How India lets itself slide down a slippery slope

The water around the frog is heating up

When it was first conceived, the Kashmir bus service was intended to allow ordinary Kashmiris on either side of the Line of Control to visit their relatives on the other side. It was all about people-to-people contacts — the bus was not for politicians, and certainly not for terrorists.

But India had to begin to make concessions almost as soon as the idea was announced. First, it acquiesed to the Pakistani position on travel documents — bus passengers will not carry official passports, but travel documents issued by their local governments. Then, India agreed that only residents of Jammu & Kashmir state would be effectively allowed to make the bus journey — even if this was a flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of India’s constitution that holds all citizens as equal. Next, as soon as the bus made its journey, it appeared that some passengers from the Pakistani side did not make the journey just to pay an emotional social visit to their loved ones — they actually came to lay claim over their ancestral property. The good chief minister of India’s Jammu & Kashmir state was only too willing to accede — the haste was indecent considering that similar claims of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits, victims of ethnic cleansing at the hands of jihadi terrorists, are neither fashionable in India’s mainstream media nor among Kashmir’s political leaders.

And the slide continues. While India should have no reservations over who the leaders of the Hurriyat meet — yes, they should not be prevented from meeting even terrorists — their position as leaders of a separatist political outfit should not accord them any greater status as the ordinary people they claim they represent. Just allowing them to take the Kashmir bus to the Pakistani part of Kashmir clearly violates the spirit of launching the bus service. But it can be argued that they are Kashmiri people first, and that should enable them to enjoy everything that other Kashmiri people are entitled to. Anything beyond this is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive.

On the Hurriyat leaders breaking the terms of the agreement that got the Kashmir bus going, the current Indian attitude is typical — when India has already slipped so much, then surely, there’s no harm in slipping some more? Although using a platform intended for people-to-people contacts, the Hurriyat leaders after all, not ordinary people. This attitude is wrong — the collective outcome of these slips will present India with a fait accompli that it may not desire. As for the Hurriyat, political elite they may be, but the label of ‘extraordinary people’ has been stuck onto them with little justification. Everywhere in the world, presidents, prime ministers and other senior officials are bound by the same rules of entry and exit as their ordinary citizens (except they have access to VIP terminals, red carpets and guards of honour). India should refrain from according any special status to the Hurriyat leaders. If India seeks to engage them in the peace process, it should do so within the laws and rules that apply to everyone else.

Tailpiece: Take inch, want mile

Apparently reacting to India’s reservations over Hurriyat leaders travelling to Pakistan by the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, Islamabad has criticised New Delhi’s “obduracy” and threatened to seek implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir if the neighbour did not respond to its CBMs.

The Indian “stubbornness” could force Pakistan to review its existing policy, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri was quoted as saying by The News daily in his native town Kasur on Friday. [Deccan Herald]

How difficult it must be for the Pakistani foreign minister to understand the concept of rule of law.

8 thoughts on “How India lets itself slide down a slippery slope”

  1. i hope we continue to insist on the hurriyat not going beyond pok. knowing them (and pak), they will. on their return we arrest them for violating the visa/document restrictions 🙂

  2. Nitin:

    Has the Indian govt. acceded to the ‘extraordinary status’ for the Hurriyat leaders? In any case, this is a good test of Pakistani intentions in sticking to agreements made w/ India. I hope the Wagah-types are paying close attention.


  3. Kumar,

    The Indian government has not officially acceded to this, but the Pakistan government has announced that the Hurriyat leaders will go to Islamabad.

    Two things: one, any agreement struck with the Pakistani government is bound to be stretched or violated; two, it remains to be seen how much integrity the Hurriyat itself has, if it goes ahead. No great hopes here.

    And as Jagadish says, the only thing India can do is arrest those folks once they are back — thereby losing PR mileage.

    That’s why I wrote that slipping and sliding will result in being presented with a fait accompli that could be quite undesirable.

  4. Nitin,

    I quite agree that Pakistan will stretch any agreement it makes with India, perhaps even break it. Pakistan is, no doubt, counting on the ‘irreversible logic’ of the ‘peace process’ keeping India from walking out after breaking/stretching various agreements. I do hope that someone in the GoI is paying attention–a wan hope, perhaps.

    Ever hopefully,
    P.S, on a slightly tangential note, have you read Pratap Banu Mehta’s review of Arun Shourie in Outlook ?

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