The recent events in Kashmir and robust Indian response does seem to indicate that Indian approach to trouble in Kashmir valley has finally come to terms with changed global scenario. Unmindful of the howl of protest from the usual media/political suspects, the govt. of India cracked the whip and imposed curfew on the holy day of Bakar Id. There are indications that the security provided to the separatist leaders is also likely to be withdrawn.
Kashmir issue complexities could be understood only in the context of the global situation and forces.
This hardening of position has not come a day soon, in fact it is a belated realization (thanks to the advent of Modi government) that one of the important aspect of the Kashmir problem, the international dimension, has changed in India’s favour giving India much greater space to maneuver.
Kashmir issue has three distinct dimensions. It is an internal problem of people in Valley wanting independence from both India and Pakistan. It is regional problem since Pakistan wants the whole of J&K to merge with it. Internationally, during the Cold War, the West came down in favour of its ally Pakistan and against pro Soviet Union India. These are not watertight compartments and impact on each other. Kashmir issue complexities could be understood only in the context of the global situation and forces. A look at the history of international intervention in Kashmir is well worth our time to understand the present.
The motives of China and US in interfering in Kashmir were similar. China also uses it as a pressure point against India taking up the issue of Tibet as well as to keep India engaged in the region so as not to let her influence South East Asia- the natural battle ground between Indic and Sinic civilization. The US in the past saw many uses of Kashmir. It was a convenient pressure point on issue like the Nuclear Non Proliferation. On a long term basis, the US thought of detaching Kashmir to be used as a wedge to disintegrate India or at the least force a second partition on religious lines. Late Jean Kirk Patrick, the US permanent representative in the UN in 1980s is on record of having said that India is too large and unwieldy and needs to be broken up in several manageable parts. President Clinton’s Secretary of State, Albright (a contradiction) was a vocal supporter of Kashmiri separatists. In the 1990s, it was not unusual to hear slogans in the valley hailing President Clinton as a savior.
As the Soviet Union was a weaker power, it was seen as less threatening and therefore a `natural ally’ of the non- aligned.
The issue of violations of human rights, selectively raised, was the new western `crusade’. Kashmir was made an issue of human rights at international level. As the dispute is still pending before the Security Council of the United Nations, it was easily activated by China or the US , both permanent members of Security Council.
Just at the time when Kashmir issue erupted in 1947, the world was on the threshold of the period of tension between USA and the USSR, a period that lasted 45 years and was commonly referred to as `Cold War’. The US led western alliance was undoubtedly the stronger side in this conflict and USSR at best was only a `half super power’ since it lacked the economic muscle. Except for a brief period (and that too only in the military field), the Soviet Union was mostly a `reactive’ power.
Nehru, not unlike the US in the early period of American independence and in relation to the then ongoing Anglo- French struggle, felt that the best interest of the newly independent countries in Asia and Africa lay in remaining away from the cold war struggle and concentrate on the task of industrialization and nation building. As the Soviet Union was a weaker power, it was seen as less threatening and therefore a `natural ally’ of the non- aligned.
The socialist leanings of the leaders like Nehru also played a role in this affinity as well as the early American tendency to side by the ex-colonial European powers, the most notable example being Vietnam. As India under Nehru decided to follow a policy of non- alignment, dubbed as `immoral’ by the US secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, US choice for ally in the Indian subcontinent fell on Pakistan. This was despite the shared ideals of liberal democracy between India and the US. In its policy to ring USSR with military basis Pakistan was a vital link. The price for Pakistani support in cold war was paid by the US by supporting its case on Kashmir.
In 1994, an American official (Ms Robin Raphael) even questioned the legality of Kashmir’s accession to India, a point not raised even by Pakistan.
Pakistan also fitted well in the long term western strategy of preventing another China like Asian giant from emerging. Pakistan thus joined the string of proxies worldwide that included East Germany, North Korea, South Vietnam and Taiwan (Republic of China). Both the super powers followed the policy of backing its proxy to check the regional antagonist. The policy of equating India with Pakistan that was inaugurated in 1953 continued till 2001. Since Pakistan is one sixth of India, the US gave its massive military aid to maintain an artificial parity between the two.
The Indo US relations also had its positive side. Till 1967-68, the US believed in monolithic communism and India as a natural counter balance to China received due attention and was given substantial economic aid. But after the 1972 Sino-US detente and beginning of strategic co-operation between the two against the common enemy, USSR, this relationship underwent a major change. The US support to Pakistan and indirectly its claims on Kashmir, became the part of joint Sino-US enterprise.
For a fleetingly brief period in 1970s, the US gave up its long held policy of equating India with Pakistan and acknowledged Indian pre-eminence in the region. But Afghan war changed that and to make it into Soviet Union’s Vietnam, Pakistan under a military dictator became the `Frontier State’ in US war to `preserve democracy and freedom’. All through the cold war, the US and Pakistan `used’ each other.
The end of cold war and demise of Soviet Union ushered in an era of instability in the Asia Minor where large number of Muslim majority republics emerged after the end of Russian colonial rule. In this volatile region, US entry is spearheaded by Turkey and Pakistan. In addition as India made steady economic and technological progress, it clashed with the American efforts to monopolies power. In field of space and nuclear weapons, the US found Kashmir as a convenient pressure point to browbeat India. In 1994, an American official (Ms Robin Raphael) even questioned the legality of Kashmir’s accession to India, a point not raised even by Pakistan.
World today accepts Indian narrative on Kashmir far more readily. The US while still nurturing Pakistan for a role in Central Asia as well as Middle East, is far more cautious in its support.
The China Factor
Tibet, the turbulent province of China, shares border with Kashmir. After a dispute between China and India over future of Tibet and demarcation of the border resulted in an armed clash in 1962, China began taking active interest in Kashmir. The dispute gave China a handle to interfere in the affairs of subcontinent and also check growing Indian military and economic power through Pakistan. Near about 70% of Pakistani military hardware is Chinese gifted. Diplomatically however China has been less brash than the Americans about support to Kashmir separatists as she is mindful of the similar problem she faces in Sinkiang province. The Chinese foreign policy, which is driven by the considerations of real politik sees the dispute as entirely in its own interest.
Changes in World Situation
Since 2001, when the West in general and US in particular woke up (on 9/11) to the menace of Islamic terrorism, there has been softening of opinion in favour of India. It is now increasingly being accepted that the Kashmiri separatism has a distinct ‘Pan Islamic’ flavour. With ISIS flags making their appearance on Kashmir streets, the writing is on the wall. An independent Kashmir could become another bastion of rabid Islam. Kashmir is in flames today because of the consistent Pakistani support, material, ideological and political, to the Kashmiri insurgents.
The world in 2016 is changed beyond recognition. Pakistan is in doghouse as virtually every single terrorist act, anywhere in the world, has a Pakistani footprint. World today accepts Indian narrative on Kashmir far more readily. The US while still nurturing Pakistan for a role in Central Asia as well as Middle East, is far more cautious in its support. While China has come heavily on the side of Pakistan, it cannot really replace the US.
The Indian approach to Kashmir, in sync with the new situation should have changed, but did not. The main reason for this was the firm grip of the Nehruvian status quoits’ on policy for last 10 years. These worthies refused to accept that Non Alignment was dead and the age of multiple alignments had arrived truly. As apathetic attempt of tilting at the windmills, a few years ago some people in Delhi even brought out a paper titled ‘Non Alignment 2.0’. Luckily for the country this farce ended in 2014 May with the electoral loss of the ‘Dynasty’.