Bangkok Conference on Kashmir: Opinion leaders or mercenaries
by Hari Om on 23 Oct 2010 14 Comments

It is an established fact that the root cause of trouble in Kashmir is Pakistan. Islamabad has been fomenting trouble in Jammu & Kashmir since its creation. It waged four full-scale wars on India in 1947-1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 in order to grab Kashmir, but faced humiliating defeats at the hands of the Indian Army and a determined Indian leadership. There have been many other acts of omission and commission.


Islamabad has been carrying on a low-intensity proxy war since 1989 to achieve the same objective, again without any success. It has additionally been soliciting the support of foreign countries, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, in order to accomplish its anti-India design and capture the Indian Jammu & Kashmir, but has not gained anything substantial, notwithstanding the fact that both these countries have by and large sided with an aggressive Pakistan. The formal position of the United States and United Kingdom, besides the European Union, is that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and they could play the role of mediator if both countries so wish.


It is also an established fact that Kashmiri leaders belonging to the separatist camp and “mainstream” political outfits like the National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) draw their inspiration from Pakistan and depend on the dreaded Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and other Pakistan-based terrorist outfits to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir.


The NC and the PDP may say they are against the cult of terror and seek a solution to the so-called Kashmir problem within the Indian constitutional framework. But the truth is that both outfits function as Pakistani agents in Kashmir. The PDP is a votary of what it calls shared sovereignty, joint management, joint control, and so on, and consistently urges New Delhi to take Pakistan on board, arguing that if lasting peace is to be forged in South Asia, Pakistani concerns have to be addressed. What is the Pakistani concern? It wants to de-link Jammu and Kashmir from India and merge it with Pakistan on the ground that the state is a Muslim majority area.


As for the National Conference, its leadership speaks differently on different occasions, depending on the nature of the situation. But one should go by what Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says. He says dialogue between New Delhi and Kashmiri separatists would not produce the desired results unless Pakistan becomes part of the dialogue process. His Oct. 6 accession and merger statement in the Assembly, which has angered and alarmed the nationalist camp in Jammu and elsewhere in the country, clearly establishes that his views are no different from those of the PDP and all other Kashmiri separatists, without exception. (Omar Abdullah then said that the state had only acceded to India and not merged with it, and that the state acceded to India under an ‘agreement’ which he could not place on the floor of the Assembly as there is no agreement, only an irrevocable Instrument of Accession). 


My point is that all Kashmiri leaders, without exception, endorse without reservation the Pakistani viewpoint on Indian Jammu & Kashmir, notwithstanding some minor differences in approach to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. These differences do not merit consideration as the ultimate objective of the Kashmiri leaders is the same: Separation of Jammu & Kashmir from India on the basis of religion or two-nation theory. Their differences may be legitimately construed as part of a meticulous strategy to beguile a weak-kneed and confused New Delhi and obtain political concessions in stages, leading ultimately to the segregation of Jammu & Kashmir from the constitutional and political framework of India.


It would be appropriate to say that the Kashmiri leaders operate from different platforms and speak the same language to create an impression the world over that Kashmiri leaders of all shades of opinion agree on one point: Indian presence in Jammu & Kashmir is unlawful and there exists in the state a political problem that needs to be addressed politically.


Paradoxically, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and others like the uninspiring Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, also uphold this outrageous view. Chidambaram has gone to the extent of telling the three interlocutors (Dileep Padgaonkar, who was once member of Ram Jethmalani’s controversial Kashmir Committee that did its best to persuade New Delhi to accept Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s break-India four-point Kashmir formula); Radha Kumar (a known protagonist of self-rule with some minor modifications in the PDP’s self-rule document) and M.M. Ansari (Central Information Commissioner) that they “have been tasked with a job to chart a course towards finding a political solution and that there are no red lines to the panel.”  


This is one part of the story that seeks to create an impression that Jammu & Kashmir is an unsettled issue and that the Pakistani establishment and Kashmir-based leaders are one as far as their insistence on resolution of the Kashmir problem on political lines is concerned. All of them speak white lies and talk in terms of human rights, overlooking the fact that those who seek political exit from India are the worst kind of human rights violators.


The other side of the story is even more alarming. Both Pakistan and the Kashmiri leaders say day in and day out at every available forum that what has been happening in Kashmir is indigenous and Pakistan has nothing to do with it. Pakistan is innocent; Pakistan is peace-loving; Pakistan believes in cordial relations with India; Pakistan is just and impartial; Pakistan doesn’t believe in expansionist policy; Pakistan is a victim of terrorism; Pakistan only gives moral and political support to “freedom fighters” in Kashmir; Pakistan has never exported terrorism to Jammu and Kashmir; Pakistan has never engineered any kind of infiltration of mercenaries and dreaded terrorists; Pakistan is clean and above-board… In other words, the ongoing separatist movement in Kashmir is utterly indigenous.


One can understand the reasons behind the desperate assertion of Kashmiri rabble-rousers and frustrated separatists, including leaders of the National Conference and the PDP that the prevailing strife in Kashmir is not because of Islamabad; it is “indigenous.” But one fails to understand why our “opinion leaders” contribute to such motivated propaganda unleashed by Pakistan and its agents in Kashmir. Should we take these “opinion leaders” as mercenaries who barter Indian interests for money and tours to foreign countries known for organizing anti-India seminars and conferences? Indeed, they are mercenaries whose single-point agenda is to further the cause of Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists and communalists for their own selfish interests. Almost all of them are belong to the Indian Left that considers India a congregation of nationalities, with each nationality having the right to secede from India. 


Recently, a Track-II Chaopraya Dialogue took place in Bangkok. It was named after what former Pakistani Information Minister and PPP leader Sherry Rehman, who is also president of an Islamabad-based think tank, Jinnah Institute, calls the “turbid, arterial river that runs through the heart of Bangkok.” The Jinnah Institute and an India-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies jointly organized this Track-II dialogue.


According to Rehman, “opinion leaders and policy-makers in India and Pakistan took part in this dialogue on Kashmir.” She would not disclose their names. Reflecting on the role of Indian “opinion leaders” in the dialogue, she commented in the Pakistan Observer: “Indian participants acknowledged that the current trouble in India-administered Kashmir is not because of Pakistan… After official talks came to a halt, we initiated the unofficial dialogue to explore opportunities that the two states fear to publicly approach. At best, informal dialogues help construct confidence-building measures and shape public discourse. At worst, such interactions between foreign policy mandarins, academics, and media mavens from both countries narrow space for conflict through their embrace of ‘rational nationalism.’ But this latest dialogue was unique because opinion leaders from India took the unprecedented step of conceding that the strife in Srinagar - with its moving scenes of young men armed only with stones facing off Indian soldiers, and housewives wailing and protesting against Indian rule - is purely indigenous. As talks progressed, a consensus emerged: India has fueled this crisis by ghettoizing Kashmir as a non-political problem. Instead of attempting to defuse the uprising through political means, New Delhi deployed yet more troops into an already heavily militarized area. Repeated failures to read the pulse of India-administered Kashmir have led to widespread unrest, including previously peaceful areas of Jammu. Long seen merely as the heart of the dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi, some in India are beginning to see that Kashmir now has its own politics, its own identity, and its own genuine aspirations.”


Rehman asserted in her political essay, based on inputs from Indian “opinion leaders,” that “the new, post-jihadist generation has not been radicalized by religion, but by incessant violations of rights and dignity, by the absence of justice, and by the deprivation of amenities and opportunities that are available to Indians. These lost tribes living on the margins of Jawaharlal Nehru’s narrative of plurality have become the unarmed soldiers of the intifada against Indian rule… This time Indian officials bunkered in New Delhi cannot blame the non-violent mass protests in Kashmir, which have claimed at least 100 lives since June, on jihadist thought or on Pakistan. Kashmiris are weary of the curfews, the disappearances, the political disengagement, and the state oppression. They are asking for that most fundamental of liberties: the right to govern themselves.”


The operative part of her essay reads like this: “For its part, at this sensitive moment, Pakistan should do nothing more than press for diplomatic and political support for the aspirations of the Kashmiri people at forums that have failed them in the past. Kashmiris are coming in loud and clear. They want respect. They want peace. They want azadi.”


What does all this indicate? It indicates that India has elements in and outside the political establishment who are helping Pakistan and its agents in Kashmir to beat the Indian nation mercilessly; they are squarely responsible for Indian woes in Kashmir. The Indian nation can tackle Pakistan and separatists in Kashmir in no time, as it has done in the past umpteen times. The real challenge the Indian nation faces today is from Indian mercenaries, most of whom bear Hindu names, viz., Arundhati Roy, Burkha Dutt, Praful Bidwai, Amitabh Mattoo, Kuldip Nayar, Rajinder Sachar, Gautam Navlakha, Vidya Subramanium, Prakash Karat, M.G. Vaidya, Malini Parthasarthy, Madhu Kishwar, etc.


But what do we do with the likes of the Union Home and External Affairs Ministers, who are under the baneful influence of the Congress high command, which can go to any extent to pander to fanatics in the Muslim and Christian communities?

The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research


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