Yielding on Kashmir won’t spare India from more terrorist attacks
The leading article in this week’s Economist tells you why the peace process was a strategic blunder on India’s part. “The attacks in Mumbai”, it writes, “show why India and Pakistan must solve the problem of Kashmir”. Never mind that it is not even clear that the terrorists behind the serial blasts had anything to do with Kashmiris or their politics. The Economist is every bit as appalling as the Khurshid Kasuri whom it echoes. Nevertheless it exemplifies the world’s attitude towards India—that it is interested in India due to its growing economy, but it does not much care how Kashmir is settled, as long as it is. And as long as everyone else is not unsettled by talk of nuclear war.
To an extent, such concerns apply to Indians too. Indian public opinion may even accept a solution where the Line of Control becomes the international border. Instead of holding this out as the best deal Pakistan could ever get, India—under both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh—appeared to effectively make this India’s opening position. Pakistan needed no encouragement to hold out for more, using the same old strategy of using jihadis as bargaining chips. So the only way to solve Kashmir quickly is on Pakistan’s terms. “Giving up any of its territory or any of its sovereignty in Kashmir” may be “crumbs” for The Economist, but it is certainly not so for India. Yet India’s willingness to negotiate with Pakistan, accompanied with the series of clean chits Indian leaders have been giving Pakistan in recent months have combined to give the world an impression that it is India that is dragging its feet, negotiating bus links while it is Musharraf who is putting up “constructive proposals”.
Yet, even a settlement that satisfies Pakistan and those “peaceful Kashmiri separatists” (who are they?) presumes that the jihadi agenda is restricted to one state. It may well turn out that the terrorists that struck Mumbai had little to do with Kashmir at all. The proximate causes of Islamic terrorism have been communal tensions, with motives ranging from settling scores to waging a war against the Indian state. Solving Kashmir by appeasing the Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists may deprive them of their current cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre, but even so, the buckling of the Indian state in the face of terrorism will encourage more terrorism across India, not less. And only the naive will believe that Pakistan will live (and let India live) happily ever after once it manages to settle Kashmir on its own terms.
That India finds itself, at least in international opinion, compelled to make territorial concessions to Pakistan even as the latter remains a terrorist-supporting state points to the harm that the peace process has caused to India’s position. Afterinsisting—in the face of repeated terrorist provocation—that the peace process is irreversible, Dr Manmohan Singh has announced that it is now at least under review. While the world will find this understandable in the short term, India will come under renewed pressure to carry on with the process once the Mumbai attacks fade from memory. Recovering from the strategic blunder will be neither easy nor inexpensive. Yet, it will be far easier and cheaper than carrying on indulging Musharraf or his successors while they play their old games.
India was once on the right track when it insisted that Pakistan hand over some of the worst terrorist leaders it harbours as a gesture of good faith for dialogue to start. That’s still a good place to go back to. Followed by the complete, verifiable dismantling of outfits starting with the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. Until that time, the benefits of engaging Pakistan will be at best be temporary. Far from compelling Pakistan, every act of terrorism in India—regardless of its relation to Kashmir—will increase pressure on India to make territorial concessions. That, if you didn’t already notice, is Pakistan’s long-time strategy beginning to bear fruit.
Update: Saw this post (from a year ago) listed on the sidebar. Coincidence.