INDIA'S realisation that the Kashmir dispute has been a source of trouble that has maintained an air of hostility with Pakistan for an untenably long period, and thus needs to be settled, deserves to be welcomed. As Islamabad has never been shy of resolving it, rather it has always been eager to have it out of the way to devote its attention to other equally pressing and important issues, it only hopes that Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna's statement reflects New Delhi's real intentions. India's usual stand that Kashmir is no issue since the occupied state is its atoot ang - integral part - has earlier also been marked by an occasional lip service to the need for settlement. But when sitting across the table from Pakistan, it only wanted to complete the formality of discussing, rather than coming to grips with the fate of more than 16 million Kashmiris. Meaningful discussion has so far been alien to its attitude, even though the composite dialogue specifically envisages the dispute's resolution. One would see a ray of hope in Mr Krishna's observations when that prevarication is replaced by a positive attitude of finding a solution. And the search for it should not be a challenge, as Mr Krishna would have us believe, since it is clearly defined in the relevant UN resolutions: a free and fair plebiscite to be held under UN auspices to seek the opinion of the people of Kashmir whether they would like to join Pakistan or India. It is the evident truth that they would overwhelmingly vote for Pakistan that, in the first instance, led India to invade the state, and later compelled it to retain its illegal and forcible hold over it. In the process, its armed forces have wrought untold suffering on Kashmiris, killing over 70,000 of them, and torturing many more who protested against their barbarities. Mr Krishna has acknowledged that holding dialogue was in the interest of both India and Pakistan and all disputes must be resolved through these means; but one must keep one's fingers crossed, considering its sudden decision to cut off the process of composite dialogue in the past when the Mumbai incident took place. Besides, his remark that it was not possible to give a time frame for settlement would raise some doubt for the simple reason that it would not be too difficult to work out a tentative period during which plebiscite could be held. The need is to have the will to seek the Kashmiris' wishes. New Delhi would be doing an abiding service to peace if it were to realise this fundamental reality; for Kashmir is the mother of all ill-feelings between the two countries.