TALKING TO TALIBAN

Smart foreign policy move but exposes BJP’s hypocrisy of alienating Muslims and treating Kashmiris as enemies while talking peace at global level.Caught in a bind over the question of joining the negotiating table with Taliban in Moscow, in terms of good foreign policy and for the sake of much needed peace in Afghanistan, the BJP-government took the right decision by sending a ‘non-official’ delegation in a bid to make its presence felt and have a greater role to play in Afghanistan’s politics. But by doing so, it completely betrayed its hypocrisy.

While at the international level the Indian government has supported a process of dialogue with the hardcore Islamist Talibans, responsible for massive crimes against humanity and proponents of rabid view of religion, on the home front it is unwilling to reach out to either the Maoists in the tribal areas or the separatists in Kashmir. In fact, the BJP’s pathological contempt for Kashmir and its discomfort with the Muslim majority status of Jammu and Kashmir has made it emphatically strike down any peace overtures in Kashmir. It has ruled out even the question of talking to Hurriyat, the largest over-ground conglomerate representing the separatist aspirations, even though talks with select Hurriyat leaders, howsoever cosmetic, have taken place under both the BJP-led Vajpayee government and Congress-led Manmohan Singh governments in the past.

Peace in Afghanistan is a crucial component for peace in Kashmir. World powers for long have been toying with the idea of talking to Taliban, even though this prospect was something that everybody wanted to avoid but given the upper hand that the Taliban is now having in Afghanistan, especially its rural regions, the USA and other key players were unanimous that a process of engagement with the Taliban was inevitable. For the BJP-government in India Afghanistan is a key interest, not because of its potential to impact Kashmir but because it wants to achieve the three-pronged objective of gaining a foothold in Afghanistan, check-mating Pakistan and pandering to the interests of global powers like USA and Russia.

If Kashmir mattered even as a subsidiary concern, the Indian government should have long back changed its track with respect to the conflict and political dispute of Kashmir. It is no secret that both without an internal process of engagement aimed at political negotiations with the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as composite dialogue with Pakistan, peace in Kashmir is just about unthinkable. No visible or covert signs of such peace overtures are in existence at the moment. Strangely, a government that is hell bent on not only treating the separatist political groups in Kashmir with derision but making all out efforts to malign even the mainstream pro-India political parties and wrongly project them as some kind of offshoots of separatism, even terror network, has shown no hesitation in talking to Taliban whose fanaticism, radical views and horrifying list of killings and torture are monumental.

The most rabid and radicalized of the militant groups in Kashmir would be a pale shadow of Taliban. The BJP, thus, exposes its utter duplicity in the way it considers conflicts in the international arena and home front and turns to the mantra of convenience rather than espouse the cause of peace. On the question of sitting at the dialogue table with Taliban, the BJP has also caught itself in a bind at a time when it is trying to give maximum acceleration to its Hindutva agenda. Going soft on any Islamist radical groups anywhere in the world would throw a spanner on such a move. That is why, the BJP has sent two former diplomats as part of what is being called as “non-official delegation” in a bid to shrug any responsibility.

Such claims are ridiculous. Any delegation named by the government and sent abroad on state expenditure is as good as any delegation comprising serving officials and office-heads. Such histrionics which enable India to keep the slot warm for a fully official delegation at the peace table in the near future may be sane decisions with respect to foreign policy. However, at the home front, they make for a recipe of utter chaos, duplicity and hypocrisy. A government that is high on flexing its muscles at its western borders, keeping violence alive, unwilling to respond to the alienated population of Kashmir with nothing less than bullets and pellets and perpetuate hatred against Muslims in rest of the country will need to explain its stand to the nation.