By Kashinath Pandit
Besides Kashmir separatists and secessionists, ruling and opposition parties have also slammed New Delhi’s decision of calling off the foreign secretary level meeting between India and Pakistan slated for 25th of August in Islamabad.
The decision of holding the foreign secretary level meeting was made in the aftermath of Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Narendra Modi on the occasion of latter’s swearing in ceremony in New Delhi in May last.
Indo-Pakistan talks had been stalled for a long time during the UPA government. Prime Minister Modi took the initiative to break the ice and PM Nawaz Sharif responded. The expectation was that a new chapter would be opened in bilateral relations.
Nawaz Sharif had to do quite a bit of homework to make his Generals agree to his visit to Delhi. The question is: are the Generals comfortable with Nawaz Sharif essaying for normalization of relations with India? The Generals will never agree to it. The army feels Nawaz Sharif is silently inching towards Indo-Pak détente and normalization of relations with Afghanistan. It feels it must prevent this development.
In the current circumstances, the army cannot enforce a military coup in Pakistan. It lacks competent leadership, is engrossed in protracted struggle with its Frankenstein in Waziristan, and can’t muster international support for the coup. Hence it is trying other means; working cat’s paw to PTI and the fanatical cleric Tahirul Qadri who had mobilized frenzied radicals to march on to capital in numbers to destabilize their elected prime minister.
To mount more pressure on the elected government, the Pakistani army and ISI combine have activated along the LoC and IB in Kashmir with India in the hope of a retaliatory measure by the Indians. The Pakistan Army would want to whip up anti-India frenzy and thus open another front against Nawaz Sharif.
Fortunately New Delhi showed remarkable statesmanship in restricting its reaction to calling off the foreign secretary level meeting. Inviting Kashmir separatists and secessionists to a pre-foreign secretary level meeting is the Pakistan military’s rebuttal to Nawaz Sharif who had declined to meet with them when he was previously in New Delhi.
Kashmir separatists have asked why New Delhi called off the meeting. If they are sincere that the two countries should talk seriously about bilateral relations, then they should contribute to building a congenial atmosphere for the talks. They could have done so by strongly protesting against unprovoked firing on the LoC and International Border going on for last two weeks and causing casualties. They should have also protested against militant attacks on security forces in Pulwama and other places in the valley during recent past. Instead they remained silent, meaning they want militancy to continue in Kashmir. Not only that, they even criticized Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for asking the militants what their gains were after two decades of militancy.
Separatists and the opposition have repeatedly talked about excesses made by security forces in Kashmir and the loss of innocent lives. Nobody is happy with the loss of life but none of them appeals to militants to eschew violence. Since they do not make an appeal like that, it is inferred by many they support violence.
For New Delhi, the position is clear and simple. Militancy and talks cannot go on simultaneously. Separatist and secessionist leadership has no representative character in Kashmir. They are not part of the democratic process because they have turned it down, not just once but since 1986. Yes, they whip up religious sentiments of the people in Friday congregations. Their politics may go by religion, the world does not.
India and Pakistan have been talking and will talk more about Kashmir. Yes, Kashmiris are the stakeholders. They have vented in successive elections since 1953. They have elected their representative governments; framed and implemented their constitution and shaped their destiny. That leaves the handful of dissidents, separatists and secessionists outside the pale of the democratic process. Nobody banished them to separatism; they did it themselves.
What is troubling separatists and secessionists is that having embraced Pakistan and sponsored violence and gun culture, instruments that have failed them at the end of the day. They themselves ask one another what gains the gun has brought them. Some say that the gun internationalized the Kashmir issue. Yes, what then? The entire world laughs when they learn that Kashmir separatists and secessionists draw inspiration from UN and US banned terrorist organizations of Pakistan.
Which Pakistani sympathizers are Kashmiri separatists and secessionists desiring to be their guides and mentors? Not Sindhis, not Baluch, not Pathans, but Punjabis — yes. And among Punjabis: Landlords, Generals and elite bureaucrats. I think no community in the world can compare Kashmiris in rejoicing at calling foreigners to rule over them.
Two and a half decades of insurgency should have convinced separatists that J&K will remain integral part of the Indian Union till eternity; not because of domination but because of the historic decision taken by the people to be rulers of themselves. They know this but to extract more from their Pakistani benefactors they feign to believe they will be sent back India one day. Who stops them from day dreaming?
Adopting an ostrich–like posture, separatists and secessionists are willfully overlooking the deep impact of democratic process in the state. We know that Wahhabization of Kashmir is their agenda. That is for the consumption of Pakistan and her radical groups: and is also for Saudi Arabia who provides petro-dollar largesse.
But democratic dispensation has dug its roots into the Kashmir polity deep and wide. This has evolved after thousands of years of suppression and oppression. Under the grand sweep of democratic dispensation, all angularities, religious, ethnic, linguistic and cultural are transformed into a new mix in which reason and logic reign supreme. Separatists are meeting with Pakistani officials and ISI representatives. Why don’t they meet with and talk to the leadership of dissident groups in Pakistan and why don’t they exchange ideas with them? Their vision would expand and they would help themselves have dispassionate view of things in that country.
It is more than two and a half decades that day in and day out separatists have been calling for strikes, demonstrations, and protest rallies that often become violent and resort to stone pelting. What are the gains? The gains are that nearly 80 thousand Kashmir valley students have sought admission in various educational and professional institutions in the country; more than 20 thousand girls from the valley have married outside the state, thousands of persons from the valley have purchased properties in the rest of the country, as far away as Bangalore, and that thousands of Kashmiris have headed towards western countries. This is no small gain of the democratic process in Kashmir.
Separatists are a house divided against itself just because there is no common reason that would unite them in letter and in spirit. They have held umpteen meetings with Pakistani officials in Delhi and in Pakistan. What have they gained out of it? Greased their palms at the cost of the toiling millions of Kashmiris.
Dr. Kashi N. Pandiata is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies Kashmir University
The views expressed in this article are the author's own. IA Forum is a non-partisan publication that publishes across the spectrum of mainstream views while supporting none.