The contradiction and lack of coordination between two former J&K chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah on holding talks with Pakistan are an indication that both father and son are treading different paths despite living under one roof and representing a same party i.e. National Conference.
Earlier this month NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah termed promoting border tourism or holding rallies in J&K as a “tamasha” and said, "Till India and Pakistan do not talk with honesty over the Kashmir issue, all this is a show-off (and) this tamasha will go on till then. It will happen every year but the issue will remain there.”
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah on other hand recently said, “The onus lies with Pakistan to bring peace to the region as talks and terror couldn’t go together.” He said that it is the time that Pakistan should fulfill its responsibility and come forward to make the atmosphere favourable for peace.
Divergent views of Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah reflect that both father and son stand poles apart. It appears both the leaders after August 5, 2019— when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcated J&K into two Union Territories—have realized that they have been left with nothing to talk about.
It’s known to all that the National Conference is all about Abdullahs and other leaders just follow the orders. But at present second rung NC leaders also seem to be confused as they don’t know whose line to toe as both father and son are speaking in different languages. It’s strange that father wants talks with Pakistan, while son wants the neighbouring country to mend its ways and stop supporting terrorism. Both have completely different opinions.
After 2019 J&K’s political scenario has transformed and the erstwhile princely state has witnessed unprecedented development. Common people seem least interested in paying heed towards the theatrics of the NC leaders. They have welcomed the change in J&K’s status-quo and its complete merger with the Union of India with open arms. They are performing their daily chores without any disruptions and are striving hard to make their lives prosperous.
A common man seems least bothered about the suggestions being put forth by the National Conference leaders. They are least interested in whether talks should be held with Pakistan or not. They are confident that Pakistan can no longer take J&K hostage by exporting terror as security forces are doing their job meticulously.
It’s high time for Abdullahs to understand that they can no longer mislead J&K people by talking about Pakistan and peace not returning to the region without the involvement of the neighbouring country.
They need to stop beating around the bush and muster courage to accept that for seven decades they have sold illusions to people and created confusion by claiming that “Kashmir is a problem” that needs to be resolved.
Their assertions are not only hitting their credibility but are also making their party weak and fragile which is already grappling with a number of issues. They need to understand that to address the challenges facing J&K, it is imperative for all stakeholders, including political leaders like the Abdullahs, to find common ground and work together towards a better future for the people of Jammu and Kashmir rather than indulging in mere rhetoric.
The stark contradiction between the positions of Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah on talks with Pakistan is amusing. The irony becomes even more apparent when one considers that they reside under the same roof, share the same family name and speak entirely different languages.
The revocation of Article 370 in 2019 has left the Abdullah family in a challenging position. Their traditional base of power and influence has been eroded, forcing them to recalibrate their political strategies.
Contradictions reflect the absence of a unified and coherent political approach within the NC. The divide within the Abdullah family is an indication that the National Conference leaders have understood that people have drifted away from their party.
As of date the grand old party of J&K stands marginalized. The National Conference seems to be struggling to consolidate its support base. Confusion among the father son-duo has weakened the NC's position in the region, leaving it susceptible. The contradictions have also affected the party's credibility on the national stage and it appears that road for NC has ended.
(The writer writes on Politics, Defence Strategic affairs and is presently heading International Centre for Peace Studies ICPS and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)