by Badri Raina
First published in the Hindu June 2, 2001
by Badri Raina
First published in the Hindu June 2, 2001
IT IS a good thing that India has now invited Pakistan’s chief executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for talks. After the unimaginative bumbling of the last six or eight months, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and the chieftains in the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) must avoid feeling shamefaced about having come off the high- horse – which, of course, they have. One would also like to believe that this new course has not been adopted just to please `international opinion’ (read the American establishment). Simultaneously, the Government of India, and especially the many extra-brazen BJP spokespersons, must avoid replicating the war- mongering rant which some erstwhile High Commissioners to Pakistan are currently, and repeatedly, dispensing over premier media channels. The rant has been sounding along the following lines: O.K., so you have been saying you are ready to talk anywhere, anytime; now we have called your bluff, so talk, but not about Kashmir first. And if you fail to follow the Indian Government’s blue-print for talks, be prepared for `tough steps’. These are gentlemen who were full of applause at Pokhran II, but subsequently do not seem to have the acumen to recognise that no real tough steps are available to India after that tactless event.
As is painfully evident everyday, the present Indian Government is young in governance but, hopefully, it is picking up some salutary lessons. The first of these must be never to suppose the `enemy’, however contemptible, to be obtuse. Gen. Musharraf is hardly fool enough not to realise that the Indian establishment has eaten crow, or else why would it descend to talking while `cross-border terrorism’ is still very much on. He can also be trusted to judge that with respect to Jammu and Kashmir India is indeed faced with a bigger problem than Pakistan. Yes, Kashmiris in Pakistan-occupied areas may have no real freedom, they are, nonetheless, not up in arms. Our stakes in that unfortunate State, however, impinge crucially on the very character of the Indian state and polity. Furthermore, the complacently hardline delusion that Pakistan, riven with internal problems, is about to collapse as a state must be ejected as a policy input. Very few states in recent history have collapsed as we expect Pakistan to collapse everyday, and so long as a Pakistani collapse remains inimical to neo-imperialist designs such a thing is unlikely to happen. Even where such efforts have been made – and how – the results have surprised the sheriffs of international virtue: Iraq and Mr. Saddam Hussein, for example, offer trenchant evidence of this reality. We may like to believe that American commitment to `democracy’ constitutes some overriding metaphysical factor in our favour, but such has not been the history of America’s international relations. Indeed, whether it has been ours is equally a matter for introspection.
If and when, therefore, Gen. Musharraf arrives, India must put some honest cards on the table. Clearly, no Government in India can allow the Valley to join Pakistan for the simple and ineluctable reason that such an event could spell the collapse of the secular state in India by lending credence to the `two- nation’ theory and, inferentially, providing justification for the notion of a `Hindu Rashtra’. As to `independence’ for contiguous areas in India and Pakistan along communal principles, the same argument applies. Such `independence’, one ventures to prognosticate, can eventually translate into one of two possible results: either the `Talibanisation’ of Kashmir, or its conversion into an imperialist enclave, or both. Those factions in the Hurriyat Conference which hold that the problem in the Valley is `political’ rather than a religious must pick up the courage to envisage the likely fate of ethnic Kashmiri Muslims in a Pakistan where the dominant Punjabis brutalised and decimated the erstwhile eastern wing, and have effectively colonised the `muhajirs’, the Sindhis, the Baluchis, and the Pathans of the NWFP. Indeed, conceding secession in Kashmir will not have replicating consequences in other Indian regions alone but in Musharraf’s Pakistan itself. In telling him so, the Indian Government will only be underscoring what he must already be sensible enough to realise. All over the world, religious identity by itself has failed to furnish viable nationhood, not to speak of a viable state, and any suggestion that this need not be true of Kashmir must be categorically rejected.
In this context one is aware of one section of well-intentioned `radical’ opinion in India which tends to base its notion of the freedoms of peoples here and there on the politics of sub- national identities. often such notions of freedom seem both abstract and oblivious of the consequences of fractious identity assertion. The recent and continuing history of Yugoslavia offers the most painful paradigm of what can happen here, not to speak of places such as Rwanda. Nor is it clear that decrying the nation-state is not a procedure which effectively plays into the hands of trans-national interests who hold neither the nation- state, except their own, nor identity sacrosanct. It should also be recognised that the worst violators of human rights (the United States, according to no less than Amnesty International) tend to deploy the human rights argument disingenuously to further corporate global interests and then merrily trample on the human rights of the vast masses of the globally immiserated. In passing, one would hope that in all this there is food for reconsiderations on behalf of Kashmiri Pandit groups which desire a return to the Valley but along narrow, sectarian lines. It seems ironic that while Indian Muslims outside Kashmir seem fully cognisant of the meaning of the Kashmir imbroglio for them and for secular India, the highly literate Kashmiri Pandit groups should rather fail to realise the meaning of Kashmir for Republican India, and the meaning of their own role in the process.
If it be the case that Gen. Musharraf refuses the validity of the constraints outlined above, our problems with Pakistan are likely to be prolonged until, perhaps, a new concatenation of global realities overtakes the India-Pakistan logjam. One does not know what international considerations Gen. Musharraf may bring with him as shaping input, or whether these will outweigh the `jehadi’ compulsions within Pakistan. Should, however, the LoC become a basis for negotiation at some point, a departure may emerge. However, it is the compounding political failure of the Indian establishment within Kashmir which calls for rethink and correction. The `autonomy’ resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly had offered a substantive opportunity to the Government of India to alter the character of political possibilities in that State. At that time, however, `autonomy’ based on the specific and special provisions of the Accession Papers and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 seemed to Mr. Vajpayee’s Cabinet too excessive a demand to be entertained, even if piloted by one of the NDA constituents, the National Conference. Having rejected that demand of the elected Assembly, the Government of India got inexplicably busy foregrounding the APHC. Now, since the Hurriyat Conference seems to have refused to settle for anything less than `autonomy’, or indeed talk at all, the wheel has come full circle.
It is tragic that any groundswell that may have then existed for the `autonomy’ line has since been largely frittered away. And yet there is no go but to acknowledge, finally, the special features of Kashmir’s accession to India and to make such acknowledgement, painstakingly, a workable basis for transformative politics within Kashmir. The recently concluded, but not sufficiently emphasised, panchayat elections throughout the State in which between 60 and 80 per cent people voted offers solid ground for such transformation. Equally forcefully must be emphasised the requirement that `autonomy’ for the State must be accompanied by devolutionary mechanism for all regions of the State along non-sectarian lines.
(The writer is Reader, Department of English, Kirori Mal College, New Delhi.)