After a period of relative calm, Kashmir is on the boil again. Over the years, analysts have come up with a plethora of way-outs of this tangle. While accepting the Line of Control as the international border is one among many theories, none seems to take the bold path. This essay attempts a workable and pragmatic solution to this ‘singular’ security calculus from the Indian nationalistic perspective by proposing an “All Kashmir Federation”.
To an average high school science candidate in India, the mathematical intricacies of Calculus can appear to be intractable, at least in the preliminary approach. He or she would waste no time indeed to curse both Newton and Leibnitz to eternal perdition for innovation of the subject. Furthermore, it becomes a tormenting exercise to solve problems involving applications of the same.
And Calculus can turn out to be bizarre as one goes up the ladder in his or her educational enterprise.
Even then, any graduate or post-graduate or even a doctoral candidate in analytical or numerical studies would ‘feel’ better off in the domain of the ‘Calculus’; rather than indulge in the dangerous game of predicting, leave apart ‘attempting’ the solutions to the sub-continent’s most high-profile and intractable security calculus : The Kashmir Imbroglio.
Today’s Kashmir traces its roots to Kalhana’s Rajtarangini as its earliest known History. The book stands in a different league altogether based on the credentials of representing a proper History writing tradition in Ancien “Hindu” India which was dominated by Puranic story-telling.
Islamicizaton of Kashmir took place in the most flagrant manner through the Mongol invasions in the early fourteenth century. Though there had been zealots and bigots in the land to have attempted purges against the Hindus of the area, still the socio-cultural ethos of ‘Kashmiriyat’ was not outrightly undermined for centuries.
Later on, after the degeneration of the Mughal Empire, Kashmir passed under the political subjugation of the Sikhs who had to ‘offer’ Kashmir to the Imperial Raj as a war indemnity at the Treaty of Lahore in 1846. The geopolitical significance of the territory was either not appreciated by the Britishers (which seems very unlikely) or they considered it to be in their best economic interests to sell Kashmir to Gulab Singh thereafter.
While ‘running’ away from the sub-continent, Great Britain completely sidelined the Butler Committee recommendations (1927) regarding the Princely States. Hence, the princes were left in the lurch and Kashmir was no exception. Though Jinnah’s two-nation theory had emerged victorious by then but the princely states of Kashmir and Hyderabad remained as contentious issues between the two nascent states of India and Pakistan.
The Instrument of Accession signed by Hari Singh on 26 October 1947, the minority Hindu king ruling over a Muslim majority princely state became a major issue of ‘tug of war’ between India and Pakistan. The latter rued the fact that Hyderabad having a sizable Muslim population could not be co-opted. Thus, Kashmir had to be bagged somehow.
Contingent of Afghan fighters aided and abetted by the Pakistan military discovered their ‘rallying cry’ to be ‘Chalo Srinagar’. However, it never fructified due to the timely intervention of the Indians.
Nevertheless, the Kashmir Calculus was authored just about then. There were two solutions at that juncture which could have been adopted by Delhi. First, it could have ‘completely’ driven away the ‘hooligans’ sent from the western side of the Indus and established its authoritative structures. Or it could have allowed the Kashmiris the ‘right to self determination’, that too only after clearing the whole area of the foreign elements. However, Delhi did neither of these. Rather it moved the United Nations (UN) and permanently helped draw the Line of Control (LOC).
And thus was born the ‘Kashmir Ulcer’.
Federal autonomy in the form of Article 370 was something the Indians offered to the Valley as a definite measure of amelioration. But the Kashmiris have been nonplussed in discovering the waning away of the article with time; for forty long years, from 1948 to 1988. Kashmir’s Prime Minister being relegated to a ‘Chief Minister’ and ‘Sadr-i-Riyasat’ engineered to act as a ‘Governor’; equivalent to any other province in India. A progressive merger with mainland India diluted the provisions of the said article and gradually raised the temperatures of the serene Valley, so symptomatic of the relative calmness of the demographic profile.
Delhi was basically toying with the idea of ‘propping up’ ‘puppet regimes’ in Kashmir so as to facilitate its own entrenchment. The power hungry Abdullahs, the efficient Indian bureaucracy and the poise of Indira Gandhi even helped it to succeed to a remarkable extent in that venture. Nevertheless, the threat came from the expected direction, and that was Pakistan.
The loss of Bangladesh and the bludgeoning of the Punjab insurgency were the factoids which Pakistan could never reconcile to. It needed a different outlet for outpouring its grievances against its ‘childhood enemy’ and Kashmir was it. And since 1989, the valley has seen a ‘real’ insurgency and has surely inflated to be one of India’s Internal Security Threats (IST). Pakistan’s proxy war against India through the jihadis has been a persistent programme, irrespective of the regimes in Islamabad.
There are three major perspectives and hence approaches toward the Kashmir Calculus: the Indian, the Pakistani and the Kashmiri. The last perspective does not have a homogeneous outlook. It again has three components; the political elite of the province, the separatists, and the jihadi elements.
The political elite (the Muftis or the Abdullahs) of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir would like to perpetuate the Indian stand point of ‘status quo’ so as to bolster its power bastion. On the other hand, the separatist elements led by the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has gradually softened its stance and now are more prone to demanding greater autonomy under the Indian Constitution. On the other hand, the jihadis like the Lashkar and Jaish et al. represent the extreme end of the insurgent spectrum and to a large extent harbour the Pakistani agenda of destabilizing India.
The Indian approach to the Calculus has been unmethodical, at times undiplomatic and for most of the times since 1989, tactless and bare. Thus the paramilitary forces are called upon at will whenever the state police founders and the army takes over whenever the paramilitary falters to control mobocracy of the genre of the Palestinian Intifada. And Article 356 of the Indian Constitution is clamped with intermittent frequency.
Very recently, in the backdrop of the civilian casualties in Srinagar; the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti was not pert while lampooning the Centre of having deployed the Army in the city when the very force was overtly reluctant to fight the ‘Maoists’ in the Red Corridor. However, these political harangues occulted by emotional moorings visibly tend to undermine the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has a distinctly different geostrategic significance vis-à-vis the rural hinterland.
And the fact of the matter is that open impudence on the part of the Indian authorities clearly exhibits the ‘Pakistan factor’ behind the problem. Nonetheless, flouting of democratic ethos by both the Centre as well as the Kashmiris keeps on aggravating the malignancy.
Few months back, Indian Home Ministry was stoutly following the ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ in dealing with the Kashmir Calculus. That in fact lent some credence to New Delhi. Furthermore, the Indo-Pak ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) was also not showing signs of fatigue and the jihadi hooliganism had subsided to a considerable degree. Diplomatic pressure on Pakistan by USA must have been a rational reason behind this downturn. Moreover, for all practical purposes, the jihadi elements had their job cut out in the Af-Pak region. In sum, the ‘Ulcer’ was not causing unbearable pangs to neither the masses nor to the political masters.
The ‘Shopian case’ provided the turn of events and the fireball has again engulfed the Valley. The Army has been inducted almost robotically without paying heed to the consideration of reverting back to the Riot Police. If the state police are inadequately built up for these operations even after two decades of continuous insurgency, then it is New Delhi which has to share a large part of the blame.
Analysts have almost exhausted themselves in criticizing the role of the paramilitary or the army and the consequent human rights violations. The Pakistani civil-military elite have been factored in the analyses and the question of ‘greater autonomy’ for the valley has been deliberated at length. Sometimes prolixity has outweighed solutions, making the calculus of either differentiation or integration of the province encumbered within verbose.
Territorial Kashmir has five sub-regions: the ‘core’ Kashmir valley (populated by Sunni Muslims), the Buddhist-majority district of Ladakh, and the Hindu-majority Jammu; all under the Indian jurisdiction. The Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) has Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. The Gilgit-Baltistan agency is also under Pakistan’s domination and it has recently obtained some constitutional concessions from Islamabad.
Yes, China comes into the picture as another major contender as some parts of Ladakh is under its sway since the 1962 war with India. Moreover, Pakistan has ceded parts of its Northern ‘pie’ to Beijing.
Hence, if one treads toward a solution of this quagmire then one is led to myriad of possibilities. From the Indian perspective, the author feels the path as charted out below shall serve a definite purpose in mitigating the present state of affairs. Nationalism should be the guiding principle when solutions to Kashmir are chalked out, but in no way jingoism should intervene.
Shall it be a genuflection for India to accept LoC as the international border? That seems, however, to be the most feasible option at this point in time since it is veritably out of consideration that the Indian foreign establishment carrying a historical pedigree of pacification can risk a full-fledged conventional war with a nuclear-enabled Pakistan, verily infested with militant-theocratic elements. Well, even if India does that, shall it douse the fireball of hatred against India and bring peace to the region? Will Pakistan whole-heartedly accept this solution? What will happen to the freedom movement of the Sunni Muslims? Shall it evaporate with time? The author does not subscribe to the view that India’s acceptance of the LoC as the international border would put an end to the persistent insurgency in the valley because the freedom movement of the Kashmiris has already taken an awkward turn, if not a point of no return.
Another solution to this calculus that was doing the rounds during General Musharraf’s regime was to treat Kashmir as South Asia’s Andorra and go for a joint administration of the region under the aegis of both India and Pakistan. In fact, in both these solutions, we are outrightly relegating to the background the feeling and ‘consciousness’ of the masses of Jammu and Kashmir. Decisions are being formulated from above and mass participation is being completely ignored. Anthropological and ethnographic dimensions of the imbroglio are being submerged under the debris of ‘statist’ policies and demagogy of the Maulvis; occlusion of the subaltern is necessary fallout of this approach.
Is India ready to seek a solution of this calculus or eager to obtain a Pyrrhic victory against the Kashmiri masses and embroil itself in an asymmetric low-intensity conflict for at least decades to come? The answer by all guesstimate ought to be an unequivocal yes for the solvable. And if that is the case, is India ready to forego its claims to the Valley? The answer may be fraught with vehement debates. But a majority of the Indians are by all probability ardent votaries of freedom and democracy. At least, that is what they have stood for the last six decades and that is what they have fought for about two centuries. It was based on a similar premise that the Indian Army strolled into Hyderabad against the obdurate Nizam and his band of Razakars and it was based on a similar belief that our then Deputy Prime Minister had steamrolled the Nawab of Junagadh.
Hence presently India should not shy away from granting the Kashmiris their ‘right to self determination’. But hang on. India had agreed to the same in the early 1950s after the mediation of the UN. The Pakistan Army never withdrew its forces from its area of domination and hence no ‘plebiscite’ was actually carried out. Demography of the valley has changed since then; more so since the armed insurgency commenced in 1989. So, what kind of a referendum now?
Still, there can be a referendum. First, the ‘Kashmiri Pundits’ have to be moved from their dilapidated camps in Delhi and rehabilitated in Jammu. For all practical purposes, settlement in the valley of Kashmir should be a foregone conclusion for this group by now. And this rearrangement is an onus not only on the Indian government but also on other groups in contention if they seek a solution to this ‘Kintifada’.
Thereafter, region by region plebiscite has to be arranged under the auspices of the UN. That should be done only after the Indian, the Pakistani and the Chinese Army and paramilitary move out from their respective positions, which can happen in a phased manner but within a reasonable time frame of six months. From the withdrawal of the respective armies and the paramilitary till the adoption of a new ‘constitution’ for the “All Kashmir Federation” comprising the five sub-regions as provinces, the territory needs to be administered by the UN having no Indian or Pakistani or Chinese observers.
The five sub-regions shall have the freedom to choose amalgamation with either India or Pakistan or China or join the Federation. By all means, contiguity of borders shall not be violated. It shall be a close to an impossible scenario that Jammu would like to cling to China or Gilgit-Baltistan to India.
The envisaged ‘Kashmir Federation’ may follow the US federal system as the archetypal. Prima facie, it should be a win-win situation to all the parties.
However, to implement the above, one needs to start a multi-party dialogue encompassing all the incumbents, even with representatives of the pyromaniac jihadi elements; provided they abjure arms for the time being.
But who would bell the cat? As the major power in South Asia, it would do no harm to India’s prestige if it takes the lead. China can also catapult itself into the South Asian region as a major actor if it initiates this direct negotiation. The players have basically to come out of their yoke of intransigence.
For all this to fructify, the masses of South Asia needs a set of well-intentioned leaders who can not only think ‘out of the box’ but have the will to factor in democracy in the region. Otherwise, any attempt at bringing peace in Kashmir would be temporary and hence nugatory in the long run. The fundamental point would be critically missed.