to be sidetracked by Pakistan, HM has done itself a disservice. Sooner or later tripartite talks will have to take place, if the talks are to be meaningful and substantive. The appropriate thing was for HM to present its views during the talks with GoI and press for a tripartite dialogue. Had GoI rejected the demand HM had recourse to going public and winning international support. By doing the opposite they squandered an opportunity to win respect for their views and formal recognition as well.

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