On the eve of her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg has told NDTV that Norway was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan, provided both sides wanted the same. In an exclusive interview, she said the Kashmir problem could not be solved only from a military standpoint, and that popular support was also important.
Last November, the former Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, made headlines when he visited Jammu and Kashmir and met separatist leaders. He was on a private visit at the invitation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and then went on to meet leaders in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
When asked on Mr Bondevik’s view that there can be no military solution to Kashmir, Ms Solberg said, “I don’t think there is a military solution to any situation like this. I think you have to have a popular support. You have to have good trust between the partners in any region where still there is a conflict but we don’t have a special meaning about whether it is a military solution in Kashmir or not. What we have learnt is that you have to bring in popular support and by getting women and youth into a peace process and that’s when you build a solid peace in an area where there have been a conflict.”
Ms Solberg said the former PM’s visit to Kashmir was strictly a private one, which did not involve either government. “He was invited and he wanted to see if there were some possibilities of helping out but there was no official mission and he was not on a mission from the Norwegian government,” she said.
Norway has a long history of conflict resolution and Mr Bondevik had played a key role in the resolution of the conflict with Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka a few years ago.
Asked if Norway saw any role for mediation between India and Pakistan, Ms Solberg said, “If there is an interest from the partners, we will try to use the mechanisms that we know. We have been working quite a lot in different countries but we always have this one basic thinking. The partners need to want to sit down by the table and discuss. Then of course if there is a need for a mediator, a need for a facilitator to fix, even though these are two very big countries that should manage to sort out things between themselves.”
She also said India and Pakistan should be talking more to each other and should decrease military expenditure “because we need more money for other areas to boost development – on health, education, but I think that means that you have to try to decrease tension between countries. After such a long time. It’s a long time since 1947.”