Farooq Dar was walking along a road on his way home when Indian military personnel surrounded him and later tied him up to the front of a military jeep. He was used as a human shield for a whole day as the military convoy went from village to village. Javiad Ahmad Ahanger, a young boy ready to start college, was sleeping at his home. It was the August of 1990 and armed conflict in Srinagar was at its peak. The Indian Army had been looking for one Javiad Ahmed Bhatt and was shouting his name in the streets at night. Javiad Ahanger, hearing the army shouting, panicked and jumped out a window and hasn’t been seen since. The ordeal of his mother, Parveena Ahangar, has been well documented since then. Parveena later started an NGO called Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Indian Jammu Kashmir (IJK) to raise awareness of the missing people in IJK. The NGO estimates the number of missing people to be at least 8000-10000. Firstly, any solution to the Kashmir conflict mandates a demilitarisation of the region along with an elimination of heavy-handed tactics adopted by the Indian state in IJK. Secondly, Pakistan can set an example and strengthen its negotiation position by addressing the grievances of the people of the Kashmir area controlled by Pakistan, Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK). The negotiation process has to be broadly inclusive and mediated by a morally authoritative and disinterested neutral third party. Kashmir consists of various ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. While Muslims are certainly the majority, it would be wrong to exclude other groups such as Hindu Pandits, Sikhs and Tibetans. Likewise, various political organisations have formed to represent segments of Kashmiri society. They all have to be invited to the negotiating table. One of the reasons Oslo peace accords failed was their failure to bring Hamas to the negotiation table. Therefore, Oslo peace accords had a handicap to begin with. Likewise, success of the Good Friday Agreement was in part because all parties were invited to the negotiation table. Talks between India and Pakistan have failed partly because of the absence of a neutral mediator. The mediator between Palestinians and Israelis was the United States. However, the US supported Israel. Therefore, it was not able to hold Israel to the accords. This is illustrated by its failure to check Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories. The recent peace process mediated between the Colombian government and FARC rebels was mediated by the Vatican — spearheaded by the Pope and the Cuban government. Both command moral authority and were seen as neutral by the parties involved. Therefore, negotiations have been successful. In Kashmir, no natural mediator comes to mind. China has a territorial stake. Russia is historically seen as an Indian ally while the US is always an interested party. Therefore, negotiations need to take place, possibly in secrecy, with a mutually agreed neutral mediator. However, before we can even consider the framework for negotiations, India needs to demilitarise IJK and accept Kashmiris as legitimate political actors. IJK is a heavily militarised zone. There are 700,000 military personnel deployed, that is one soldier for every 18 Kashmiri residents. Kashmiris have to negotiate through hundreds of check-posts and their lives are even harder during curfews. The fact that people of AJK still have no representation in Pakistan’s national parliament, after seven decades, is a constant cause of agitation among the residents of the region. When Kashmiris protest militarisation of their land, it is the military that heeds them a brutal reply. For instance, in the clashes that erupted in July 2016, at least 80 civilians were killed. Furthermore, the Indian military’s incessant use of pellet-firing shotguns blinded hundreds of civilians last year alone. Therefore, demilitarisation of Kashmir is a prerequisite to bring stakeholders from IJK to the negotiation table. Pakistan, on the other hand, must play a positive role in the process, including taking steps to empower people and institutions in AJK. The fact that people of AJK still have no representation in Pakistan’s national parliament, after seven decades, is a constant cause of agitation among the residents of the region. The idea is that Pakistan should show the people of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as a roadmap for democratic representation to the world. Doing that would also mean it must be a fair player in helping India demilitarise IJK. I have laid out the details of what a reconciliatory framework would look like that needs to be adopted to reach a permanent solution to the Kashmir conflict. The framework would be a broadly inclusive dialogue process that brings all concerned parties to the table. For any such framework to succeed, the importance of the presence of a neutral and disinterested mediator is also highlighted. This framework has to be preceded by two steps: demilitarisation of Kashmir by India; and democratisation of people and political institutions of IJK by India and of AJK and GB by Pakistan. The writer recently graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His current research focuses on issues of national self-determination. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Published in Daily Times, July 13th , 2017.