India’s strategy in Kashmir

Kashmiri leadership failed at all levels to translate the economic gains into an efficient, honest and people friendly administration. The State control on developing contingencies has declined at alarming speed and forces that are apical to India are in full control of people’s mind. Politicians and bureaucrats that work in the day for the Government of India nurture the gardens of dissent at nightfall with the money siphoned off from development funds provided by New Delhi. In short the accomplishments in Kashmir are negligible compared to the disappointments mainly because Indian leadership never understood the psyche of Kashmiris not even the simplest analysis based on their recorded history.

Kashmir is a one time inheritance of a political folly that policy makers have treated aimlessly for more than six decades and like a bad weed the issue keeps popping up again and again even after repeated attempts to yank it out. Kashmir has become the circus stage for television viewers around the world but the debates that range over from extreme to moderate are never conclusive and at die end the viewer is left to fend for the missing answers. The debate among the political pundits and within the secured walls of Kashmiri homes today is focused around whether the situation in state will change to genuine political reconcilement or the present political uncertainty is going to continue. Indian hopes rest with the wish that given time and space separatist movement in the state will lose momentum and Kashmiris will assert for political stabilization.

One has to concede that India is giving a consideration and assistance that may have its faults, but such as no other could have given to a totally dependent people. India has tried every rule of appeasement to win the local people without producing any tangible result. Essentially the political experiment in Kashmir has foiled because no political party in the State offered a sensible alternative to the policies endorsed by Government of India.
Majority of people in the State may be fence sitters enjoying the fruits of wait and watch but ultimately people will do things for reasons that are mostly self serving and choosing to overlook the motives does not necessarily bring closer to Solution. Kashmiri middle class want to do every thing they can, some times consciously and sometimes unconsciously to accelerate the process of change but without living dangerously like 1990’s once again. They understand that for successful completion of the movement it needs to be pushed more politically than by resorting to violence. They want to change the present political system without joining the street fights because they are convinced that if change has to come, it must come from above instead of below that has left terrifying memories of loss and pain.

For decades the understanding among the Indian think tank has revolved around the illusion that the secessionist tendencies in the State will vaporize gradually, giving the Kashmiris a chance to adapt and even possibly accept as fate-accompli the economic advantages and individuality offered by India. There is giddiness among Indian policy makers at present, not seen for many decades and even if India has atrocious record of wobbling and fumbling in every crisis, it is ready to make hard choices. India is a country of hundred tongues and at present there is neither meeting of minds nor of hearts on Kashmir issue.

Indian leadership is in extraordinary dilemma, one that has to think of large strategic implications besides domestic compulsions. It has also to share international jibs as clearly not many share its confidently rosy view of India’s presence in Kashmir. It is true that almost any question related to Kashmir issue is infinitely complicated by dozens of factors and some of these are more important than the others. There is growing crisis of confidence among the Indian policy makers who were never known for steadfast approach and they are acting more out of a sense of weakness than strength. The leadership in India can no more turn blind to the essence and theme of the conflict that has been raging for decades. It is also true that Government of India can not take a hazardous leap into the space without exploring the possibilities of a fair settlement. But it turns bluff by appointing unwittingly, distantly remote people to roam the galaxy of hate and violence and find answers to the questions that have been eluding the nation for decades, essentially an immature attempt to buy time.

Local leadership greatly motivated by power is burdened with consciousness of legitimacy and they are throwing up solutions that are not realistic. Turning back the clock to rewrite a period that laid the seeds of present unrest without involving all shades of people will be like committing Hara-kiri. If India is willing to repair its earlier error, it must at all cost avoid the potentially much more serious error of heeding to local politicians who seek to rule.

Let us be very clear that there a conscious religious and ideological division in the State and no moral legitimacy can be conferred by an elected Government in the State. People cast their votes for different reasons, one who believe that it is the only way to bring about the political stability in the State and others who have simpler motive of securing gainful employment or securing business. One has to understand that Government of India is ominously not ready with a pocket book solution that will save the nations prestige and meet to some extent the aspirations of most of the people in the State. India will have to get rid of the dual political language that does not capture the issue at stake and develop a view and appropriate strategy. Present efforts do not indicate that India is ready to solve the issue in a credible and imaginative manner. Kashmir has become one of the most intractable conflicts in the Indian sub-continent and in a physical sense, India is on tigers back, not sure of picking the night spot to dismount

There is little for maneuver for Government of India under the present circumstances because the Separatist are in a in an untraceable State and the potential domestic fall out of agreeing to change the boundaries may force it to stick to Status quo. Kashmir has become a source of national pride for both India and Pakistan, putting their domestic politics at grave risk. India’s prestige as a strong country will not only be lowered in the South East Asia but also in the world. It will also give boost to Separatist movements in the East and strengthen their hand and political claim. India is well aware that even if it is illogical, changing the borders in Kashmir will lift the trap door for unrest, chaos and endless conflict on religious, ethnic and regional considerations threatening the integrity of India.

From the beginning Indian policy on Kashmir has been replete with error, misjudgment, emotionalism, unsheltered adventurism and the emphasis has been on maintaining status quo. Indian failure to co-ordinate political, military and diplomatic effort to end the conflict has resulted in political dexterity, sabotage and selective eliminating of best possible approach. After years in trenches of debate, India has learned to protect its credibility by not sounding too alarmist but by pursuing conflicting policies things may already be slipping out of hand. One thing is almost certain that a desperate energy keeps driving Government of India in Kashmir is the absence of a firm policy and one of the most compelling reasons is to prevent Kashmir from falling into the lap of Pakistan, as Kashmir is central to India’s strategy in the region.