Three paradoxes of India’s Kashmir policy, resolved

The endgame is not anywhere near

The Indian Express writes that Dr Manmohan Singh will have to contend with three paradoxes that come in the way of normalcy in Jammu & Kashmir.

Although Prime Minister Manmohan’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir has been successful in creating a new opportunity for progress, it has left some key issues unresolved. The prime minister will have to contend with three paradoxes. The first is the paradox of representation. Who should we take as legitimate representatives of the people of Kashmir?

This can hardly be called a paradox — the legitimate representatives of the people of Kashmir sit in its legislative assembly. As for the the Hurriyat, it is a legitimate representative of the terrorists, jihadis and their Pakistani sponsors. The paradox only arises when one is mistaken for the other. India’s foreign policy objective should be focussed on making this distinction clear. Given its nature, the Hurriyat has missed every single chance to establish its bona fides — from refusing to participate in elections, to failing to condemn terrorism, to failing to even meet the Indian Prime Minister when he went all the way to their own backyard. As Prime Minister Singh rightly put it, the Hurriyat leaders are ‘small men thrown into big chairs’ who have just blown an excellent chance to act responsibly.

The second issue is the paradox of talks without preconditions. Literally speaking such a thing is an impossibility. The Hurriyat seems to be saying: if the government is genuinely interested in talks without preconditions why does it exclude them the minute it raises certain demands like travelling to Pakistan.

Well, there should be a precondition — but not the Hurriyat’s absurd visit to Pakistan. The most important precondition is for the Hurriyat to take an unequivocal stand against terrorism. That, more than anything, will call the Hurriyat’s bluff. They should be allowed to visit Islamabad, Muzaffarabad, Riyadh, Washington or Beijing — as long as the Indian government is serious about engaging the legitimate representatives of the Kashmiri people in a genuine peace process, its only a matter of time before the Hurriyat’s churlish charlatanism will stand exposed.

The third paradox is this: where will Kashmir be represented in the India-Pakistan dialogue? Is Kashmir an India-Pakistan dispute or a Government of India-Kashmiri people dispute? The answer usually given is: both.

This is the tough one. In spite of all the hoopla over a ‘thaw’ in relations with Pakistan, the reality is that a sustainable peace deal cannot be struck with Pakistan until that country goes through a process of national reconciliation.

But India’s strategy has been to have a parallel track dialogue process to address these concerns. But Hurriyat is asking the question: What is going to be the relationship between these two dialogues? If India-Pakistan are going to settle Kashmir, where does the Kashmir-government dialogue fit in? On the other hand, if the government is going to work out a deal with the Kashmiris, where will this leave Pakistan? We do not yet have a framework for linking the two dialogues, and therein may lie a catch.

But on the issue of terrorism there need not be any ambiguity — any negotiations with Pakistan must be contingent on its abandoning the use of terrorism as an instrument of proxy-war. Since that is yet to happen, further speculation can afford to wait.

2 thoughts on “Three paradoxes of India’s Kashmir policy, resolved”

  1. Well-laid out argument Nitin. Amongst the better posts here in days, I daresay.

    For once I’m short of words, agree totally with your views here. About the Hurriyat, one thing I’d like to mention: “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opoortunity”.

    (This was a quotation about the paleos under Arafat but can be extended to include the Hurriyat as well.)

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