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Friday, July 31, 2015

Kashmir: Not the moment for a tryst 1 August 2015

In an article ‘Resentful Kashmiris’, Kuldip Nayar writes of Kashmiris becoming more anti-Indian, both in form and substance. This may be useful in many ways than one. However, one way Kashmiris are better warned not to go down is to challenge the Indian state yet again, not at this juncture at any rate.
Kuldip Nayar forthrightly writes of an exchange in which he warns that Kashmiri cessation could have repercussions on India’s Muslim minority elsewhere in India, to which his Kashmiri interlocutor counter argues, ‘Your  Muslims are your problem.’
This reveals the extent of interface with their Kashmiri brethren of India’s Muslims south of the Pir Panjal. Since the mainstream Indian Muslim opinion was largely coincident with that of liberal Indian opinion on Kashmir, it was generally disapproving of the military template operational in the Valley for the past quarter century and supportive of a solution through dialogue with both Pakistan and with Kashmiris themselves.
Working through, with and within the liberal perspective was useful in that the Kashmir issue remained largely a territorial one in relation to Pakistan and not a religious one entangled in the vexed minority management issues in the rest of India. To recall, majority-minority strains came to fore coincident in time with the outbreak of the troubles in Kashmir in the late eighties, peaking together in the early nineties. That the two issues remained separate was altogether a good thing, since both had the potential to, if taken together, mutually complicate each other.
In the main liberal opinion was not quite an underdog in the years that followed. The element of restraint, such as there was, in the military template in Kashmir was on its account; so much so, that a modicum of normalcy could be said to have returned to the Valley, beginning with the NDA years under the stewardship of Vajpayee.
In effect, Kashmiris owe the rest of India much, including its Muslim minority. To be sure India could have and should have done much more to meet them more than halfway. Indeed, much of the resentment Nayar detects can be laid at India’s door, in the inability of the UPA to convert a position of advantage to sustainable peace.
Nayar hints at a possible reason for this inability and unwillingness. Liberal opinion has been cognizant of its relative strength in respect of the right wing that watched over its shoulder. It therefore confined itself to conflict management rather than resolution. That this apprehension of the right wing stealing a march in case it did otherwise was valid is borne out by the manner the right wing wrested the electoral upper hand last year.
A consideration has always been the possible repercussions of ‘concessions’ towards Kashmiris on the larger national minority. Howsoever unfair, it would have given the right wing another stick to beat not only the minorities, but the liberals as well. Therefore, that the UPA did not chance it was politically sensible. In the event, they were eclipsed anyway.
However, under the current circumstance ‘concessions’ are certainly possible. The right wing is comfortably ensconced in Delhi. It never has had to look over its shoulder. It has over the past year engaged in boundary setting and creating the conditions that enable potential concessions. In Kashmir these include getting itself into the coalition in Srinagar, telling Pakistan where to get off, staring it down at the LC, reducing infiltration to zero, and propping up its Jammu constituency to balance, and potentially cancel out, Srinagar. Outside of Kashmir, Mr. Modi is readying to have the military constituency eat out of its hand by holding on to the OROP declaration till the final moment when perhaps as early as at the 1965 fiftieth anniversary commemoration he grandly hands out the goodies.
If Kashmiris prove patient, they can prove themselves deserving of political ‘concessions’, such as progressing pushing back of the AFSPA to begin with. Mr. Modi can then grandly – as is his wont – bestow them when he builds up the tempo and is sure of pocketing the political dividend. Kashmiris would have got what they need. India’s minority would not bear any fallout. Mr. Modi would have the peace he needs to work his Gujarat model on the rest of India. This is a ‘Win-win’ situation for all, other than Pakistan’s right wingers.   
They may instigate Kashmiris to an untimely and possibly futile Round II. The army commander has in his Kargil Day interaction with the press let on that there is concern with educated youth signing up with militancy. Whereas this figure is still in the two digits, it reinforces Nayar’s observation of continuing disaffection.
In case this disaffection translates into confrontation then Mr. Modi’s hands will be as tied as any preceding Indian government’s. Just as with any other government, the suppressive template would be operational once again.
The legitimacy for this will be easy to create. Already there is disinformation abroad on the proximity of the Daeash to South Asia. A report has an opportune discovery of a Daesh plan to attack India and trigger an India-Pak Armageddon.  This will expectedly prove handy, even if time were to prove that it is a transparently motivated report put out by organizations and media outlets with right wing sympathies in the US. Mr. Modi’s foreign travels will ensure that his interlocutors there will give him the benefit of doubt. India will project itself as containing the Islamist threat, a cause that attracts the big three: US, Russia and China.
Thus, there is little that Kashmiris going militant at this stage can hope to wrest. Besides, Kashmiris can only expect to hurt to the extent they are ‘successful’ in inconveniencing India. As Nayar warns, the repercussions for India’s Muslims will be immediate and direct. They are now also hostage to Kashmiri good behavior.
The past year of Hindutvavadis running riot with state culpability hints as much. Alongside, the home ministry’s intent to busy itself with a counter radicalization program suggests they are already identified as Pakistan’s potential fifth column and an attractive constituency for the latest bogeyman, Daesh.
It appears that the earlier distance between Kashmir and India’s other minority question has eroded. Further convergence between the two can come about were Kashmir to improbably ignite yet again. That would create conditions for the perfect storm, benefiting the right wing on both sides of the erstwhile Radcliffe line and with no benefit sighted for Kashmiris. This analysis suggests that while flirting with black flags and green flags is romantic, expressive and cathartic, that is where the matter should end.
‘Concessions’ appear to be Mr. Modi’s Plan A. The somewhat limp Dinanagar attack and zero-infiltration this year indicates that Pakistan’s cards are down. It is yet to receive India’s retribution by proxy. That will likely be timed with the forthcoming NSAs meet, intended as a reading out by India of the Riot Act to Pakistan. If it fails, Plan B has been in place in Kashmir incongruous with its improved security indices for a decade in any case.
It’s therefore better to let Mr. Modi have his cake and await the outcome.  



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