Last week’s column ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ evoked a response from a fellow columnist and civil society activist—Abdul Majid Zargar. Response had merit, much more than ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ it is ‘Kissa Zamin Ka‘. Time and again, ground facts relate that Kashmir matters, Kashmiri matters not. From Akbar to Nehru, from 16th century to 20th running into 21st it has a familiar ring. Being an ardent student of Persian poetry, I stand amazed by one Persian poet after another praising the Vale and deriding the Valleyites. In Akbar’s cantonments around Hari Parbat, a pet poetic recitation is one such deriding note:
Agar qahat-ul-rajal uftaad [if there is a famine of men]
Az seh mehr kum joyi [expect not love & concern from threesomes]
Awal Khumbu, doum Afghan, sewum badzat Kashmiri [first Khumbu (a central Asian grouping) doum Afghan [second Afghan] sewum badzat Kashmiri [third the ill-bred Kashmiri]
AZ Awal Helai miyad [the first (Khumbu) takes a weird course]
AZ doum kenaiy miyad [the second (Afghan) holds a grudge]
AZ sewum nami-ayad ba-jouz andouh VA dilgiri [from third (Kashmiri) cometh not anything save heart-rending wilting & wailing]
Another Persian poet had the audacity to call Kashmir, a paradise [Janat] and Kashmiri hellish [Jehnami]. It is related that deriding poetry had a purpose. It was pointedly meant to dampen the spirited Kashmiri of yore. Persian couplets alluding to Kashmiri might be read with alluring couplets like much quoted ‘Agar Firdous’ and much less narrated, however much more alluring:
AZ Jahangir Shah Dum-e-Nazah Chou’n Pursund,
Ba Hasrat-e-Dil Guft Kashmir VA Deegar Heech
Asked on his death bed of his last wish
Jahangir said Kashmir and nothing else
Mughal Emperor Akbar in 16th century troubled by Afghan incursions, strove to secure Kabul-Kashmir geo-strategic arc, as Hindu Kush heights were used by rebels to sneak into Karakorum ranges and the valley. As MJ Akbar notes in his treatise, ‘Behind the Vale’ Akbar could not afford to provide the Kashmir a ‘bowl of freedom’ thus he enticed the last Sultan of Kashmir—Yousef shah Chak to cede sovereignty. Yousef Shah fell in the trap laid down in 1580’s, as did Sheikh Abdullah centuries later in 1940’s. He fell to the wile and guile of Pandith Nehru. Geopolitical tunings are apparent in Nehru’s cable to Clement Attlee on November, the 25th he relates:
“Kashmir’s northern frontiers …run in common with those of three countries, Afghanistan, the U.S.S.R and China. Security of Kashmir, which must depend upon its internal tranquility and existence of stable government, is vital to security of India” quoted by [Alistair Lamb-Kashmir 1947-Birth of a Tragedy—Roxford Books U.K 1994].
It is related, Nehru confided in private that a day would dawn when Kashmiris would accept the ground facts, words to that effect have been often quoted by likes of AG Noorani in his writings, if not the exact quote. It implied Kashmiris lack of spine to stand up and be counted.
Geopolitical rather than people centric concerns predominate. The scenic bowl shaped vale tucked in northern Himalayan heights with adjoining heights of Gilgit Baltistan extending to Ladakh provides a natural defence.
While in yore, Russia in Czarist or communist hue and China with British India got related to Kashmir and its commanding heights in a famous caption coined by E.T.Knight in his interesting study, ‘Where Three Empires Meet’ the power equation Knight highlights has changed hue, with new national entities coming to fore. Though, as geo-strategic analyst Hutten noted, small states in the region of Pamirs shall have problems, as major surrounding states are apt to push for geopolitical space. From Pamirs to Karakorum and on to Hindu Kush small central Asian states, Kashmir have suffered the tug of war of major powers.
Pakistan carved out of India that is Bharat as noted in her constitution is posing questions to mother country. And China has outgrown India in military might and economic prowess, a fact conceded grudgingly by some if not all Indian think tanks. Former premier Manmohan Singh shown the blueprint of future growth of commercial capital
—Mumbai asked for creating a semblance of Shanghai, words to that effect, if not the exact quote. Indian response to Pakistan and China varies, the relative strength providing the basis. India geo-strategists though of late talk of a pearl in string stranglehold alluding to increasingly developing Pak-China axis. And geo-strategists are asking for developing an effective deterrence to combat a possible twin strike. Developing submarine based second strike capability in nuclear warfare blueprint is much talked of. China, India, Pakistan have either developed second strike option or stay in the process of developing it. Second strike option relates to develop the capacity to strike again after the shock of initial nuclear strike is absorbed. Even the mention is frightening, ever using it might spell the doom.
Amidst the geo-strategic conjectures, the fact of all three countries being nuclear powers, hence in mutual assured destruction [MAD] ambit has not dawned fully dawned on these powers. More plausible explanation could be geo-strategic posturing. Witnessing the tense Indo-Pak standoff and Chinese posturing weighing on Indo-Pak equation, Kashmir is in the whirlpool of one of the tensest phases of her thousands of years of existence…a small state surrounded by giants eating into the vitals of her existence.