“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.” Abraham Lincoln
Politics of delusion
Kashmir continues to be India’s indescribable nightmare, and New Delhi has its own follies to blame. The political engineers in New Delhi have yet again demonstrated, if any evidence was needed, the bankruptcy of their political vision on the dispute of Kashmir. They have unimaginatively chosen to tread the weather beaten path of the bygone era: the dillydallying tactics.
Conventional modes of thinking have reinforced the emergence of widespread discontent with Indian rule in Kashmir, and such chronic aversion to logic and problem solving will inevitably harm the chance of a comprehensive solution to the great detriment of India’s accent to the global center stage of power. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results behooves only a ‘banana republic’, certainly not an otherwise progressive nation-state like India that aspires recognitions as significant as a Security Council seat. Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said:“The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea.” So, it is this softness in New Delhi’s approach to the inconvenient reality of Kashmir that hampers any creative solution to Kashmir imbroglio.
It is clear that numerous ultra-nationalists and political ‘strategists’ –some of them avowedly saffronised and acting through the media and the political parties — stand in the way of a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue. Their policy formulations, articulated through jingoistic print and electronic media, have created among India’s civil society a narrative of ossified attitudes, in relation to Kashmir.
That the Indian strategist would be so naïve as not to predict the current turn of events is mindboggling. What have the intelligence agencies been doing in Kashmir besides imagining ‘fissures’ and ‘difference of opinions’ within the resistance camps.? Has the only source of information to the Indian establishment been the semiliterate, self-serving Patron of the National Conference? Or was it the opportunist Muftis? What’s on New Delhi’s mind?
Were the Indian policy makers unable to separate the political rhetoric of 2008- electoral triumphalism from the reality of the submerged Azadi sentiment? Did the policy gurus seriously, even for a moment, believe that the events of 9-11 would cover India’s imperialistic military footprints in Kashmir? Did they actually believe that a ‘youthful CM’ possibly could salvage the lost legitimacy of the Indian state in Kashmir?
8 -point formula to nowhere
The decision to defer the verdict on the “review”, not even revocation of AFSPA to the inherently and predictably consensus-killer sham of an All Party Meeting (APM) reeked of escapism and a Plan-B approach from the very onset. The only rabbit that the unpropitious APM could pull from its hat was to assign the task of a 3-day excursion to an All Party Delegation (APD) – – a group of disparate men and women who individually can accomplish nothing and collectively conclude that nothing could be done.
It was a chapter borrowed from Thomas Schelling’s 1960 manual, ‘The Strategy of Conflict’: When you have no intention to deliver on a promise, invoke the bogey of ‘domestic political constraint’, and in the name of consensus involve in the negotiating process such parties that will oppose your concessions to agitating groups. This will then provide an alibi- – a constraint- – for you in delivering your promise, and at the same time keep alive your political fortunes.
When Omar Abdullah threatened to quit, if his demands on AFSPA removal were not conceded, the Congress high command promised him the moon with a condition that the moon can be delivered only after consensus across the political spectrum. No wonder then, by the time the 8 – point moon was delivered, it had morphed into a trivial meteorite. The All Party Delegation’s meteorite came down as an All Party Dud.
The die was cast for its outcome at the very outset, doomed, as it was to drown in the murky sea of Indian politics. That the entire drama will turn out to be an All Party Disaster was a foregone conclusion. With helium out of the APD balloon, its sojourn in Kashmir has done nothing to stem the tide against forced Indian rule. We now have Kashmiris as more defiant, New Delhi as more recalcitrant, and three regions of J&K more suspicious of each other- – a right mixture for a disaster of epic proportions. Thanks to an unimaginative 8-point formula to nowhere.
The fate of the Delegation was predictable, indicative as this belated initiative was of New Delhi’s cluelessness on the goings-on in Kashmir. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh publicly admitted recently that his government was ‘groping for a solution’ to the impasse in Kashmir, he unwittingly ditched his own post-2008 elections triumphalism as mere rhetoric, and his economic models of conflict resolution as irrelevant. He also had betrayed the division within the ranks of the Congress party. No wonder the decision to make revocation of AFSPA conditional upon consensus among the disparate APD members sent a wave of despair through the NC leadership, their pretences to the contrary notwithstanding.
New Delhi has always found it expedient to postpone the issue of Kashmir in the vain hope of it being consumed by time and exhaustion. Emphasis on short-term objectives, employing myopic tactics- – bereft of a vision or a long-term strategy- – has marked its response to the inconvenient ground reality; it has unprofitably managed to dodge an encounter with the reality of the Azadi sentiment.
Rather than taking advantage of interludes of relative ‘calm’ on the streets of Kashmir, the establishment has deluded itself- – and the unsuspecting Indian public- – into believing that the end of ‘Pakistan sponsored militancy’ was a harbinger to Kashmiri’s acquiescence to the Indian rule. Thus, during the inauguration of Kashmir’s first Railway Station in October 2008, Prime Minister Singh ridiculed the resistance movement as an anachronistic phase of triviality and its leaders irrelevant, disregarding the brutally honest, if politically naïve’, Chief Minister’s pointed refrain that ‘Kashmir is a political issue and it should be addressed politically’.
The zero sum party politics
Resolution of the Kashmir dispute then has remained hostage to the zero-sum game of destructive party politics. It is common knowledge that the hawkish BJP opposition turns into a dovish ruling class that discovers a ‘great leader’ in the Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan, only to resurrect ‘Jinnah the demon’ when voted out by the electorate. BJP is the most vociferous party that is congenitally afflicted with a myopic desire and equipped with lethal devices to forestall any progress on Kashmir.
Out-of-power, BJP’s expression of historical animus toward Pakistan, and its tirades against Congress Party’s historic mismanagement of Kashmir issue during the Nehru era serve as readily inflammable TNT to ensure death-on-arrival of any new initiatives on Kashmir under the Congress government. BJP self-preserves by rubbishing anything that Congress party espouses.
Historically the blame for trouble in Kashmir has always been laid at Pakistan’s doors- – a neighbor with which BJP nevertheless found reason to do business with during the Vajpayee era. One had hoped during the Vajpayee era, and in view of the visit to Pakistan by L K Advani, that the BJP had finally discovered the futility of its politics driven by partition era dynamics. Jaswant Singh had provided sufficient reasons for a need to rethink when he said: "I think we have misunderstood [Jinnah] because we needed to create a demon… we needed a demon [in view of] the most telling event [of] partition of the country."
When push came to shove for BJP at a crucial juncture during its rule in New Delhi, its policy formulations on the resolution of Kashmir issue were an epochal departure from the nauseatingly stale stance of the Congress party. Thus spoke the Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2001: “A self-confident and resilient nation does not postpone the inconvenient [Kashmir and Babri Mosque] issues of yesterday to a distant tomorrow.” He did indeed show great promise in carrying forward the peace process with Pakistan.
BJP’s diabolical polemics on Kashmir has earned the party the reputation of being allergic to any out-of-the box creative resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Admittedly, however, BJP is the only party that has ever taken any serious initiatives on Kashmir despite its ideological and electoral compulsions.
Jonah Blank has rightly argued: “Even if the BJP were not genetically predisposed against compromise in Kashmir, it would be forced by the electoral calendar to think tactically rather than strategically.” Herein lies the real dilemma for Kashmir.
While it is apparent that BJP and Congress are the political tweedledum and tweedledee of India’s Kashmir policy, the real obstacle for Kashmir lies in the secular facade of the Congress party. In an unimaginative practice of short-term vote bank politics, the in-power Congress does what the out-of-power BJP conceives. This, at the cost of thousands of Kashmiri lives, and at the cost of India’s own long-term national interest – the image it will choose to cast on the 21st century world. Despite his latter recantation, Harish Khare, the Prime Minister’s media adviser recently said that the Congress Party is “by nature a status-quoist party. It does not believe in any conviction. (Its) only conviction is to win elections. That is its only conviction.”
The moral lesson
We must begin to engage the BJP, the alleged ‘compulsion’ behind the “All Party Deception” on Kashmir as the BJP has grudgingly, if belatedly, conceded in the Parliament that Kashmiris want ‘Azaadi’. The Congress Party continues to live in a fatal self-induced delusion — maintaining that Kashmiris want jobs, not Azaadi. It’s now time for Kashmiris to ask — who is lying — the BJP or the NC-PDP-Congress combine? In that question lies the enigma of New Delhi’s purported discomfort with dissent in Kashmir.
The writer is a freelance writer, feed back at Tshahgm@gmail.com