THE condemnation by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference of the Pathankot air force base attack is a welcome addition to the chorus of criticism that all right-thinking and sensible people in India, Pakistan and the disputed Kashmir region have added their voice too.
Dialogue alone can resolve the Kashmir dispute and the other outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. That is a reality that the militant groups are in denial of. So for peaceful means to prevail over militancy, it is important that all political forces come together to marginalise those seeking to change reality through violence.
The Pathankot attack could have been a disaster, but the fallout has been manageable so far precisely because the political leadership in the region has not given in to fear. The Indian government could have tried to deflect serious domestic criticism of its response to the attack by trying to shift the blame on Pakistan. It has not.
Also read: Indian airbase attack bid to derail talks, says All Parties Hurriyat Conference
Similarly, Pakistan could have bristled at the clearly unsubstantiated allegations that were bandied about in India in the early stages of the attack; instead, at the highest levels, cooperation has been pledged.
The Hurriyat’s condemnation could be seen as a response to the claim by the United Jihad Council that some of its members carried out the Pathankot attack. In the complex world of intra-Kashmir politics, the fortunes of both the Hurriyat and the militant groups have waxed and waned over the years.
For a while, it appeared that the APHC may be in terminal decline: divided by internal rivalries and lacking charismatic leaders who could energise and mobilise the Kashmiri people. But for all its internal problems, the APHC’s insistence that dialogue, especially between India and Pakistan, is the only way to find a solution to Kashmir has helped it retain its relevance, and even influence.
With dialogue taking centre stage once again — something the Pathankot attack presumably intended to change — the Hurriyat is rightly trying to enhance the space for all pro-dialogue forces. The days of militancy in Kashmir must end — and soon.
Yet, it is India too that must consider whether its policies in Kashmir are creating more room for groups with a violent agenda — and thereby reducing the space for elements favouring dialogue.
The unrest in India-held Kashmir is not a figment of the Pakistani imagination nor is it a fiction created in Kashmir to justify violent agendas. In fact, the repressive military presence in India-held Kashmir and the policies of the centre that accentuate communal tensions there have created dangerous tensions that are never far from the surface.
The APHC itself has been treated by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an enemy, even though Mr Modi’s partner in Srinagar, the now-deceased Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was in favour of giving the APHC more space. When pro-dialogue forces are treated as the enemy, it is usually militant forces that benefit.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2016