Perspectives on Kashmir

Professor Alok Rai of Delhi University has suggested an exchange on Kashmir between members of civil society in India and Pakistan (Pakistan’s Kashmir Problem, Daily Times, July 3, 2009). This is a welcome initiative and the thrust of Professor Rai’s conclusions is sensible. But, the framing of the issue – in terms of an India-Pakistan “problem” – is not the best to achieve the end that Professor Rai has in mind.

This framing leads straight back into the morass that has dogged all previous discussions on this topic. The bottom line of Professor’s Rai’s argument is that what’s done is done and cannot be undone; that the status quo is unchangeable; that Pakistan needs Kashmir to validate the two-nation theory; that a cost-benefit analysis should convince Pakistan that attempting to change the reality in Kashmir is not worth the price; and, that India does have a problem in Kashmir but Pakistan should allow it to resolve it on its own.

Pakistanis might agree or disagree with these premises but an engagement along these lines would remain polarized as in the past because of its misplaced focus. This formulation continues to accord centrality to the claims and interests of India and Pakistan and to reduce Kashmir to the status of a “problem” between the two. That is a recipe for a deadlock.

We might be better served by framing this in a South Asian perspective putting the people of Kashmir at the center of the picture. I suppose there should be no difficulty reaching agreement that all those engaged in the discussion give priority to the welfare of the people of Kashmir over the political objectives of India and Pakistan.

If the participants do not agree to this it would immediately become clear that the objective proposed by Professor Rai is mis-specified – Kashmir is only being used to resolve some other leftover issues between India and Pakistan. If so, it would make more sense to understand and pay attention to the other issues instead of making Kashmir pay the price.

If there is agreement that the welfare of the people of Kashmir takes precedence over the political objectives of India and Pakistan, the participants in the debate can move to the next step. What should they be asking of their respective governments in order to further the welfare of the people of Kashmir?

As a first measure, members of civil society should be asking their governments to explain to citizens the precise objectives of their policies on Kashmir, how they are going about pursuing these policies, and what is the sacrifice they are imposing on citizens as a result.

The reality is that governments have not taken citizens in confidence on this issue and the citizens have a very poor idea of what is being done, why it is being done, and at what cost to their lives and those of their children.

For the same reason, it is also misleading to frame this discussion in terms of what Pakistan and India have done, are doing, and should do with regard to Kashmir. Pakistanis and Indians are in the dark; it is a very limited number of people who have been managing, mismanaging or manipulating (take your pick) the issue for reasons that remain opaque to the majority of the citizens of the two countries. Therefore, it is important for civil society members to ask who in their own countries is doing what and why before engaging in a cross-border dialogue.

Seen in this perspective, it also becomes understandable why governments in the two countries might be less than open on their intentions and might resort to lies, sustained indoctrination, manipulation of elections, and even provocative covert actions to provide cover and legitimacy to their designs.

Professor Rai might have the causality reversed in the argument he has presented. It might not be the will of the citizens of the two countries regarding Kashmir that is being implemented by their respective governments. It might well be the will of the governments that is being legitimized through a manipulation of popular consciousness using tactics that scare or trigger emotional responses.

This suggests another useful measure for civil society organizations to undertake within their own countries. An objective, carefully designed survey should be able to uncover what exactly is the will of the Indian and Pakistani people regarding Kashmir and how much of their own welfare they are willing to tradeoff for the achievement of “success” (however defined) in Kashmir.

This would be a major step forward in enabling an evidence-based discussion instead of one based on assumptions of what Pakistanis or Indians desire with respect to Kashmir. The evidence would also serve as an input to the governments that have monopolized the definition of “national interest” without any challenge. Most importantly, it might transform the debate from one of talking at or to one another to the realization that there is a basis for the two civil societies to be presenting their governments with a common demand supported by a majority of citizens in both countries.

There is no morality that can justify the pain that has been inflicted on the people of Kashmir. Civil society clearly needs to debate the reasons for this outcome but it needs to do a lot of homework before such a debate can bear fruit.

The debate also needs to start with the understanding that Kashmir should not be held hostage to the interests of the governments of India and Pakistan. Rather, Indians and Pakistanis should be prepared to make concessions to advance the interests of Kashmir. This is an objective towards which citizens of both countries should volunteer to work together.

Link to follow-up post on assessing Indian and Pakistani policies on Kashmir.

 

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94 Responses to “Perspectives on Kashmir”

  1. Vikram Says:

    I have been trying to get a handle on the Kashmir issue and I can see two huge obstacles in its resolution.

    One is the mindset of the Indian political elite and the middle classes who seem to have a territorially possessive attitude towards Kashmir, and think elections and ‘development’ rhetoric can overcome the human rights violations there.

    The other, more subtle obstacle is the attitude of the pro-separation elites in Kashmir. The irrationality of this group of people sometimes confounds me. There seems to be no push for a settlement and no realization that India is not going to just forsake its strategic interests in Kashmir without a good deal in return. I think this group indulges in gross exaggeration of facts, for example the frequently quoted ’100000′ Kashmiris have laid down their lives for freedom line. In fact, a total of 14541 civilians have been killed in Kashmir in the last 20 years, which is still a huge number.

    http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/data_sheets/annual_casualties.htm

    Until both sides clear up the facts and their heads, no settlement can be reached.

    Also, let it be known that even though India deceived and humiliated the Kashmiris, nobody is more responsible for the actual violence there than the elites and the army of Pakistan. It would be well advised for Pakistan to keep itself out of this issue now, or there can be no solution.

  2. Indian blogger Says:

    Who are you South Asian? Which country do you belong to?
    Your declarations puting Indian and Pak governments at the same level make me think you are from Pakistan. If you don’t post my reply, you would have confirmed my suspicion.

    Vikram, I don’t know what middle class attitude you are talking about. A mere 10 years ago when Pak army and it’s surrogates had occupied a few mountains in Kashmir (Kargil 1999), Indian people displayed outpouring of emotional and financial support to Kashmir cause, Indian army cutting across castel language, religious divides.

    The longer and more intense Pak has pursued Kashmir, in response the stronger and more passionate it has been associated with Indian nationalistic mythology.

    Your statemt on India getting something in return for Kashmir is a non-starter. Forget about any moral, historical or any other justification, mere survival instinct of India requires it to hold on to Kashmir no matter what.

    What can be pursued is addressing genuine grievances of Kashmiris, and try to focus on economic development.

    • Vinod Says:

      Now, that’s the signature Indian response. It’s very difficult to have a dispassionate talk with an Indian on this topic. It’s become this emotional thing where it’s all over-dramatized as if Pakistan is out to get the whole of India under Islamic rule and it’s therefore a matter of “survival”. The only way an Indian can come out of this is if he is pulled out of India and made to stay without contact with Indians for a long time and exposed to how other countries and their people are dealing with their secessionist movements. That should hopefully wear down his over zealous nationalism. Otherwise there is no hope at all.

      • PGB Says:

        “It’s become this emotional thing where it’s all over-dramatized as if Pakistan is out to get the whole of India under Islamic rule and it’s therefore a matter of “survival”.”

        This sentence would make sense if P’stan would not have Taliban. But unfortunately it does. What else would an Indian think?. I know a lot of people would compare “Hindu” extremists with Taliban …. but we are yet to see an Indian suicide bomber blowing up people in P’stan…… India Pak dispute cannot be compared with any other secessionist movements ….. Only viable path seems a bilateral dialogue after Taliban movement has been crushed till then it should be wait and watch by the Indians.

      • Indian Blogger Says:

        Lord Vinod,
        Ordinary mortals like us, the poor people of India are not as enlightened as you are. It seems you have an “unemotional” grand solution of India ceding Kashmir.

        Does your highness have any other solutions for other sessionsit movements in South Asia?

        About your nonsense on Pakistan is not out to get entire India. There are many muslim majority suburbs and villages in India, should they all become parts of Pakistan?

        As a broad-minded South Asian, do you have any suggestions for (Pak) Punjabis on how to handle Balochi freedom struggle? Visit Balochwarna.com

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Gentlemen: The post on Kashmir was intended to divide the respondents into two groups: those who were interested in the welfare of Kashmir and those who wished to prove whether India or Pakistan was more to blame.

          The latter is also an interesting discussion but is off-topic here. It has been going on for 60 years without any resolution. I have a suggestion for those who wish to continue along this path – just assume your country has a much better record. Now with that out of the way, let us discuss what each side is willing to do to better the situation in Kashmir.

          One reason this discussion will never be resolved is because it is simplistic. To say that India wants this and Pakistan wants that has very little meaning. India and Pakistan are names given to inanimate pieces of earth and being inanimate, they can’t want anything. To make sense one has to specify who seeks what in the two countries. And there is such diversity across them that any summary statement attributed to India and Pakistan would be misleading.

          My own guess is that the governments do not speak for the citizens on this issue. This can only be confirmed if there is an objective survey that can capture the diversity of opinion of the population. Pakistanis should ask themselves if it is moral to send activists into Kashmir knowing that it would lead to the deaths of innocent people. Indians should ask themselves if it is acceptable to promote secular ideals by sacrificing democratic traditions. Let us find out who in Pakistan supports intervention in Kashmir and who in India supports manipulation of elections. Let us find out who in the two countries stands up for morality in politics and respect for the rights of citizens.

          Once we have this information and the resolve to force our respective governments to act morally, we might be able to make some progress.

          • Vinod Says:

            I don’t think Indians are ready to look inward. That would be giving up the victim-standing that they have built all along. It’s the same reason why the US will not look at its foreign policy as a possible reason for the terrorism possibility it faces. Indians like to think that they have been benevolent with the Kashmiris and that it is entirely due to Pakistani meddling that the Kashmir issue is where it is. Vikram is a handful exception of Indians who are willing to look inward. This can be compared to what the Rwandans today are doing in East Congo. The brutalities they commit against the Hutus are justified because they were once victims of a genocide in 1994 by the Hutus. Traumatic experiences can psychologically leave a scar that can render the person deeply incapable of seeing that perhaps even the perpetrators of a genocide are humans who do not become automatically liable to genocidal treatment themselves. Indians like to think that pakistanis broke India into pieces and that “wound” still plays in their psyche when talking about this matter. Subjecting the Kashmiris to any kind of treatment is justified if it means getting the Pakistani culprits.

          • tadaham Says:

            Vinod, You are grossly wrong to attribute a certain viewpoint to over a billion people [ perhaps including yourself].
            Entire world has changed since the problem first arose. India too has changed drastically. More so in last decade. The policies are now implemented with and for larger participation. The non-representative state and central governments are getting thown out. Now more or less the govts are increasingly run by will of the people. It is quite different from initial period when it was more a whim of Nehru or Indira. Your observation may have been correct are hardly relevant now.
            Even though, MMS and entire cabinet may personally feel that Kashmir ejected out of India, they cannot do that because of the control that Indian public has on them.
            With Indian public in control rather than the leaders, the game entiely changes. The leaders can go on with their CBMs and talks, but in the end they know what Indian people wills Kashmir is integral part of India.
            If someone wants to convince the indian people otherwise they will have to speak to indian people directly instead of its leader. Address its concerns of secuirity and completeness. Foremost, they wil have to convince the indian people that what is good for them may not be good for a few [ ie being part of india].
            That IMO, is pretty tough.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            tadham: Perhaps you are right. Let your very strong conviction be confirmed by an objective poll. The result would allow the discussion to proceed with greater confidence.

          • tadaham Says:

            What poll. we had polls recently..
            As regards, talking things out. First neighboring countries need to sort out their leaders. SriLanka has done it. BanglaDesh has nearly done it. Pakistan would take a couple of decades to do that.
            Once that gets done the problems should be reasonably get sorted.

            Remember India and Srilanka just went thru tough times. It was because they had good representatives that things did not go out of hands.

            Bangladesh and India are doing reasonably well.. Things should get better with a few polls.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            tadham: Yes, India went to the polls recently in a general election. Kashmir was not an issue in the election nor was it a referendum on Kashmir. If you remember the article, it suggested an issue-specific survey to determine what the citizens of the two countries know about Kashmir, about the policies of their governments, and what they feel might be acceptable ways forward. You prefer the countries to first sort out their leaders. You are entitled to that opinion.

          • tadaham Says:

            Thanks SouthAsian for your patience…
            The need is not just one but a structured sequence. People decide one way one day and go another another day. It happens world over. The BJP which brought down a mosque and went on to win a poll in UP is just no where in the state in 2k9. Same with George Bush, same americans who supported him overwhelmingly voted with their boots when the results of the actions started coming in. I doubt if a single poll would give any indication what-so-ever.
            The real way forward is for the Kashmir separatists to participate in polls and show over several polls that this is what is needed.
            Indian elections are fair enough for this purpose.
            Remember, even during the british rule, Muslim league and congress regularly participated in pols.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            tadaham: We may be talking of different things or not understanding each other. If what you say is the case it would put an entire industry out of business. Opinion polls and surveys are a staple of the political and business worlds. Political parties and candidates commission opinion surveys all the time to find out where their constituencies stand on various foreign policy and domestic issues. Corporations rely on marketing surveys to determine the needs of their potential customers. Then there is a lot of investment in trying to alter or shape these opinions and tastes – that’s what political campaigning and advertising are all about. Opinions do change over time but they do not change randomly and from day to day. Your BJP and Bush examples cover long time spans.

            Whether people participate in general elections and whether the elections are fair or not is unrelated to the purpose and utility of issue-specific opinion surveys. As an individual you too have an opinion on various issues. Why bother to express it and why should anyone pay attention to it if tomorrow you are going to be believing in something totally different? You would not want policy to be based on something so fickle. If you voice an opinion in support of or in opposition to a policy, it is important to know whether you represent a majority or minority opinion. Everyone seems to feel that they represent the vast majority but these are only assertions unless they can be confirmed.

          • tadaham Says:

            Dear SouthAsian,
            Credibility of any poll is of great importance. We see ill-effects of the same in iran. The opinion polls go wrong more often than anything else. They went horribly wrong in India in 2004 and 2009.
            Same happens the world over. Any poll that is not comprehensive and credible has less than zero value.
            They are merely fodder for chatterati on TV and causes grevious harm.

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Liberal: Thanks. Much appreciated.

            tadaham: I agree. But this is a problem that can be addressed. Polls predicting election results are quite different from issue-specific surveys. If the latter were useless, hard-nosed businessmen would not invest in marketing studies. This is a subject on which we can get expert advice to decide whether it is possible to get the information we need. Since the stakes are so high in terms of human welfare and opportunity costs, we should not be averse to investing significant resources in a survey with an acceptably small margin of error.

          • Liberal from India Says:

            Dear Friend,
            Judging from all your expressions and ideas here on this blog, it seems that, about Kashmir, you are perhaps relying mainly on the info provided to you by some manipulated channels. Honestly speaking, we ourselves in India would take with a pinch of salt the info on Kashmir provided by government channels. But please be assured that we still have a free press of world standards to rely upon. At the same time, we fully trust our leaders (irrespective of their party affiliations) for their honesty in dealing with matters like Kashmir.

            Your perception about the plight of Kashmiri people is highly misplaced. We have hordes of Kashmiri traders, in lakhs, roaming around all over India and interacting with all kinds of communities without any fear. Almost all my neighbors have a permanent Kashmiri visitor every winter. Rashid, a shawl vendor from Anantnag district would drop in without fail to have a chat over a cup of tea with me almost every week during the winters.
            We do have a first hand info on whats cooking there. Kashmiri common man is very much aware of the socio-economic plight of Pakistan and would now abhor separatists. You do not have an iota of understanding about the accommodating nature and resilience of the culture of this country.

            Your allegation of a faulty electoral exercise in Kashmir does not hold water. Even the Hurriyat leaders have not raised any doubts about the elections this time and there is no rejection from any international quarter on this count.
            The ground realities have been changing fast and I would suggest that wise people like you should work towards convincing people about developing strong economic and commercial ties with India first. But if you again and again want to place Kashmir first before everything else, then your strategy would require the same tools and techniques which your army has been using over the years.
            The ball lies in your court, as usual! And also that you can not keep on inflicting those cuts all the time, forever!

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Liberal: This is the age of excess information. The presumption that some people have manipulated information while others have access to the truth is not a useful basis for discussion. Anecdotal evidence helps but is also not what is needed to talk about the future. You may be fully convinced about your perceptions (and you may be right) but for the moment they are still perceptions. I am suggesting a scientifically designed survey to find out what people know and think about the issue.

          • Liberal from India Says:

            Dear Friend South Asian:
            This would be my last in the series and not very much intended to get published necessarily because it is not a matter of ego for me.

            In plain terms, it looks highly unlikely that Kashmiri people would be insisting upon going with Pakistan in the prevalent circumstances in your country. On the other hand, if it was possible to give freedom to Kashmir as a free state then there are many pending issues like that of Tibet, Ireland and Kurdistan etc. etc. These are just a few ones but there are hundreds of similar struggles going on around the word for separate states. Currently, you know whats going on in China these days.

            Anyway, the crux of the matter is that you need to have International majority opinion in your favor to achieve such goals. Gone are the days when amnesty organizations would publish reports about Kashmir. The world community does not encourage separatism now at all. I also have a feeling that Hurriyat has learnt lessons from the recent fall of LTTE. World community does not poke nose in the regional issues anymore because every country has its own problems, even including that of Buloch etc in your Pakistan.

            I would stand by my conviction that now, Kashmiris are having a relook at their ‘foreign sponsored’ struggle, and the reports of atrocities are either concocted or blown out of proportion. In fact, majority of area in the valley is peaceful except some areas nearing LOC, obviously!

            India has been forced to militarize J&K heavily because militants are pushed in by the Pakistan army through LOC. It would be naive to think that thousand cuts strategy can endure for ever. Circumstances are changing fast in favor of India and still the people of India would appreciate any peaceful solution to this problem. I would reiterate that we should start with stronger economic ties and even allow the “economically marooned” AfPak tribals an access to their erstwhile market India. But unfortunately, you have developed enmity with them forever!

          • SouthAsian Says:

            Liberal: Professor Alok Rai of Delhi University suggested an exchange on this subject because he felt there was Kashmir “problem” and he specifically mentioned that both Pakistan and India had a Kashmir “problem.” If you feel that India has no Kashmir problem or that circumstances are changing fast in favor of India, you should write to him and let him know he is mistaken. You can present all the evidence that you have cited. If Professor Rai is convinced by your arguments and withdraws the invitation, we will cease the discussion in this forum.

            Till such time as the discussion is going on, you are welcome to participate while staying on topic. No one has insisted that Kashmir go to Pakistan or that freedom be given to Kashmir. The fact that there are many other problems in the world does not seem to be sufficient reason to ignore the Kashmir “problem” if there is one. If you have a medical problem, you would not refuse to consult a doctor because there are a million other sick persons in the world or that the world does not care about sickness any more.

            You are quite entitled to stand by your convictions but why should your convictions carry more weight than those of others? Is there a sensible way to confirm the convictions or do we just go on repeating them.

            Staying on topic also requires the need to avoid personalizing the issue. You have assumed that I am Pakistan itself with a personal army engaged in a thousand cuts strategy against India while locked in enmity with AfPak tribes. I wonder why you have done so when I have neither defended Pakistan, its army, or its AfPak policy. Since you have identified yourself as a liberal from India, should you be personally associated with anything that is not right in India?

            The subject of the discussion is clear: Is there a Kashmir issue? If so, what are the alternatives to improving the situation? Is it possible to shift the focus from the India-Pakistan animosity to a focus on the welfare of the people of Kashmir?

          • SouthAsian Says:

            It might be relevant to read a sobering commentary on the death of Robert McNamara.

            Governments can lie an mislead their citizens. They can wage wars, send their own citizens to death, and inflict misery on others. All this to protect “interests” that their citizens know little about. The war began to end only when Americans started to question their own government and to protest against its policies.

            Such things have happened.

            And here is a comment on the death of Ram Narayan Kumar, the kind of citizen we need so that such things do not happen.

          • Liberal from India Says:

            It seemed to you perhaps, that I am personalizing it on you. No! Not at all! It could be just in the flow of writing that phrases got constructed in such a manner.

            My best wishes to all the peace-keepers!

      • Vinod Says:

        IB, I’m sorry for coming across as arrogant. I’m guilty of reacting emotionally to the stubbornness of Indian nationalistic sentiments.

        I don’t have particular solutions to the various secessionist movements in Asia and the world. But from those that I know for which a solution was found only when the people’s dignity and rights who were in that territory were given priority over all other considerations, especially that of national pride related to territory and history. It also means a more compassionate view of the people in the disputed territory and a more humble view of oneself and one’s “enemy”. It also means the willingness to recognize one’s own mistakes and depredation inflicted on others. I don’t see these qualities on either side and quite naturally I rile more against the Indian attitude simply because they are the ones I encounter more. I do not mean to demonize Indians any more than the Pakistanis.

  3. Anil Kala Says:

    “mere survival instinct of India requires it to hold on to Kashmir no matter what!”

    I think similar sentment in pakistani psyche requires it to annexe Kashmir by any means.

  4. kabir Says:

    I completely agree with this article. The Kashmir issue should be solved in line with the aspirations of the Kashmiris not those of Indians or Pakistanis. It is not an India-Pakistan issue but a human rights issue. There is no excuse for any country to militarily occupy a people and keep them from seeking self-determination. A referendum should be held and the Kashmiri people should be asked whether they want to remain part of India, join Pakistan, or become independent. The governments of India and Pakistan need to agree to honor the wishes of the people concerned over their own narrow interests.

  5. tadaham Says:

    Say what may the bleeding hearts.. The fact of the matter is It will be suicidal for India to even agree to consider any territorial adjustment, anywhere in the country.
    The senstation seekers disregard the centrifugal forces that would be unleashed by such an event. It would make South Asia real hell..
    It pays to keep the Kashmir in India at whatever the costs.
    Perhaps a few hunderds years from now, the situation may be different and Letting Kashmir go its own way may not be that costly.
    The present geopolitical situation demands that we should not even be talking about it.

    • Vinod Says:

      The senstation seekers disregard the centrifugal forces that would be unleashed by such an event. It would make South Asia real hell..

      Oh boy! Am I the only one who notices the irony in this? :)

      • SouthAsian Says:

        General Comment: How should we respond to an action by our government? The determinant of our response can be the identity of the actor or the nature of the action. Some people feel that we should support our government no matter what; others feel we should judge each action on its merits and the principles it reflects.

        This is a very clear choice. If an action of my government is unprincipled, if it causes harm to human beings (or to nature) inside or outside my country, I will not support it. Let it be called a bleeding heart position if you will.

        If the government of Pakistan wishes to validate the two-nation theory, let it start at home instead of inflicting misery on Kashmir. If the government of India wishes to demonstrate its secular credentials, let it find more humane ways of doing so. I feel that the citizens of the two countries should demand this of their governments. I find it unprincipled to make someone else pay the price for the satisfaction of private objectives.

        Specific Response to Indian Blogger: I am a South Asian. I imagine myself walking across South Asia blindfolded. How will I know when I crossed a border? Why would I start feeling differently towards people who live on one side of a border rather than another?

        I care more for morality than for politics. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a basis to protest any injustice in this world.

        Economic development in Kashmir would be good but not enough. People want their identity to be acknowledged, their dignity to be respected, and their voices to be heard. If economic development were enough, the Chinese would have no problems in Tibet – they have put in a lot of money there.

      • tadaham Says:

        Dear friend, The govt of india is quite representative of its people. On Kashmir, there has quite a consensus, across the parties and regions. Believe me, people of India may be illiterate but are quite pragmatic. They astonish arm-chair thinkers every election by their wisdom. The decision is firm, Kashmir is integral part of india. You could have a straw poll in kerala or assam. The results would be same. Why should something that they have decided as good for themselves, should be percieved as bad by Kashmiris. People of india know that any deviation from this line on Kashmir will be disaster for everyone.

  6. Liberal from India Says:

    I read with interest the article by Alok Rai and in response to that of the ‘South Asian’ here above .
    India wants a sound and prospering Pakistan. It is in the interest of the region that we have viable neighbors. But Pakistan sees this view of Indian people as an inherent weakness. Sometimes Pakistan would even brandish nukes as if they would be the only survivors if things come to that pass. But they do not understand that they are crumbling under Kashmir. Comparatively, India has much powerful shock absorbers and still moving ahead. I am not here to display the might but it is a fact which you have been seeing for yourself.

    Historically, Pakistan’s poorly mandated governments have always been a great fun for China and the U.S. I wouldn’t delve much deeper into the tunnel that leads to greenbacks and its beneficiary, but it seems that this could be the last installment from Washington D.C. once AfPak tribals are tamed. Sudden “Kashmir caveat” in Mumbai investigation by Pak establishment is pointing towards their desperation.

    As said above, we the people of India always wish prosperity and peace for Pakistan, but your dealings with India with a presumption about India as a Hindu state is highly misplaced. This country has proved time and again that it is not a Hindu theocratic state but made to be governed from the “centre”, not right or left. All this would imply that a secular democratic republic with comparatively more population of Muslims than Pakistan has enough inherent strength to survive any international pressure, or gorilla war and even thwart a nuclear war with minimum damage.

    My arguments above stem from the fact that suddenly Pakistan establishment has started putting the clock back to “Kashmir first” rather than pay attention to earlier promises and the culprits of Mumbai. A few steps in that direction before leaving for some meeting is purely cosmetic in nature.

    The fact of the matter is that the present set up in Pakistan is multi-polar and India might have to endure little longer before a strong unipolar civil mandate is thrown up by the people of Pakistan. In the meantime your country can either allow militants into India or build a base for further negotiations in times to come. The ball had always been in your court and not India’s.
    Unfortunately, your terrorism infrastructure is one step ahead of you and could ruin things for your civil establishment, and that too a weaker one.

  7. Dr. Bettina Robotka Says:

    The argument to put Kashmiris welfare into the center of discussion sounds good but doesn’t work because there is no united stand of all Kashmiris and such a common stand is not in sight. As far as I can see Muslim Kashmiris of the resistance movement think they want independence from both India and Pakistan. But that will not work Iam afraid because an independent Kashmir can only survive (economically, politically) if both India and Pakistan accept this and respect this positvely. Which is not to be expected at any time in the nearer future.

    The “deal” which had almost been done during the Musharraf days between Indian and Pakistani govts was a kind of special status for Indian kashmir within India and Pak Kashmir within Pakistan with a kind of common administration and porous borders. Its not self-determination but it sounds more practical and acceptable to me than ‘independence’ and self-determination.

    I don’t think that Pakistan needs Kashmir as a justification for the two-nation theory any more, that is gone long before (though some cold-war-warriors might still be around)but what needs to be sorted out from the Pakistani point of view is the water problem which is vital for our survival and closely related to Kashmir. Both solutions should go hand in hand!
    Dr. Bettina
    IBA Karachi

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Dr. Robotka: I am not sure I fully understand your point. I doubt there is any place in the world where the people are fully united with a common stand. But this should not mean that the welfare of that place cannot be made the central focus in the deliberations. Whenever I read a statement that “We cannot afford to let go of Kashmir because…. ” it is clear that that the person making the statement is not giving the highest priority to Kashmir. In fact, what is left unsaid is “And I don’t care what happens to Kashmir in the process.” This formulation of the issue should be unacceptable on moral grounds.

      Once we bring ourselves to accept that we are talking about people (whether united or not) and not a piece of land, and that there is nothing more important than the rights and welfare of people, we might be able to look at this in a different perspective. We might even be able to say “We need to let go of Kashmir because….” And here what is left unsaid might be “Because we really care about the people of Kashmir.” In fact, a little thinking might bring us to a completely shocking conclusion in which the formulation would be “We need to let go of Kashmir because we really care about the people of Kashmir and about ourselves and our children.”

      Once we get to this point the key would be to define what “letting go” means in political terms. The “deal” you have mentioned could be one possibility of “letting go.” I am sure there could be a number of others. But to get to the point where these can be considered and discussed we need to make the huge leap of compassion that asks of us to concretize what we mean when we say that we care for the people of Kashmir. This is a leap of reasoning and courage as much as it is a leap of compassion.

      Any “deal” would be inclusive of the will of the people of Kashmir however they come to express it. Moral courage would be needed for external parties to resist the temptation to manipulate or nullify this expression if the outcome does not suit the self-proclaimed “interests” of the external parties. We are now talking of details and it is obvious that the will of the people is not an abstract and pristine constant. The will today is undoubtedly influenced by decades of manipulation and interference of various kinds. Therefore, a cooling-off period would be needed during which the people of Kashmir could rethink their future in hope and confidence and figure out what would be best for the territory that is their home. If they blow the opportunity (which is not entirely out of the question because, as you point out, they might not agree amongst themselves) they would have to share the blame for their fate.

  8. Vikram Says:

    I think people need to be a bit more informed on the topic before commenting, I would recommend ‘My Kashmir’ by Wajahat Habibullah (now the Chief Information Commissioner of India), it is the best work on the topic that I have read so far.

    I think one group of people we must not forget as being parties to this issue are the Muslims of India. They were the biggest losers when India and Pakistan became independent. The impact any maneuver on Kashmir has on their interests also needs to be taken into account.

    Vinod, you are absolutely right, Indians are quite reluctant to look inwards. I think this seems to be a fairly general phenomenon across the middle classes in developing countries (correct me if I am wrong). I think this in great part due to the fact that these new middle classes are typically from technical fields with little exposure to humanities. One of the objectives of blogs like this (and my own) is to try and fill this void using the training and expertise of social scientists and their thoughts and publications.

    • Vinod Says:

      think this seems to be a fairly general phenomenon across the middle classes in developing countries (correct me if I am wrong).

      Vikram, I’ve noticed this too. And yes, there is a lot of merit to the argument that that’s because they are all mostly from the technical fields. It takes a journey through the humanities to challenge the conventional ideas. The humanities show the context in which the ideas arose and the assumptions underlying them and the way we are influenced by the times and circumstances we are in. All that goes a long way in affecting the thoughts.

    • Liberal from India Says:

      @vikram
      Indians, in fact, are not at all bothered about the fate of Kashmir on day to day basis as Pakistanis are. But it certainly has a neative impact on the Muslims of mainland India.

      Problem with Pakistani people is that they are indoctrinated so much about Kashmir that it has gone into their blood and now they find themselves stuck at a point of no return. It is beyond their comprehension that increased commercial activity between these two countries is the only answer to boundary/territory solutions in modern times. Nawaz Sharief and Vajpayee were the first to have made an attempt to move in this direction but…their army comes into the picture every time.

  9. tadaham Says:

    I do not have much perspective on Kashmir. I grew up on eastern corner of India and living in Western corner. I think Kashmir cessation is not going to happen. Over the years, people of India have come to realize the benfits of concept of India. There are just too many.. KA does not goes on war with MH and TN over water and land dispute. The anti-northerner sentiments in MH and rest of South is reasonably under control. A software company can recruit from a large pool. So can Cricket fanchises. The benefits are too many even for people in far flung areas. biggest part is that everyone gets democracy for free. We see how much struggle PKs, BDs and Nepalis have to do. Bhutanese are all togather on different trip. People from most of India have realized the benefits and are working for it. FOr the rest the cultural and SAREGAMAPA events are doing the jobs. The newer generations of Kashmiris would realise the benefits. For the current generation, we will have to wait out its passage.

  10. kabir Says:

    @ Liberal from India:

    With all due respect, I don’t think that the taliban issue has anything to do with this discussion. This is an issue of the rights of the Kashmiris and India and Pakistan’s dealings with Kashmir. Whether Pakistan sponsers cross-border terrorism or is facing an internal insurgency is irrelevant, in my opinion.

    I feel that the Kashmir issue is akin to a long drawn-out custody battle between two divorced parents. Both the mother and the father are fighting over who gets custody over the child, yet no one bothers to ask the child whom he would prefer to live with. This custody battle has now been going on so long that the child has now grown up, yet no one is willing to treat him as an adult.

    • tadaham Says:

      Dear Kabir,
      Kashmir may be emotional issue for Kashmiri separatists and Pakistanis and some Indians. For majority of Indians, it is a major security concern. For the argument sake, even if we let significant portion of Kashmir out of India. What is holding it for not becoming another jumpboard for terror-acitivities in india as much of Pakistan is.. What would stop it from stationing nuclear missiles aim at us. What would stop it from collaborating with other adversaries in our neighborhood.
      It is not a custody battle as much as battle for survival..

  11. Vinod Says:

    The newer generations of Kashmiris would realise the benefits. For the current generation, we will have to wait out its passage.

    Tadaham, look up the word POLITICIDE. The above is a nice strategy for politicide.

  12. Vinod Says:

    If one goes into Israel and tries to have a political conversation with someone there, you are not allowed to refer to the ‘Occupation’, there is no term for the ‘West Bank’ (it’s called something else within Israel) and you can’t use the term ‘Palestinian’ (you use an undifferentiating term called ‘Arabs’). Then everything is reduced to ‘terrorism’ – all in an undifferentiated manner – a clash of civilization and the associated paranoia: “We want peace but they are atttacking us”. When 6 years after the Israeli-Arab war the leader of the Arab League Nassar approached the then Israeli PM with a peace deal, he rejected it saying that “Israel is too strong for the Arabs. They are always going to sue for peace. Israel therefore should not enter a peace treaty before it completes its Zionism project – get the ‘Land of Greater Israel’. ”

    Talking about Kashmiris to Indians is pretty much the same experience. You cannot refer to them as Kashmiris without linking them to their Indianism. You cannot talk about Kashmiri grievances without linking it to Pakistani terrorism and some kind of Pakistani agenda. Indians too get all paranoid when the focus is placed on Kashmiris. Thus the whole issue is hijacked by a blinded and bigoted nationalistic sentiment.

  13. tadaham Says:

    As far as limited poll, I would certainly not be in favour. They are far too easy to manipulate. Hard-nosed businessmen may invest in it. They are also ready to pay through nose if thing do not work out. What if poll gets manipulated and is not in your favor?.

    Anyway, regarding resolution of Kashmir issue.. Average non-northern indian concern is security. Things would not budge a bit untill that gets addressed.

    What is it Kashmiri separatists are looking for.. Another Islamic republic that would send terrorists to Mumbai and aim nuclear missiles at us. Collaborate with the adversaries in the neighborhood. For the moment it just looks like that. The assurance has to come in words as much as deeds.

    Till such thing happens, we can as well try talking about movies, weather and CBMs..

    • SouthAsian Says:

      tadaham: Your comment raises a number of points.

      1. You write that “average non-northern Indian concern is security.” How do you know that?
      2. What is the average northern Indian concern?
      3. Since there are more northern Indians than non-northern Indians, shouldn’t there concern be determined?
      4. Regarding your concern about manipulation, could this be addressed by outsourcing the survey to a reputable institution of your choice?
      5. Suppose that you were responsible for the implementation of the survey which would rule out all chances of manipulation. If the outcome turns out to be not in your favor, what would you do?
      6. How do you know what Kashmiri separatists are looking for?
      7. Why are there Kashmiri separatists in the first place?
      8. How do you know that “for the moment it looks just like that”? Is it possible that you could be mistaken?
      9. Is the present procedure the appropriate way to assure Indian security in Kashmir and elsewhere?
      10. What kind of assurance in words do you have in mind?

  14. Ashok Desai Says:

    This discussion started from Alok Rai’s suggestion: “it devolves upon civil society in both countries to force their states not to continue with this … game…in which … Kashmiris… are merely the pretext” – the game of hostile confrontation. South Asian thought that Alok’s framing of the issue implied the answer: leave things alone. The answer was unwelcome, so South Asian changed the question: what is good for Kashmiris? What would serve their interests best? I guess one should ask Kashmiris; but I don’t think that the few Kashmiris I know (I have been there three times; the last time was last summer) would bother to answer here. But those that I know would, in conversation, say: you Indians as well as Pakistanis, leave us alone. I am fond of Kashmir, but I avoid Srinagar, because I don’t like to see Indian soldiers at watch on streets. These poor men from Bihar or Madras or wherever have no human contact with the people around them; they are worried all the while on where the bullet or the bomb may come from. I am sure the locals hate seeing those soldiers as much as I do – not because they are Indians but because they are so remote and nervous. Life cannot be normal with soldiers patrolling the streets – or with terrorists shooting those soldiers from time to time. This is only in Srinagar. Elsewhere in Kashmir, I hardly ever see soldiers, and life goes on quite placidly. Amongst the Kashmiris I know, the better-off ones have done quite well in India – set up businesses, invested, married etc. The young ones often complain they can’t get a room on rent, especially in Delhi. Briefly, different Kashmiris have different experiences. Very few have unpleasant experiences; but their opportunities – perceived and potential – in India are blighted by the mess we South Asians have made of Hindu-Muslim relations, of which Partition, the Hindutwits (as I call members of the Indian communal parties) and their brothers in Pakistan are illustrations. So when Kashmiris tell Indians and Pakistanis to leave them alone, they are implicitly telling both to get lost with their historical hostility. The sufferings of Kashmiris are an inseparable part of the South Asian tragedy. I have also attended a few India-Pakistan conferences; I found them fruitless and depressing for precisely the same reason as this blog. South Asian starts with the idea that if we did what was good for Kashmiris and thus put the Kashmir problem behind us, we would be brothers forever. Indians do not believe we would; so those so inclined – like many on this blog – growl and snarl; the rest keep away from Pakistanis. I would love to go to the Food Street in Lahore; I would love to have a drink with Musharraf; I would love to drive from Lahore to Islamabad and Murree; I would love to revisit the Gujaratis I once met in Karachi. But not as long as Pakistanis know no conversation other than about Kashmir.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Ashok: We are on the same side so it is important that we eliminate any misperceptions about our positions. I would like you to read the post again. I hope you would see things somewhat differently from how they came across at first glance.

      This is a South Asian not a Pakistani blog. If you look at the About Us page you will see an equal number of Indians and Pakistanis on it and we are actively seeking partners from the other countries. I am sure you have met Pakistanis who “know no conversation other than about Kashmir” but there have been more than 200 posts on this blog (see List of Posts) and this is the first time the Kashmir issue has been raised and then only as a response to the request by Professor Alok Rai.

      You write that South Asian changed the question because the “answer was unwelcome.” Could it not be that South Asian proposed a different framework to make a solution more possible? I feel you have to give the writer the benefit of the doubt.

      You are right in your quote from Professor Rai and you conclude that “South Asian thought that Alok’s framing of the issue implied the answer: leave things alone.” But this is what Professor Rai says himself: “In fact, the best thing that Pakistan can do for the people of Kashmir — for whom many tears are shed — is to lay off, let be…”

      I do not necessarily disagree with this but I feel that framing the issue as an India-Pakistan problem would not lead us to this eventuality – it would lead to the same deadlock that you write occurs in India-Pakistan conferences. My suggestion was to try a different framing that would allow us to build a position that unites civil society across both countries. There is no suggestion in the post that if the Kashmir problem is solved “we would be brothers for ever.” The two are quite different propositions.

      The central idea is to find a framework that gets away from the “historical hostility” that you rightly mention is adding to the sufferings in Kashmir. If you feel the framing proposed is conceptually flawed we should discuss it to see if we can find a feasible alternative.

  15. aahang Says:

    Let me put it straight the problem is more Muslim than Kashmiri.Because Kashmiri also includes the thousands of Pundits ( hindus) who were chased away by Majority Muslims when the idea of a separate nation came into being.The pundits who had been living there for generations had businesses, communities,roots were subjected to same acts of inhumanity for which there is so much hue and cry these days.Literally all of them were chased away.
    India unlike Pakistan has a majority of cultures,religions and ethnic groups throughout the country and letting Kashmir go would be a bad precedent for the integrity of the nation.
    Muslims for once will have to give away their herd mentality and their bullish behavior if they want to be part of the mainstream.Wherever in world there is trouble there are Muslims.Its high time they started thinking why?? Till they do that I don’t see a solution to their problems in India or elsewhere.
    I am not anti Muslim and there are a lot of things I like about them and their culture but sometimes you need to call a spade a spade.
    If we are ready to forget the past then Kashmiri’s will have to give up their demand for a separate state and take part in the nation building with their Indian brothers and sisters.Whatever may be your religion what you need at the end of the day is a good peaceful life and a smile on your children faces.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Aahang: You have provided a starting point for discussion. Let us subject it to a critical analysis through a series of questions and counter-questions and see whether we are satisfied with our conclusions. I hope you as well as others will participate in this exercise.

      1. If we take as a starting point the position that “the problem is more Muslim than Kashmiri,” would we not be creating an insoluble problem for India? India has over 150 million Muslims spread throughout the country. Are they all equally problematic? If so, what can be done with them?

      2. “Wherever in world there is trouble there are Muslims. It’s high time they started thinking why?” This is a general question and it is not only Muslims who need to think of an answer – we can also try and do so. The first thought that comes to mind is whether this was always the case? Islam is over 1400 years old but one cannot say that during this entire period, wherever in the world there was trouble there were Muslims. There were periods of great turmoil during periods of Christian history and the two most devastating conflicts in history (the two World Wars) were also between Christian nations. But it was not said that wherever in the world there are Christians there is trouble.

      So the problem may not be with Islam but in conditions that have created turbulence in recent times in places where Muslims live. I would date this period to the end of colonization in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The US intervened in Iran in 1953 (admitted by the US only in 2009) when Muslims had not created any problems in the world. That overthrowing of a democratic regime triggered events that led to the emergence of a theocracy in Iran. The US and the old colonial powers also intervened extensively in the Middle East in the 1950s well before Muslims had caused any problems in the world. Similarly, the USSR intervened in Afghanistan before the Muslims of that country had created any global or local problems.

      Why did these triggering events occur that led to turmoil in Muslim lands? One explanation is simple: it is just a quirk of history that a very large proportion of the world’s energy resources are situated under the soil of countries populated by Muslims. Is it reasonable to argue that had these lands had been populated by people of any other religion they would have been exploited in the same way leading to resistance and conflict? It may be too simplistic to attribute the problem to Islam and wait for it to sort itself out. Has this become a popular option because it absolves others of their own parts in the political problems of our times?

      3. “Muslims for once will have to give away their herd mentality and their bullish behavior if they want to be part of the mainstream.” This is a very broad generalization. Are you referring to Muslims across the world, Muslims in India, or Muslims in Kashmir? Could it be argued that Muslims are part of the mainstream of Bollywood and do not display a herd mentality or bullish behavior? If so, one would have to specify the problem in more detail and not attribute it to Muslims in general. Could the problem lie in easy option of painting all Muslims with a broad brush rather than the other way around?

      4. “India unlike Pakistan has a majority of cultures, religions and ethnic groups throughout the country and letting Kashmir go would be a bad precedent for the integrity of the nation.”
 Pakistan also has a number of cultures and ethnic groups and has had persistent problems (including Bangladesh and Balochistan) reconciling their problems. So the problem is a familiar one. The more important issue is your argument for why India needs to hold on to Kashmir. We are back to the position where the strengths of India have to be demonstrated by imposing a cost on Kashmir. Is this a morally problematic position? India aspires to two ideals – secularism and democracy. Can it achieve one at the cost of the other? To what extent do the wishes of the people of Kashmir count in this calculus?

      5. “Kashmiris will have to give up their demand for a separate state.” It might be a mistake to jump immediately to the demand for a separate state in discussing Kashmir because that provides the rationalization for extreme actions and closes the discussion. Are separatists the majority in Kashmir or only a tiny majority? If the former, India has a major problem that it cannot gloss over. If the latter, India cannot use the bogey of separatism to justify its policy in Kashmir. Let us assume that separatists are a small minority and that any solutions need to take place in the context of Kashmir remaining a part of India. What can or should India do to improve the conditions in that context?

      • Anil Kala Says:

        I have no problem with allowing Kashmiris to make a free choice. The point is similar option has been denied to Gujaratis, Marathis, Bengalese,Tamils etc. ( Balochs, Sindhis etc in Pakistan) Just because there is no problem in Bengal, quiet in Tamilnadu should we deny them a preference?

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Anil: This is a valid question and I think it has a valid answer. I keep stressing the point that how we frame the question affects the answers we propose. I feel that framing every situation as one that involves a free choice is not the best option.

          Almost every country is beset with problems. Pakistan has problems in Sindh, Balochistan, NWFP, etc. India has problems in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Jharkhand, Gujarat, etc. Every problem does not involve free choice but every problem does need to be addressed. In some cases it is addressed by redrawing state boundaries, by recognizing local languages, by according a special status, or by protecting minorities. Problem solving is part of the democratic process.

          Kashmir was one of the princely states whose rulers were given the choice to accede to India or Pakistan subject to certain terms and conditions that were guaranteed by the dominion states. At that time such a choice was not given to the provinces of British India. Therefore the nature of the issue in Kashmir is different from the one in Bengal or Tamilnadu and needs to be dealt with differently.

          However, if today the Indian government or the Indian people feel that all states should be given the choice of reaffirming their place in the Indian Union there would be nothing wrong with that.

          In this regard, the situation in Pakistan is much more perilous as the history of Bangladesh should make clear. Parts of a union that do not wish to remain in it should not be coerced into it by force because that is against the democratic ethos. Other unions have found ways to resolve such issues without bloodshed and violence – the divisions of Czechoslovakia and the Malysian Union are cases in point. We need to find similar modalities in South Asia if the need arises. To have separations at the human cost that we have witnessed in South Asia is an admission of failure and does not bring us any honor.

      • Anil Kala Says:

        What should be the objective?

        Giving people freedom of free choice or their long term welfare. In order to be politically correct, the world is allowing untold brutality against common people in Myanmar, Sudan, Tibet and many more places for too long. Shouldn’t there be concerted intervention to alleviate suffering of the people. And what is free choice? It is mostly the choice of a maverick leader who swings opinion.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Anil: The objective should be to solve local problems in good faith and in a democratic framework.

          Anytime the solution of a local problem is deferred to address some global objective like alleviating the suffering of people, one more problem remains unresolved and the people there continue to suffer. There is no logical reason to treat these as alternatives.

          Freedom of choice and long term welfare are not alternatives either – the issue of identity and respect is central. The British were working on the long term welfare of India but India preferred the freedom in which it would determine its own welfare. If free choice was right for India, can it now be dismissed as nothing but the choice of a maverick leader?

          Intervention to alleviate suffering can be an invitation to neocolonialism. There is an ongoing debate on this here.

  16. aahang Says:

    Once again I am saying the problem is not KASHMIRI as it is made out to be or is it mandatory that we never talk about displaced Hindus when we are doing this discussion ?It is a Muslim problem and if India gives away its one part where Hindus have been chased away we will have a hundred other Kashmirs within a year.I can promise you that.
    I will ask you a simple question about the 150 million Muslims you are talking about .While all of them chose to stay back in a Hindu dominated nation how many folks from other religions can be found in Pakistan not even 3 % !!! Why ?? Just imagine if the ratio was reverse in India ,all Hindus would have been dumped into the sea by now.
    Today everyone says India is a secular country and Pakistan is an Islamic nation .Again why ?? Did we get a telegram for India from heaven ???No, because the majority of Hindus are tolerant and are OK as long as they are allowed to live in Peace and Muslims are not.Even the Muslims who have stayed back know it – I guess you know the word Mujahir right ?
    We can keep arguing till the end of the earth but things will never change if Muslims do not change their attitude towards life and religion.If a patch of forest Land in the mountains is given to Hindus to make the pilgrimage easier for thousands of devotees of Lord Shiva traveling to Amarnath caves why the hell broke loose for Muslims ?? Did anyone torture them ? Did anyone bother them ? Did anyone ask them for a favor ? Nothing.They simply will not stand alongside anyone in their act of worship even if it does not cost them a thing.The best part is that if you hear the speeches or see the news clippings the Muslim Leaders do not have good reason for their grievance.In fact they have no Reason !!To my mind this is shameful ,a complete disrespect and disregard to fellow human beings.After all the pilgirms are going to face 40 days of hardships just like the Muslims do In Haj so if they better facilities will Allah punish the Muslims of Kashmir.I don’t think so.The fact is that – while Allah is great and merciful his followers have become puny,deceitful and unforgiving.

    You talked about Bollywood so I will mention that too.All the Khans there too are fighting with each other or with someone else .Aamir keeps calling Shahrukh his Dog and Salman is abusing women and killing people and animals.Shahrukh is a little better may be that is because of a Hindu wife.
    Get real is all I say.The first step to solve a problem is to say that yes there is a problem and it’s probably with me.If someone does not talk or share their tiffin with you in class its their problem but if no one talks or shares their tiffin with you its probably your problem.I cannot put it more simpler than this.

    Let us stay focused on India.Out of a hundred invasions on India 99 were carried out by Muslims Turks,Khans,Iranis,Persians.Islam is less of a religion and more of a doctrine on war and life during strife.As a fundamental it focuses on community and not on Individual spiritual growth unlike Hinduism or Buddhism.Hinduism is 5000 years old but how many Hindu Kings you know invaded Persia or Iran or Turkey ?I would agree that in their approach to life Americans are as greedy as the Chengiz Khans,Tughlaq or Mahmud Gazni.If we closely look at all the trouble in the world it is half American(Jewish) and half Muslim.
    What’s the answer -love and Respect for each other, Tolerance and inclusive growth.If the Americans can contain their ravenous behavior and Muslims their fetish of thrusting their beliefs on everyone else we can look forward to a better world.
    For Kashmir specifically- allow people from all castes,religion and nationalities to buy property and do business there and eliminate anyone who says no to this.Within 5 years Kashmir will be a thriving paradise it was meant to be.
    Hindu ,Muslim,Kashmiri or Indian people value peace , prosperity and a good life more than anything else.As long as that can be assured we have a solution for Kashmir.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Aahang: I agree with some of your positions and disagree with others; some I don’t know enough about and some I don’t understand; and there are a few that I find contradictory.

      I agree that the issue of Kashmir should include a discussion of all the people who live in Kashmir. In that sense the focus should be on Kashmir as a territory and not on any religious community within Kashmir.

      I agree that India chose to be a secular state and Pakistan chose to be a religious one. Personally I feel India made the better choice. I also agree that in relative terms the record of India is better than that of Pakistan in the treatment of minorities. In absolute terms, the record of India has room for improvement. Indians should set much higher standards for themselves than those of a dysfunctional state like Pakistan.

      I do not know enough about the Amarnath issue to respond. I was mistaken about Bollywood; I had thought the relationships were better than what you have described.

      On the invasions of India and vice versa, there could be an alternate explanation. India was surrounded by countries with Muslim populations so the invasions could ostensibly be attributed to something intrinsic in Islam. But India has always attracted invasions because of its riches starting from the days of Alexander to the Mongols (who were not Muslims) and the Europeans. Invasions by central Asians are a part of this phenomenon. The Aryans also migrated to India and displaced the indigenous populations. The invaders belonged to much more centralized socio-political formations while India for most of the time was an agglomeration of small local principalities. Therefore invasions by a “united” India were much less likely. The answer may not lie in the nature of religions but in the political structures of society.

      Like India, China was repeatedly invaded but did not invade others. However, that history does not prevent China from what is alleged to be discriminatory treatment of the Buddhist minority in Tibet. Resource-poor Japan found reasons to invade its neighbors and treat them with unprecedented brutality. Yet the treatment of minorities within Japan is much less problematic than in China. These features cannot be adequately explained by attributing everything to the intrinsic qualities of the religions involved.

      I find a contradiction in your statement that “the first step to solve a problem is to say that yes there is a problem and it’s probably with me” because you exempt yourself from the proposition. I feel you oversimplify by positing a world in which some people and religions (as a whole) are better than other people and religions (as a whole).

      I also find a contradiction in your statement that “Hindu, Muslim, Kashmiri or Indian people value peace, prosperity and a good life more than anything else” because you simultaneously believe that Islam is a “doctrine of war and life during strife” and that Muslims are intolerant by nature.

      On Kashmir, you propose allowing people from all castes, religion and nationalities to buy property there. My understanding is that certain terms and conditions guaranteed by the Indian government were part of the agreement governing the accession of Kashmir to India. Are you advocating that the promises be broken unilaterally or is there a mutually acceptable and constitutional process for their renegotiation?

      You advocate eliminating anyone who does not agree to your proposal on Kashmir. This is not consistent with a democratic ethos.

  17. Rajnish Says:

    I am happy that we are getting somewhere with this.A few Points :

    1.Chengiz Khan was a Mongol and a Muslim.

    2.There is difference between invasion an colonization.While Muslims invaded others killing 1000′s and looting their wealth moral or material ,the Europeans had a more sober approach.Nothing can match the brutality or plunderous misadventures of Muslim Invaders.I am sure you know about Babur,Gazni,Nadir Shah,Aurangzeb etc etc etc who destryed thousands of temples in India.Can anyone pls tell me how many Mosques were destryed by either christians or hindus or anyone else.Pls do not talk about the Babri Masjid as I have the entire documentary evidence of a Ram Temple being destryed and a Mosque being built on top of it.It is India therefore we still have silly negotiations going on because of minority vote politics.Otheriwse everyone knows the facts including the Muslims.
    3.What about the Bamyian Buddhas in Afganistan ? They were only poor statues standing in Silence !! In spite of every one pleading this symbol of world heritage was destroyed shamelessly.

    The story goes on and on and on ..

    I will Quote a Sher from Mir who himself probably got fed up with Islam and its stringent ways:

    Mir ke din o Mazhab ko kya poochhte ho logon
    Kashka Khaincha Dair mein baitha,Kabka Tarq e Islam kiya.

    Even Ghalib is known for his apathy to his religion.Why ?

    Because any intelligent soul will ultimately know the hollowness of what is being preached and propogated.Religion is not about control it is about self control.Once again high time to look inwards.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Aahang: I don’t feel we are making as much progress as we could. For that we need to answer the specific questions that are posed and resolve the contradictions in our positions. We should go on to new questions after we have tried to resolve the earlier ones.

      Here is the information on the religion of Genghis Khan. This mistake is common because of the suffix ‘Khan.’

      You consider colonization a lesser evil than invasion. The invaders were rough soldiers who destroyed physical objects but looked up to Indian culture and were Indianized. The colonizers considered Indians to be primitive people who needed to be civilized. They left buildings alone but shattered the Indian psyche and for the first time made Indians feel inferior. Hindutva was born as a reaction to that inferiority complex.

      The line of argument you are pursuing does not seem productive to me. In the long histories of religions many negative incidents can be found. Suppose that at the end of this exercise we find that there were N such incidents in Christianity and N + M in Islam. Would that be conclusive proof that Christianity as a religion is superior to Islam? And if so, what would we do with that conclusion except derive some psychic satisfaction?

      Let us for the sake of argument assume that you are right and Hinduism is much superior to Islam. What would be the next step in resolving the issue in Kashmir, which is our objective in this exercise? We have to work within the reality and the constraints that exist.

      Mir and Ghalib were enlightened intellectuals who were against bigotry in any religion, including their own, a position much to be admired. In the West, there have many enlightened individuals who have been agnostics and atheists. This does not mean that Christianity is hollow or that those who believe in it are not intelligent.

      Self-control has much to recommend it and I agree one has to look inwards to gain it.

      (More on Genghis Khan – added later)

  18. aahang Says:

    You have made some valid points and thanks for enlightening me about Genghis Khan.I have studied history only till elementary school and it seems I should have taken a few more classes !

    My frustration with Islam or Muslims is not because I hate them but more because of my belief that they can be agents of change more than anyone else.In my earlier posts on my blog I have praised Islam and made fun of Hindu fundamentalists.A poet at heart I am against any kind of hardliner position in any religion Hindu ,Muslim or Christianity for that matter.God is one and the way each one of us want to feel close to him should be our own choice.I am not talking about religion only but the religious practices and rituals that are a part of the package.

    We started with Kashmir and strayed in the wrong direction.Coming back my personal belief is that the article 370 needs to go and Kashmir should be treated as any other part of the Indian state.
    This article specifies that except for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications,(matters specified in the instrument of accession) the Indian Parliament needs the State Government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.

    Once industries open,software parks are developed,hotels flourish and there is a people to people contact between Hindus and Muslims the feeling of being different and alone will subside.People will look forward to a new day of work,employment,better infrastructure,facilities,education and entertainment.We could never treat british as one as we were of a different race but it will be different case here.
    Kashmiris can also see how India is taking a lead in Global economy.I am sure they also want to be a part of this success story rather than live and die in separate dysfunctional state like Pakistan.The key to the issue is inclusive approach and tolerance.Without it nothing much can be achieved.

  19. pakiterroristan Says:

    Your sympathies are misplaced.

    First pakiterroristan should stop terrorism then we can talk with them. Indian govt has no problem talking to the Kashmiris.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      I am not suggesting you talk to “them” because they are unlikely to stop what they are doing. Does that mean India will put all the problems that hinder its development on hold? It is reassuring to know that the Indian government has no problem talking to the Kashmiris – that is how it should be in a democracy.

  20. Anil Kala Says:

    “Intervention to alleviate suffering can be an invitation to neocolonialism. There is an ongoing debate on this..”

    This is like telling a starving man that there is a lot food but we suspect it might cause a bout of sneezing if we give it to you.

    I hope these debating heads have good reasons to convince those distraught mothers whose children are being brutalized in Sudan, Angola etc, terrified citizens in Myanmar and expressionless starving zombies in North Korea.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Anil, This is a tough issue and there are arguments on both sides. One way to get clarity is to think of it being applied to oneself. One third of the children in rural India are undernourished which is a kind of starvation. There are farmers committing suicide because they are indebted and can’t feed their families. Would you endorse outside intervention to force India to pay attention to these issues? If so, what would be the modality of such an intervention? Are there other ways of making governments pay attention to such issues? If Indian citizens do not seem to care, why should people from outside do so?

      You have mentioned Myanmar. In today’s newspaper there is an article by Elizabeth Roche titled “Energy needs, strategic concerns keep India silent on Myanmar.” It quotes former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal: “India is following a nuanced approach which is the right policy on Myanmar because New Delhi has to balance its larger strategic interests with support for democracy and human rights.”

      This is the kind of realpolitik one associates with imperial powers but the reality is that all governments behave in the same manner. Larger strategic interests will always take precedence until citizens in democracies force their own governments to address the issues of poverty at home and to boycott governments that are uncaring abroad. United boycotts would be preferable to interventions but have little credibility if the action does not begin at home.

      As you point out, the injustices in the world are overwhelming and no easy solutions are forthcoming. This blog has taken a position that Pakistan should not be offered any external assistance unless there are credible guarantees that the welfare of the poor will get highest priority. But US strategic interests will certainly over ride such concerns and dominant interests inside the country will go along with the old game.

      • Anil Kala Says:

        Too often correct actions are put off due to perceived undesirable reactions. The world has changed dramatically and there is a very intrusive and vocal electronic media around the world whose interest in bringing to fore anomalies in the civil society matches its commercial interest. If it wasn’t for media we wouldn’t even be aware of Sudan, Myanmar or North Korea therefore fear of neo-colonization or any other such concern is excuse for inaction, while misery in the world keeps going and spreads. It seems Kafkaesque that a coalition of twenty nations was put together in a very short time to liberate Kuwait where no ordinary citizen was threatened but there seems no urgency to bring peace in Sudan, a hell for some twenty years now.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Anil, The reason might be that such actions have been left to the governments and governments are only motivated by political interest. Citizens have to build coalitions across countries to try and force their governments to act for humanitarian reasons. But citizens are unable to motivate such actions even within their own countries. Therefore, this issue is unlikely to be addressed in the near future. If in these conditions, governments are given the power to intervene in other countries, political interests will dominate and the end result would most likely be worse with rival powers jockeying for advantage and control.

  21. kabir Says:

    Two Kashmiri blogs that might be of interest:

    http://kashmirfilm.wordpress.com/

    http://kashmir.wordpress.com/kashmir-article-list/

    • kabir Says:

      Another blog of interest

      http://bluekashmir.blogspot.com/

    • kabir Says:

      Paranoia? I found these blogs quite sane, especially the last one (blue Kashmir), but we are all entitled to our points of view.

      • SouthAsian Says:

        Kabir/Vikram: I am in two minds about this new trend of simply listing hyperlinks. If it is helping you, do continue but it does tend to become a private conversation of sorts. Others would join in if you make an argument (however brief) and as part of that argument point to an external reference for support or details. Personally, I don’t feel inclined to click on a link without knowing the context – as far as I know Blue Kashmir could well be about Kashmiris on Prozac. Let’s hear from others on the pros and cons of providing references (which could be good ones) without context or argument.

      • kabir Says:

        South Asian, I just put these links here because I thought they could add to the discussion and I wanted to archive them here. All these blogs are written by Kashmiris themselves and it is relevant to us to get their perspective instead of simply the perspectives of Indians and Pakistanis.

        Blue Kashmir in particular is written by a Kashmiri student, Mohammad Junaid, currently living in Delhi (I think). He was written some well-argued posts outlining his views on the Kashmiri independence movement.

      • Vikram Says:

        Kabir, I will not go into an argument about Blue Kashmir here. But I did not post those links there as some ‘pro-India’ response, those are just two very good Kashmiri journalists. Muzamil Jaleel has received awards for his work including the Kurt Schork award for International Journalism.

      • Vikram Says:

        Kabir, I went through the blue Kashmir blog a bit more and I did find a comment by a fellow Indian that echoes my thoughts about that blog but is much more eloquent than I could be, I would like to reproduce it here with permission, the comment is worth a lot on its own in the general context of this blog and South Asian politics,

        “It is interesting to see an alternative perspective to the Kashmir situation quite at variance from what we receive in mainstream media. And I must commend you on your lucid writing!

        I have read some of your blog posts and comments from other readers therein and couple of points strike me vividly.

        You said: “He even goes on to say that Kashmiris are hugely caste-conscious. The last one sounds especially funny for he comes from a country where still entire villages of Dalits are burnt down, and their women are gang-raped by the upper castes; and where the upper castes believe violently that they alone have all claims to merit.” Wouldn’t you say that you are as guilty of broadbased categorization as Devadas is? I am sure your perspective is not as blinkered as it appears. But dont you see that this is a semantic problem that authors like you and Devadas have to be extremely careful about? For when authors quote examples to make a point, they can inadvertently communicate a prejudiced and simplistic notion. You may be borrowing the same large brush to portray India and Indians in simple strokes from Devadas who (according to you) is using it on Kashmiris. It doesnt help your argument.

        In my opinion (and I emphasise that this is an individual perspective and hence inadequate to capture the largeness and fineness of the issue) situations like Kashmir or for that matter any complex problem should not be reduced to sweeping generalizations. I can intellectualize your anguish but believe that some of your interpretations are dangerous for humanity in the long run and quite frankly, may prove self-defeating. The Kashmir nation as imagined by you may evolve. The last thing you would want is to base its genesis on a philosophy of demonisation of a peer entity (another country, India in this case). I am sure an imagined construct of Kashmir would be that of a beautiful, serene place restored to its past pristine glory where its people would live in peace and much joy. Would you say that a nation fought and created on values other than the highest human ideals can hope to live upto them eventually? This is a difficult choice, but an important one to make. It is far more sensational and simplistic to portray nationalist crusades as a battle between the good and the evil. But once the objective is achieved and when reality hits, nations realize that there was another layer of disparity which had been hitherto, subsumed – and that could lead to some other community feeling disenfranchised. Nations will also realize their own imperfections in governance and democracy. That is why it is important not to romanticise nationalism and to take a more rational view of the situation. You may then realize couple of things:

        India – and I dont mean the representative government(s) – is a large agglomeration of individuals who have, by-and-large, a rather benevolent approach to life – like the vast majority anywhere else. We are colourfully diverse and have developed our own idiosyncracies over centuries. This is a work-in-progress society but then, which is not?! Therefore there is nothing more evil about India than there is elsewhere. As for the governments or for institutions, that is part of the work-in-progress bit I mentioned. I agree with you that India is an imagined State. Therefore, for its own existence India had to define congruent nationality as well. Our leaders at Independence did nothing more or less than what other nationalists have done on their independence and undoubtedly what leaders would do in Kashmir, if it does become a separate nation state. That is to selectively invoke episodes from history to define a pre-ordained and shared destiny. But can anyone stand up and say that their perspective on history is the comprehensive one? You see, the human mind can only visualize broad trends, not the infinite little ebbs and wakes of events that eventually lead to record-worthy transformations. And that too, only from one dimension! That is why history is a poor witness to bring to any argument on nationalism. Take a lesson from India’s experience and you will see substrata evolving – including your own – with other versions and perspectives. As is the way with the world many of these versions (on either side) may be politically doctored to suit the exigencies of the moment.

        This is not to say that a nationalist argument does not have a place in today’s world. It does, but it would be for reasons other than the historical. Does it really make more economic sense to secede? Because once the euphoria of nation birth dies down, there is the business of living to tackle. Is it more prudent to work in a larger framework to ensure better economic leverage in the world? In some cases it may not, such as when India was born. Is there any cultural identity that can be shared? Icons? Folklore? What is the political aspiration of the common man and how does secession shape his/ her vision of the future? Is there some congruence of ideas and values across the community? If so, how will they manifest in governance? How soon will the state achieve it goal of (presumably) egalitarianism? Or will it be status quo in a different shade of grey? If so, which one is a more bankable status quo? When people talk of the right to self-determination, what exactly do they want to determine – on a day-to-day basis, at an operational level and not at a lofty intellectual plane? I would imagine they would want safety, security and the right to good livelihood. Admittedly, a lot of people in India do not enjoy these sustainably – just yet. But as any other Indian, I am hopeful that this will become a more equitable place. That is why I pay my taxes and choose to react in whatever legally acceptable way to socio-political situations in the country. And this is the hope that a large number of people in this country live on. My point is, if secessionism is the way to a better life, then there is enough reason for India to break into a thousand pieces. Not on the basis of language that define states today but on historical evidence, into the many communities tracing their roots back to little kingdoms that once ruled this geography. If that is not happening yet in the chaos of India, it is because it makes better sense and gives hope for a better future to be part of a larger entity. This is not an intellectual decision that people make – it is an intuitive one. And to that end, people do invoke shared icons and claim ownership – be it Sachin Tendulkar, the Three Khans, Taj Mahal or the Ganga.

        So my point is this: You may have a righteous cause on your hands and no one can judge your reality. But the way to handle the cause should not be at the cost of vilification of another people. Nor can you afford to make your argument based on a simplistic interpretation of the past or on emotionally charged prejudices.

        Peace!”

      • kabir Says:

        Vikram, I linked to Blue Kashmir not because I personally agree with everything he writes, but because I felt it was important to have different points of view, especially those of Kashmiris, not Indians or Pakistanis who argubly are much more vested in defending their own nationalist mythologies than actually listening to or understanding the concerns of Kashmiris. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Kashmiris don’t have their own nationalist mythology. The whole point is that none of of these versions of history are objectively true, they are all interpretations. So It’s important to hear different points of view.

        I agree that for Kashmiris to demonize or generalize about India is not necessary and unhelpful. Mr. Junaid might be guilty of doing that at times, but he seems to be passionate about Kashmiri independence so his blog is worth reading just to understand that POV. He also acknowledged somewhere on his blog that Pakistan is a huge part of the problem too and hasn’t served the people of Kashmir well.

        I’m not “pro-Pakistan” on this issue. I’m interested in defending the right of all Kashmiris to decide their own future–including the right to self-determination. If in a democratic referendum, the majority of Kashmirs vote to stay with India, that’s fine and the issue ends there. If they vote otherwise, that decision should be honored as well.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Kabir/Vikram: I would argue for a reformulation of this issue so that we may be clear what our objective is.

          I would start by asking whether there is a problem in Kashmir or not. If there is no problem, we should stop talking about Kashmir. However, since Professor Alok Rai initiated this debate on the premise that there is a Kashmir problem, let us stay with that premise and try and figure out what is the exact nature of the problem.

          There is nothing to be gained by taking pro-India, pro-Pakistan, or even pro-Kashmir positions without first understanding what the issue is that we are taking a position on. Any argument that begins by saying that India cannot let Kashmir go for various reasons, or Kashmir belongs to Pakistan for other reasons, or that Kashmir deserves to be independent is putting the cart before the horse. We cannot offer solutions to a problem if we do not understand it. And any demonizing of the other leads us further away from such an understanding. Even appeals to economic interest (e.g., you are better off with us then without us) miss the point because people do not make those kinds of tradeoffs when issues of identity are involved.

          I see this issue through the generic lens of collective rights. This is a very tricky issue because democratic governance is theoretically premised on individual rights where everyone is equal as a citizen and no other marker of identity has political importance. This works well in countries that are ethnically homogeneous but not in multi-ethnic countries where important constitutional issues arise pertaining to the sharing of power. Even in the former we can see the earlier struggle for women’s rights and the ongoing struggle for gay rights through the same lens.

          We see these kinds of issues not only in the Indian subcontinent but in Africa, Latin America, and the old Soviet Union. So we can easily abstract away from Kashmir and discuss unemotionally the issue of how collective rights are to be assured under democratic governance in multi-ethnic countries. We can seek to learn from the issue of Tamil rights in Sri Lanka, Baloch rights in Pakistan, Ibo rights in Nigeria, or Native American rights in Mexico. Even within India, there are other regions with collective rights issues and other social or religious groups that are not convinced that their collective rights are adequately represented.

          The problem is that if under democratic governance the community demanding collective rights is small, it cannot get its grievances resolved through the vote because it does not have enough votes to affect the national outcome. This gives an upper hand to the majority if the majority is not sympathetic to the demands of the collective. Even local level elections can be manipulated or the verdict neutralized by imposing central rule or some other measure.

          Therefore, what we see most of the time is recourse to coercion of one form or another, always rationalized, to deny even the legitimate demands of a minority. We have seen this most recently in the case of the Tamils in Sri Lanka; we saw it earlier with the Ibos in Nigeria, the Baloch in Pakistan, and the Kurds in Turkey. Perhaps the most blatant example was when the minority in West Pakistan denied the collective rights of the majority in East Pakistan by negating the electoral verdict and resorting to force which was under the control of the former.

          This same issue of collective rights is now emerging in Europe with the growing populations of non-Europeans and it does not look like there are any very good ideas around to deal with the issues that are likely to arise.

          So, the question really is how do we assure collective rights of small groups in multi-ethnic countries under democratic governance? One answer is to explore the kind of power-sharing agreements that have been tried in Lebanon, Malaysia, and South Africa. Another alternative is to take a serious look at the option of proportional representation that has been curiously neglected in South Asia. The reason for this is that we have borrowed our democracy from Great Britain and are heavily influenced by the USA. But these two countries are among a very small minority that still practices the first-past-the-post, single-seat system that is biased heavily against small groups. Almost everywhere else proportional representation has been adopted because it gives fairer representation to small or marginalized groups. For example, in Germany the Greens have a representation in Parliament without winning a single seat outright. And they have been able to influence the national agenda because of this representation. The proportion of women in European parliaments is also much higher than in England or the US.

          This is a problem that needs to be addressed unemotionally as one of assuring fair representation to minorities in a situation where groups continue to see themselves as minorities. Ideally we should be thinking of a framework in which minorities voluntarily see their benefit in being aligned with the larger group. We are seeing this in the way the Eastern European countries are desirous of joining the European Union rather than being on their own. Solutions are possible if we remain focused on the underlying issues and are not distracted by our emotions. The price of not finding a solution is very high as we learnt at the time of the partition of the Indian subcontinent.

      • kabir Says:

        http://bluekashmir.blogspot.com/2009/08/charter-for-free-kashmir.html#links

        Check out this post, where Mr. Junaid lays out his vision for a secular, peaceful, and demiliterized independent Kashmir.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Kabir, I read the post and have a number of reactions:

          1. As Eliot said, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. You can see the shadow between the first and second quotes in the post. The idea of Pakistan was quite similar but the reality is quite different. I don’t think Kashmiris are any smarter than the rest of the people in South Asia so I am not very optimistic that this ideal can be attained just by wishing for it.

          2. Imagine, as a thought experiment, that Kashmir became independent. Would it not be faced immediately with the same issue of sharing power among its major ethnic groups? And should this not be figured out in advance to avoid the kind of chaos that engulfed Pakistan?

          3. This is why I place emphasis on thinking about the electoral and power-sharing rules that can ensure fair representation to groups within a geographical boundary. If we can figure out such rules for an imagined free Kashmir, we could apply them to the rest of South Asia and make the Kashmir problem go away on its own.

          4. Readers would find it useful to go over the history of Alsace-Lorraine in this context. The region was annexed in turn by the Germans and the French. When it went to the Germans, the issue was the collective rights of the French-speaking minority; when it went to the French, the issue was the collective rights of the German-speaking minority. The issue was resolved only with the German defeat at the end of WW2.

          5. At the level of a political issue, the problem of Kashmir cannot and should not be solved militarily in this way. The only way is to find mechanisms that ensure all Kashmiris can get their voices heard inside the polities where they reside and ultimately, if people have the vision, within a South Asian union.

          6. At another level, I remain concerned that we might be missing the forest for the trees. The Saudis are funding fundamentalism and if ever there was a client state Saudi Arabia is a client state of the US. The ISI is training terrorists and it is a client agency of the CIA. Knowing the American mindset, one can be assured that there is a Plan A and a Plan B for these resource rich regions. Did the overthrow of a democratic government in Iran in 1953 just happen in a fit of absent-mindedness? Was the spreading of misinformation and the fomenting of economic unrest in Chile in 1973 an accident? What exactly might these plans be and are we with our micro animosities just being used as pawns to further some big game? There is no way of knowing for sure but there is no way of rejecting the hypothesis either.

          7. For this reason, I feel it is necessary for citizens to put aside their prejudices and unite for peace in South Asia. Citizens of Pakistan should put pressure on their government to stop meddling in Kashmir and renounce any claims on the territory and to start addressing the problems of the citizens of Pakistan. Citizens of India should put pressure on their government to find a political settlement that would be acceptable to Kashmiris so that the real tasks of governance can be tackled. There are no excuses for the kinds of human degradations that still exist in the region in the 21st century. All South Asian citizens need to speak with one voice that such degradation of the human condition is unacceptable and politics should not be used as an excuse to justify it.

      • Vinod Says:

        Vikram

        I think there is more to what appears in the India-slamming position of that Kashmiri blogger. It is not healthy, I agree. But I speculate that it is indicative of a rage that has resulted from the deprivation of a dignified life for Kashmiris by the heavy military presence of India (THE Heaviest in the world, I think). When even a chance at a minimally dignified and secure life does not seem possible within the Indian Union, eonomic arguments to stay within the Union are not going to appeal very much. They may in fact come across as very condescending. Just something one may need to bear in mind when dialoguing with a Kashmiri.

      • Vikram Says:

        Vinod, I would like to draw your attention to some points made in the reply,

        “The last thing you would want is to base its genesis on a philosophy of demonisation of a peer entity (another country, India in this case).”

        Unfortunately, this is an angle that I frequently see in the anguish of Kashmiri bloggers and their mainstream media. There is very little thought as to what events led to the actual presence of the army and the actions of the ‘mujahids’ and separatist leaders. No matter how Kashmiri bloggers try to rationalize the situation, the fact is that the Hindu minority was forced to leave, it doesnt matter what the Indian state’s propaganda machine did, such a large and complete exodus cannot be simply attributed to the actions of a devious India.

        What meaning does self determination have when large sections of the population have been ethnically cleansed and removed ?

        This does not mean that Kashmiris should not have the right to secede or protest when their rights are abused, but to claim that these actions are somehow endorsed by the Indian state and the middle class is plainly ridiculous. The middle class covets the valley as territory, make no mistake, but this covetousness cannot be taken to mean the sanction of rights abuses, as Kashmiri bloggers and newspapers frequently seem to think.

        “Does it really make more economic sense to secede? Because once the euphoria of nation birth dies down, there is the business of living to tackle.”

        I think the others reading this blog are misreading this statement as some kind of economic justification for Kashmir being part of the Union. I dont think its intended that way. It is just one argument in favor of the Union. It just means that perhaps we need to think a bit before secession and separation.

      • Vinod Says:

        Vikram

        It is possible to see why Kashmiris may think that middle class India endorses the abuses of the army. How many Indians are actually willing to question the ethics of the military’s modus operandi in Kashmir? How many meaningful investigations have been completed of the abuses by the army? Even raising that question in India today would invite the ire of middle class India. On overemphasis on security can lead to a shift of focus away from ethics.

        “There is very little thought as to what events led to the actual presence of the army and the actions of the ‘mujahids’ and separatist leaders”

        Could this be because of the muslim identity of the Kashmiris and the pro-muslim bias it carries that makes them lose focus on the cruelties of the mujahid infiltrators? If so, is this outlook shared by a majority in Kashmir? If so, then how legitimate is it of India to claim anything over Kashmiris if their primary identity is religious and that governs their outlook? Does India have any claim at all to the hearts and aspirations of the Kashmiris? I doubt it. But I could be wrong given the increasing participation of kashmiris in elections organized by the Indian Union. And perhaps Kashmir muslim identity is not as monolithic as I presume it to be. The Indian Union will have to work with this multi faceted Kashmiri muslim identity and win their trusts. That will go a long way in creating legitimacy for India’s claim over Kashmir. A step in that direction would be to check the abuses of the military.

        “What meaning does self determination have when large sections of the population have been ethnically cleansed and removed ?”

        That is a good question. I don’t have an answer to it. I only have questions around the possile scenarios. There are two ways forward. (i) Kasmiri Hindus be allowed to return before any self determination process. But would the Kasmiri Hindus want to return? Is it possible to restore what they lost? Is it realistic at all to attempt this?

        (ii) Proceed with the self determination process with the demographic there. This is practical but may be grossly unjust to the Kashmiri Hindus as your question suggests. How can justice be done to the Kashmiri Hindus?

        I would ask whether the Kashmiri Hindus were forced to leave by the infiltrating militants or the Kashmiri muslims? If it is the former then Kashmiri Hindus may be willing to return to Kashmir, even if Kashmir secedes from India as long as the Kashmiri muslims are in control of political affairs. And perhaps that can be worked out. India would not be in good moral light if it insists on holding onto kashmir purely for territorial reasons. If it is the latter then I cannot see how justice can ever be done to the Kashmiri Hindus. They would never want to return to a state which is controlled by people who hate them. That would be a very sad state of affairs. But then, would it right of India to prevent a secession of the Kashmiri muslims to protect the interests of the Kashmiri Hindus? I don’t know whether it would be right. But I do know that it would send the whole matter tailspinning to some kind of doom.

        I think the best bet for India, if it does want to do justice to Kashmiris, both Hindus and muslims, is to take measures to win the trust of the Kashmiris. But if India lacks the political and intellectual sophistication and the administrative machinery to accomplish this then it should let Kashmir go and focus on the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Hindus in India. Simple brute force suppression of kashmiri separatist movements will only further antagonize them and worsen the case for India.

      • Vikram Says:

        Vinod, I guess I was wrong in using the word endorse. The correct question to ask is that, is middle class India apathetic to rights abuses in Kashmir. I dont think the answer is yes. The middle class simply lacked information and a voice till the arrival of private news channels. And you do see these channels and other media outlets taking on the army. Yes they are territorially possessive and this must change in the direction of them defending the rights of Kashmiris. They have to realize that it is the Constitution that has to be defended, not ‘their’ territory.

        Again, this in no way justifies the incomptence and suppression of the Indian Union government. The insurgency and the resultant cleansing of Hindus were the outcome of this incompetence and suppression. But the outcome could have been very different for Kashmiris if they had channeled their frustration into a mass movement, instead of picking up the gun. If in India people can openly advocate secession in newspaper editorials and Kashmiris can chant ‘Bharat teri maut aayi’ then there probably was a chance of a non-violent movement leading to a redressal of greivances. Did this not happen with Tamil Nadu and the language issue ?

        Once an armed conflict starts, the situation becomes very difficult to repair.

        As for the question of self-determination, I would really like to know why the separatists do not want to contest elections. On the one hand they say that the elections mean nothing, so why not just contest them for once and show the world how popular their ideas are among Kashmiris. Does this not reek of dishonesty ? Yes in the past elections were rigged but there is very little chance of that happening now, then why do they never contest them ? Why do they not call for bandhs and Muzaffarabad Chalos when militants gun down three year old kids ? http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/25/stories/2009072560911000.htm Can you not see the hypocrisy here ?

        The separatists just dont want to solve the Kashmir issue. They seem to have built an entire economy around it. They dont want to stop the human rights violations by contesting elections, winning power and kicking the army out, they want to flare up tensions more so that there is more violence and more fuel to the fires.

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Robert McNamara was one of the key architects of the Vietnam War and he had a long afterlife to reflect on his experiences. In the end, he came up with a number of lessons of which I found the following the most relevant:

          1. Empathize with your enemy. (This was number one on McNamara’s list.)
          2. Belief and seeing are often both wrong.
          3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
          4. Our judgments of friend and foe, alike, reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
          5. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.

          In South Asia we need to do better in the following areas: Governments should consult the people more before launching initiatives that have a major bearing on their lives; citizens should question more their own beliefs and judgments, try and educate themselves, and call their governments to account; and we should try harder to put ourselves in the position of others whom we see as our enemies. It is not good enough to support whatever our governments do blaming others for all that we see as problematic. Our challenge is to break grip of patriotism if it tramples over human values.

      • Vinod Says:

        Vikram, some well made points there. Thanks

        • SouthAsian Says:

          Is this how European nation-states became nation-states? Pretty depressing. Any thoughts on how we are going to handle this in South Asia given that we have already started on the same path?

          From: A Culture of Fear by Pankaj Mishra. Also has a bearing on our burqa discussion although I am reluctant to recommend it as reading. Mishra writes much better – this is sloppy.

          “Genocide during the second world war followed by ethnic cleansing were what finally resolved Europe’s longstanding minority “problem”, blasting flat, Judt writes, “the demographic heath upon which the foundations of a new and less complicated continent were then laid”. In Europe’s largest migrations of refugees, some 13 million ethnic Germans fled Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania after the war. The eviction of other ethnic groups (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks) brought many countries closer to fulfilling the Versailles ideal of national homogeneity.”

  22. kabir Says:

    South Asian,

    I think you are right that the problem is how collective rights are to be ensured under democratic governance in multi-ethnic countries. Kashmir is only one example, perhaps the one that South Asians are most concerned with. If we can come up with principles that address the generic case, than we can more effectively discuss Kashmir as well.

    I agree with you that blindly taking “pro-Pakistan”, “pro-India” or “pro-Kashmir” positions is not useful.

  23. Vikram Says:

    Your emphasis on power-sharing rules requires a little bit more elaboration. Are you suggesting this as a temporary settlement to ensure some basic representation and governance, to be followed later by a more ‘standard’ democracy ? Or are you suggesting this as a permanent solution to the problem of government in South Asia ?

    Lets think of a city like Mumbai (with a population 4 times that of the Kashmir valley) and an extremely heterogeneous, changing population. How may one devise power sharing here ? Instead, my instinct would be to stick with the FPTP system and have the citizens of Mumbai develop the feeling of being Mumbaikar first, and transition to a two party system. Research has shown that states in India with two party systems (eg. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat) have done much better than those with multi-party systems (UP, Bihar). A two party system necessitates having to reach out beyond narrow caste and religious groups.

    I am not the best person to comment on these matters since I am not very knowledgeable on the PR vs FPTP debate, but those are my thoughts.

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: This topic needs a post to itself and I will try and find someone to write it. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts in brief:

      1. We will be misled if we think of a ‘standard’ democracy. There is no such thing. Democracy is a philosophy underlying the principle that the ruled will have a say in selecting the people who rule them. How this selection and subsequent governance are made operational depends upon the specific rules that are chosen for the purpose. FPTP and PR are both valid as selection mechanisms; parliamentary and presidential forms are both compatible with democratic governance.

      2. Power sharing is not best thought of at the city level. It relates more to arrangements at the national level. Also power sharing is not really needed if the population is extremely heterogeneous. Problems arise when the population is divided into homogeneous groups and for whatever reasons the groups do not trust each other. If the groups are numerically imbalanced there is a fear that democracy would degenerate into majoritarianism. This outcome is much more likely under the FPTP system especially if one group is thinly distributed over space. In such situations explicit power sharing arrangements might also be needed to assure fair treatment of the smaller groups.

      3. Take the case of Iraq where the US has wanted to introduce democratic governance. There is great bitterness between the three main groups because of a history of brutal oppression under Saddam Hussein. Without some explicit power sharing guarantees, ‘standard’ democracy could be a recipe for disaster.

      4. Some of these topics have been covered in earlier posts on the blog. You can take a look at the history of democracy for variations in suffrage rules; at the experience of Japan for representation rules; the experience of Malaysia for explicit power-sharing arrangements; and some reflections on the situation in Iraq.

      5. A very entertaining introduction to PR is provided in a video presentation by John Cleese of Monty Python fame. A good set of readings is provided here by Mount Holyoke College.

      6. The point I want to stress is that the choice of rules for selecting representatives and power-sharing arrangements for good governance should depend upon the specific characteristics and needs of a particular society at a particular stage of development. We have not given enough attention to this aspect in South Asia. To give a preview of an issue I would like to see addressed: I think the choice of separate electorates in British India was a terrible one and it virtually paved the way to the division of the subcontinent.

      Added Later: This excerpt from Bertrand Russell (Tyranny of the Majority) is also of relevance.

  24. kabir Says:

    I personally think that 3 of the 7 scenarios seem preferable: 1) the LOC becoming the international border, 2) an independent Kashmir and 3) an independent Kashmir Valley.

    I definately don’t think that the options which involve either all of J &K acceding to India or Pakistan are realistic. There will have to be some compromise which will involve both countries losing some territory, except in the case in which the status quo is made permanent.

  25. Vikram Says:

    Kabir, South Asian, I think excerpts from the essay ‘How Pluralism Goes Bad’ in Mukul Kesavan’s The Ugliness of the Indian Male provide some penetrative insights,

    I quote,

    “Again, in the matter of Kashmir, the fear that the new nation and the ideas it embodied would unravel, shaped Indian policy. ….. Unlike Pakistan which, true to its founding principle, based its claim to Kashmir on the logic of partition, India resorted to increasingly furtive political stratagems: a coerced accession signed by a unpopular king, promises of autonomy reneged upon, the years of house arrest suffered by Sheikh Abdullah, and then the murderous cycle of military oppression and insurgency.

    The history of republican India is the history of a state which, when pushed, will recognize every sort of identity – linguistic, tribal, even religious-for the sake of pluralist equilibrium and political peace. You can see this in the formation of linguistic states, in the creation of a Muslim-majority district in Kerala, in the segmentation of India’s north-east into tiny states. But when it comes to its borders, India is dogmatically, even violently status quoist. …. Every secessionist movement and every disputed border is, for this insecure heir to the Raj, a domino. Committed to the principle that the diversity of the subcontinent can be housed within a democratic state, it will let no one leave home.

    To explain this is not to forgive its actions or justify them. To a Kashmiri, a Mizo or a Naga, to anyone who has suffered at the hands of Indian soldiers or policemen, the pluralist compulsions of the Indian state will sound like a sick joke. But for everyone who wants to put an end to the violence, understanding its origins might be one way to begin.

    Viewed from this angle, any solution to the Kashmir issue must take into account the ‘pluralistic compulsions’ of the Indian state, or it will simply not budge. How this is to be done I dont know. The Mizo Accord is a good example of a successful settlement. Among other things it restricts the entry of non-Mizo Indians into the state without a permit. It is interesting to note the first condition that the Government of India set (apart from the rebels stopping their uprising), “The rights and privileges of the minorities in Mizoram as envisaged in the constitution, shall continue to be preserved and protected and their social and economic advancement shall be ensured.”

    Can the Kashmir issue be solved within the framework of the Indian Constitution ? Are the Kashmiris ready for such a solution ?

    • SouthAsian Says:

      Vikram: I am puzzled by Mukul Kesavan’s line of thinking which starts in the right spirit but then abruptly puts on the blinders.

      There are two parts of the proposition. The first is the description of Indian actions in the border regions (“increasingly furtive stratagems”). If this is an accurate description then the author’s conclusion is right that there is very little basis for people of the border regions to trust the Indian government. Mukul Keasavan terms this irrational “pluralistic compulsion of the Indian state” as the reaction of an “insecure heir to the Raj.”

      I would have expected the second part of the proposition to proceed along the same critical lines. If it is recognized that the Indian state is being irrational, the logical inference would be to say that it has to stop being irrational. To plead at this point that others have to live with this irrationality else the status quo would remain unchanged is not a very convicing next step. It is more or less saying to the people of the border regions that might is right – the Indian state is so big and powerful that it can afford to continue being irrational and they have to live with it.

      This automatically provides the answer to your question. The only way to find out if the Kashmiris are ready for such a solution is to put it to them, convince them it is in good faith, and see what they say. From there, it would be a process of give and take.

      • Vinod Says:

        SA, those were exactly my thoughts on the matter. It is as if the bully is allowed to keep his thuggishness and the victim is being prodded to work with the good side of the bully.

  26. kabir Says:

    To anyone who is at all interested in finding a long-term workable solution to the Kashmir conflict, I would seriously recommend reading “Kashmir in the Crossfire” by Victoria Schofield. I have now finished it and have found it to be very thorough and non-partisan. It is also really clear and I feel accessible to the lay reader (though I am perhaps biased as an aspiring academic in the field of South Asian Studies). She also includes a comprehensive bibliography which provides further sources for research. However, keep in mind that it is now fairly out-of-date as it was published in 1996 and thus doesn’t include the events of the last 13 years. Still it is useful as a general historical introduction to the dispute.

    The full details of the book are as follows:

    Kashmir in the Crossfire by Victoria Schofield published by I.B. Tauris.

  27. SouthAsian Says:

    An interesting new video discussion sponsored by the Open Society Institute and moderated by Steven Coll of the New Yorker with Pankaj Mishra, Mridu Rai, and Basharat Peer as panelists:

    Solve Kashmir First: New Thinking on the S. Asia Conflict

  28. SouthAsian Says:

    An update by Pankaj Mishra: Why Silence Over Kashmir Speaks Volumes

    Some Excerpts:

    Why then does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination?

    Electoral democracy in multi-ethnic, multi-religious India is one of the modern era’s most utopian political experiments, increasingly vulnerable to malfunction and failure, and, consequently, to militant disaffection and state terror.

    “The promise,” Mehta writes, “of a liberal India is slowly dying”.

  29. Arun Pillai Says:

    Thanks for posting this link. I think only a three state solution can solve this crisis.

  30. SouthAsian Says:

    If we think of individual lives instead of national pride, we might be led to better decisions:

    http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/fervent-prayers-for-peace/article4316491.ece?homepage=true

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