Kashmir conflict: Time for statesmanship, not tyranny or terror
Kashmir Watch, February 26, 2010
India is in a state of denial in Kashmir. Way too much blood- letting has happened for the Indian state to play politics with the lives of the people in the Subcontinent. Now is the time for statesmanship, not for tyranny or terror
When Mumbai carnage happened in November 2008 India justifiably fumed, raising the mercury level by swearing that it will retaliate against any future attacks with a full might. Although this grandiloquence betrayed a sense of underlying helplessness, it nevertheless pacified the angry publics on the Indian street.
Obviously, not much thought had gone into this political rhetoric that had effectively laid the foundation for another such attack. The invisible hand of the political underworld, bent on sabotaging the resolution of Kashmir dispute, took note and decided to wait for the ‘future attack’. Aside from the tragic loss of life, the most significant international repercussion was that India willy nilly managed to stonewall itself from the so- called ‘composite dialogue’ with Pakistan.
Then came the Sharm-el-Sheikh rendezvous where India displayed the much needed maturity in agreeing to “delink” any terrorist incidents with progress on dialogue with its neigbour. Obviously, this realization must have come after due deliberation since attacks on amorphous entities or targets- – imagined or real – – short of invading Pakistan was not a viable option. The right-wing in India felt marginalized, and, after a lot of drum beating, ensured that the dialogue process was a non-starter, resulting in back pedaling on the peace process, and a seven month hiatus. Coming as it did as an inopportune distraction, the hiatus never the less allowed for Barack Obama’s so-called Af-Pak policy to unfold, and for India to fathom its short and long term import. This policy rolled out a new thinking, linking Kashmir with Afghanistan.
As a result of this policy, the weight of the international pressure proved to be too heavy for India to bear, and the re-engagement with Pakistan became inevitable: “We will do everything in our power to support successful outcome of the talks, an outcome that everyone is looking for,” said US Under-Secretary of Defence Michele Flournoy, during a recent press conference in Pakistan. This was the clearest yet indication of America’s behind the scene prodding.
Roughly seven months after the Sharm-al-Sheikh event, the Indian strategists have offered preliminary talks with Pakistan before a full engagement on the stalled composite dialogue. Only a day after the announcement, as we were returning to atmospherics of a tardy dialogue process- – a process that has been vainly in search of illusive partners- – the invisible hand quickly struck again, displaying its willingness and the ability to play a spoilsport with vengeance, and raising the specter of conflagration between the two nations. The anxiety level shot up across the divide.
We now had an unfortunate mess in Pune on our hands- – a dozen dead, scores injured and umpteen hearts broken. It has been a ticking bomb waiting to explode. And, who knows when the next set of bombs explode, and where. Our hearts go out to those families who have lost scores of their loved ones due to terror in Mumbai and Pune. These and similar tragedies at a much grand scale in Kashmir owe their origin mainly to the myopia of the Indian policies. Kashmir has been buckling under the state-sponsored tyranny – – over 120, 000 dead, and many hundred thousand hearts broken- – over the last many years.
To India’s credit, it appears the hawks in the Foreign Office or those at the PMO did not get their way this time; better sense has prevailed. It was neither the “suspected Kashmiri militants”, nor the “elements within the Pakistani Government” but the so- called Indian Mujahadeen who apparently carried the bomb attacks, allegedly at the behest of David Headley. While the real perpetrators remain at large, and we will probably never know who they are, there is no dearth of Nathu Ram Godses’ in India. As is common knowledge, they will not mind using India as a matchstick to set Pakistan- – or ‘Pakistan supporters’ in India- – on fire.
It stands to reason that the Indians have realized that they have been getting diminishing returns by falsely implicating those who may have nothing to do with the blasts on the Indian soil. Hopefully, India will now look inward and address the issues of disaffected segments of its population rather than scapegoating and whipping the wrong horse.
Hopefully too, they will address the dispute of Kashmir in the right earnest to remove the main irritant in its relations with Pakistan. This will also meet the demand of the people in the occupied land for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. After all, they are the ones who have been caught between two feuding elephants for the last 63 years.
Kashmir’s tragedies seem to be having no end. There is ever- mounting anger on the streets of Kashmir. The public protests against recent human rights violations have forced the Indian home minster to ‘cooperate’ with the rulers in Srinagar to find the BSF’s murderers of the Kashmiri youths.
Implicitly, in the absence of Indian governments’ admission of its complicity in murders, the security apparatus in Kashmir would have consigned this incident to history. They would have perhaps ascribed the deaths of cricket playing youths to their failure to effectively use the leg guards. After all, did they did not come up with a similar hogwash by declaring that that two Shopian girls were the victims of a “drowning incident” in knee- deep waters in their back yard?
Predictably, though awkwardly, the Indian strategists have been scurrying to explain that the anger in Kashmir is Pakistani sponsored, and that the Pune-like incident were not unforeseen, and had been factored in when the Indian Foreign Office called Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik, offering a fresh round of ‘talks about talks’. The alibi was unashamedly face saving, since the rhetoric of retaliation was hard to deliver on. Despite the mono-focality of the Indians on the terror issue, the agreement on ‘staying in touch’ is step forward in the right direction.
Let us face it: India has miserably failed to stem the tide against its rule in Kashmir. It has miserably failed to cast its relations with Pakistan in post 9/11 paradigm. By killing or tear smoking Kashmiris India has been unable to smokescreen the world. India has not been able to persuade Kashmiris to give up their demand for justice. By incessantly proscribing Kashmiri dissent, India has created a spectacle of its much-hyped democratic credentials. India’s record on human rights violations in Kashmir is dismal. It has been a subject of censure for a long time.
There is a rebellion in Kashmir that, like many other nationalist movements, refuses to go away. India has tried all the techniques in their manuals of counterinsurgency operations – – rape, murder, kidnappings, incarceration, curfews, psychological warfare, and counter-militia operations through hired agents etc. This has been of no avail. No status quo powers have ever had any success in retaining their resentful subject populations for long through coercive means.
India has failed to win Kashmiris’ allegiance to the Indian union but certainly not for lack of trying. They have used the so- called ‘soft power’ tactics, exhausting all means to win back the indignant population through empty slogans of Kashmiryat, through music fests, through economic packages, and through elections– however flawed. India’s problem in Kashmir can be likened to a deep ulcer that cannot be healed with band aids. It calls for a more serious intervention. Many colonialist powers have tried, without success, band aid treatment to win the hearts and minds of the occupied people.
Jeffery Sterns, who recently visited the besieged Kashmir, has made a succinct observation in America’s prestigious Foreign Policy magazine. He says that India’s dilemma in Kashmir is that it is trying to administer “a province of people who don’t want it there.” It is Indian State’s refusal, over the last 63 years, to accept this reality that has created a rebellion in Kashmir, engendered mutually destructive game playing with Pakistan, and created deeply flawed bargaining positions that its own governments have been finding hard to grapple with.
For the last 63 years, India has been in state of denial in Kashmir. Way too much blood letting has happened for the Indian state to play politics with the lives of the people in the subcontinent. Now is the time for statesmanship, not for tyranny or for terror.