“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
(The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock)
What is comical about the ‘Pakistan Day’ function held annually at its High Commission in New Delhi is that year after year, the same people meet to discuss the same issue. But that is not all- the ‘guests’ make the same complaints as well as the same requests and on receiving the same assurances from the host, depart happily, singing paeans in glory of Pakistan. The discussions have a single point agenda and that is, resolution of the Kashmir issue. Both sides take these discussions very seriously and deliberations on this subject, which start soon after the arrival of the guests, continue over a cup of tea and are carried onto the dinner table. Both sides seem to be blessed with phenomenal patience and unbounded optimism, since even though this annual ritual has failed to produce anything meaningful, both the hosts and guests never tire of speaking and listening to the same rhetoric and make it a point to meet every year for once again discussing the same issue of Kashmir over dinner!
While nothing substantial may emerge from this event, both the ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’ eagerly look forward to the same as it does work wonders for their egos. While it pleases the separatists to no end in seeing how their cavorting with the officials of the Pakistan High Commission galls New Delhi, it also gives Islamabad a great feeling of self-importance, as it finds that even after being unable to do anything worthwhile towards resolving the Kashmir issue, the separatists continue to queue-up at its High Commission for seeking an audience, year after year. There however seems to be an unwritten understanding between the Pakistan High Commission and the separatists- both sides refrain from any discussions on touchy issues which could expose their respective charades. For example, Pakistan does not feel it necessary to impress upon the Hurriyat conglomerate the dire need to set their own house in order and sinking their differences, unite in the overall interests of the Kashmir movement, since a plethora of factions only undermines the movement for the ‘right to self determination’. Nor does Islamabad ever consider it necessary to advise the Hurriyat leaders that if they wish their conglomerate to be taken more seriously in international forums, then they must buildup intellectual capacity and create a comprehensive road map to forcefully espouse their point of view instead of finding fault with the international community and blaming it of collectively hatching a “conspiracy” against the Kashmiris!
The separatists too reciprocate positively in equal measure. While they do complain about Islamabad’s “inconsistent” Kashmir policy, their objections are cautiously worded and so mild in nature that it is more than evident that these are just for pacifying the public and certainly not meant to be a serious or stern reminder to Islamabad that it is high time to ‘stop talking and start performing’. Similarly, when the separatists say that they must also be made party to any discussions with New Delhi on Kashmir problem; it is more of a desperate plea rather than a forceful demand and this raises suspicion that it is just an attempt by the Hurriyat to prove that it is an independent and equal ‘stakeholder’ on Kashmir and not mere puppets being manipulated by Islamabad, which many suspect it to be. Thus, while Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India plays the ‘perfect’ host by graciously listening to the complaints made by the invitees even when his own government happens to be the target of their ire, the separatists too exhibit social courtesies expected from the guests by carefully avoiding discussions on subjects that could prove embarrassing to the host. For example, while Indian occupation of Kashmir and its prognosis remains the focal point of discussion, speaking about the areas of Kashmir under Pakistani control and its future, is taboo. And no one asks the question as to why Islamabad is not ‘cornering’ India on the issue of holding a plebiscite by volunteering to allow the UN to do the same in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), when it proudly claims that the people of PaK are extremely happy and completely content with the existing arrangements and is confident that they will vote en masse for accession to Pakistan!
I do not have any experience of ‘dinner diplomacy’, but I am of the firm opinion that something as serious as diplomacy can never be conducted over such a casual and social event like tea or dinner. And when the issue is so vexed that it has defied resolution for over six and a half decades, how can anyone expect a ‘resolved Kashmir’ being suddenly served on a platter during dinner? So, while the separatists may by all means go and attend the ‘Pakistan Day’ celebrations or other such functions and discuss mundane issues like the weather or global warming, I humbly request them not to violate the sanctity and gravity of Kashmir issue by making it a trivial topic of discussion that can be resolved over a cup of tea or on the dinner table. The Hurriyat leadership needs to get over its proclivity for bursting into tears whenever they enter the Pakistani High Commission and entreating Islamabad to come to their rescue, as this apologetic approach embarrasses the proud people of Kashmir.
Tailpiece: The separatists never tire of telling us how, by not observing hartal calls or refusing to boycott elections, we are ‘betraying of the blood and sacrifices of our martyrs’. Now, the time has come for someone to ask the separatists that by reducing the Kashmir problem into a frivolous issue for a tete- e- tete over tea and dinner, aren’t they too guilty of betraying the blood and sacrifices of our martyrs?