The stage is set for the visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who is scheduled to travel to India just in few days(April 😎. His itinerary as reported in the media indicates that he is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during a luncheon meeting, before he departs to Ajmer to visit the famous Sufi shrine of Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Though not much progress is expected during this short interaction between the two leaders, Zardari’s visit assumes significance in the backdrop of a series of positive developments in the bilateral relationship.
Particularly Kashmiris would be eagerly watching this visit, given the recent talk of both the countries relegating the Kashmir issue to the backburner, so as to facilitate forward movement in other areas. While the centrality of Kashmir issue to the Indo-Pak relations is something which needs no reiteration, it is equally true that both the sides have used the Kashmir issue, as per their mutual convenience, leaving an ordinary Kashmiri, high and dry.
Given the relatively peaceful 2011 in J&K and a simultaneous decline in the militant violence, an ordinary Kashmiri hopes that both the countries, would find it prudent to discuss the Kashmir issue and take decisive steps for its resolution. In this context, the recent invitations extended by the Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to the Kashmiri separatist leaders of Hurriyat Conference, to visit Pakistan, to discuss the Kashmir issue, is also a welcome step, though similar invitations have been extended earlier also. While the Pakistani leadership and establishment have reiterated their ‘moral, diplomatic and political’ support to the Kashmiris, it has in reality done not much for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Though India is somewhat reluctant to talk to Hurriyat leadership, particularly the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani faction, New Delhi has to realize that the longer it avoids talking to Hurriyat, more protracted the resolution of Kashmir issue becomes. Hence, it is imperative that India initiates the dialogue process with the separatist leadership of all hues. The separatists too have realized that in order to remain relevant in the Kashmiri political discourse, they have to show a little flexibility and the recent statements from Hurriyat leaders talking about local development challenges facing Jammu and Kashmir, are indicative of a trend in this regard.