The Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik announced recently that the Hurriyat were ready for talks.
The Hurriyat conference chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq stated, ‘I can tell you that if meaningful talks are initiated, there will be a positive response. Dialogue is the only way and that is our consistent stand. From the time when all parties came together under one umbrella (Hurriyat) we have maintained and reiterated that engagement and dialogue among all stakeholders is the best and most peaceful means of resolution of the Kashmir issue.’
Mirwaiz went on to add, ‘Hurriyat has engaged with both India and Pakistan in the past and are always ready to engage.’ This step has been supported by both the valley based political parties, National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was also supported by the Congress.
While the first steps have been taken, there is far more reading into the statements and commitments by the Hurriyat, prior to the centre making the first official move. In addition, an analysis of the current environment in the valley also needs to be factored in.
Internally in Kashmir, the Hurriyat is losing power by the day. Many of their leaders are behind bars for money laundering and other crimes. The wife of Shabir Shah, arrested for his violent crimes as the leader of JKLF, is running to every Muslim nation begging for their involvement in seeking his release, which is unlikely as his charges also include murder. Other leaders are deep into money laundering and funding violence. With many behind bars, others under threat, the Hurriyat has called for peace.
The standing of the Hurriyat has also taken a beating as inputs of their vast property purchased from funds sent from Pak to promote militancy is being exposed regularly. Their violence has marred the lives of valley youth, while their own children have studied abroad, funded by Pak. These inputs being released in public domain is making them lose face.
In case the government accepts their offer, their primary demand would be of the release of their leadership and dropping of all cases against them, which would enable them to regain the initiative. This step would be retrograde and push the government onto the defensive once again.
Once released, all efforts to track the money trail would grow cold and efforts made thus far, wasted. There is panic in their ranks and hence the government should ignore them till they toe the line as demanded by the state.
Further, with lack of funds for supporting violence, their calls for Bandhs remain unanswered and apart from a few small area’s where their sway still holds, these are ignored.
Militancy in the valley is on the receding mode. Incidents of stone throwing to disrupt security forces operations are now confined to few small pockets. Daily encounters also indicate the positive levels of human intelligence flowing to security forces. Thus, overall there is an improvement in the situation.
Pakistan’s support has receded. The combined impact of Balakote and FATF has compelled them to pull back. They are aware that one incident, which could be directly linked to them could lead to a strong counter stroke which they may not be able to digest. All calls for talks from their end have been ignored by India. The cold shoulder at the SCO was evidence that India is unwilling to talk on Kashmir.
For the Pak deep state, Imran Khan being an active member of the same, talks with India indicate some semblance of victory and a level of satisfaction. Ignoring by India is counterproductive. If India is unwilling to accept Pak’s offer for the talks the next step is to have the Hurriyat offer talks. The Hurriyat, on the advice of the deep state, would demand tripartite talks including Pak, as in their opinion, they remain stakeholders. This is not what Delhi would desire.
Hence, if the Hurriyat is genuine for its offer for talks, it should agree to the following conditions. Firstly, talks should be within the framework of the Indian constitution. Secondly, there would be no release of its leadership, unless there is positive movement. Criminal cases would not be dropped. Thirdly, they should denounce Pak as a stakeholder and accept that talks with Pak would, if held, be between the government of India and them. Fourthly, accuse those who pick up the gun as being anti-national.
The conditions are tough, but clearly an indicator that the Hurriyat is concerned about the local population and not playing the game to seek time to regroup and have its cadre released.
The control switch is now with the Indian government and it should ensure it remains. The advantages gained cannot afford to be lost. The centre must stand firm and impose these strong conditions on the Hurriyat. It should ignore the ranting and ravings of valley based political parties.