With the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and Centre agreeing to talk, speculation is rife about possible solutions to the Kashmir issue.
Though many suggestions are being tossed around, including the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir on religious lines, the best indication of a path to peace is contained in American ideas.
It is the US that firmly nudging India and Pakistan to the negotiation table, and prodded the separatists on the Indian side of Kashmir to take up the offer of talks.
According to government officials and observers, it would be the US that would most effectively intervene in case talks between India and Pakistan and India and the separatists break down.
Till now steps initiated by India and Pakistan very closely resemble suggestions from the US, available most comprehensibly in a document brought out by rediff.com early last year and later accepted by the US state department as genuine mission papers of its embassy in Islamabad.
According to some Hurriyat leaders, the separatist group has a roadmap for solving the Kashmir issue. But they are not ready to disclose what exactly their suggestions are. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told Friday prayers last week in Srinagar that he was shown detailed plans for solving Kashmir during his last visit to the US.
Among the documents being discussed in New Delhi, the chief one is 'New Priorities in South Asia: US Policy Towards India, Pakistan and Afghanistan', prepared by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society. Among the authors of the report are former US ambassador to India Frank G Wisner II, and seasoned diplomats and officials such as Nicholas Platt and Marshall M Bouton.
The report is being distributed in official circles and it has also been handed over to the Hurriyat leaders by the US embassy and its representatives. The report does not contain any radical suggestions but gives hints of where the talks could head.
The report calls for a more active US approach towards solving the Kashmir issue and a more forward looking, consistent engagement with India and Pakistan. It says the US should immediately set up a special working group in Washington on Kashmir and India-Pakistan tensions.
The report says: "In a change of heart that reflects improved relations with Washington, New Delhi no longer opposes US efforts to facilitate a reduction of tensions, although it continues to be against outside mediation."
The report was released in November 2003 a little before India and Pakistan took major strides including agreeing to carry out bilateral negotiations on all outstanding issues.
The report says no settlement is possible in which "either India or Pakistan" feel humiliated. It also warns that any "adjustments in borders" should be approached with extreme care and can proceed only with the consent of all the concerned parties. It also repeats the US commitment that Pakistan should not use "violence across the LoC" as an "instrument of national policy".
The report says Kashmiris must be fully consulted in the process and adds that "any lasting settlement is likely to require some change in the way the areas populated by Kashmiri speakers are governed."
For larger peace in South Asia the study suggests some initiatives between India and Pakistan:
- A lasting ceasefire along the LoC, followed by a thinning out of troops on either side of the LoC.
Simultaneously India should acquire sensors and related equipment to boost its capability to monitor infiltration. The study suggests that India drop its opposition to international monitoring teams along the LoC.
- Setting up of Nuclear Risk Reduction Centres like the US and Russia did during the Cold War. Also, agreements to reduce misunderstanding regarding missile movements, especially flight tests.
- Demilitarise Siachen: Besides saving much money the agreement would be a "visible demonstration of Indian and Pakistani ability to resolve a long-standing dispute relating to Kashmir".
- Increased India-Pakistan trade and economic cooperation.
- More people-to-people contacts.
- Reduction in hate propaganda.
Though the report has no detailed intricacies of how to approach and draw up the peace map, official sources say the study is balanced and has been considered at various levels.