Kashmiri politicians often find themselves caught between two stools, having to balance between the competing narratives of mainstream politics and soft separatism. Depending on whether they are in power or in the opposition, they switch the horses seamlessly even at the risk of sounding duplicitous and losing credibility. The former Chief Minister and president of the National Conference Farooq Abdullah stoked a fresh controversy by observing that PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) belongs to Pakistan and the situation will not change irrespective of the number of wars that the two countries may wage. The octogenarian politician, whose family has virtually shaped the destiny of the border state and who himself was the Chief Minister for several terms, invoked the oft-repeated “betrayal” plank, saying India mistreated the Kashmiris and failed to reciprocate their love. It is highly mischievous on the part of the veteran leader to attribute the ongoing extremist violence in the valley to the perceived sense of betrayal and neglect and place the blame squarely at the doorsteps of the central government. By bundling India, Pakistan and China together as nations having “atom bombs” and saying that Kashmiris have “nothing except Allah’s name”, Abdullah is clearly pandering to the separatist sentiments. It is unbecoming of a senior leader who had served as union minister in the past to portray India as an outsider and peddle a narrative that runs contrary to the country’s well known position vis-a-vis PoK. He needs to refresh his memory about the Parliament’s unanimous resolution in 1994, asserting that PoK is an integral part of India’s territory and also firmly ruling out any third party intervention in Kashmir.
At a time when the recently-appointed Kashmir interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma is engaged in dialogue with several stakeholders in the valley, the NC leader’s remarks would only muddle the atmosphere. His suggestion that India must hold talks with Pakistan carries no conviction because of the futility of such a course when the neighbouring country continues to export terror and stoke the fires in the Valley. In his desperation to earn acceptance among the new generation of Kashmiris, Abdullah had recently made an outrageous statement that the stone-throwing youth of the Valley were doing so for the sake of “their nation.” He is clearly oblivious to the ground reality of Azadi sentiment being metamorphosed into Jihadi terror. What is more, he supported American mediation on Kashmir, citing failure of bilateral efforts. The 1972 Shimla agreement clearly states that Kashmir is a bilateral issue which will be resolved without any foreign mediation. The role of international community, including the US, must be focused on reining in Pakistan which continues to be the single biggest threat to peace and stability in the region.