Giving Away Kashmir?
When Kathwari was invited to India along with his proposals ‘Kashmir: A Way Forward’, it marked a major change in the strategic perspectives of Indian state. Kathwari plan was a rechristened Dixon Formula. It envisaged a quasi independent or eventually independent Greater Muslim Kashmir. To Dixon, doing this was completing the ‘unfinished agenda’ of partition of India.
Was the participation of pro India leadership in Jammu and Kashmir in the Round Table Conference along with the separatist leadership sought to give an impression of involving everyone so that the compromise already worked out could be presented as a fate accompli to the wider national opinion?
Nehru from the inception was opposed to an Independent Kashmir. He had outrightly communicated to Muslim leaders of Kashmir that, “he would prefer to hand over the State to Pakistan on a platter rather than support its independence and allow it to be turned into a centre of international intrigue and danger to both India and Pakistan.” It is not to say that Nehru and his successors till Vajpayee considered independence or quasi independence for Jammu and Kashmir as a political blasphemy. There is a lot of evidence available to suggest that Nehru and his successors in Congress flirted with these options but predominantly from a tactical perspective. For strategic planners in India counterpoising Independence or Autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir to counter pro-Pakistan sentiment in the State has always been a very attractive option. They always believed that keeping these options alive, and also nourishing them would provide India leverage to wrong-foot Pakistan. Bereft of the profound understanding of the issues involved and oblivious of the implications they flaunted this maneuver more often than less as a strategic necessity… By accepting independence or quasi independence options as possible concepts for clinching a deal with Pakistan, India has virtually checkmated itself. Pakistan is now publicly claim that they are actually agreeing to India’s position and so there should be no delay in a final settlement.
The formulation that Two Nation theory can be countered only by a Three Nation theory is turning out to be a fatal self goal. Both theories are ideologically one and the same. Cutting the Two Nation politics into regional or ethnic denominators does not resolve its basic incompatibility with a state based on recognition of plural diversity on the principle of equality. Breaking away of Bangladesh from Pakistan only solved the problem of power sharing within the frame work of the bigger Pakistan. It did not resolve the conflict with an inclusive secular nation because it defined its separation from India on the same principle of two nation theory.
The symbiotic relation which Pakistan evolved between Pro-Pak and pro-independence/autonomy politics in Jammu and Kashmir could not be properly comprehended within the framework of the strategic perspective of India. This perspective visualized harnessing of Muslim identity politics and constitutionally fortifying Muslim sub-nationalism in the State as not only an antidote to Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir but also an effective device to mobilize Muslim vote bank in rest of India. It considered Muslim communalism in India as merely a reaction to the tyranny of Hindu majority. The entire approach over the years has become not only a device to circumvent the issue of Muslim communalism in India but to protect and nourish it.
Despite all this, till Kathwari’s visit, Indian State had not totally closed its eyes to the incompatibility of an autonomous sphere of Muslim interests in Jammu and Kashmir with the secular nation building. That explains why over the years the process of erosion of Article 370 remained alive. Extension of jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India, CAG, fundamental rights and many other central laws was an expression to dissolve this incompatibility. A dominant section of Indian State and the political establishment never agreed to elevate Article 370 from a transitory provision to a permanent feature of Indian Constitution. The strategic paradigm of fortifying Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India to negate the appeal of two nation theory has lead to the creation of broadly two sections within Indian State and the political establishment.
One such section always had a subversive motivation and visualized recognition to Muslim sub-nationalism in Jammu and Kashmir as a space to build a Greater Muslim Kashmir and use this to impair the indivisible unity of Indian Republic from within. This section always wanted Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir to be alive and kicking to use it as a cardinal insult to balkanize India along its sub- national diversity.
Many times Government of India seemed to facilitate the separatist agenda by maintaining stoic silence even when the Muslim leadership of the valley put forward misplaced constitutional arguments…
The second segment constitutes of those who gave more credence to the tactical value of harnessing Muslim sub-nationalism but only to weaken the appeal of Pakistan in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. While keeping the affront to Muslim identity politics to the minimum this section however did try to neutralize the disruptive potential of special status of Jammu and Kashmir to the unity of India. This group nourished a misplaced wish that eventually Indian democracy will prove to be a stronger force and Muslim identity politics in the state will loose its relevance. This group has premised their approach on the line that Muslim communalism has not to be contested; it has to be given minimum affront and the best choice is to circumvent it.
Over the years there has been a ping pong battle between these two mindsets, one seeking to delegitimise the religious identity politics, the other doing everything to consolidate Greater Muslim Kashmir. When Muslim majority Doda was carved out of the Hindu majority Jammu province in 1948, followed by carving out of Shia Muslim majority Kargil out of Buddhist majority Ladakh, we were witnessing the counter responses to the process of fuller integration of Jammu and Kashmir unleashed not from Pakistan but from within. Nehruvian strategic paradigm kept this internal conflict in the nation building process alive.
The promotion of Kathwari plan by the Vajpayee government marked the demise of this strategic perspective. The new paradigm recognizes the three nation proposals of independence or semi-independence of Kashmir as a solution to Indo-Pak conflict rather than a tactical antidote to the two nation vision. Recognizing Pakistan as a partner in settling the future of the only Muslim majority state of India has not only made the settlement on Jammu and Kashmir as the unfinished agenda of partition but opened afresh the Muslim question in India. The support extended by eminent Muslims like AG Noorani or Shabana Azmi or Wajahat Habibullah to the separatist cause in Kashmir have the sinister forebodings of the new confidence of a section of Indian Muslim elite to question the very unity of the nation. Vajpayee’s strategic vision underlined that the frontline Muslim state of Pakistan can live in harmony with a secular and Hindu majority India. This shift in India’s strategic perspective is of the nature of a mutation. From visualizing the creation of an Independent Greater Muslim Kashmir as more dangerous than its secession to Pakistan and a potential hot bed of international intrigue, the new perspective seems to view the creation of the same as a bridge of peace between Pakistan – a confessional ideological State – and India a secular state.
Giving Away Kashmir
Manmohan Singh’s tenure has carried the strategic shift further away from the Nehru-Gandhi era. Peace with Pakistan at any price seems to be getting internalized in a way that it has become more than a strategic necessity – an ideological imperative. The subversive entrenchment within, emboldened by its increasing reach and sway, is gradually succeeding in harnessing the might and wherewithal of ‘a State’ in its bid to mount concerted attack on the Nation.
The three Round Table Conferences (RTCs) and the meetings of the various Working Groups, and the conclusions there of, are manifest examples of how Indian State is made to invest in creating a Greater Muslim Kashmir.
The Working Group on Confidence Building Measures recommended abrogation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), relief not only to the victims of terrorism but the families of the killed terrorists…
A section of pro-India participants, invited to the First Round Table Conference, did debate the wisdom of participating in it. They had legitimate apprehensions that the conduct of such a conference was in fact an exercise to accord democratic legitimacy to certain concessions that Government of India was ready to make to Pakistan and the separatists in the Valley. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already had series of very high profile meetings with a section of Separatist leadership. These meetings, lasting for hours, along with the top most officers of Government of India had catapulted the separatist leadership into the national and international limelight once again at a time when their credibility on the ground was at the lowest.
The Chenab Solution, which had prominently come to the public realm after Vajpayee invited Kathwari and sent his special emissary Sh RK Mishra to start a dialogue process with Pakistan, had attained the stature of a possible solution considered more by the Government of India than by Pakistan. Was the participation of pro India leadership in Jammu and Kashmir in the Round Table Conference along with the separatist leadership sought to give an impression of involving everyone so that the compromise already worked out could be presented as a fate accompli to the wider national opinion? Retrospectively this apprehension seems to have been well founded. At that time however the opinion that Round Table Conference accorded legitimacy to the diversity of political opinion in the State and presented an opportunity to show the separatists their position in over all political environment of the state clinched the argument against dissociating from the RTC.
Through the three RTC’s and the Working Groups, GoI pushed through all such proposals, which have critically strengthened the processes for the creation of Greater Muslim Kashmir. A process of reconciliation with separatism on their terms has by now been firmly grounded through a series of administrative, quasi legal and political maneuvers. These measures are such that they do not need a legislative sanction of the Parliament and as such are not dependent upon the political consensus.
The deliberations in RTC’s and Working Groups amply reflect a deliberation in implementing an agenda which had already been unleashed. The very architecture of the RTC’s was developed in a way were Government of India was placed as a neutral arbitrator between pro-India opinion and those who wanted the change the status-quo of the relation between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India. Many times Government of India seemed to facilitate the separatist agenda by maintaining stoic silence even when the Muslim leadership of the valley put forward misplaced constitutional arguments or historically unfounded and false propositions undermining the very accession of the state with India and attacking its sovereignty. When none other than Omar Abdullah said in the very first RTC that, “we have signed only instrument of accession and not instrument of merger,” it begged for a proper and strong response from the highest levels in the central government, because the statement has profound implications. In the same meeting the leader of PDP and then Cabinet Minister in the state government, Sh Muzaffar Beigh said, “Article 370 had a treaty status”. He opined that this treaty had developed after an understanding between Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and Constituent Assembly of India both of which as per him were sovereign bodies. This blatant falsehood and sinister twist was never contested by Government of India.
…why are propaganda campaigns like the suspension of aid to Jammu and Kashmir by the World Bank, because it has suddenly woken up to recognize Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute, left uncontested?
A section of Indian State and political establishment seem to be allowing blatant falsehoods aimed at wrecking the sovereignty of the nation in Jammu and Kashmir in such a way, so that public at large not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in rest of India, as well as internationally, is convinced that India has no case in Jammu and Kashmir. The deliberations in the Working Groups were also conducted in a manner to undermine all legitimate imperatives of national interests. Government of India is mirroring the attitudes which the British Government adopted in the build-up to the partition of India.
The Working Group on Confidence Building Measures never discussed anti-terrorism measures as an important confidence building measure for the return of normalcy in the state. It did not at all debate the relevance of anti-terrorism laws in the State in the light of the ongoing terrorist campaign. It did not even cursorily address the human rights violation in the State due to terrorism. The Working Group focused primarily on the State specific aspects of human rights violations just as Amnesty International and Asia Watch used to do in 90’s.
The mindset employed can be understood by the written admission of the Working Group on Confidence Building Measures while dealing with the question of internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, “the Working Group concerns itself with the rehabilitation and improvement of conditions of the militancy victims and did not go deeper into the causes or the genesis of the militancy in the state.” The Working Groups followed a clear cut direction to ignore all issues which would bring into focus the issues of ideologically motivated violence in the state and bring the ugly side of armed Muslim separatism in the state to light. Their recommendations were meticulously in line with the separatist demands.
The Working Group on Confidence Building Measures recommended abrogation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), relief not only to the victims of terrorism but the families of the killed terrorists, create conditions for the return of persons to Jammu and Kashmir, who had gone to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Pakistan for training and organizing support for armed separatism etc. etc. Only lip service was rendered to all other issues including the problems faced by refugees, who had come from West Pakistan, while as PoK refugees of 1947 were not even mentioned in the report. The political motivation at work from behind can also be clearly understood by reading some recommendations of the same Working Group. The recommendations state, “To start unconditional dialogue process with militant groups for finding sustainable solutions to the problems of militancy… To examine the role of media in generating an image of the people of the state as to lessen the indignity and suspicion that the people face outside the state”. Working Group on Strengthening Relations across LoC never even considered the issue of illegal economy in the state and impact on it by cross LoC trade. It never discussed the issue of Middle East based business mafia seeking to suck up Jammu and Kashmir into its lap even when the leaders of the business committee in Kashmir have been openly canvassing with their fraternity that cross LoC trade would integrate Kashmir Valley with the economy of not Pakistan but Middle East.
A section from within the government and the political establishment wants to present a compromise in Jammu and Kashmir as a deliverance to the nation from a perpetual confrontation, even if it means abandoning its frontiers, its people in the State,
The Working Group recommendations strengthened the processes already unleashed to bring about economic and political integration of the Muslim majority areas of Jammu with the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir valley. Construction of Mughal Road connecting Poonch-Rajouri with Kashmir through Shopian-Pulwama, and Sinthan top road connecting mountainous Kishtwar district with Anantnag, were given further impetus. The handing over of the national power projects to J&K government assumed new stridency during the RTCs and Working Group meetings and the subsequent recommendations have already created an agenda for developing the infrastructure economic, legal and political for the Greater Muslim Kashmir.
During the deliberations of the third RTC the Muslim representatives from Kargil vehemently opposed the concept of demilitarization and brought to light the humane role played by Indian security establishment for the people living in Kargil, Drass and other remote areas. The entire exposition eventually was ignored and never allowed to be known in the rest of the country primarily because GoI had already embarked upon the process of demilitarization. In the same RTC the then MLA from Bandipore addressed the PM and said, “Sir, why was the All Party Hurriyat Conference Chief Syed Ali Shah Gilani released from jail before this conference. What was the assessment of Government of India? If he was released why was he allowed to address a public rally at the airport itself? What was the assessment of GoI about this? Do you know Sir that Lashkar-e-Toiba flags were flaunted in this rally? Do you know sir what were the slogans raised in the rally? Sir, they raised the slogans-Lashkar Aayi, Lashkar Aayi, Manmohan ki Maut Aayi, Azad ki maut Aayi.” The release of the radical pro-Pakistan Hurriyat leader retrospectively seems to have a purpose. Gilani was perhaps released to raise the din of radical demands outside so that the proposals of Self Rule, Greater Autonomy raised by Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference within RTC appear to be moderate options and could be endorsed.
The attitude of Government of India to Jamaat, Ali Shah Gilani and Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) appears to have a purpose when we see that it is GoI which is investing in pushing through the Kathwari/Dixon plan as a solution. While all other separatist leaders have lost their credibility and potential to mobilize public, it is only Syed Ali Shah Gilani, DeM and Jamaat-e-Islami which can keep the pot boiling in the public and providing the required pressure and momentum to the Government of India for giving concessions. It is well known that whenever Government acted firmly on the ground, the Intifada never took off. And it assumed the proportions of an uprising when Government of India publicly declared retraction of its authority from the ground. Omar Abdullah asked the Prime Minister in one of the RTCs as to why Government of India has always been befriending and encouraging such elements in the State who have a manifest anti India stand on Kashmir.
Giving away of Kashmir is basically a process of recasting the concepts of sovereignty of Indian Nation, its frontiers and its secular vision. The Self Rule Document of PDP, which many believe has been prepared by Government of India, openly talks about redefining the concepts of nation, sovereignty, ethnicity, regions etc etc. When GoI India talks about porous borders, rendering borders irrelevant, settlement between stake holders it is talking about a fundamental ideological shift in the nation building vision. To qualify them as tactical interventions or strategic imperatives right or wrong will be a gross misjudgment.
To those, who pose serious questions about the gradual process of capitulation in Jammu and Kashmir conducted and calibrated by sections of the State, the argument put forward to silence them in the back channels is the intense international pressure brought about by USA and China on India. It is not incidental that one of the first public expressions of a ‘two front’ situation for India has been given by none other than Brijesh Mishra the National Security Advisor to Vajpayee Government and one of the brains which set the peace process with Pakistan rolling. Prodded and patronized by the State a voluntary censorship seems to be in vogue not to discuss the content and quality of this pressure. It is true that even after 9/11 USA has not given any indication that it has changed its policy on Kashmir or Pakistan vis-a-vis India. But it is also true that at a time when it is being parroted from within India that GoI has been forced to enter into a dialogue with Pakistan under US pressure, American government has publicly released the information about terrorists arrested in USA which link the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai directly to serving officers in Pakistani Army. The Statement of Robert Gates that India may lose its reserves of restrain in case of one more terrorist attack on Indian soil was less a prodding in favour of a dialogue and concession to separatists and more a warning to Pakistan.
This is not to say that USA is not seeking such cooperation from India which addresses US concern more than Indian concerns. The fact is that USA has a lesser leverage to exert pressures on India than it had before 9/11. Before the terror attacks on twin towers in New York, US government had its relations intact with Pakistan and rest of the radical Muslim countries around the Middle East. It had not entered Iraq and was exploring a relationship with Taliban. Now the situation is different. USA, by the admission of its own experts, is over stretched and needs India more in an atmosphere of global recession than any time in history. Why is Government of India more than willing to accommodate American view now than it has been ever before? Not only that, why are propaganda campaigns like the suspension of aid to Jammu and Kashmir by the World Bank, because it has suddenly woken up to recognize Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute, left uncontested? That too when the representative of World Bank has clarified that they are continuing to finance many projects in India including Jammu and Kashmir.
The bogey of increasing international pressure is being crafted from within to target Indian public opinion at a time when dialogue with separatists is going on and Pakistan is unraveling from within. A section from within the government and the political establishment wants to present a compromise in Jammu and Kashmir as a deliverance to the nation from a perpetual confrontation, even if it means abandoning its frontiers, its people in the State, its civilisational responsibility, central features of its eco heritage, secularism and everything which India stands for. I participated in the first SAFMA conference in New Delhi immediately after a group of Pakistani Journalists had for the first time visited Jammu and Kashmir. During the lunch session of the Conference I overheard a conversation between the visiting Pakistani journalist and an official of the Pakistani Embassy in India. The journalist was telling the official in Urdu that Indians while talking about settlement of Kashmir issue always say that they cannot allow second Partition of India. The Pakistani official retorted back that Gandhi and Nehru also used to say like this before the partition.