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The Kashmir imbroglio: thinking the unthinkable

DR. VITHAL RAJAN

Could Indian withdrawal from Kashmir initiate the Dulles nightmare of a domino effect?

— File Photo: NISSAR AHMAD

A beautiful Valley in turbulent waters.

Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, the heaviest of the backroom hawks of the Pentagon, Herman Kahn, coined the phrase ‘thinking the unthinkable,' meaning strategies for wiping out the Soviet Union with nukes. Luckily for all of us, Ronald Reagan had a better idea; the same result could be achieved by an undeclared economic war and arms race that would force the communists to scratch themselves out of the tournament.

Can we use similar hardline approaches to review the Kashmir imbroglio? The first question to ask is, do Indians need Kashmir? By Indians, we mean the ordinary aam-janta of the poor, and the struggling middle classes. The answer clearly is a resounding ‘No'! There are no ‘resources' of any kind from Kashmir, the supply of which is crucial for our well-being. The American people are dependent on oil from the Middle East, and that is the real reason for their hegemonic control over the region. Indians have no such reason to retain control of Kashmir.

If Indian troops are out of Kashmir, would it jeopardise the security of Indians? Not really. The mountainous barrier between the Kashmir Valley and India is a better defensive line to guard than the present long untenable frontier of the Line of Control. Should we be there in Kashmir against all odds out of moral obligation, because the people of the Valley are dependent on our protection? ‘No', is the answer once again, because the people there do not consider themselves ‘Indians,' and wish all Indians to go to the devil, perhaps unjustly, but that is the end result of poor governance, high-handedness, cruelty, and a bankrupt diplomatic policy.

Could Indian withdrawal from Kashmir initiate the Dulles nightmare of a domino effect, with all Indian Muslims rising up as one man to demand more partitions? While few Indian Muslims have any reason to thank the Indian state for the non-benign neglect they have received over 60 years, they are spread thinly everywhere and new partitions are a geographical impracticality. Would withdrawal increase militancy? Most probably, because discontent against corrupt, elitist, and non-democratic rule is widespread, not only among Muslims but across a wide section of the poor and middle-classes. Hanging on to the great economic resource drain of Kashmir will only worsen the situation. The government must cauterise the Kashmir wound, tighten military spending, and strictly prevent any more human rights abuses, to regain if possible, modern standards of governance.

Let us ask another hard question. What will be lost along with Kashmir? An unreal and bloated sense of self-importance. It has taken Great Britain 60 years to realise it is no longer the centre of an empire. Indian rulers have yet to realise they are no longer in charge of ‘the jewel in the crown.' Indians are not the leaders of Asia — the Chinese are.

If India wishes to be considered a good second to China, it should not fritter away its resources on nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, or Commonwealth Games. India should use its scarce resources where they are most needed, to help people raise themselves out of poverty.

And India should not play dirty pool with China, and harbour Tibetan governments-in-exile. Let it not be forgotten that one of the causes of the India-China border war of 1962 was the covert activities of the CIA from Indian bases. Yes, it is sad, the Buddha lived in India 2,500 years ago, but none are true to his vision; nor are the Tibetans. India should mend its fences pronto with China, and accept the glaring fact that they are bigger, and better — just as it wants Pakistan to acknowledge its leadership.

Would not letting Kashmir go give the palm to Pakistan, India's inveterate enemy? On the contrary, it might catastrophically weaken its real enemy, and the real enemy of the people of Pakistan, and dismantle its offensive structures. The Pakistani people have been held in thrall by a small corrupt military dictatorship, itself a captive of its mafia-style intelligence heads, who in turn are in cahoots with a medieval and benighted tribal terrorist force, which in turn is living on the bounty of drug dealers.

For the last 50 years or so America, for its own Byzantine reasons, has maintained this whole awful structure which oppresses the people of Pakistan and suppresses the development trends that are fast changing the face of Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Iran, and even Iraq till the Americans set the clock back a few decades. Will America discontinue support for this militaristic cabal now that they have experienced the result of their policies in 9/11?

Unlikely, for they are too Micawberish to change course. They will keep hoping that by supporting the Pakistan military, its ISI, and through it the Taliban, while at the same time giving alms to the unhappy Karzai, somehow something will turn up. They are dead wrong as they always have been. Nothing awaits them or India but sorrow.

The Pakistan military has propped up its power over people by rattling the bogey of Indian threat. If Indians end the Kashmir siege unilaterally, the Pakistani military will lose currency with their oppressed people. Yes, but India should not do it stupidly, or in a shamefaced manner.

Since everyone else in reality has been fishing in Kashmir's troubled waters, let India make the security of the Valley an international issue which requires international guarantees from everyone else, the U.S. and NATO, China, Pakistan, Russia, and all other nearby neighbours. Let India insist on a U.N. Peace Keeping Force, and annual subventions from Pakistan and others, including India, to help the Kashmiris. India could insist that South Asia should be made a nuclear weapons-free zone, retaining crushing military superiority. Let it ask for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to be simultaneously liberated, and since the Pakistani military cannot possibly accept that demand without immediately abdicating all power, India might have to redraw the frontiers, absorbing Jammu and Ladakh into India without any special status. Whatever the final shape of the outcome, India must be proactive in demanding an immediate international settlement of a problem created by Nehru.

(The writer's email is vithal.rajan@gmail.com)

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