Kashmir Region: From zero-sum to positive-sum game

Those who grew under the spell of Bollywood films till about the 1960s would definitely recall the beauty of the Kashmir region as the abode of gods. But until very recently the region has witnessed a kind of scenario wherein the god would make mad before destroying. The context became something like what the Greek Tragedy playwright of the fifth century BC, Sophocles, saw life as nothing more than breath and shadow. It is as if he was not writing of Greek of his times, but modern Kashmir.

Let me start with a quotation from the classic Rights of Man by Thomas Paine: “If we look back to the riots and tumults which at various times have happened in England, we shall find that they did not proceed from the want of a Past Government, Past Government was itself the generating cause: instead of consolidating society it divided it; deprived it of its natural cohesion, and engendered discontents and disorders which otherwise would not have existed. In those associations, which men promiscuously form for the purpose of trade, or of any concern in which Government is totally out of the question, and in which they act merely on the principles of society, we see how naturally the various parties unite; and this shows, by comparison, that Governments, so far from being always the cause or means of order, are often the destruction of it.” The significance of this quotation arises from the fact that the Kashmir region has until recently been marked by a disconnect between the state (read government) and the public, and a lack of inclusiveness and accountability in the governance of state interventions for development. But as we all know and are now experiencing, the recent administrative and governance reforms the Modi government has brought about have started generating a congenial atmosphere for positive transformation. As I had emphasised in my previous piece in this column, the issue is how to capitalise on this historical moment.

Without much ado, we can say that the route to capitalisation and reaching the benefits of this to the people lies in development. But development is not a casual one-shot affair; it demands serious commitment anywhere and anytime. In the great old days, civilisations experienced boom and decay and disappearance; they were subject to zero-sum games of neighbouring places and people. But development today is no longer conceived in such transitory manner with limitations. Development today is a conscious and conscientious endeavour shared by the government and the public. It is the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century in England and the consequential happenings around the world that served as the foundation of this perception of development; the old transitory perception is now replaced by one of sustainability.

My way of understanding of sustainability is not limited to the usual association with the environmental issues but with the continual transformation in all dimensions of social existence; the key word here is the term continual. This continuity can be ensured only by a shared indulgence by the state and the public with all the agencies implied incorporated. This implies that the targeted objective is not a static one, but one of one achievement laying the base for another objective. In this, the outcome would consist not only of temporal but also of spatial dimensions.
Now functioning and meaningfully perform in this paradigm can be possible only when certain conditions are in place. First, as I had emphasised in my previous input in this column, there is the need for evolving institutions alive to the contextual realities wherein we are targeting the moving frontier. The recent administrative reforms initiated by the Modi government has a step in this direction. There is now the need to couple this by endogenous evolution of institutions for long term transformation. I would come this in later column.

As of today, let us talk of something technical and quantitative.
Unlike the decades old preoccupation with the Sophoclesian issue of breath and shadow, the change agents in the Kashmir region should now be reorienting towards preoccupation with the role of knowledge and innovations in the growth trajectory of the society. While in the earlier periods, growth could be generated and sustained through the efforts of unskilled personnel, it is no longer realistic to follow this route.
We have continually to shift our paradigm of development to one where knowledge density in all our undertakings keeps rising. Still further in the earlier phase of contemporary version of development, generalists could serve the developmental needs. But this is no longer so. Now it has to be necessarily founded on innovation. This is something demanding the intelligence of specialists. Besides this interaction of specialists, innovation has a characteristic of getting faster in societies and areas where the interaction is not only among specialists but also more intense. The land and the people of the Kashmir region have to be continually engaged in this endeavour now.

The significance of knowledge and innovation is all the more now consequent upon the COVID19 crises the world is facing. The ethical dimensions of every knowledge, understanding and policy are being emphasised all the more now as the world tries to address the multiple costs imposed by the Pandemic and the inclusiveness issues coming along as the Vaccine becomes available. It is here the ingenuity of the people and agencies of transformation of the Kashmir region can show to the world on what inclusiveness is all about. The region has both the capability and the potential for shared manifestation of this multidimensional capability by evolving a shared prosperity model, and wherein inclusiveness extends beyond the traditional understanding of sharing of fruits of policy interventions but to the very concepts of knowledge, understanding and policy. Given this, the future development model of the developing economies shall be the lessons provided by the Kashmir region. The region has all the potentials to provide this model to the emerging economies of the world.

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