“A self-confident and resilient nation does not postpone the inconvenient issues of yesterday to a distant tomorrow. Rather, it strives to decisively overcome the problems of the past so that it can pursue its developmental agenda for the future with single-minded determination.” Thus spoke the BJP stalwart, former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee in 2001, pleading passionately before a cynical nation for the resolution of the dispute over Kashmir, and some other issues from the past, troubling his country.
No sooner did Mr. Vajpayee disappear from the political scene, the ruling Congress party, true to its founding father’s nature, yet again managed to postpone the resolution of the ‘inconvenient issue’ of Kashmir.
Successive state governments in Srinagar have since then faithfully managed to help further alienate the streets across Kashmir, through heavy handed tactics dictated by New Delhi’s policy makers. As a result of this, New Delhi’s recalcitrance is now matched only by Kashmiris’ defiance. We have reached a dangerous stalemate!
During its decades of rule, the Congress party has invariably managed to dodge an encounter with the reality in Kashmir– hoping in vain of its being consumed by time and exhaustion.
Focus on short-term conflict management has marked its response to the awkward ground reality on the ground. Deployment of interlocutors to diffuse the burning situation during the 2010 unrest is a glaring and a recent example of this mind set.
On the other hand, when not in power, the BJP’s public articulation of historical animus toward Pakistan serves as explosive TNT to ensure the demise of any new initiatives on Kashmir, or vis-a vis Pakistan. Out-of-power BJP thrives by rubbishing anything that in-power Congress party espouses.
Thus, historically, the resolution of the Kashmir dispute has remained hostage to the zero-sum game of party politics in New Delhi. It is common knowledge, however, that the hawkish BJP in opposition turns into a dovish ruling class that discovers a ‘great leader’ in the founder of Pakistan, only to resurrect ‘Jinnah the demon’ when voted out of power.
Thus in practice, the BJP and the Congress are the tweedledum and tweedledee, playing musical chairs of one upmanship through ostentatious display of their respective versions of patriotism. However, it must be conceded that the Congress party has steadfastly remained the real obstacle with regard to Kashmir and Pakistan. The party’s response to Kashmir issue has been characterized by unimaginative machination, packaged in the cliché of India’s self-proclaimed secular credentials.
Today, the enduring nationalist sentiment in Kashmir has outlived PM Singh’s tenure as the Prime Minster, and many alike before him. India will do well by not considering its status quo nationalism immune to the vicissitudes of historic events unfolding in her neighbourhood to the North.
The wisdom is in reconciling the glowing opinions India has about itself and the appalling images that the Indian State’s national security mindset conjures up in a Kashmiri’s mind. India cannot, per force, extract Kashmiris’ submission to the nebulous ‘idea of India’. It must come of their own volition.
Whatever advice prevails on Mr. Modi’s calculus with regard to Kashmir, this one from one of India’s finest scholars, president of Center for Policy Research, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, is worth considering: “The prime minister [ should have ] a vision of looking at India’s challenges through a lens that [is ] larger than the narrow-minded and self-defeating vision of [the ] security specialists.”
India’s self-confidence and resilience as a nation will never be on full display until she decisively addresses the political issues facing the nation, however inconvenient they might be. Her attempts at collective progress and development will remain unfulfilled, and her collective conscience will remain burdensome by denying the right of self- determination to those who are held against their wishes.
Mr. Vajpayee’s prescription for addressing the Kashmiri aspirations under the ambit of humanity (insanyat) was a step in this direction, for he had realized the inconvenient truth in Kashmir. Kashmiris, he had figured, did not merely want roads, water, and schools. They want fulfillment of the promise made at the UN by India, Pakistan and the international community.
A self -confident and a resurgent nation will not fear a referendum or a negotiated settlement of the issue, to end the prolonged agony of the inhabitants of Kashmir in particular and the teeming millions of South Asia in general.
The visionary groundwork for this was laid by venerable A. B.Vajpayee , a decade or so ago. Prime Minister Modi will do well to pick up the threads where BJP of yesteryears left them.
Our hope is that Prime Minister Modi will rise to the occasion!
If you are thinking this is wishful thinking? It probably is.
However, we are optimistically persuaded by this saying: “If [at first] an idea does not appear bizarre, there is no hope for its success.”
(The author is a Kashmiri born US-based citizen writer)