620 words in its editorial on Kashmir but not one mention of terrorism
This week’s issue of the Economist has a leader and an article on the India-Pakistan talks and the failure to make any headway on the Kashmir issue. Failure, that it entirely attributes to India’s reluctance to concede anything.
Since the then Indian prime minister offered friendship to Pakistan in April last year, diplomatic relations have been normalised, and planes, trains and buses now shuttle between Delhi and Lahore. There have been military confidence-building measures, cricket matches and a stream of visitors in both directions. In short, there has been progress on almost everything apart from the one thing that really matters. Only Kashmir remains untouched.
This is far from displeasing to India. It is easy to hold out the hand of friendship from a position of superiority, such as that enjoyed by India in the beautiful and strategic Valley of Kashmir. Pakistan, which holds only a fragment of a state that is dominated by Muslims but was ceded to India by its Hindu maharajah in 1947, takes a rather different view of the status quo. So do the Kashmiris themselves. [Economist]
In one sweeping oversimplified assertion, the Economist has decided that all the Kashmiris see the status quo differently. Never mind that Kashmir is only one part of Jammu & Kashmir state, and a majority of the Kashmiris favour remaining in India and turned out in large numbers to vote in the recent elections, in spite of grave threats to their lives. And how can the Economist arrive at that conclusion on behalf of the Kashmiris without considering the opinion of the Kashmiri Pandit community that was driven out of Kashmir by jihadi terrorists?
Perhaps 75,000 of them have died in a 15-year revolt against India’s oppressive rule. But the balance of power is so hugely on India’s side that, if there is to be a peace, most thoughtful observers on both sides accept that it will have to be largely on India’s terms. A group of brave Kashmiris has undertaken to talk to India; and Pakistan, equally hard-headedly, has not repudiated them. [Economist]
Well those 75,000 people died not because of India’s oppressive rule but because of terrorism. This is where the Economist is at its most shameful – avoiding the mention of the role of Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorism that is primarily responsible for the bloodshed in Kashmir. Besides it gets its facts on the dialogue between the Indian government and the Hurriyat entirely wrong. Pakistan has consistently undermined the Hurriyat’s talks with the Indian government – first by splitting the separatist conglomerate into moderate and (pro-Pakistan) extremist factions, and then using the jihadi terrorists to circumscribe the moderates.
And India, for reasons that are hard to fathom, seems not to see the danger in allowing the other side to do all the conceding. It has repeatedly failedâ€”and failed again this weekâ€”to reward people who are taking dreadful personal risks. There have been no prisoner releases in Kashmir, and the Kashmiri moderates are banned from travelling abroad, which prevents them from talking to Kashmiris on the other side. The famous bus is not running because India insists that passengers must carry passports, which would have the effect of turning the line of control that divides the two Kashmirs into an international border. That is precisely the most toxic issue, and the reason the Pakistani establishment is blocking an agreement.[Economist]
The Economist, for reasons that are hard to fathom, does not see the danger in a secular, democratic nation succumbing to terrorism. Even more fundamentally, the Economist fails to explain why India should make any concessions at all – because like a spoilt child, Pakistan will continue to throw tantrums and go into nuclear convulsions if it is not given its favourite toy?
The Hurriyat leaders, even its so-called ‘moderate’ factions, are hardly moderate in the general sense of the word. Their failure to condemn jihadi terrorism only belies their deeper connections with the jihadi mother-ship. Even without traveling abroad, the Hurriyat leaders have been able to receive orders from their Pakistani puppeteers rather easily. In any case, they find themselves a regular fixture at the Pakistani high commission’s social and political calendar.
If the Pakistani establishment so desired, it could well have allowed the bus service while maintaining that this would be without prejudice to the status of the Line of Control. It is hard to see how mere bus passengers can succeed in defining an international border where full-scale wars (again initiated by Pakistan) have failed.
But it is also why India should show more flexibility. Instead, it is refusing to allow officials of the elected Kashmiri government to take part in the bus talks, even though the bus itself will be their responsibility. If India continues to offer nothing in return, sooner rather than later the Kashmiris will give up on talking. And Pakistan is far too volatile and dangerous a place to be taken for granted either. India needs the moderate Kashmiris and Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to survive. It should be helping them to do so.[Economist]
Under India’s federal system, defence and foreign affairs are handled by the Central government, so it is normal for the Central government officials to handle the talks with Pakistan. And as for those ‘moderate’ Kashmiris (presumably, Hurriyat leaders), India should certainly talk to them as soon as they are moderate, when they bid farewell to an armed struggle. India does not need the Hurriyat to survive, and New Delhi being New Delhi and not Washington DC, can most certainly live quite happily without General Musharraf, thank you very much. If wiser counsel prevails, Washington too would realise that it can live without General Musharraf, if only Pakistan was helped to become a constitutional democracy.
The Economist has completely ignored the failure of General Musharraf to live up to the commitments he made to the world after 9/11, and to Vajpayee during the Islamabad summit in particular. History has shown that there is a link between the institutional interests of the Pakistani Army and its pursuit of an ambitious foreign policy on Kashmir. Unless the General and his army return to the barracks (of which there is no sign), Kashmir will remain on the boil. Time may not be on the negotiators’ side, but only fools rush in…