Former Norwegian PM’s Kashmir Visit: What’s the Plot?

  • Javaid Malik
  • Publish Date: Dec 2 2018 12:13PM
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  • Updated Date: Dec 2 2018 12:13PM
Former Norwegian PM’s Kashmir Visit: What’s the Plot?Photo: Kashmir Ink

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik visiting Kashmir, New Delhi and Pakistan has triggered a row. Everyone is trying to know what was Bondevik up to? But it seems that much ado is being created about nothing.  

Media reports suggest that Bondevik was invited through the organization of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He met Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Srinagar. He also visited Pakistan where he met the Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and President of Pakistan Administered Kashmir Masood Khan. 

It may be recalled that Norway has a long history of conflict resolution and Bondevik had played a key role in the resolution of the conflict with Tamil militants in Sri Lanka a few years ago.

On November 23, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted photos from the meeting, saying as Norway is known to play a “constructive role in conflict resolution across the globe” they have urged Mr Bondevik to help reach a resolution.

In a statement, Hurriyat said the Norwegian delegation had assured the separatist leaders that “they would use their good offices to ensure that a sustained and result-oriented dialogue between India and Pakistan” for an “amicable solution” on Kashmir.

The visit of the former Norwegian Prime Minister to Kashmir and his meeting with the separatist leaders surprised everyone as during the past five years New Delhi has not allowed any foreign envoy to visit Kashmir or meet any separatist leader. Then how come BJP led NDA government softened its stand and allowed Bondevik to meet the separatist leaders in Kashmir?  

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah while reacting to the development tweeted: “What are the Norwegians up to in Kashmir? Would either @SushmaSwaraj ji or Doval ji care to put the visit of the former Norwegian PM to both sides of the divided state in the correct context or do we have to rely on rumours & conjecture?”

Bondevik’s visit on both sides of the Line of Control came days after the go-ahead to the Kartarpur corridor that would give Sikh pilgrims from India access to the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.

An online portal reported that the Norwegian embassy was not involved with Bondevik’s visit in any way and it was his personal initiative. “Whenever any foreigner visits Kashmir people start speculating that something is going to happen and breakthrough would be achieved. We have developed a habit of blowing everything out of proportion. It seems that Bondevik’s visit to Kashmir and Pakistan won’t make any difference,” said an analyst. 

“We need to bear in mind that many people have visited Kashmir during the past thirty years but no one has been able to break the ice,” he added.

He said that since the day BJP led NDA government has come into power in the Centre its Kashmir policy has been clear that there is no scope for negotiations on Kashmir. 

Soon after Bondevik’s Kashmir visit Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala alleged the “weak” Narendra Modi government “compromised on” the national security by allowing “third party mediation” in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said the policy underlines that only India and Pakistan can hold a mutual discussion on the boundary dispute. “The central government has violated country’s 71-year-old policy to deal with the issue,” Surjewala said.

He said the Prime Minister has “blurred” the traditional policy of India on Jammu and Kashmir by allowing a former PM of a third country to talk with separatists. “Today, it’s one country’s Prime Minister, tomorrow the US would ask to mediate in Kashmir dispute, then China and Russia would also come. What are you doing? This is a compromise on the national security,” he said.

Congress issuing a hard hitting statement on Bondevik’s visit to Kashmir has cornered the BJP led NDA government. The BJP knows it very well that parliament elections are approaching fast and any move which indicates that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government has softened its stand towards Kashmir would go against it and Congress would try to take full advantage of it. BJP would never allow it.

A Kashmir watcher said, “The iron fist policy being followed by New Delhi in Kashmir is a clear signal that Centre is in no mood to talk to anyone in the Valley. It wants Kashmiris to surrender and accept that J&K is an integral part of India.”

He said that international community seems least interested in what’s happening in Kashmir as India has emerged as one of the fastest growing markets for the foreign companies. “One can see that no country till date has asked New Delhi to explain what’s happening in the Valley,” the Kashmir watcher said. “Everyone wants to do business with India. And no one wants to annoy one of the growing economies in the world.” 

Every now and then separatists issue big statements asking international community to intervene but till date no country has responded to the repeated appeals made by the separatists. “When Kashmir witnessed worst floods of the century in 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government  didn’t allow any foreign aid to reach Kashmir. So how can one expect the present regime at the Centre to allow any third party mediation in Kashmir,” asked a politician.  

He said that a few people are exuding hope that opening of Kartarpur corridor would pave the way for India and Pakistan breaking the ice. “Pakistan opening the corridor is a big development but it’s unlikely to have any impact on the Indo-Pak relations, which have turned extremely cold during the past few years. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj not accepting the invitation of her counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi to attend the opening ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor is an indication that still lot of work needs to be done to fill in the void,” the politician added.

Experts who have been watching developments in Kashmir believe that people should stop reading between the lines. Just one visit of the former Norwegian Prime Minister to Kashmir and opening of Kartarpur corridor are not going to change the ground situation in Kashmir. Within a few months all the political leaders in India would get involved in general elections and there is no chance about Kashmir being discussed at any level till the polls are over and the new dispensation is put at place in New Delhi. It seems that BJP led government is not taking the Bondevik’s whirlwind tour seriously and has brushed aside his meeting with separatists in Kashmir as just a routine matter.