It is a great pity that the government seems to have decided to put the core dispute of Kashmir on the backburner. There is no dearth of indications to prove the point, though, to keep up appearances, it continues, off and on, to underline the urgency of its solution. Even today’s newspapers contain several reports that either lament the government’s indifference to the cause, or point to its eagerness to overlook New Delhi’s refusal even to talk about the Kashmir issue and build relations with it that would, in the long run, damage the prospects of its solution. The revelation of Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma that India and Pakistan have allowed their entrepreneurs to make investment in each other’s countries is a case in point. Such an arrangement would make for the normalisation of relations that India has been so keenly seeking in an attempt to create a climate in which the dispute loses relevance. The ice in the relations has been broken and the Indian Foreign Minister is also visiting Pakistan soon.

Under the circumstances, it would be hard to challenge the view of former Amir of Jama’at-i-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmad, who speaking at the two-day “Kashmir: the Right of Self-Determination Conference” accused the rulers on Friday of treating the dispute as cumbersome baggage of the past and making overtures of peace to India. One would not question the wish to establish peaceful relations with India as such since peace alone could pave the way for Pakistan, or for that matter, India to break the barrier of poverty and backwardness. But the question is: would peace, with the Kashmiris suffering in the brutal bondage of India, hold for long? The answer is quite obvious. Durable peace in the subcontinent can only be possible when the dispute has been justly settled, in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir and that would call for the holding of a free and fair plebiscite under UN auspices, as stipulated in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It should not be forgotten that the people of Pakistan have religious, cultural and, indeed, familial bonds with the people of Kashmir and should the Kashmiris’ agonising struggle fail to produce the desired outcome it would be idle to expect the Pakistanis to have friendly feelings towards India. President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan bemoaned that President Zardari did not care to even mention the dispute in his address to the joint session of Parliament. Besides, the warning of leader of the United Jihad Council Syed Salahuddin that the neglect of the Kashmir cause would bring war within Pakistan itself must not be ignored by the seekers of peace.

Kashmir has another dimension, equally important as the above logic. From it flows the water that irrigates our fields, feeds our industry and meets our domestic needs. And India has left no one in doubt about its intention to turn us into a vast barren land by diverting our share of water.