Is it a foregone conclusion? That the Congress party in the coming 2014 elections will be routed and the Bharatiya Janata Party will make it to the Raisina hills. Sensing the change, the countries having geo-strategic and economic interests in India, have started building bridges and equations with future power dispensation in New Delhi.
Meeting of US ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday in Gandhinagar, Gujarat is seen as indicator of Washington’s eagerness to sweeten the nine-year-old bitterness with the BJP leader. This was the first ever meeting of the US ambassador in the last nine years- since visa ban on him from March 2005. The ban was put in place for Modi’s “failure” in protecting the rights of religious minorities during 2001 riots. The ban on his visa continued despite strong Gujarat Diaspora in US frantically lobbying for him with the state department as late as in 2013.
The emerging political scenario in India is being closely watched in neighboring capitals, Beijing, Kabul and more particularly in Islamabad, where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has struck a personal equation with Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Ostensibly there has been no substantial forward movement on any of the outstanding disputes between the two countries but it has been now for quite some time in the grapevine that the two governments are engaged in a dialogue on track two on Kashmir. And some obscure ‘win-win agenda’ is on the anvil.
The impact of the impending changes in New Delhi’s power structure is being felt three months before the general elections. Ellen Barry of The New York Times saw the Penguin India, surrendering to “an unknown Hindu fanatic” and agreeing to take away Wendy Donniger’s, ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History,’ off the bookshelves in India, The New York Times as result of change in mood in India in favor of ‘Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.’ Commenting on the developments he wrote, ‘The announcement has rippled through a city bracing itself for big change… Now many scholars and intellectuals are worried that an ideological shift is on its way. Past Hindu nationalist governments have been marked by battles over religion and history. Artists tackling religious themes have been targeted by fringe groups, with an amorphous threat of violence never far.”
It is a bigger debate in case change takes place, how far it is going to affect and influence social and religious fabric of India. Narrowing down the debate to the India and Pakistan relations and Kashmir dispute. The question arises if a Narendra Modi, a person with strong RSS background, as a commentator puts it, “in his heart of hearts, a cultural warrior” makes it to the top slot, what would be his policy towards one of key players in the region and immediate neighbor Pakistan? Moreover, will he adopt a status quoist approach towards the Jammu and Kashmir like the Congress governments? Or by resolving the Kashmir dispute he will work for getting a permanent berth for India in the United Nations Security Council- a coveted positions that country has been aspiring for since long.
India for its size, population and economic growth qualifies to sit along the big five in the UN Security Council. Nevertheless, looking through the very preamble of the United Nations, for India getting a permanent seat in the Security Council resolution of the Kashmir dispute is imperative. The charter of the United Nations in its very preamble besides other points for maintaining global peace clearly states:
• To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
• to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
• to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security,
Looking dispassionately at the highlighted points from the Charter of the United Nation, the previous governments in New Delhi by all stretch of imagination have failed to respect these principles in Kashmir. Failure to respect the basic principles of UN charter has resulted in the perpetuation of the Kashmir dispute, four wars between India and Pakistan, two countries building arsenals at the cost of development of tens of millions of people living below poverty line in the two countries, nuclearization of the region and permanent war of attrition between two countries. Today, Kashmir is seen as one of dangerous place in the region and nuclear flashpoint that threatens entire South Asian region.
None but first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru took Kashmir to the United Nations. The august body in keeping with its charter, dispensing justice asked for holding of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir under its aegis for determining its future. Initially, Nehru from every rooftop announced that India was committed to live up to the charter of the United Nations, its promises to the international community and people of Jammu and Kashmir. Nehru’s trump card in Kashmir at this time was Sheikh Abdullah, to quote Perry Anderson, ‘Abdullah ruled the Valley of Kashmir and Jammu under the shield of Indian army…at the outset Nehru believed his friend’s popularity of capable of carrying all before it. When subsequent intelligence indicated otherwise, talk of a plebiscite ceased’.
Nehru not only betrayed international community of his commitments but also denied even democratic rights to people of Kashmir- to quote him, “ We have gambled at the international stage on Kashmir, and we cannot afford to lose. At the moment we are at the point of bayonet. Till things improve, democracy and morality can wait.” Anderson adds, “sixty years later bayonets are still there, democracy no were in sight.” (The Indian Ideology page 118-119)
Nehru just before his death had shown inclination to undo his legacy that had cost Indian nation heavily. But after his death no congress government had intention nor will to resolve the Kashmir dispute and bring in lasting peace in the region. It in fact requires a ‘clear national vision and perseverance’ for undoing the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, that has placed entire South Asia in web of uncertainties.
To make a beginning for lasting peace in South Asia, undoing of Nehru’s legacy and working for permanent seat for India in UNSC and resolution of Kashmir dispute should be part of debate during the coming elections.