SRINAGAR: The recent dramatic and unscheduled visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lahore to meet Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has created quite a stir. There have been umpteen comments and reactions about this meeting out of the blue ostensibly to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday.

The comments have been both positive and negative. While as some people have hailed it as a breakthrough in the Indo-Pak reconciliation process, others have criticised it as the histrionics of PM Modi who is given to such dramatic gestures to steal the show. It has been observed by some commentators that it is not very easy to have a real and true rapprochement between these two neighbours who have been at each other’s throats right from their creation in 1947

Why are not these two countries able to work out a rapprochement? Apart from the vested interests of the western powers that are milking these countries only because of a perennial conflict there are also deeply entrenched vested interests on the two sides of the divide.

People on either side do not want war and want to live in peace. The greatest tragedy is that the people across the divide cannot meet each other freely. There is a barrier worse than the notorious Berlin Wall. Dramatic meetings between the top leaders or the interaction of the Civil Society members from the two sides in five star hotels is not going to bring the real meeting of the hearts. It is the totally free people to people contact which can break the ice.

The Indo-Pak barrier has to break. Unfortunately, both the sides are swimming against the tide. While as barriers in Europe have totally broken down, we are here creating new ones and strengthening earlier ones! Reportedly there is a plan to build a concrete wall on the International Border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The barriers will break only when the mind-set of the persons manning the Security related organisations on both sides changes.

The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan feels that it has to bleed India from a thousand cuts for its survival. Also Kashmir has to be merged with Pakistan to complete the agenda of partition.

On this side the Research and Analysis Wing feels that it must keep Pakistan on the boil to prevent it from harming India. Apart from this the Hindutva brigade is of the view that Muslims who came from Saudi Arabia have stolen half their country and it has to be retrieved to make India Akhand Bharat of ancient times.

The silver lining now is the possible rapprochement between the top leaders in spite of all the hatred and venom being spitted out by the professional war-mongers. It could be a good beginning if there is sincerity. The leaders have not only to meet and work out a practical approach but have to rein in the Chauvinists on the two sides.

It is here that the question of Kashmir comes in. For last 68 years people on both sides have been fed fanatic fare. Pakistanis claim Kashmir to be their jugular vein while the Indians claim it to be their crown. Kashmir has been made out to be the core issue. However, in reality it is a symptom and not the disease.

India nor Pakistan is bothered about the Kashmiris as a people.Historically, Kashmir has been an independent sovereign country for thousands of years. Pakistan did not exist before 1947. India has been united as one country in the time of Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka the Great and under the British. Both the countries do not represent nations but a group of ethnically different people clobbered together. On the other hand Kashmiris are a nation by every definition of Political Science.

The reaction in Kashmir about the talks has been mixed. Some have welcomed it while others have opined that any rapprochement without Kashmir is meaningless. To be realistic, one has to admit that the rapprochement is practically impossible without resolving Kashmir.

Would both the sides agree to leave Kashmiris alone? It could be geographically as well politically converted into the Switzerland of the sub-continent. Instead of a bleeding Heart of Asia, it could be the real Tulip Garden of Asia where people from the entire area could meet for peace and pleasure. That may be a possible solution. Will the two leaders take such an initiative in the interest of future generations? That is the million dollar question!