Nudged out of the frame

For Kashmir this is insulting, crude and reflects historical amnesia and arrogance



The paper in contention,’ Non Alignment 2.0:  A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the 21st Century’ dwells on a range of themes and ideas. Given the nature of this article, it is well nigh impossible to critique and respond to each theme and topic that the authors of the report have dwelt on. Besides, as pointed out in the prelude and part one of this article, my core concerns are the consequences and implications of India’s rise and foreign policy in the 21st century on Kashmir as propounded by the paper. This naturally limits the nature of my response. It is to these implications and consequences I turn to and explicate upon.
It is curious and remarkable that the authors of the report have only mentioned Kashmir en passant. It is as if the authors believe that Kashmir is a mere irritant that can be resolved and rendered amenable to resolution by posturing and grandstanding on issues that have a tangential bearing on the dispute and relations between India and Pakistan like Pakistan’s stance and attitude towards Gilgit, Azad Kashmir and embarrassing Pakistan on its problems in Balochistan. In essence, it would appear that the aim and agenda of the authors is to dilute and whittle down the importance of Kashmir and elevate other issues like cross border terrorism at the expense of Kashmir. More curious and incredible is the implication that can be gleaned from the attention paid to Kashmir in the report that Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan.
Kashmiris, in the authors’ schema, then are a non people and a non entity whose future can be bargained away in negotiations between India and Pakistan. This is insulting, crude and reflects historical amnesia and arrogance. The report, in this sense, also corresponds to type. The reference here is to the Indian state’s approach toward Kashmir. This approach has historically been premised upon the politics, manipulation and coercion wherein the politics of Kashmir was determined by the Centre using an admixture of coercion and manipulation to buttress its rule in Kashmir. And, more importantly, the Centre only takes notice of Kashmir as a problem when something goes awry in Kashmir. In this sense, the approach can best be categorized as, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. This superficial approach has, time and again, proven to be facile and counter productive: the full blown insurgency in 1989, the various spontaneous uprisings against the Indian state in 2008 and 2010 that went under the nomenclature of Ragda I and Ragda II are testimony to the fallaciousness of this approach.
Ideally, these spasmodic uprisings and disturbances should caution the Indian state and wisen it to the possibility of a durable and sincere approach toward conflict resolution in Kashmir. If the Indian state, for reasons of bureaucratic ineptitude, inertia and political reasons cannot bring itself to adopt a bold approach toward Kashmir, it is incumbent upon enlightened intellectuals, such as the authors of the report, to take it upon themselves to shake the Indian state from its soporific mode. It is travesty that they have not chosen to do so and have tagged along the line trotted out by the Indian state.
The authors instead choose to focus on the immediate agenda of normalization of relations with Pakistan and the long term agenda of bringing about the strategic unity of South Asia. The former goal is salutary and the latter welcome. However, neither should come at the expense of Kashmiris’ future.  South Asia is rightly identified as the pivotal region for India and it is rightly asserted that the politics of the region militate against a broad union in which the various states comprising region are enmeshed in an economic gridlock. And that ameliorating the nature of interstate politics in the region could potentially bring about a new paradigm of regionalism or the development of a regional identity for South Asia. The problems here are twofold: hegemony and more to the point the dispute over Kashmir. Even though the authors do not state this explicitly, the obvious inference and implication to be drawn from the regional integration formulation is that India would be the centre of gravity of this scenario and would be the core member around which other’s would rally around, given its economic clout. This, in other words, means regional hegemony and is unlikely to be countenanced by other states.
If it is conceded that other states comprising the region veer around to the idea of a pan South Asian entity, the major sticking point between the major states of the region India and Pakistan remains. This sticking point and flashpoint has so consumed the energy of the two states and the people of Kashmir that it has led to three and a half wars and full blown insurgency in Kashmir. Historical memory, the ideational and ideological passion infused into the dispute does not lend itself to sterile solutions that are in the nature of a state to state exercise and the fruits of economic interdependence.
The Kashmir dispute may be irrational from an economic point of view given that the quest of Kashmiris is an abstraction: freedom. However, man, contrary to the assertions of economic theory is not only a homo economicus but also driven and inspired by higher and nobler, self transcending motivations like freedom and self determination. It is, in the final analysis, the quest for freedom that is the motor of history. So it is a historical aspiration and a self validating need of a people that comes in the way of a broad South Asian union. It is then perplexing how the authors of the report can be so cavalier about this and ignore Kashmir.
Yes, on account of the forces of attrition and the trajectory of all political movements, the Kashmiri movement is at a stage where state power in conjunction with other structural conditions  has rendered it into a form where it seems mellowed and the people resigned to a fate not of their making. However, as the popular and spontaneous movements that went under the name of Ragda demonstrate, the Kashmir conflict is far from settled. It lies at the core of the being of every Kashmiri. Kashmir can then implode and erupt anytime. And yes, the state with its might and power will again crush it. But what would tell or reflect about India that claims to be a liberal democracy? The obvious inference would be that it has under its sovereign remit a people purely and solely on account of power and coercion. This surely is not a flattering description of a liberal democracy and an emerging power.
It also does not gel with the nature of power that the author’s of the report want India to be. If India is to become a new and a path breaking power, helping to create a just and an equitable order where freedom, democracy and human rights reign supreme, it behooves India to look within first. How can India realistically propound these values to the world when it denies them to a people in its own backyard? Would not this constitute sheer hypocrisy and a contradiction?
India’s aspirations and its contemporary status as a player in international politics cannot be denied. The aspiration that the South Asian region- which the author’s rightly see as a drag on India-mutate into a coherent and strategic entity is also well taken. However, the major stumbling block, much as the authors of the report choose to ignore, is Kashmir. The Kashmiri movement in any avatar can be contained by the might of the state but it will never melt away. The state may, at some price contain and manage the conflict on account of the power it has, but how does this square with the nature of power that India wants to be. Non Alignment 1.0 was a sham. Even it there may be some merit to some of the components of Non Alignment 2.0 and some of these may crystallize into reality, let it not be a parody and a travesty. Let the Indian state, in its endeavor to be a great power respect the will and wishes of a people. And let this be the starting point of this journey. The rest may then fall in place.

(The author is Chairman Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front)

Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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