Joe Biden and Kashmir: Realities are quite stark

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There is absolutely no scope of nurturing false hopes that the narrative to get J&K’s special status restored will draw international attention or possible intervention with the change in the United States. Joe Biden, who has been called as President-elect, though the system is yet to confirm his election, despite the US media having called in election in his favour on November 7, has many more priorities to address than looking toward South Asia and its hotspots.

In 1990s, Kashmir used to be in the attention of Foggy Bottoms and White House when it was reporting almost daily killings, bombs, grenades and endless shutdowns interrupting the normal life. The US embassy in Delhi used to send its diplomats on regular visits to the Valley. Then U S Ambassador to India Frank Wisner had developed personal relationship with the leaders, including some in the separatist camp of Hurriyat Conference.

The American concerns went up several times in May 1998 when India and Pakistan conducted tit-for tat nuclear explosions in May 1998. It appeared that South Asia was becoming a home of the nuclear explosions. Pakistan also undertook a massive campaign to sell its long-held theory that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint in the region.

In 1999, Pakistan tried to substantiate its point by invading the Kargil heights surreptitiously to draw the global attention. It attributed the capture of the heights to the militants fighting for the “liberation of Kashmir.”, but the fact was known to all, including Pakistan’s all-weather friend China that these were the regulars of Pakistan army.

Pakistan had sought to create a situation where, it had hoped, that the world would be left with no option but to intervene in Kashmir. The intervention came other way round. Pakistan was asked to vacate the heights and move to its side of the Line of Control. Beijing, too, had advised Islamabad to honour the sanctity of the LoC.

The Indian army had lost more than 500 officers and soldiers while fighting Pakistan army.  The Indians who were up against the adversary perched in the Himalayan heights were able to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy and recapture some of the strategically crucial heights.

Times have changed. Kashmir is not in the attention of the world. The US diplomats’ visits have come down to a trickle, and so has their reporting on Kashmir affairs. It is not that the world is not aware of what is happening in Kashmir and how the sentiments have evolved into self-acquired silent mode.  There is no methodology to decode this silence.

The Kashmiris could sense the silence of the world, including the Islamic countries in the aftermath of the August 5, 2019, decisions that took away erstwhile state’s special status, flag, constitution et al. Barring Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia, there was not even a single word about them and their land. The world moved on.

Kashmiris were in shock over the silence of the world. Now it does not shock them anymore. They have learned their lessons about the virtue of silence, some interpret it as their protective shield.

People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration attempted to bring the issue at the center-stage. The Gupkar Declaration committed itself to getting back everything that J&K had lost. The Gupkar Declaration used strong and passionate words  to reassure the people of the seriousness of its signatories  to  achieve their “sacred goal.” Now it is hit hard by the ground realities.

The PAGD’s decision to take part in the District Development Council polls, and moving the Supreme Court seeking early hearing of the petitions challenging August 5, 2019, decisions of scrapping of the Article 370 and Article 35-A, manifested the changed realities in the Vale.

These realities were grasped by Apni Party much earlier. It had moved the Supreme Court with the plea for early hearing of these petitions three months back. That, the Apni Party, thought was the only way to get back the things lost on August 5.

This shows that Kashmir will have to adopt a realistic approach that is sustainable without putting the people in harm’s way. Nurturing hopes that the outside world that has its own problems caused by the pandemic, economic recession amidst emergence of firm signs of a new cold war, will intervene, are unrealistic.  A new world order is shaping up.

Joe Biden on his inauguration as 46th President of the US on January 20, 2021, will weigh all the calculations before moving ahead on the world stage. First, he has to set his own nation’s house in order. America is wracked by divisive forces, racism and economic recession and rising number of jobless people. It is a mistake to see his eyeballs turning to South Asia or to Kashmir in it. This is not in his  to-do list at the moment.

This, however, should not lull Delhi into any complacency that silence on Kashmir is permanent