When Obama visited Bombay and made some speeches many people in Kashmir expected and many people in the rest of India apprehended that he will raise the Kashmir issue forcefully with the Indian government. Many thought that he might ask for a time frame for solving the Kashmir dispute and bind down both Pakistan and India. Many also thought that he might offer to mediate. Nothing of that sort happened. He had basically come to India on a commercial trip and he was happy to create 53,000 jobs with Indian cooperation. Many other commercial understandings were signed. He welcomed India to the U.N.Security Council without putting any pre conditions like solving the Kashmir problem and he duly rebuked Pakistan for not closing her camps.
This has naturally disappointed most Kashmiris because many Kashmiris look upon Pakistan as their only friend who supports their cause for azaadi. Many people, however, realise that whatever Pakistan does is in sheer self interest and their only aim is to merge Kashmir with Pakistan in the garb of azaadi.
U.S.A. is the biggest super power today and everyone gives a lot of importance to what this "Bada Sahab" says. After the 11th September attack in New York, U.S.A. became highly suspicious and unfavourably inclined towards all Muslim countries. U.S.A. is also markedly pro democracy and anti dictatorship. Unfortunately for the Muslims most Muslim countries except for Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh (which are geographically far from the Middle east which is considered the zone of Islam) are not blessed with democratic traditions and many of them suffer under military dictatorship. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which are strategic partners of U.S.A. also cannot be trusted by U.S.A. Since 11th September 2001 Kashmir also fell from grace in the eyes of the entire Western world including U.K. France and Russia. Since Muslim majority, Chechnia created problems for Russia the latter is also un-sympathetic to the Muslim world. Kashmiris, therefore, today stand all alone in their quest for azaadi. Their only friend , Pakistan has also lost her reputation badly in the world.
In today’s world it is an acknowledged fact that all differences between nations have to be resolved through dialogue and not through war. From day one Kashmir’s struggle for independence started on a violent note. The Kashmiri freedom fighters took up arms and went to POK for arms training. Right from 1989, Kashmir’s war of independence was a bloody war . As a result more than 100,000 Kashmiris have died in the last 20 years and a huge number of Indian troops have also died. In all the towns of Kashmir the graveyards are overflowing with the graves of Kashmiri freedom fighters. The amount of suffering that the Kashmiris have undergone is appalling. With so much of sacrifice, any other nation would have attained freedom long ago.
Kashmiris did not have a Gandhiji to show them the correct path of struggle and from day one they were misled into the path of violence. If the Kashmiris had followed the Gandhian principle of ‘Satyagraha’ and peaceful non-cooperation as the Indians had done prior to 1947, they would have by now attained a considerable degree of autonomy. Total independence as advocated by some Kashmiris does not seem to be feasible as India will never agree to that unless defeated in a devastating war. India is a mighty country and cannot be militarily defeated. For following the Gandhian path of Satyagraha, however, Kashmiris have to prove themselves to be free of greed for money and lust for power. Greedy people cannot easily attain azaadi. In the last 20 years I have never heard of any Kashmiri M.P. or M.L.A. resigning his or her seat while shedding tears over the graves of martyrs. No Kashmiri IAS or IPS officer has ever resigned from the services of the Indian government. In India, so many ICS officers had resigned from the services of the British.
The net result is that Kashmir today stands at the same position as it stood on 26th January 1989, when their freedom struggle was launched. However, the Kashmiri yearning for azaadi is the same as it was 50 years ago.
When I am interviewed on T.V.channels I am invariably asked by the anchors as to whether Kashmiris had the same yearning 40 years ago or is it only a recent phenomenon instigated by our neighbour. On 16th December 1971 when India militarily defeated Pakistan, a pall of gloom descended over Srinagar and other towns of Kashmir. Many did not eat that day out of sheer despair and frustration.
In 1972 when we were living in Shopian, a dying old man told his grandson (our servant) "When Kashmir becomes independent_ come to my grave and say loudly three times ‘Dadaji you are now lying in independent Kashmir".
Even 40 years back we could notice that the Kashmiris’ love for India was indeed very thin and they could not identify themselves with the Indian secular ethos.
Now that Obama has departed, the friendless Kashmiris must pause and think rationally as to what they should do in a very peaceful way to extract some degree of independence or political autonomy from an unwilling India . The Kashmiri leaders must start a meaningful dialogue with the Indian authorities and persuade Pakistan to also join them in their nonviolent quest for peace—-under the benevolent guidance of all the Western powers.
(The author (IAS Retd) is former Financial Commissioner J&K. He can be contacted at 09748635185 or mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)