The answer is good governance, not secession

Reversing alienation is difficult, but not impossible

At a time of crisis, the UPA government’s abject lack of leadership shows. In the absence of a resolute voice and action from the national leadership, the punditry in New Delhi has gotten into tailspin of defeatism. So it is good to see a timely editorial in Mint that helps put things back in perspective

India is no stranger to secessionist movements and Kashmir is no different in this respect. India has had to weather insurgencies in many states in the 20th century and has always succeeded in stemming this tide. There has been no exception.

The events of the last one month have, however, made commentators think otherwise. It is now being openly argued that such is the extent of alienation in Kashmir valley that, except for letting it go, there is little else that can be done. We believe this is a misreading of the situation and there is little to theories of Kashmiri exceptionalism.

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), more than any other state, has suffered from a deficit of good governance. Since 1953, when autonomy of the state was greatly whittled down, most elections have been rigged there. This has deprived the people living there of precious public goods such as uncorrupt public representatives, equality of opportunity in public employment, and finally security. New Delhi’s preoccupation with security fundamentally eroded what it sought. This has greatly fuelled alienation.

But there’s more to this story. There is no way of providing public goods efficiently in a centralized manner. As a result, border provinces have problems in getting the right quantity of these goods. Punjab and states in the North-East have seen separatism. So, in that sense there is nothing exceptional to Kashmir’s current woes. This is where the Left (and now liberal) opinion misreads the situation. [Mint]

24 thoughts on “The answer is good governance, not secession”

  1. Good governance makes a difference obviously. But it might only decide the form of the separatist movement. The latest popular uprising in Kashmir sans militancy and Pakistani meddling is a by-product of good initiatives of the Vajpayee govt, free elections, emergence of PDP, a reasonably good government provided by PDP-Congress in the state and lingering legacy of that pragmatic man, Pervez Musharraf.

    So good governance may lead to more civilized forms of separatism and hence more support for separation from the people of India too 🙂

    As for real-politik, an independent Kashmir may bring many tangible benefits to India besides the cold calculations on expenditure and military effort.

    1. End to the lawless land called POK, which provides shelter to all forms of terrorism. No amount of Good governance in J&K is gonna make POK disappear, isn’t it? Don’t we owe something also to the people of POK who atleast in rhetoric are still ‘Indians’?
    2. Possible improvement in our relations with Pakistan since Kashmir is considered an unfinished partition business there. We dismembered them, they did to us and so we are even, lets move on …
    3. Kashmir can become a friendly neighbor on the lines of Bhutan and Nepal. It might also serve as the military buffer against Pakistan like Bhutan and Nepal do with China.
    4. Kashmir’s independence will have a very positive effect on the global war on terror as well. One less motive to provoke people, you see.

  2. and surely the Mint author has never heard of Tibet. Will India ever provide better governance to an occupied land than China? But has China won over the people’s hearts and minds of the Tibetans?

    sure, China is not a democracy and the development accompanies Han migration. Isn’t that the case with J&K too? no democracy in Kashmir for most its occupied History. The Abdullah rule is more like monarchy since most of the rigging was done in favor of their family. it’ll be a surprise if the elections aren’t put off this time too.

    and we use artificial numbers stuffed with Jammu figures to suppress the voice of freedom from the Kashmiris. sounds chinese to me.

  3. @Balaji,

    I recommend that you take Imodium (loperamide hydrochloride). It won’t cure your diarrhoea but might help stem the flow.

    There’s no drug as such for mastering facts, and certainly not for making good analogies, but taking Imodium will at least reduce the deluge of nonsense that you are exuding.

    I know I’m taking liberties here—but can you just buzz off and troll around other blogs. You are lowering the quality of discussions that this blog is known for.

  4. Well said, Balaji. I think most realpolitik proponents are also ignoring the moral power that comes from doing the right thing. It applies to nations as much as to individuals.

    “They oppressed Kashmiri pundits” – that doesn’t mean we should oppress them now.
    “But what happens to other regions if we give up Kashmir, jihadis will taste blood, etc.” – end does not justify the means.

  5. @Mohan,

    Dude. Do nations have diarrhoea too? I’m not being flippant, but where’s the emperical evidence for saying that what applies to individuals applies to nations?

  6. Balaji: try to finish your thoughts in one post. Your point on PoK is puzzling – do you honestly believe Pakistan is going to vacate PoK to allow a plebiscite? That, in case you’re not aware, is a precondition for a plebiscite. Pakistan’s only reason for existence is being “not-India”. They have no other decipherable identity. Handing them the Valley – they’re not interested in Jammu and Ladakh btw – will not sate them. Your point on Tibet is even more perplexing: you’re using good governance by an oppressive regime like China to justify that good governance in Kashmir will not solve the “hearts and minds” issue. Oh yeah – just sweep that bothersome Han migration issue under the Tien Shan plateau shall we? Taken together, the only conclusion is you’re a troll.

    Mohan: I think most realpolitik proponents are also ignoring the moral power that comes from doing the right thing.

    Stand-up comedy can be very rewarding.

  7. Udayan: Let’s take the intermediate step between individuals and nations – corporates. There are many corporates who have made doing the right thing (or at least projecting that image) part of their goal and have derived benefits from it. Infosys (“driven by values”), Google (“do no evil”), etc. Benefits have been in the form of good press, attracting talent, attracting customers, etc. Sunil Mittal has built a company twice the size of Infosys in less than half the time, yet he hasn’t got as much press as Narayana Murthy mainly because he isn’t seen as this morally upright do-gooder. So doing the right thing clearly has benefits for a corporation. If it can apply to individuals and to corporations, I see no reason why it shouldn’t apply to nations. We have all made fun of Pakistan’s “hunting with the hound and running with the hare” approach last few years and it can be argued that the present state they find themselves in is partly because of those double standards. Why should we go the same route of tom-toming our democratic credentials on the one hand and ruling a region by force against near-unanimous public opinion on the other?

  8. Mohan and Balaji – Morals are not on the side of the secessionists, notwithstanding the horrific Kashmiri Pandit exodus.

    Let me republish my comment from Nitin’s last post.

    So called classic liberals or libertarians do not get it. (Btw, Arundhati is not a liberal, the European/American distinction of the classical/left liberalism confuses many in the Indian media. Arundhati is an unreconstructed Bolshevik, she is anything but a liberal)

    1. Libertarianism does not amount to on-demand secession; that is what anarchism would be sympathetic to. Libertarianism does mean maximum individual freedom within a strong (but not big) government that enforces the rule of law. Has this been tried? Article 370 – first fault. Government intervention in religion, for Hindus or Muslims – second fault. (if government would even freely distribute all the land to locals but with strong property rights and then revoking 370, I am sure even the most secessionist/communal Kashmiri guy would have sold the land to an entrepreneur wanting to organize the Yatra – it would have been too lucrative to say no). And finally, no free trade across LOC – this might be the third cross against the lack of real liberalism as we speak, but I wont press this one because of obvious strategic reasons.

    2. Now one might say, as Mr. Nageswaran points out, what about the genesis of the problem? I mean didn’t Britain “kind of” implement the rule of law in India – so even if that was libertarian, yet it was obviously imperialistic. Therefore even if we get more libertarian in Kashmir in general and govern better – imperialism is still imperialism. This is the kind of fallacy I think Mr. Amit Varma and co. fell into. Tempting train of thought, but a wrong ticket nonetheless. Why? Firstly, the whole of South Asia is one cultural entity, and it has gone only two ways – Islamic Pakistan/B’desh or secular India – there is no locus standi for an “independent” Kashmir Valley more than an “independent” South Calcutta – and geopolitically that wont happen anyways. And if they want to wink wink merge into Pakistan, then are we ipso facto saying that you know what, too-bad-for-the-away-from-border-Muslims – you are just being “tolerated” in a “secular” India. Obviously NOT. Plus India is a democracy, and British India was not.

    Therefore, the whole idea of secular, democratic and a classically liberal India is at stake. Which means ALL THE MORE reason to not yield a square inch in the valley.

    I respect Mr. Aiyar, and I enjoy Mr. Varma’s blog – and I am a moderate libertarian myself. But Cato positions and Bastiat awards (both great achievements by themselves) should not go to their heads, to put it bluntly.

    If YOU are liberal, then in fact you must denounce secession the loudest.

  9. >>If it can apply to individuals and to corporations, I see no reason why it shouldn’t apply to nations.

    You don’t see reason because you are not reasoning well enough, Comrade Mohan.

    Since Karl Max’s time, leftists managed to persuade at least a section of the population that business is evil and that profit is a bad word. So-called “corporate responsibility” initiatives are the defensive tactics of a besieged business community. *I* see no reason why companies have to be charitable any more than individuals are.

    That much of success has not been achieved portraying a nation as an evil entity, despite the commies’ best efforts.

    >>Why should we go the same route of tom-toming our democratic credentials on the one hand and ruling a region by force against near-unanimous public opinion on the other?

    The first step to solving the Kashmir ‘problem’ is the creation of a state within the valley for Pandits. Our democratic credentials require that we demand this too.

  10. Mohan,

    Corporates are not in-betweens; they are exactly like individuals in the sense that they are subject to the law of the state they operate in. The state, however, is sovereign. Unlike individuals and corporates who operate in an environment where there is rule of law, states operate in an environment where might is right. So the morality itself is different.

    The most common mistake people make is one of anthropomorphism—they assume that states are like people, and the norms of inter-personal or civic relationships are (and should be) the same as the norms of international relations. That gets you into a lot of heartburn when you see the real world work differently.

  11. Harsh,

    Have you hacked into my computer? I’m working on a piece which makes very similar arguments: including the one about, about property rights-based solution.

  12. Nitin,

    I was not referring to individuals and corporations being on the right side of the law. But those who go beyond that and strive to be “ethical” and reap benefits from that. So the fact that individuals and corporations are subject to laws and nations aren’t is not particularly relevant there. Just as there are benefits to being ethical for individuals and corporations, there are also benefits to nations in doing the same. And conversely, there are costs to being unethical. All I am saying is those costs and benefits have to be factored in in the realpolitik calculations.

    For example, all else being equal, there are many who would rather trade with or invest in India than in China because of the latter’s human rights record. So that is a cost China has to bear for suppressing human rights.

    Mohan

  13. Harsh!
    “Arundhati is an unreconstructed Bolshevik”!!! Superb observation! Nobody could have put it better.

  14. Dear Mohan,

    all else being equal, there are many who would rather trade with or invest in India than in China because of the latter’s human rights record.

    Okay, prove it then. And why should all else be equal? Do companies make a decision to invest keeping all else equal, or on the basis of taking all facts into consideration?

  15. Nitin,

    I am not saying all else *should* be equal. Provided everything else is equal (say, for some particular sector, expected returns are same in China and India, or some good costs the same bought from either country), there are people who would prefer India. I am sure that applies to most of Dalai Lama’s followers worldwide, as an example. So there is a cost to being unethical and any decision has to account for that.

  16. Mohan,

    Provided everything else is equal (say, for some particular sector, expected returns are same in China and India, or some good costs the same bought from either country), there are people who would prefer India

    Oh sure, in a fantasy world you could contrive of situations like this. But perhaps you’d provide some emperical evidence that this really happens in the real world?

    Absent such evidence, we could also argue that if all else is equal, the corporation would prefer China because the CEO’s wife was born in China, or that expatriate executive prefers India because he likes Indian food, or that the company prefers China because it has good airports and roads, and suchlike.

    But here’s the main point: even if companies and individuals conducted their affairs adhering to, or generally adhering to, or preferring to adhere to, a moral code, it does not follow that nations also do or ought to.

    At the level of states, there being no super-state, matsya nyaya still exists. Russia vs Georgia, US invasion of Iraq, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan’s invasion of POK in 1948, India’s annexation of Hyderabad, Sikkim, Goa, etc. Plenty of evidence to suggest that countries don’t care much for niceties.

  17. Nitin,

    Google for boycott china and you will get hundreds of links. This, for ex: http://www.boycottmadeinchina.org/. Most of them suggest China’s human rights record and Tibet as the reason for boycott. I didn’t get any hits for Boycott India. There is your empirical evidence for the claim that “all else being equal there are many who prefer India over China to do business with”.

    >> But here’s the main point: even if companies and individuals conducted their affairs adhering > to, or generally adhering to, or preferring to adhere to, a moral code, it does not follow that > nations also do or ought to.

    I think you are missing the point. I am not saying that nations ought to follow a moral code. Just that there are costs in not doing so and factor in that cost when arriving at decisions.

  18. Mohan,

    What a joke! Didn’t you even realise that the site called Boycott Made in China was set up because companies were ignoring morals and concerns for human rights?

    I think you are missing the point. I am not saying that nations ought to follow a moral code. Just that there are costs in not doing so and factor in that cost when arriving at decisions.

    Ah. Are there no costs then of doing things in a morally correct way? But it’s not enough for you to say that the costs have to be weighed in—you need to prove why these costs outstrip the benefits of acting otherwise.

  19. Nitin,

    Of course there are costs of doing things in a morally correct way too. And I have not said one outstrips the other. All I have been saying is, a) there are costs of being unethical and b) those costs have to be factored in too. And yes, that’s what corporations (and individuals too) do too. As long as the benefits of being morally correct outweigh the costs, you take the moral high ground.

  20. @Mohan: So, all you are saying is that there are costs to every course of action.. and these costs should be factored into the calculations. Thank you, Captain Obvious. We’ll presently be working out a solution to all of humanity’s problems.

  21. BOK,

    It was being argued that morality doesn’t apply to nations, nations are different from individuals, etc. My point is that nations do interact with human beings (customers, investors, media are all made up of human beings) and human beings do judge nations on the basis of moral code (as in the case of those Boycott China guys), hence morality does play a role in the affairs of nations.

  22. Mohan,

    You say “I am not saying that nations ought to follow a moral code.”

    You also say “My point is that nations do interact with human beings and human beings do judge nations on the basis of moral code, hence morality does play a role in the affairs of nations.”

    So morality does play a role in the affairs of nations, but nations need not follow a moral code, only that there are costs of not doing so. Okay fine. But well, if you replace morality with immorality, amorality, or why, for that matter, mortality in the above sentence I’m sure we can still end this thread of discussion on a agreeable note.

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