G Parthasarthy has a point when he writes that “a diplomatic engagement with a neighbor having territorial ambitions has to be carefully calibrated and executed” given past history, it is imperative that dialogue with Pakistan better not be a knee jerk reaction. It must precede proper home work and coordination between various branches of the government so that they don’t work at cross purposes.
However abrupt cancellation of the dialogue after having started it in haste using Pak Ambassador’s ritually meetings with Kashmiri separatists is in bad form and communicates a very negative image of India.
While there is no doubt that the Pak Ambassador’s invitation to Kashmiri separatists in the midst of fragile secretary level talks amounted to deliberate and avoidable provocation to sensibilities within India. But it is well known that this act of cocking a snook at India is a product of the diseased in internal politics of Pakistan. The anti-India lobbies within Pak are already out with their knives and guns aimed at Nawaz Sharif alleging that he is being “soft” towards India on the one hand and ready to betray the interests of Kashmiri separatists who have always counted on Pakistan to fight their battle. That is why the annual ritual of “consulting” pro-Pak Kashmiri leaders had to be undertaken to reduce the pressure building us at home.
It is an open secret that in comparison to India that elected government in Pakistan is a light weight in comparison to the clout of Pakistani army, the Pak intelligence agencies a whole range of terrorist outfits propped and supported by them. But the liberal opinion within Pakistan is in favour of peace with India simply because they realize that Pakistan is sinking under the dead weight of its corrosive hostility to India. This hatred has been the founding principle of Pakistan from the time of Jinnah himself. Though even the most liberal intelligentsia daren’t question Jinnah’s wisdom openly, but there is a growing realization among this section that if Pakistan cannot be at peace with India, it cannot be at peace with itself either.
In such a situation, the knee jerk fashion in which the dialogue has been unilaterally called off by the BJP government has given a big boost to the anti-India terrorist organizations within Pakistan on the one hand and brought the otherwise marginalized Kashmiri separatists centre stage.
Letting one’s enemies dictate one’s political agenda amounts to strengthening them beyond their actual worth. It has sent a very negative message to the international community that whereas Pakistan is responsive to the “aspirations” of Kashmiri Muslims, India keeps them at bay because it is afraid of them.
Instead of taking such deep offence at these rituals meeting of Hurriyat factions with the Pak Ambassador, India could well have laughed it off saying: “The Separatists have to keep knocking at the doors of their mai-baap in Pakistani simply because the people of Kashmir don’t pay heed to them; any more.
It is well known that secessionist forces gain strength in Kashmir only when the Central Government allows electoral rigging and helps install a corrupt and tyrannical state government. Omar Abdullah’s government has inflicted innumerable wounds on Kashmiri people ever since it came to power in 2008. That is the only reason, a section of Kashmiri youth are using the Hurriyat platform to vent their frustration, without really being enamored of Hurriyat’s own ideology and politics. During PDP regime, the same people left the Hurriyat in a larch and put Separatist urges behind them simply because Mufti Mohammad Syeed provided and relatively clean and more accountable development oriented government.
In private even Separatist leaders admit the solution of the Kashmir problem can only come through the BJP government. Narendra Modi as the icon of development oriented politics has ignited even higher hopes that Atal Bihar Vajpayi once ignited among Kashmiri Muslims. One sign of this is that for the first time in Kashmir’s history that well known public figures like Sajjad Lone have openly made common cause with the BJP and many young people, even in places like Pulwama, which has been a secessionist stronghold, are openly joining the BJP.
During his election campaign itself Narendra Modi had applied balm on Kashmiri hurt by promising them that the Valley too would witness unprecedented economic upsurge and job creation under BJP regime. This had created a palpable sense of optimism among the Kashmiri youth. Since the last 30 years Kashmiris have witnessed from very close the internecine warfare among various secessionist groups and factions. Their rivalries and mutual hatred is also not a secret any more. Kashmiris have now come to see that the secessionist sentiment is kept alive only through the power of the guns wielded by pro-Pak groups. They have seen the lavish lifestyles of secessionist leaders who are believed to be getting hefty pay off from Pakistan on the one hand and keeping swords hanging over their heads on the other.
Some of the leading lights among secessionists live under the security cover clearly show they don’t fear the Indian government. If there is anyone any fear, it is the terrorist outfits propped up by Pakistan. Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq went so far as to openly declare Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the man who got Mirwaiz’s father murdered. He also publicly alleged that even his life was in danger from the pro-Pak militants connected to Geelani Sahib. One hears knowledgeable Kashmiris say it openly that even if by some mishap Kashmir got azadi, Hurriyat factions would do to each other what Hamas and AlQaida are doing to their co-religionists.
Most important of all, Kashmiri Separatists have themselves voted with their feet and pockets in favour of India. They may get hefty pay offs from Pakistan. But where do they invest this money? Not in Peshawar, Lahore or Karachi but in buying properties in Jammu, Delhi, Pune, Mumbai etc. They may send the sons of poor Kashmiri families across the border to get arms training from Pak. But their own children come to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune to study and look for jobs or business opportunities. Many of their children practice law in Indian courts. You won’t find them inclined to do business in Karachi or even Lahore.
The moderates among Hurriyat are today clearly inclined towards the BJP. Most of hardliner Geelani Saheb’s colleagues are also tired of acting as the puppets of Islamabad because they see no future for their children in that game. Geelani Sahib’s and Yasin Malik’s election boycott strategy will work only as long as the outrageously corrupt and insensitive regime of Omar Abdullah is in place. But NC is likely to be wiped out and replaced by the far more democratic PDP in the coming election. BJP too is set to make big inroads in the hitherto unexplored Laddakh region in addition to its political base in Jammu region. A caring democratic regime in Jammu will mean the likes of Yasin Malik will see their space shrink to nothingness as happened after the 2002 election.
Kashmir is also yearning for Modi’s mool mantra -- Sushasan (good governance) and Vikas (development – just as the rest of India has put their faith in this promise. Pro-Pak leaders like Yasin Malik are able to flex their muscles only when there is malgovernance in Kashmir. The answer to the Yasin Maliks hobnobbing with Pak, is not to boycott dialogue with Pakistan. The appropriate remedy is honest and fair elections, good governance and speedy economic growth with speedier job creation.
In short, the appropriate answer to Pakistan’s disruptive politics in Kashmir is to ensure that the ordinary Kashmiri trust and is happy with the governance model – both in Delhi and Srinagar. Thus the solution to the Kashmir problem does not really lie in the hands of Pakistan; it lies within India’s power and control.