A violation of diplomatic norms

German ambassador to India-Michael Steiner claims that a silent majority of Kashmiris support him. As reported by a fellow columnist, he has boasted of it. The claim is vis-à-vis the support for Zubin Mehta concert, arranged by German embassy, with Steiner in the lead role. The role that he hopes would relate Kashmir to the global audience. Of that later, Steiner’s contention has varied dimensions. The basis of his claim is number of calls German embassy is getting for invitations to the concert. How substantial is the claim? Such claims of Kashmir’s silent majority supporting a particular proposition have been made before and may be made in future too. The assertive vocal minority, it is related occupies a much larger space than it deserves. 

We may contend Steiner’s take on several counts. First and foremost, it has to be seen whether a foreign diplomat can make such a claim in the country, to which he is accredited. On the face of it, Michael Steiner has violated diplomatic norms. By claiming a silent majority being with him, he has virtually made himself a stakeholder in the highly sensitive ‘K’ equation. That could be the inference, even if his claim is strictly within the confines of support for the musical concert. It could be construed as a onetime diplomatic misdemeanor, perhaps excusable, perhaps better forgotten. However, as it stands Michael Steiner has not been beyond committing diplomatic faux pas, like telling a diplomatic counterpart that Germany might have to walk into his country again. 

It is worth noting that Germans in Second World War virtually walked into many countries. It was virtually a cake walk, even in countries like France and Belgium. Added to that faux pa is his controversial resignation from German chancellery, where he served a term as foreign and security policy adviser. It is related that he was forced to resign after the so-called "caviar affair" in 2001. It alluded to an article in ‘Guardian’. So, it could be concluded that Michael Steiner may not be in a controversial situation for the very first time. He must already be feeling that Zubin Mehta concert is more than a handful, a hot potato!

Michael Steiner inadvertently might have stoked an old argument while talking of silent majority. It is in fact the claim of silent majority claim getting diluted by vocal minority. How to ascertain it is what ‘K’ issue is all about. There is absolutely no other way of knowing where the silent majority lies and how much in number is the vocal minority. Ascertaining it in an open referendum is the only way of knowing the result, beyond any shade of doubt. And, it is this open referendum, which is not happening in Jammu and Kashmir to know once for all, which proposition is supported by the majority. Instead of landing in musical controversy, Michal Steiner would do Kashmiris a huge favour by working for such a referendum. It would be a huge take, however worth trying for the diplomatic community. 

On other level, it is indeed the informed minority that relates the feelings in any country and in any situation, while the majority remained concerned with running their lives. Michael Steiner ought to know it, as well as the informed minority in Kashmir know it. They know their people much better than Michael Steiner ever would. 

Michael Steiner’s claim that the concert is being held for Kashmir and Kashmiris falls flat, in view of the fact that concert is not ticketed. More or less, half of the guest list includes guests from outside the state, where as the rest is made of Kashmir’s ruling executive and officialdom including security establishment. The average Kashmiri figures nowhere in the guest list, nor would he be able to buy a ticket, if at all he could afford it, in case of open ticketing for as high profiled a show as Zubin Mehta’s. Steiner’s silent majority must also be invisible. 

The concert has been named Ehsas-e-Kashmir. Ehsas is the feeling in vernacular, while as Edrak is comprehension. It is clear that the title is burrowed, as it is neither Latin nor German. The organizers might have had the feel [Ehsas] that the Edrak [comprehension] of what they are organizing remains highly doubtful. That is exactly why it has resulted in such a huge controversy.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival] 

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