Friday, February 18, 2005

Ariel Sharon and The Kashmir Bus

I know there is no connection between the two. But the passing of Sharon’s Bill on troop pullout from Gaza (hardly any mention in Indian media) and the heartening progress in Indo-Pak talks (covered quite prominently) have happened too close to avoid finding some commonality between the two.

Sharon is a hardliner. He was the one accused to of stoking the flames of intifada after his controversial visit to Temple Mount some years back. He is the one who would have cared two hoots for the welfare of the Palestinians. He deeply wished that Yasser Arafat would die. He would have openly assassinated Arafat had not US and Europe dissuaded him from doing so. Not surprisingly, when Arafat died, rumours were afloat that Israel had poisoned him.

It is a different Sharon today. May be because his hated enemy Arafat is no longer around. He is so much changed that the same Sharon is facing death threats from Jewish hardliners for his troop withdrawal plan. He is so besieged by security that he is hardly visible in public. People are drawing a parallel with the time a decade back when Yitzak Rabin was shot dead for his peace overtures.

Ceasefire, and now the pullout: some hope. But will the hardliners go away?

That is the same question we need to ask in Kashmir too. A bus service between the two Kashmirs exclusively for people of the region will start rolling next month. India and Pak are said to have made a lot of compromises in agreeing to the deal; so much so that the two nations clarified that the new development is without prejudice to stated positions on Kashmir.

I only hope and pray that hardliners will see reason, and not derail whatever little progress is being achieved for a peaceful world: be it in West Asia or Indian Subcontinent.

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