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Spectrality of Kashmir in Indo-Pak Relationship:
by Dr. Prasenjit Maiti Bookmark and Share

A Discursive Analysis of Ghost and Host

Executive Summary

This paper briefly discusses the issue of Kashmir that more often than not tends to inform the dynamics and future of Indo-Pak relationship in the methodological context of Jacques Derrida's hospitality theory. We argue in this context that the Spectrality of Kashmir can be creatively utilized to resolve the tension in South Asia by negotiating in terms of spatio-temporal pockets and geo-strategic capsules limited by specific issues and concerns of bilateral importance rather than trying to solve the problem by adopting a perspective approach. Short histories and brief time modules may be more suitable than grand narratives and comprehensive solutions. 


The problems that highlight Indo-Pak relationship can be studied from the angle of Derrida's hospitality theory that presupposes the interplay between defined sets of actors. This theory* assumes all the more critical importance in the light of Track Two diplomacy and the different types of Confidence Building Measures that both India and Pakistan tend to pursue in order to maintain the communication channels between these two State-Nations of South Asia. Hospitality as a methodological device may be focused upon to analyze the dimensions of the most critical Kashmir problem from a psychoanalytic as well as deconstructive angle.

Historical Context

The history of the Indian Subcontinent itself has dictated the course of political affairs in Kashmir. Partition at 1947 was based on the principle of Mohhamed Ali Jinnah's erroneous Two Nation Theory, the folly of which was perceived as well as established during the Bangladesh War of 1971. The Radcliffe Line was drawn on the basis of Hindu dominated and Muslim dominated territories, and that was how Bengal and Punjab were divided. But Kashmir was a different issue, as Maharaja Hari Singh signed an Instrument of Accession with India to voluntarily opt for inclusion of Kashmir within sovereign Indian territory. His act incited Pakistan to send hanadars backed by the Pakistani Army to invade Kashmir. And so India was compelled to fight the first ever Indo-Pak War of 1948.

As such the ethnographic and demographic composition of Kashmir is rather complicated. The Hindu Pandits used to stay in Jammu, the Muslims in the Kashmir Valley and the Buddhists in Ladakh. So the political inclination of the Kashmiris has always remained a wide open question. The political blunder that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru committed during the military engagement of 1948 was to issue orders asking the advancing Indian Army to stop short of Lahore. Nehru then referred this issue to the Security Council of the United Nations and paved the way to convert a bilateral regional issue into an international agenda of South Asian peace and security. This prompted both the United States of America and the hitherto Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to take an active interest in the Kashmir issue.

Global Focus

Kashmir soon became an international hotspot like Palestine where everyone with open or concealed national interest could afford to play important or insinuating roles, depending on the military potentialities involved. So the Pandora's Box has been finally opened in Kashmir, and the series of military engagements of 1948, 1965, 1971 and Kargil has only remained as a historic vindication of the blunders committed during Independence and Partition in 1947. Those who do not learn from history are most likely condemned to repeat it, and this is noticed in today's proxy wars between these two South Asian neighbors who have not yet been able to entirely resolve the fundamental problems of poverty, food security, basic amenities of life, primary education, population explosion, literacy, nutrition, human rights, gender empowerment, child rights, civil liberties and participatory democracy. It is clear by now that the USA will never step out to support India unconditionally in its war against terror, as it requires Pakistan to maintain the geo-strategic balance of power in South Asia. And India's foreign policy in this region has always been informed by both muddle and meddle.

Foreign Policy

While India wanted to support lesser neighbors like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives, the charge of Big Brother like political interference has been leveled against the largest democracy of the world. Even Bangladesh, whose Independence was earned by India by defeating the Pakistani Army, has started campaigning against India by sponsoring cross-border terrorism in tandem with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. The tragedy is that India, by trying to please everybody in South Asia, has ended up by pleasing nobody. Pandit Nehru's Pancha Sheel doctrine of foreign policy built upon non-interference and peaceful coexistence has led to the image of India as the regional bully who behaves in an irresponsible manner strengthened by her nuclear capability. It is clear by now that India's foreign policy stance should be independent of the issue of Pakistan. Indian diplomacy at the global level should be informed by the country's status as a major economic power that is developing fast on the basis of superior technology and skilled manpower. Global respect for India's resources has to be consolidated in the country's pursuit for lasting peace in South Asia.

Hospitality Theory 

Jacques Derrida's theory of hospitality has emerged in recent times as a comparatively new organon to understand and project existing realities and innovative models of international relations theory. Derrida has proposed that in this post-postmodern world there are no fixed ideologies, movements, meanings or even theories. Everything is in a state of constant and dynamic flux when signifiers and signifieds continuously proceed in a continuum of difference that ties to resolve the uncoordinated tension between actions and their implications or interpretations. So the Ghost is actually a construct of undefined potentialities that need to be accommodated and assimilated by the Host in order to derive insights into the unknown and unmapped eventualities of future relationships. The Host has to negotiate with the Ghost in the context of an unknown regime of discourse that would in turn be informed by meanings and implications and actions of situation-specific and context-driven imperatives. The Ghost is the Specter, and Derrida has invoked the ghost metaphor from William Shakespeare's Hamlet Prince of Denmark to institutionalize the beginning assumptions of his critical theory. The Specter is known or not known for its quality of Spectrality that again is an arrangement of exciting possibilities for which the Host has to be prepared in order to establish an interactive dialogic culture vis-'-vis the Ghost.

Ghost and Host

We now propose to read the basic tenets of Derrida's fascinating theory into the tragic history of Indo-Pak relationship from which neither country has benefited but has suffered considerably on so many counts. Each country is a classic example of a State Nation ie the State was politically and legally created first before the Nation could muster around itself the psychological and cultural baggage of oneness cohered by collective memories and concerted intellectual efforts and actions. India and Pakistan are the Ghost and Host and vice versa ie each country approaches the other as an unknown quantity that has to be negotiated in the light of new polemics and revised pedagogy. The historic blunder of Jinnah's Two Nation Theory was exposed during 1971 when the Indian Army had to enter East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to liberate it from the torture and atrocities of the Khan Sena or the West Pakistani Army. What is to be noticed in this context is that the Pathans and Punjabi Muslims of West Pakistan had raped and butchered Bengali Muslims of East Pakistan though the oppressor and the oppressed shared the same religion and identical citizenship. So religion cannot possibly unite all the while. The next possibilities are religion, ethnicity and culture. West Bengal and Bangladesh generally speak the same language, read the same literature and listen to the same music. But debates over River Ganga distribution and infiltration of insurgents working in tandem with Pakistan continue to be irksome realities. Inbound and outbound illegal migrations across the porous international border is yet another contentious issue.

Criticality of Trust

So the dialectics and dialogues between the Ghost-Host and Host-Ghost are rather critical in order to pinpoint areas of common concern that may be resolved by exercising working modalities of consensus. More trade and commerce, more rail and road and air and water traffic, more cultural missions, more Hindi films made in Bollywood, more cricket diplomacy, more areas of common interest where people converge out of their own compulsions and predatory market instincts and so on and so forth ' These are only the first faltering steps towards that great bone of contention called Kashmir. President Bhutto once had declared that Pakistanis would eat grass for one thousand years if they have to reclaim Kashmir! And consider the history of uneven diplomacy and lack of trust between the two neighbors. Bhutto retuned from the Shimla Agreement with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi only to start eating fire even when India had released the Pakistani Prisoners of War and retuned the Pak territories captured during the Bangladesh War. President Nawaz Sharif was smiling with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee even when General Parvez Musharraf (himself a Mohajir) was planning the Kargil campaign. Pakistan is still licking the wounds of the Bangladesh War. So it has to smuggle nuclear technology illegally from a rogue state like North Korea to make indigenous missiles like Ghauri. Pakistan still maintains links with international terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda and harbors wanted criminals like Dawood Ibrahim. Its single agenda foreign policy initiative is to capture Kashmir and humiliate India.

Spectrality of Kashmir

So Kashmir emerges as the specter in Indo-Pak relationships that has to be ably negotiated with in order to ensure lasting peace in the Subcontinent. The Line of Control that separates Pak Occupied Kashmir (Azad Kashmir) from the remaining Indian territory of Kashmir can be recognized as the new international border between India and Pakistan. This is the only realistic solution that is left, as neither India nor Pakistan can claim the whole of Kashmir. But Pakistan has to first discontinue its clandestine war against India sponsored by the ISI in terms of sabotage and terrorists attacks on innocent civilians. It is useless on the part of General Musharraf to declare that he has no control over the fundamentalist sections of the ISI who follow the philosophy of the Taliban and the ideology of Al Qaeda.**  So the unique spectral quality of Kashmir has to be duly acknowledged by both India and Pakistan while trying honestly to resolve this imbroglio. Both regional powers have to duly admit the fact that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved by sharing almost equal shares of the cake.

Capital as Specter

Even the local economy of Kashmir is in ruins. The tourism industry has rapidly dwindled, threatened by the fear of terrorist attacks. And industry was the principal motivator of the Kashmiri economy. The woolen trade has also been adversely affected. The other revenue earning sectors are fruits and dry fruits. But the Valley of Gods has now become the Valley of Fear. So the circulation of capital has also slackened. Shooting of Hindi films no more take place in Kashmir. Allegations of military excesses and violation of human rights are raised occasionally against the Indian Army while the security forces allege that the local people extend shelter to the terrorists who come from across the international border. A lot of problems resulting from relative deprivation can be solved by enhanced well-being. Kashmir has always enjoyed special legal status. But now it has fallen upon evil times. So development of the local economy can restore its prosperity and address its grievances and discontent. But peace has to be restored first in order to ensure economic prosperity of God's Own Country. The free flow and wide circulation of capital in the form of foreign exchange earned through international tourism can ensure widespread and lasting peace in the Valley.

Spectrality and Development

The agenda of development may defeat the Spectrality of Kashmir in the sense that basic issues like food, clothing, housing, roads, drinking water, electricity, education and security can always find precedence in the domestic policy agenda of both India and Pakistan. Both countries spend sinfully in their military budgets while they could have easily resolved certain basic problems of human development with that money. The Spectrality of Kashmir may take a backseat once the rhetoric of development is entrenched in the political idiom of both the countries. Regrettably enough, democratic India and dictatorial Pakistan are similar when it comes to high political drama. But one has to remember that you cannot fool all the people all the time although you may fool some of the people some of the time!

Balance of Power Model in South Asia

  • Geo-strategic Stability
        '  Confidence Building Measures
        '  Regional Security
        '  Lasting Peace

Regional Development

The above model indicates the possible dynamics that may guide the process of regional development and political stability in South Asia in general and the Indian Subcontinent in particular. Development through regional platforms such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and South Asia Free Trade Agreement should gain prominence during global dialogues initiated by the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund in association with the World Bank. The Asian Development Bank should actively sponsor infrastructure development projects in this region to promote well-being and combat poverty. Such sensible approaches may always initiate States to work towards common goals rather than fight in a futile manner. Most Favored Nation status has to be extended, and regional trade and investment should be encouraged to ensure profits and better standards of living. Public opinion in favor of peace and stability will be formed automatically.

Policy Dialogues

Continuous policy dialogues at the levels of Heads of State and Government, Foreign Secretaries, Diplomats, Bureaucrats, Industrialists, Scientists, Technocrats, Political Analysts and Media Personalities should take place in order to keep open the functional channels of both formal as well as informal communication. Two way traffic and dialogues are essential to understand the Other's points of view. Derrida has repeatedly insisted on Openness to the Other and respecting the Otherness of the Other, without which meaning and symbiotic relationships cannot develop. India and Pakistan need to interact predicated upon the dynamics of Openness and Otherness i.e. while it is true that a polyphony of voices would be heard it is also imperative to cohere a carnival of choices that would be influenced by the marketplace of regional politics.


So we conclude that Kashmir as one of the most critical defining factors of Indo-Pak relationship should be ideally divided along the Line of Control in order to ensure a harmonious relationship between these two South Asian neighbors, both of whom now happen to possess nuclear capability. Otherwise Kashmir will worsen as an international hotspot like Palestine. It is difficult to implement this decision of recognizing the Line of Control as the new international boundary between India and Pakistan, as for India it would imply surrendering its territorial integrity and sovereignty and for Pakistan it would mean winning only half the coveted prize. But both these countries should realize that it is useless to protract the Kashmir issue. It is high time precise answers are given to historic question sin order to progress upon the path of future. Neither India nor Pakistan can afford to lengthen this conflict for long. The new millennium has arrived with a lot of potentialities that have to be tapped in order to survive in the period of critical globalization. That has almost effaced the realities of time and space from the discourses of international relations. So it is either now or never. Democracy should be restored in Pakistan so that India can find a suitable counterpart to continue its dialogue of peace, progress and security in the Subcontinent. Democracy is a flawed political system, but a better system is yet to develop. So Indo-Pak Relationship will now have to wait for an ambience of hospitality underpinned by democracy in the near future.

Cf. Prasenjit Maiti, Indo-Pak Relations: The Need for Hospitality. Asian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1 (January-June 1999, Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Calcutta), pp. 89-93; Maiti and Panchanan Chattopadhyay, On Derrida, Marx and Hospitality. Socialist Perspective, Vol. 25, Nos. 3-4 (December 1997-March 1998), pp. 93-8; and Maiti, Underscoring Peace as Hospitality in Indo-Pak Relations: Toward Alternatives of Conflict Resolution in South Asia. Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 5, Nos. 1-2 (January-April 2001; Delhi), pp. 39-46.

** Kashmir is critical in the international war against terror as at present it qualifies as a benchmark against which to assess issues related to escalated international terrorism. The 9/11 tragedy is inhuman but it does not justify civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan caused by Allied military exercises. The United States of America has openly favored Pakistan on more than one occasion and has repeatedly asked India to exercise military constraint along its international border! Such double standards only jeopardize the cause of any war lauched against terror on a global scale. Kashmir is not a black-and-white problem, and the USA has to acknowledge the gray areas. India is a more democratic partner for the USA than Pakistan. Cf. Maiti, Clash of Civilizations? The Humanist.  [Washington DC: American Humanist Association, November / December 2001]; and Maiti, Human Rights Violation in Kashmir, Peace Magazine, January-March 2002.

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