The recent remarks by Douglas Hurd, the British Foreign Secretary seemed to have upset many people.
Mr. Hurd suggested that Pakistan was supporting the Kashmir "rebels". He also categorically shunned the Jan. 1949 UN resolution on Kashmir which forms the basis of Pakistan's position in its dispute with India, as out of date.
Since the uprising in Kashmir began in 1990 India has accused Pakistan of arming and funding Kashmiri nationalists. Many Kashmiris now demand outright independence rather than accession to either India or Pakistan.
Mr. Hurd's remarks did not endear him to the Pakistani authorities and it was reported that Sardar Aseef Ali, Pakistan's Foreign Minister did not turn up at the airport to receive him. The media also gave him their pounds worth of criticism.
It seems that many who look at the Kashmir problem perceive it as a border dispute between India and Pakistan. Many in the media blame the three wars between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. And these myths are believed by a large number of people outside the area. I would say that only two out of the three wars revolved around the Kashmir issue.
However, that is not the point. The key thing to realize is that the matter is that of freedom and the right of self determination of a people who believe that they are being suppressed and brutalized.
For years now the peaceful valley has been echoing with the sounds of guns and canons.
Innocent people have been killed. Many have disappeared. According to Indian Human Rights groups, they have been spread across India and are being tortured to extract information or admit to their involvement in the uprising. Many cases of abuse and molestation of women have been brought to the notice of the media. It seems some elements of the dreaded Border Security Forces (BSF) take sadistic delight in the rape and torture of Kashmiri females.
Reprisal round ups and shootings are common and many a mother has woken to the sound of the door being forced upon and her son bundled away - maybe never to return. Despite reassurances by the Indian government to look into these charges of torture not much has been done. In fact corrupt politicians had been encouraged to hold sway in Kashmir.
It is their rule coupled with long years of neglect and lack of any major economic plan for the area has brought the situation to what it is today.
The Indian government in Delhi itself is battling for survival.
The ruling Congress party is racked with internal division and the Prime Minister Rao's future is at stake. His closest adviser Arjun Singh resigned and sent an open letter alluding to "disillusionment with the leadership".
The Congress government itself has suffered humiliating defeats in three out of four states - most notably Mr. Rao's home state of Andhra Pradesh.
With all the pressures at home Mr. Rao would be not having much time for Kashmir.
However, this burning cauldron should not be allowed to explode for it will cause a major conflagration. This will cause immense harm and misery to the population on both sides of the border. What do the Kashmiris want? Many I have spoken expressed their desire to elect their own representatives and decide their own destiny.
They believe in exercising their God given right of self determination. The Kashmir issue is not one of religion as many would like us to believe.
It is a deep-rooted desire by the people of the area to express their opinions and have their say.
Many promises have been made and resolutions drawn which call for a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to decide where to go.
The UN is know for going back on its promises.
However, a new approach should be made if old ones are deemed out of date.
Whatever process is to be taken it should not be forgotten that the main elements in the whole tragic drama be not put aside - the Kashmiris.
Their voices must be heard. For they and they alone must decide their fate.