Musings from afar

Pakistan should leave India alone in finding a solution for Kashmir

Islamabad has a revisionist agenda and would like to change the status quo.

 |  Musings from afar  |  5-minute read |   03-08-2016
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Pakistan is desperate and it is showing. The world is not even remotely interested in listening to Pakistani rhetoric on Kashmir.

So in order to attract attention, the Pakistan government declared July 19 a "black day" in memory of the slain Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani.

Pakistan's prime minister did some grandstanding by declaring at a rally: "We are waiting for the day (when) Kashmir becomes (a part of) Pakistan."

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj promptly hit back accusing Nawaz Sharif of advancing the "despicable design" of destabilising South Asia by exporting "dirty money and dangerous terrorists".

New Delhi made it amply clear that sections of Pakistani establishment could continue to dream but it had no locus standi on the issue.

Knockout

India had already delivered knockout punch to Pakistan at the United Nations on the issue of Kashmir.

Strongly hitting back at Islamabad for raising in the UN the issue of the killing of Burhan Wani, Delhi had said Pakistan "extols" the "virtues" of terrorists, thus using terrorism as a state policy towards the "misguided end" of coveting the territory of others.

India's ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin was responding to the remarks made by Pakistani envoy Maleeha Lodhi on Wani's killing during a debate on human rights in the 193-member UN General Assembly on July 13.

6806_775_080316093631.jpg Burhan Wani's funeral procession in Tral, south Kashmir. (Reuters)

In her statement, Lodhi not only raised the Kashmir issue but also mentioned the "extra-judicial" killing of Wani, whom she described as a "Kashmiri leader", by Indian forces.

Other senior Pakistani officials had also been using the turmoil to further their agenda so as to take advantage of the tension in the Valley.

The Pakistani PM's advisor on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, suggested that "India cannot suppress the voice of Kashmiris - who are struggling for their just right of self-determination by using brutal force and committing human rights violations in the Occupied Kashmir."

Pakistan has, since its independence, believed that because of Kashmir's Muslim majority status, it has a right to seize it from India by fair means or foul. In the absence of this external dimension, the problem was much more manageable.

Also read - Nawaz Sharif, please look within Pakistan before talking about Kashmir

After all, India's democratic institutions have been successful in addressing the grievances of several other groups that have felt alienated from the mainstream.

But the Kashmir issue has got entangled in an India-Pakistan structural conundrum where a revisionist Islamabad has tried to change the status quo in its favour by using Kashmir as leverage.

Both the conservatives and the liberals in India fail to see the complexities inherent in the tangled web that India and Pakistan have woven in Kashmir and refuse to reckon with the long-term consequences of their supposed "solutions".

It is clear that no Indian government is in a position to allow Kashmir's secession from India for fear of encouraging separatist movements elsewhere in the country.

Also read - India needs a referendum more than Kashmiris do

India's democracy and secularism would receive a body blow if India accepted the idea that because Muslims are the majority in a state they should secede.

In this light, if there has been a success in the India-Pakistan "peace process" in the last few years, it has been a recognition on both sides that territorial changes are strictly out of bounds.

Moreover, there will be broader geopolitical ramifications of an independent Kashmir which will remain dependent on the kindness of its neighbours.

India, Pakistan and China will try to enhance their strategic interests and compete for the loyalty of Kashmir.

Contention

It is not readily evident if an independent Kashmir would not be as much of a bone of contention between India and Pakistan as the present state of affairs.

Islamist extremism would get a boost worldwide even as India, already under assault from rising Islamist fundamentalism, will find it difficult to manage growing tensions between Hindu extremists and Islamist radicals.

It would be no exaggeration to suggest that it would be the end of India as the world has come to know.

It is also important to recognise that the Indian state, for all its faults, is not the only guilty party in this context.

Also read - Indian media must stop selling J&K as Kashmir

The saga of Kashmir is one of competing nationalisms and all versions are equally self-serving.

If the Indian government continues to champion Kashmir as a symbol of India's secular democratic ethos and fails to acknowledge that a majority of Kashmiris have ceased to view themselves as Indians long back, then the separatists who want independence from India will continue to refuse to account for the aspirations of the Hindus and Ladakhis as if they are not a part of this dispute at all.

If in the Indian state's narrative there is no place for those who don't want to be Indians, in the narrative of the so-called freedom fighters there is no place for those who do want to be a part of India.

Negotiation

Pakistan has a revisionist agenda and would like to change the status quo in Kashmir, while India would like the opposite.

India hopes that the negotiations with Pakistan would ratify the existing territorial status quo in Kashmir.

Successive Indian governments have worked on negotiations on this premise.

But at its foundation, there are irreconcilable differences. No confidence-building measure is likely to alter this situation.

Also read - Kashmir's politics needs a revolution, not its youth

India's belief has always been that the peace process will persuade Pakistan to cease supporting and sending extremists into India and start building good neighbourly ties.

Pakistan, in contrast, has viewed the process as a means to nudge India to make progress on Kashmir, which is a euphemism for Indian concessions.

The Indian government has responded well to Pakistani provocations.

There is no need to be diffident about India's role even as Indian polity tries to find a way out of continuing violence in Kashmir.

Pakistan should be told to focus on its own problems and let Indian democracy work out a solution to Kashmir.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Writer

Harsh V Pant Harsh V Pant

The writer is Professor of International Relations at King's College London. His most recent book is India's Afghan Muddle (HarperCollins).

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