Much ado about nothing

A non issue apparently has been blown out of proportion; its sole contribution is that it betrays the dilemmas and hollow actions of the Indian state. Separatists accepting invitation of Pakistan High Commission on the occasion of celebration of Pakistan Day was a non issue. High pitched rhetoric against it by the media or the functionaries of the government have hardly served the cause of either the government or that of the country. This is not the first time that separatists have been invited to such events organized by Pakistan High Commission. It has happened in the past one and a half decades and has neither done any harm to the country, nor has it allowed Pakistan to grab even a millimeter of Jammu and Kashmir’s territory. So, it hardly serves any purpose to waste energy on a frivolous matter. Interestingly union minister and former army chief V.K. Singh also attended the same function as the government’s representative though he later resorted to harsh but ambiguous tweets regarding the function which not only violates basic norms of decency but also exposes the hypocrisy of the government. The last time such a row was raised, it lead to stalling of India and Pakistan talks, just few months ago. The objections to the separatists attending the function were quite muted this time as compared to the previous occasion when the separatists were especially invited to meet the High Commissioner in run up to foreign ministers level talks between India and Pakistan, perhaps in view of the fact that protocol demanded that a government functionary also attends the Pakistan Day function. 

So, once again weaving a controversy out of a non issue and raising the pitch of Pakistan bashing in and outside the government gives the misplaced impression that India’s national pride and national interests is pivoted around Pakistan bashing, narrowing the very scope of patriotism and the strength of a democratic country. Secondly, many other Indians including a union minister attended the function, as happens every year, as part of a normal protocol, just as Pakistanis attend functions organised by Indian High Commission in Islamabad. To single out the Kashmiri separatists for their attendance at the Pakistan High Commission function is to perceive that the Kashmiris are differently Indian and punctures the oft parroted slogan of Kashmir being an integral part of India. Thirdly, if the objections are about Pakistan giving huge importance to the Kashmiri separatist leaders and granting them some kind of legitimacy, it is again an indication of hypocrisy in light of the fact that separatists, whom media loves to call ‘India-haters’ were given such legitimacy by inviting them for talks with two previous prime ministers of the country, including one from the BJP. The prime ministers met them despite their political stand. 

Questions may be asked whether Pakistan High Commission is justified in inviting Kashmiri separatists to its official function or for an occasional chit chat. It is well within its legal and ethical rights to do so, though indeed the legitimacy granted to the separatists is not without a design, as it is deemed to be an oblique way to offer support to the separatist cause and also to legitimise its own role in the Kashmir tangle. For the separatists, attending such functions is significant as it is an open admission of deeming Pakistan as a supporter of the Kashmir issue. However, beyond such symbolism, there is little other sense one can make of an invitation from Pakistan High Commission and the separatists queuing up at the embassy to vie with each other for grabbing attention. It does not change the status of the issue, nor of the stated positions of Islamabad and New Delhi. So, instead of getting bogged down by trivialities, there is need to tone down the pitch of rhetoric and instead seize the moment as an opportunity to connect to both Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists and initiate steps for a genuine dialogue. The controversy serves no purpose, much less serve the ultra-nationalistic cause of anybody including the rightwing government in power. All this brouhaha has done is to bring the Kashmir issue to centre stage. The Kashmiris, of course, would have the last laugh.

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