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January 22, 2020

Jammu & Kashmir: past and future


January 22, 2020

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is the unfinished agenda of the Partition. This has been consistently stated for the last seven decades. It may go on for another seventy years unless a drastically different approach is not evolved to solve the problem.

In order look into the future, it is imperative to examine the past and see what progress if any has been achieved so far. In the events of past, we need to look if there is any light at the end of the dark tunnel.

At all talks held so far both countries have repeatedly emphasised their entrenched stances resulting in a stalemate. Agreement to hold further talks was trumpeted as a progress.

The problem of J&K may be according to the Indian narrative a bilateral issue. However, if the consequences of a conflict between two nuclear armed neighbors can be global, it is surely the duty of the Security Council to undertake serious meaningful steps for just resolution of this nuclear flash point.

Both uneasy neighbours have no doubt being involved before in negotiations. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Swaran Singh held series of rounds of negotiations in the aftermath of 1962 war between India and China.

India suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of China. Under American pressure and in order to prevent any hostilities on Pak-India border a round of talks was held. Alas, the leadership of Pakistan missed the golden opportunity to liberate Kashmir.

Leadership at that time had no courage or vision like that of Bulent Ecevit of Turkey.

Ecevit took a decisive bold step to liberate the Turkish Cypriot. The puppet regime of Greek Cypriots announced Enosis. Turkey intervened and liberated Turkish Cypriots from the tyranny of the of the Greek Cypriot government and they have lived peacefully since then. The talks between ZAB and SS ended as expected and yielded no results.

Pandit Nehru in the fag years of his life realised the perils of unsolved Kashmir dispute. He released Sh. Abdullah from detention and sent him to Pakistan to explore the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

He did foresee the possibility of an armed conflict. Unfortunately Pandit Nehru expired while Sh. Abdullah was in Pakistan. Sh. Abdullah returned to India. With passing away of Pandit Nehru, any hope of peaceful resolution met its end.

Operation Gibralter was launched without proper homework or strategic planning. It was a failure and led to the 1965 war. The war was a stalemate. USSR stepped into the quagmire and got involved in the peace process. Tashkent declaration was signed to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, Shastri expired suddenly while he was still in Tashkent. Much fuss was created about the secret clauses of the pact. ZAB exploited it for political capital but the secrets were never disclosed.

The war of 1971 drastically changed the military balance in the region. India intoxicated by its victory was bent upon extracting its pound of flesh. It was indeed a credit to the negotiating skills of ZAB, that in the most adverse circumstances, Shimla pact was signed. It led to the release of POWs.

Musharraf after misadventure in Kargil became a peacenik and Vajpayeee a veteran of the independence struggle against the British came close to signing the Delhi declaration. It was torpedoed by the people of the South Block of the Indian capital.

With the election of the BJP government and the hawkish attitude of its leader there has been hardening of the Indian stance. This has much to do with the domestic politics. Pakistan bashing is a favorite theme of the Indian politicians especially from the Hindi belt. Victory in the recent election and the overall majority of the BJP has bolded India to take unprecedented steps. Abrogation of articles 370 and 35 is like wagging the dog in the hope of making yourself popular. India in its folly thinks it has solved the issue. Liberation struggles with a high input of religious fervor are impossible to extinguish. Uprisings do not start from nowhere. The people behind any uprising have been deprived of basic human rights. A stage comes when there is nothing to lose except shatters of slavery. Sooner the Indian government acknowledges this reality the better the it is for the region. The new elected government in Pakistan soon after the oath taking offered hand of friendship towards its western neighbor. It was rebuffed by the arrogant Indian leadership.

You cannot shake hand with a clenched fist.

In such trying circumstances even to think of a way forward is surely a dream. It is naïve of India if it dreams of wiping Pakistan from the map. It may contemplate such an action in a fit of lunacy. However, the consequences of such an action could be catastrophic not only for the region but for the whole world.

Pakistan may be wiped out but India would permanently be disfigured and unfit for habitation for thousands of years.

There cannot be a military solution. The MAD theory ensured a cold peace between two super powers. Worst is the situation in the subcontinent with proximity and hardly any reaction time

In case of emergency, the USSR and the USA had channels of communications even at the height of the Cuban crisis. We have a state of no war, no peace. Hoping and exploring for any progress in these frightening circumstances is like a miracle to happen. However, it is not a Gordian Knott.

A journey of thousand miles begins with the first step. The first step is the most difficult and crucial. It should be in the right direction. Both countries must realise the futility of a military confrontation. Otherwise this dispute would keep hanging like a sword of Democles over the whole region.

Both countries must draw a set of rules and agree on basics and principles. The agreement must be acceptable to the people of J&K. Military solutions are never everlasting. Imposition of an unjust solution sows the seeds of further conflict.

Unjust treaties like that of Versailles at the end of the first world war led to the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Germany and Italy.

If both countries agree that the whole of J&K is a disputed region and its final status has to be determined, it can be a solid, sound and hopeful beginning. Negotiations may take years. It is better to sit and talk across the table than to send messages by missiles. Negotiations should better be held in a neutral country away from the glare of media.

There should be a complete media blackout. No communiqué should be released until white smoke is visible from the chimney of the hotel. In any negotiations it is wise to leave the thorniest issue for the end. In case of J&K sovereignty is the most contentious point. Both sides must realise that it is not a real estate dispute. It concerns the basic human rights of people directly affected and in line of fire. It can be left to the last days. Both countries need to sincerely move forward without any preconditions or pretext to terminate the peace initiative. No event however serious should distract from the bigger objective. There are state and non-state actors whose interests and survival is linked to continuation of the hostilities and confrontation.

Let there be a free un interrupted flow of ideas, goods services as well as people across the Line of Control. Let there be several openings like Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate mingling of people from both sides of LOC. If it works well without hiccoughs there can be similar relaxation of visa policy on the international border.

Tourism is one of the biggest mean that can change the attitude of people and open vistas of peace. This will over a period of time, cool the tempers and passions. Let there be a decade or two when the benefits of the tsunami of peace floods the whole region and brings a positive change in quality of life of people.

The goodwill generated by the Kartarpur opening is a good example of peace initiative. Once people meet, see and talk, clouds of distrust evaporate in thin air. The merchants of doom and gloom will be out of business. Basic problems of health, education, sanitation and nutrition are identical on both sides. The obstacle is the attitude of the people. Brains have been washed by fanatic anchors to the limits of absurdity.

Once the full dividends of a peaceful decade are transparently obvious the cardinal issues can be addressed. In the history of mankind lines have never been permanent. The people of J&K then must be a given an opportunity to exercise and determine their future in a free, fair and democratic atmosphere. Both countries must respect the decision and voice of the people of J&K and live happily ever after.