Imperial Britain colluding with leaders of the Congress and Muslim League partitioned India. Leaders and people of both India and Pakistan have accepted the logic of Partition. But people of Kashmir continue to suffer most acutely the consequences of partitioning their state. The proponents of Partition could not vanquish one remorseless and powerful adversary of Partition. That adversary is Nature.
In 2005 J&K was rocked by an earthquake. Nature sent its first clear message to the people of the subcontinent. That message was not heeded. Now Nature has repeated that message through devastating floods. Will politicians and people in India and Pakistan heed the message this time?
On November 2, 2005 in the wake of the Kashmir earthquake I wrote:
“The earthquake virtually demolished the Line of Control (LOC) dividing India from Pakistan. Bunkers on both sides of the LOC were destroyed killing soldiers of both armies… For over a decade people were fed with Jihadi tales of an imminent collapse of the Indian administration in Kashmir… Kashmiris overlooked the subversion of their Sufi tradition by the Wahabi fundamentalism… In a flash…Kashmiris want to reclaim their Sufi tradition. According to veteran Kashmir-based journalist Zafar Miraj a vast majority of approximately 3000 Kashmiri youth who went to POK to join militancy… want to return home… people in Srinagar got access to the reality of Muzzafarabad. They saw a dump inhabited by people living in misery. In contrast Srinagar… thanks… to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed…, markets are bustling… The role of the Indian army during quake relief was an eye-opener for the people. Kashmiris do want more self-rule. But they want neither Pakistan nor independence. They are beginning to see a future with India… Clearly the time is propitious for a Kashmir solution.”
Politicians failed to seize the opportunity offered by Nature. Dare one hope it will be different this time? Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s spontaneous reactions provide hope. Mr. Modi has urged all State governments to help the people of Kashmir with monetary and material aid. He has reached out to the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and offered all help Islamabad might need. This welcome start must follow to its logical conclusion. India must initiate a blunt dialogue with the Pakistan PM and Army. They should be unambiguously assured that nobody in India seeks to undo Pakistan. Today India has received global attention. If Pakistan were to cooperate the growth potential for both nations would more than double. For a start the intelligence and security agencies of both nations must jointly eliminate terror from the region. More innocents are killed by terrorists in Pakistan than in India. This can follow with an institutional framework for such cooperation. It would lay the foundation for co-opting all SAARC nations into the same arrangement.
The Musharraf formula provides a starting point. After the Kashmir earthquake one wrote that the time was propitious for a Kashmir solution. After the floods it bears repetition. Will Mr. Modi seize the moment?