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SPOTLIGHT: Is Norway acting as peace mediator between India, Pakistan on Kashmir?

The maiden visit of former Prime Minister of Norway KjellMagne Bondevik to Kashmir recently has generated fresh hopes of a possible resolution of the vexed Kashmir issue, with political experts remarking that such a development was “both interesting and worth-watching.”

During his visit to Srinagar on Friday, Bondevik met two top resistance leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who briefed him about the “fragile” political situation in Kashmir and the need for a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

The former Norway PM then went to New Delhi where he met top political bigwigs, according to a source, and is scheduled to visit the Pakistan-administered Kashmir as well as Islamabad to “widen the ambit of reconciliation between India and Pakistan vis-à-vis Kashmir resolution”.

Norway has a history of resolving conflicts in several countries in a peaceful manner.

“After his New Delhi sojourn, he will travel to PaK and Islamabad,” the source said, without disclosing the names of people Bondevik met in New Delhi. However, the source said, he met “relevant people”.

The source said the Bondevik’s Srinagar visit “seems to have approval from New Delhi which has been out-rightly rejecting any third-party intervention in Kashmir”.

“So this appears to be a good sign,” he said.

Bondevik’s proposed visit to PaK and Islamabad comes at a time when Pakistan has thrown open Kartarpur corridor to facilitate a pilgrimage of Sikh community across the border to visit the revered shrine of Baba Guru Nanakji. Prime Minister NarendraModi Friday hoped the Kartarpur corridor would act as a bridge between the people of India and Pakistan, and even referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall to underline its importance.

The Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has termed Bondevik’s Srinagar trip a welcome development.

WHAT EXPERTS SAY

Former interlocutor on Kashmir, professorRadha Kumar, said it seems that Bondevik has been interested in Kashmir since 2001 and may be even before that.

“He went to PaK in 2017 and earlier this year held a seminar in Oslo where MashalMullick (wife of JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik) spoke,” Kumar told Greater Kashmir over phone from New Delhi. But, she said, “I think Bondevik’s visit is unlikely to have an official sanction from the Prime Minister NarendraModi-led administration. However I would be happy if it did indicate opportunities for peacemaking for the government of India.”

Political commentator professor Sidiq Wahid, while commenting on the former Norway PM’s Srinagar visit and his meeting with Geelani and Mirwaiz, said: “It is indeed an interesting story. Too soon to tell how it develops, but Delhi being on board is an interesting development”.

Professor Wahid, who is presently a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research New Delhi, said “it seems to indicate that there is pressure on New Delhi to do something”.

“Perhaps, a report of the UNHRC on rights violations in Kashmir has stirred Europe and the international community. From a J&K perspective, we need to assert that there is transparency in the discussions and that things must be done with wide consultations,” he said.

Political analyst professor Gul Muhammad Wani said “it seems a surprising thing for an average Kashmir that something is going on in Kashmir, like someone associated with the Oslo centre coming to Srinagar and meeting Hurriyat leaders”. “As reported in the press, he will go to PaK and Islamabad (and it) seems something very important keeping in view the fact that for a long time, New Delhi has taken recourse in a coercive diplomacy as far as Pakistan and engaging Kashmiri leadership are concerned,” he said.

“Also Norwegian interlocution is important because the country has a certain record of credibility as far as mediation and resolution of international conflicts are concerned. Norway facilitated dialogue between various ethnic groups, though issues in Sri Lanka and Nepal were different. But so far it has not facilitated any dialogue process between India and Pakistan or New Delhi and Srinagar.”

He said Bondevik’s Srinagar visit can’t be underestimated.

“Since BJP-led by PM Modi took reigns in Delhi, they have been following a coercive diplomacy vis-à-vis Pakistan which has created a huge distrust and diplomatic vacuum within the India-Pakistan sub-continent,” he said. “Elections (in India) are vital. We have been debating time and again whether major steps can be taken before or after elections. Between 2002 and 2008, we saw that the level of engagement between India and Pakistan was better.”

“With the passage of time, the contours of mediation can become clear,” Wani said.

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