Katju is Right But ....

We need the spirit of unity and not united India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir



Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju has earned a reputation of plain-talking on public issues of importance. And he invariably tips his comments with a degree of shock value that makes them a subject of instant public debate. Not for him the language of euphemism or the diplomatic play with words. Being independent minded that he is, Katju believes in cutting through the veil of political correctness to say what he believes to be the right thing, sometimes with a sledgehammer impact. He was the first to rail against the media's tendency to prematurely point towards the role of Muslims in terror attacks. And in a stinging criticism of the media persons in  India, he once said that the most media persons in India were of low intellectual ability.

And now in a seminar in New Delhi, he said that the only way Kashmir issue can be resolved is through re-unification of India and Pakistan. He even termed 90 per cent of Indians stupid and 80 percent of both Hindus and Muslims as communal in their outlook.

However, it was his Kashmir comment that took people by surprise. Katju talked with certain unusual directness  about an issue that otherwise struggles to be acknowledged as an issue in India's political discourse. Politicians prefer to tiptoe around the subject. The government often refuses to go beyond the reiteration of the boilerplate statement about Kashmir being an inalienable part of India. What lent  Katju's comment further emotional charge was its evocation of partition and a nostalgia for its revocation. At the same time, the statement also underlined the impossibility of the resolution of Kashmir in the current context with an implicit warning that and any attempt to do so will only re-awaken the demons of partition.
This argument - and it remains the reigning argument in India - looks at Kashmir as essentially an India-Pakistan issue. Kashmiris and their political aspirations become subservient. It doesn't also matter that a major separatist thought in Kashmir seeks also liberation of the part of Kashmir under Pakistan's control.
This aspect of the Kashmir issue, however, doesn't detract from the realism of Katju's comments. In India, for the predominant political and public opinion, Kashmir issue is not about Kashmiris but about Pakistan. And any concession on Kashmir, even to Kashmiris themselves is deemed as ceding ground to Pakistan. This  is an approach that has made any progress on Kashmir not only difficult but a fraught proposition. Any suggestion or hint of an accord on more or less on New Delhi's terms becomes a subject of huge political controversy, often threatening to derail the government pursuing it.
This situation has begotten new parameters of Kashmir resolution which don't brook any geographical re-adjustment or a radical change in the political status of the state. It was the idea of such a solution that once persuaded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to talk about the possibility of  breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. BJP too has been wedded to this idea, albeit their idea is undermined by their chauvinist Hindutva ideology. Its pre-eminent leader L K Advani has often talked about a confederation between India and Pakistan which in turn will take care of Kashmir issue.
From Pakistan side, the only leader who has ever been responsive to this idea of Kashmir resolution was former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf.  General's four point proposals envisaged a Kashmir solution based on the irrelevance of borders.  However, New Delhi's tarrying and General's sudden exit from the Pakistan scene ensured that this temporary identity in the perspectives on a Kashmir settlement got nowhere.
Ever since the two countries have moved on in their relations, signing trade and travel agreements but Kashmir has been once again left behind, mired in the same old rigid outlooks. In fact, there is now a tendency to somehow stop dealing with Kashmir and get on with a trading relation with a hope that the issue will fade away in due time. But it hasn't over the past more than six decades. And there is every chance the problem may get worse in coming years, with the kind of fateful geo-political transformation that might follow US exit from Afghanistan in 2014. We may never have Katju's united India and Pakistan - atleast in the foreseeable future - but the two countries can still resolve their issues in the spirit of unity, something that Musharraf and Singh had set out to do through their 2003-07 engagement. But the problem is that now New Delhi isn't  even ready to address Kashmir within this paradigm.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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