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Could Narendra Modi unravel the Kashmir Imbroglio?
Ignore it. Forget it. Pretend that it didn't exist...... No matter how hard you tried, the problem of Kashmir would not go away. Raise the spectre of war and divert the attention of your people when a major political scam threatened to engulf your power base; extend the courtesy, by talking jingoism, to your counterpart across the border when his political survival was in peril and the blighter needed to be bailed out. In the meanwhile, a few lives lost, whether those were of soldiers or civilians, as an inevitable fall out of periodical cease-fire violations or breaches of Line of Control (LoC) or international border, were no more than a matter of occupational hazard or the price one paid for choosing to live close to the border. When the storm blew over, put the issue back on the back burner where it had belonged and go back to your sonorous slumber. Leave the problem for later! These were, by and large, the stratagems put to use by successive governments in Delhi since independence.
War and Proxy War
In between spells of slumber, India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir. These wars have put both countries back by thousands of lives, colossal amounts of money and uncalculable numbers of time and energy spent by the two sides in trying to give each other a black eye. The problem has, however, remained unsolved. With both the countries acquiring nuclear weapons, there seems to be no scope for another conventional war. Even as the politicians of Pakistan would like to sleep over the issue just like their Indian counterparts, their army and intelligence agency wouldn't lie low lest their own existence should become questionable which would deprive them of the massive fundings coming their way. Being incapable of fighting another conventional war, they have been trying to bleed India by means of a proxy war. Pakistan Army regulars, mercenaries and disgruntled young men from the Kashmir valley, brainwashed and trained in Pakistani training camps, intrude into India, open fire and cause terrorist attacks. The 26/11 (2008) massacre carried out in Mumbai by Pak terrorists is the most outrageous, and dastardly, of the terrorist acts Pakistan has carried out in various parts of India like Delhi, Surat, Hyderabad etc. In December 2001, Pak-trained terrorists launched an attack on the Indian parliament. Lashkar e Toiba (LeT), aided and supported by Pakistan, targeted the Indian Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, for an attack in May 2014. Despite all the evidence and proof produced by India, Pakistan has vehemently and blatantly denied its involvement in any of these terrorist activities or the existence of training camps of terrorists on its soil.
Peace Initiative by Mr.Modi
This was the legacy that Mr.Narendra Modi's government had inherited when it was overwhelmingly voted to power early this year. Not a man to lose a moment or opportunity to make a mark for himself in the service of the nation, Mr.Modi seized the opportunity to score a thunderous beginning of his leadership by launching a peace initiative. He staged a diplomatic coup by inviting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan along with leaders of all the SAARC countries to his inauguration. He had a meeting with PM Sharif wherein he specified India's expectations from Pakistan to be abe to carry forward his roadmap for peace between the two countries:
● Export of terror by Pakistan was not acceptable. Pakistan should stop its terrorist activities in India, close down the training camps for terrorists on its soil and stop supporting and aiding banned militant outfits like LeT.
● Bring to book terrorists like Hafiz Sayeed and Dawood Ibrahim, involved in various acts of terror in India, without any further delay.
● Ensure that incidents like the attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat did not recur.
Pakistan's Reprehensible Response
There has, however, been no gesture of goodwill or cooperation on the part of Pakistan. Nor has there been any improvement in the situation on the ground. In fact, on his return to Pakistan, Mr.Sharif had to face the wrath of Opposition parties and hawkish elements over his failure to meet separatist leaders of Kashmir while in India.
Follow Up on Modi's Peace Initiative
Having taken the first step, the Modi government lost no time in taking the next. Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries were scheduled for 25 August 2014 at Islamabad. The talks, however, came a cropper when Pakistan's High Commissioner at Delhi indulged in a particularly pusillanimous act by inviting Kashmiri separatist leaders to the High Commission for "consultations" on the eve of the official talks. He undertook this brazen step in defiance of the Indian Foreign Secretary's warning that his talks with separatist leaders would be at the cost of the scheduled official talks. The Modi government took umbrage at this hostile response and cancelled the official talks. Pakistan has, however, stuck to its blatantly hostile stand, stating that the Kashmiri dissident leaders were stakeholders in the issue and that the envoy's meetings with them were perfectly in order. India, on its part, has made its position abundantly clear - Pakistan could choose between the Indian government and the separatists for holding talks on Kashmir; there was no room whatsoever for the Kashmiri separatist elements in the proposed bilateral meeting or any other meeting on the issue in the future.
Case study of Modi Vs. Manmohan on Kashmir
To understand the game plan or policy perspective of the dispensation in Delhi today on the K- issue, it would be necessary to appreciate the basic difference between the Modi government and that of his predecessor.
The policy paralysis which had afflicted the Manmohan Singh government during its second stint (2009-14) had permeated India's foreign policy. The Manmohan government's Janus-faced positions on the following points are a case in point:
● We had been telling Pakistan and the rest of the world that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Rightly so. And what had we been telling the people of India, including those of Kashmir? That notwithstanding the fact that Kashmir was an integral part of India, it enjoyed a special status in terms of a separate Constitution that it had, distinctly different from that of India. Why a separate Constitution that gave Kashmir a special status different from the rest of India of which it was an 'integral' part? Circumstances, leading to this anamolous situation, date back to 1947 when India was partitioned constitute a well-documented fact of history. After over 60 years of independence, the question which begged the answer was whether this was a permanent arragement; if not, why hadn't the situation been reviewed? Was India ever going to do it? What had been preventing the people of Kashmir from integrating with the mainstream India? Neither the Manmohan government nor the ones preceding it had an answer. Not even a bad one! It would not be too uncharitable to point out that the powers that be in Delhi simply lacked the gumption or political nerve to address the issue and had kept it in cold storage!
Man for Mission Improbable
With its very survival in jeopardy in the face of opposition from Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf party and the party of the populist cleric Tahirul Qadri, the Nawaz Sharif government, already pitted against the Pak army and Inter Services Intelligence Agency, is extremely unlikely to address the K - issue in the near future. Despite the forthcoming Assembly elections in four Indian states, it would be again up to Mr.Modi to take the next step to unravel the imbroglio. While doing so, it would be pertinent to reckon the following factors:
● That Pakistan's house is not in order is India's biggest advantage. This should, however, not be allowed to degenerate or disappear by having discordant notes from different quarters within India. All political parties should have a consensus, the bottom line of which should be "Kashmir is an integral part of India and it's territorial integrity is not subject to compromise". The consensus should be declared India's national policy and binding on all individuals, parties or movements and legally enforceable.
● Kashmir is a bilateral issue which is to be settled between India and Pakistan, without the involvement of any other country, political party or movement from either country.
● Individuals, political parties or movements in India seeking separation of Kashmir in clear violation of the government's policy on Kashmir, should be imprisoned on charges of sedition and disqualified from participating in any further political activity.
● To this end, an immediate review of Kashmir's place in India's political system, it's Constitution and the special status accorded by the country's Constitution should be undertaken. This would evidently cause much chagrin among certain sections or groups of people in Kashmir. Necessary constitutional amendments and laws should be introduced.
Only by having such an irrevocable policy could India hope to have an unassailable position at talks with Pakistan. A divided house would weaken India's position. For undertaking the political exercise delineated above, a steely vision and iron will are required. Mr.Narendra Modi is the only Indian leader today who has the popular mandate and political sagacity to rise up to the occasion and unravel the Kashmir imbroglio. Only after this seemingly improbable mission is achieved, would Kashmir emerge as a truly integral part of India in all senses of the term, safe from the grubby hands of the avaricious neighbour.
© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman