Time for a policy shift, not to bleed and weep
by Amitabh Tripathi on 03 Oct 2010 5 Comments

The full blown crisis in Kashmir has not been averted, but we are being told that the Government of India has managed it from getting out of hand. Yet if we see the ground realities, we will be highly disappointed. There were media reports that the Cabinet Committee on Security will eventually move to curtail the powers of the armed forces by scaling down the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir. It appears that the all-party delegation to J&K has succumbed to the propaganda of the Islamists and the non-performing Omar Abdullah government that the crisis in Kashmir is in some way is related to the Army’s special powers.


In this situation, we need to analyse the scenario in which the armed forces have been made the scapegoat and no one openly of the reasons which paved the way for the grim situation prevailing in Kashmir.


To begin with, the Congress party is a party without ideology, which believes in status quo and appeasement on various fronts. Since the 1930s, the Congress leadership has taken the approach of not going in for any solution without appeasing every party. The current situation in Kashmir cannot be seen is isolation as Congress and its media management is trying to portray the problem as a law and order issue which can be solved with some cosmetic steps, when the fact is that Kashmir is a symptom of larger problems that will emerge in the near future.


Congress has never realized the fact the problem of J&K has historical roots and since independence we have parroted the lien Kashmir is an integral part of India, but have never tried to connect J&K with rest of the country. We never taught in our history books that Kashmir is integral to India because of a historical, cultural and spiritual connection.


The Amarnath yatra crisis of 2008 and resultant polarization was an issue of nationalist vs. anti-nationalist elements, but the Congress party and media portrayed it as a communal issue. These anti-national elements burnt the Tiranga and chanted slogans of Azadi, but were treated with kid gloves, when those marching with the Tiranga chanting Bharat Mata ki jai and Har Har Mahadev were treated as trouble-makers of the communal fringe.


The current situation in Kashmir has roots in the Amarnath Yatra agitation and the attitude of the Congress on that issue. Congress has never defined the country as a cultural entity and has always defined it within the prism of the British colonialists, viz., as a federation of various small states with religious, ethnic, linguistic plurality, which factors are not relevant to national building and are rather regressive factors which create rifts among the groups.


Because of this attitude, Congress views any movement for Hindu nationalism or cultural and spiritual integrity with suspicion this is true of other groups as well. The present dilemma of Congress in Kashmir is part of this approach. The fear of the role of culture and spirituality in the polity has led Congress to treat Hindu nationalists as a threat to the plurality of India, and the 2008 Amarnath Yatra agitation was also defined by it in this manner. Congress made up its mind to stand firmly behind the separatists and give full support to the PDP. This was an historical mistake by Congress, which emboldened the separatists-cum-Islamists who have been able to divorce the cultural and spiritual integrity of J&K from the rest of India and converting it into a mere political problem.


Separatists-cum-Islamists know well that the Indian state has set a precedent for future governments and the Kashmir issue and has lost leverage in Kashmir. Beyond Article 370, only cultural and spiritual connections inhibit the separatist-Islamist agenda to separate Kashmir valley from India. Congress finds it has lost its leverage and is totally helpless vis-à-vis the separatists-cum-Islamists.


Attitude of Omar Abdullah


The attitude of Omar Abdullah is responsible for creating a political vacuum by trying to play to the galleries of the ruling party and the opposition. In Yasser Arafat style, Omar Abdullah tried to keep New Delhi in good humour via Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who projects him as the face of secular nationalist Muslims who aver that Kashmir is an integral part of India; Omar is projected as the sole custodian protecting the interests of the Indian state there.


At the same time, the Chief Minister tried to keep separatists-cum-Islamists in good humour by a stand of soft separatism, which is what the demand for Autonomy and withdrawal of AFSPA amount to. Omar Abdullah also tried to play the role of his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah and alienated the opposition PDP which had long been playing into the hands of separatists-cum-Islamists with its demand for an open border, joint currency, and support for Intifada. That is why Hurriyat leaders sidelined in the 2008 elections suddenly became so prominent that Islamists like Syed Ali Shah Gilani could dictate the terms in the Valley.


International politics


The situation in Afghanistan has a bearing on developments in J&K. President Barack Obama has declared withdrawal of US armed forces from Afghanistan in 2011 and this has been taken by Pakistan and its Islamist and ISI allies as their chance to shift their Kashmir policy. They want to exploit the US as much as they can on the issue of ensuring its dignified withdrawal from Afghanistan and Al Qaeda and Taliban in its territory. The US has been stuck in a situation like the 1980s when it was fighting against Soviet Russia and was totally dependent on Pakistan for Jihad against Soviet army.


Then there is China. A few weeks ago a leading American newspaper published a story that Pakistan-occupied Gilgit and Baltistan was full of Chinese soldiers and much infrastructure development work is going on there. Indian reacted sharply to this development which was initially denied by Pakistan, but later accepted. This has given a new dimension to the Kashmir issue.


China has an interest in Kashmir as the underbelly of India and an issue which most affects India’s pride and stature as an emerging world power. China has designs for Asia and does not want to confront Washington at this time and is therefore targetting India to push its agenda of Asian hegemony. When President Barack Obama met his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao a few moths ago in Beijing, they discussed Kashmir and Obama who is constrained by the economic crisis at home, wanted to appease China at any cast. Sensing US constraints, Beijing is pushing its anti-India platform to show India as a weak nation much involved with domestic problems and without the potential to become a superpower. It wants Washington to abandon India and form a China-Pakistan-Saudi Arabia nexus, which US cannot be part of for reasons that need not detain us here. The US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are looking for new partners as Islamism has made all apprehensive of each other. America is shying away from problems and pulling back on various fronts, and this has created a vacuum in global politics which China wants to exploit.


China knows that a multipolar world has many stakeholders and gives priority to trade and economic relations. Some months ago, when Indian foreign minister S M Krishna was rebuked and insulted by his Pakistani counterpart, it became obvious that Pakistan would not be dictated by US alone and that China has become an active partner of this rogue state in creating problems for India.


The solution


The solution lies in the Congress party reversing its attitude towards Kashmir and seeing Indian problems in totality, taking Hindu nationalist into confidence in arriving at a solution. The abrogation of Article 370 must be seen in this perspective. We must regain our cultural and spiritual leverage in Kashmir which has emboldened the separatists-cum-Islamists to define Kashmir as merely a political problem.


Our leadership must show courage and strength to have more leverage in Pakistan and China by implementing the Parliament resolution to make POK part of India and reversing our policy on Tibet. All this calls for a shift in our foreign policy and definition of nationalism. Are we ready for it? If not, we should wait to be bled...


The writer is a Hindu social activist and promoter of the Indo-Israel Friendship Forum

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