Ex-Norwegian PM to play peacemaker in the Valley? All you need to know about his visit to Kashmir

By Prarthana Mitra

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik paid a surprise visit to Kashmir over the weekend, renewing the possibility of dialogues aimed at resolving the conflict in the Valley.

Whom did he meet?

The president of Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights who had played a crucial role in the Sri Lankan peace process met separatists leaders of the Valley on Friday, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, besides delegations of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the High Court Bar Association. After meeting Hurriyat leaders in J&K on Friday, Bondevik also held talks in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Monday, to explore ways of diffusing tension in the region. Critics have said this would not go down well with the Indian government.

Why is it significant?

His visit comes within months of a strong ultimatum sounded by the new UN Human Rights chief, to resolve the border dispute and human rights violations along the Line of Control. It also comes just days after Pakistan and India decided to open a pilgrimage corridor that allows Indian Sikhs to enter Kartarpur without a visa, for the first time since Partition.

According to reports, Bondevik was accompanied by a representative of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living. Representatives of the KCCI revealed that the visit took them by surprise. Meanwhile, such mediation efforts by a third party have been criticised by the opposition including the Congress and (regional) National Conference.

What did they discuss? How did Kashmir react?

Sheikh Ashiq, president of KCCI, told the press about Bondevik’s concern with the worsening situation in Jammu and Kashmir, “about the killings, about losses that we are suffering,” had brought him to Kashmir. “I feel things have started to move,” said Ashiq. “It seems good sense has prevailed on both the countries that something should happen on the ground,” he said, recalling Bondevik’s positive influence in negotiating peace between the Sri Lankan government the LTTE rebels in 2005.

After the trade body informed him of the current situation, he reportedly promised help whichever way he can and that he will take up the issues (with New Delhi).  “We told them that on Kashmir issue there should be a meaningful settlement, a permanent solution,” Ashiq said, adding that business and commerce is meaningful only when there is a guarantee of life.

Human RightsHurriyatKashmirNorwayWorld peace