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BJP, Pakistan and Kashmir
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
According to media reports very recently close associates of BJP prime ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi made a secret trip to Pakistan to confer with leaders of that nation. There was also a claim by hard-line separatist leader Mr. Ahmed Shah Geelani that he had been approached by emissaries of Mr. Modi. This claim was disputed and it transpired that two Kashmiri Pandit leaders did approach Mr. Geelani but were not sent by Mr. Modi. There seems to have been a communication gap and this claim may therefore be ignored.
Although welcome, the approach being adopted thus far seems deeply flawed.
For any realistic and serious policy initiative the first requirement is for a consensus within the party on the proposed policy. Obviously Indo-Pakistan relations hinge heavily on the Kashmir dispute. But immediately after Mr. Modi made his statement on Article 370, and more recently after the Geelani claim surfaced, there were strong reactions from BJP leaders that there would be no change of policy regarding Article 370 or policy towards Kashmir. BJP leader Mr. Ravi Prasad Singh stated: “On the Kashmir issue, the BJP’s stand is very clear - that Kashmir is an integral part of India and there cannot be any room for deliberations on this.” Mr. Prasad went on to say that the Kashmir issue would be solved through providing good governance to the people.
Trumpeting resolve to stabilize the status quo will not address the legacy of a complex historical dispute that has continued to haunt the subcontinent for over six decades.
If India is at all serious about addressing the Kashmir issue it must take a holistic, macro view of the problem and formulate a practical policy to address it. That is the first requirement. Indian politicians are quick to state what they oppose. They are tongue-tied about stating what they do support. Mostly they do not even know what they want.
The second flaw in Mr. Modi’s approach is his reaching out to leaders in Pakistan or in Kashmir to explore prospects of a compromise. A policy that will succeed in relation to this problem will not be created merely through compromise or give and take between India and critics of its Kashmir policy. Chatham House think tank in Britain after a detailed and thorough opinion poll conducted through the whole of Kashmir concluded that people of POK wanted to stay on in Pakistan, people in Jammu and Ladakh wanted to stay on in India, while only people in the Valley sought change. However people in both India and Pakistan occupied Kashmir did want free movement of peoples and goods across borders. In the Valley the vast majority wanted independence, a very few wanted to remain in India, and the smallest number wanted to merge with Pakistan. Mr. Geelani represents this smallest number seeking merger with Pakistan. What, then, is the purpose of seeking compromise with him?
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