After securing the accession of Kashmir, essentially through the folly of some powerful interests in Pakistan, the Indian leaders rejoiced at tactical victory over the neighbour and forgot all about the promises they had made to the people of the State. As time went by, it became more and more difficult to come out of the self inflicted illusion and for Indian leadership it seemed best to leave the State and the people to fend for their own salvation. Indian leaders were outsmarted by the local leaders that had cleverly laid the trap by ensuring that there was an inherent flaw in the agreement. There was not an iota of suspicion among the top leadership till things turned sour in 1953, perhaps the watershed in the history of post independence Kashmir. History has seldom witnessed the like of blind and stupid conduct in which the men who were making a nation showed the most amazing confusion of purpose and astonishing incompetence. India is the self inflicted victim of the temptation of believing that more aids and grants, more evasion of confrontation and more sophisticated approach and more courtship of lobbyist and interest groups would satisfy the wandering souls in the State but it was never to be, and there is no evidence of political salvation ahead.
The ambiguity of Indian assurances on Kashmir from time to time has complicated an issue that could have been settled, when forces of hate were under leash and passions were not agitated. Instead of initiating a meaningful dialogue with the people of the State and their representatives, Indian leaders acted foolishly and let the matter rest as if the problem did not exist. India lost a great historic opportunity in 1977 to open up a serious dialogue with Pakistan and conclude a comprehensive peace settlement agreement to resolve the Kashmir issue. For both India and Pakistan the time was right for a face saving and honourable exit from the dispute that has plagued their relationship for long. The scenario has changed a great deal since then and the dispute has become so venomous that it is almost impossible to drench the flames of hatred and mistrust with a shower.
History tells us that Kashmir remained cradled in the ocean of internal dissent for generations but freedom from the autocratic rule gave people an opportunity to rethink and plans their future. They created the dream of a ‘Naya Kashmir’ but failed to hold on, as passions and illusions seized their imagination and they took blind steps to dissolve the dream in the smoke of grenades. Kashmiris in general did not cause the militancy but they extended passive support to the acts of terror, joined open defiance of the authority and did every thing that made peace hard to maintain. They have become ingredients of violence, lost their neighbors, friends and peaceful neighborhood, are forced to live in dreaded fear of life. The apparently indigenous movement to bring about a change suffered the greatest defeat due to the unfortunate happenings in the fall of 1889 with attacks on minorities and their institutions that sanctioned wide spread arson and violence besides criminal intimidation. The movement lost the genuineness to seek control of people’s destiny as it turned into an exercise to loot, burn, destroy and indulge in isolated killings to infuse fear and distress among the ethnic minorities. Those on one side demonstrated great rejoining at death and destruction but those on the other side saw in it a great tragedy of their post independence history. Never has there been a period like this when people of the State find disastrously divided among themselves based on ethical principles, weak beyond words and possessed only with the desire to find a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
Kashmiris have come a long way since 1947, they keep themselves well informed as to the facts, issues and competing political events and there is no shortage of men and women who are so certain of the validity of their thoughts. They are clever, alert and when the decisive moment comes no one will be in a position to coerce them into a particular belief. Kashmiris have surrendered nothing but retained every thing that the nation wanted to share with them. The positive gains of militancy are that people have come out of the mythical world, freed themselves from traditionally inherited inferiority complex, from despair and cowardice, gaining a great part of self-respect but violence has left such an adverse impact on their judgment that the frightened people are incapable of addressing the issues independently, boldly and intelligently. There is revulsion no doubt against the acts of terror that ultimately effects the civilian population but the numbing reality is that there is also helplessness, as common man’s courage is crushed beneath the weight of absolute fear.
The madness and capriciousness that had seized the people in mid nineties has subsided and they know that the options at present are limited but peace and a resolution is possible, if India and Pakistan change their vision and rigid mind set, without picking winners and losers. They are resigned to a long period of frustration, as time is not favorable to move forward at the Conference table to find an early resolution of the tragic conflict. The people exhibit frustration by marching on the roads as the competing claims are irrevocable but they know that the only acceptable and effective vehicle for peace is engaging in political dialogue. Perhaps the greatest drag on the movement is that courageous people and rich diversity of voices is missing and it is difficult to burst through hostile minds. The people who could speak courageously and frankly have been silenced by fear of guns and only those who indulge in distortion, lies, omissions and half truths are on the stage. What motivates the economically well off people to do what they do and give the militancy controversial passive support is an unanswered question but if we can answer the question satisfactorily it will help to get through the crisis.
Kashmiris form a strong society in a habitat of crucial geographic and strategic importance but Pakistan’s backing for Kashmiri Separatist has made it regional conflict, magnifying insecurity and instability in the State. The dispute has assumed a broader meaning, as claimants have multiplied, Kashmiris have widened their influence and conflicting interests working at present appear to be on colliding course, almost irreconcilable. What is happening in Kashmir is no more a crusade by younger people or juggernaut fueled by some passionate college students but it is more than a political movement with big bad wolves huffing and puffing. India and Pakistan are the two key players in the conflict but Separatists are part of the problem and part of the solution as they are shaping the circumstances. Within the Separatist movement there is growing sense of frustration as the movement has not gone according to their hearts desire. The dreaded influence of terrorists based in Pakistan and their strangulation of politics and public opinion seriously underestimates the scope for early break through.
Kashmir is a region of great strategic importance to India but complicated by direct involvement of Pakistan, the consequence of Pakistan’s intervention has been to prolong rather than resolve the conflict. For India Kashmir is an issue beyond political compromise, as its stability, unity and strength, depends greatly on opposing any secessionist movement any where in the country. India has multiple strategic interests in Kashmir but at the end of the day it is expected to play an enormous role in resolving the complicated issue. India faces a two-fold dilemma in Kashmir, one how to make progress in maintaining meaningful talks with the conflicting interests and the other of conveying the impression that the State government is in full control of political and administrative situation, for which there is scant evidence. India has learned to accept that local nationalism is inescapable and enduring reality and cost of maintaining a presence at great financial input and in terms of lives lost is not going to be outweighed by the strategic benefits of holding on. India may be having a will to find a solution to six decades old problem but it does not have the way because any solution will not follow a straight line from where it is now. India cannot accept political and military defeat that will alter its position in the region and among the nations of the World but it is willing to leave the door open by which a face saving solution will come through.
Pakistan has launched tactical diplomatic and armed struggle against India but it knows that India can not be defeated either by direct confrontation or proxy war. Like India, Pakistan is prepared for a long drawn conflict as it keeps the level of infiltration at desired level and it is using other methods, including drawing ground strategies for militant and separatists within It is ironic how Pakistan claims to work on the broad amelioration of its relationship with India while promoting aggression by terrorist groups, to supplement its efforts. Terrorism will neither defeat India nor succeed in wrecking the spirit of the people but it has surely succeeded in destroying every aspect of morality in the State. Pakistan and the brigands of Jihadis on their soil agree on continuation of stalemate in Kashmir for different reasons and they will use every method within their power to foster a status quo that suits Indian interests.