This article aims to understand the current situation of the Kashmir imbroglio in a nuanced manner, without delving much into historical and conventional undercurrents. As the days pass, the conflict seems to be getting more convoluted and dangerous with no respite. The current situation seems unprecedented and much more complex as compared to its earlier manifestations. In order to solve this conflict, peace must be given significance, before any political engagement is started.
In the recent times, Kashmir a much revered place on earth came to European limelight with the unprecedented visit by a delegation of European Union members, of course on the invitation of Indian government post Article 370 scrapping. However, one EU MP, Chris Davies, a liberal Democrat was declined the invitation when he expressed his desire to meet anybody he wanted freely without police or any other security intervention. The outcome of this exercise was that some members expressed their displeasure over the sanitized views and fragile peace in Kashmir valley.
While the guiding principle of democracy should have been an open welcome to whosoever wished or desired to visit, but it seems opposite. Does this bode well for a nation grappling hard to achieve peace in its own yard? The answer seems to be a plain ‘No’.
B L Hart, a British strategic thinker once wrote, ‘if you want peace understand war’. The advice remains appropriate till date. There is no gainsaying the fact that we human beings live in exceptionally unstable times. Contemporary world-order has become more unstable and unpredictable as it was ever. Conflict and cooperation are the two sides of a same coin. Peace has always been the highest virtue in human relations, no matter what. Even disadvantageous peace is opted as a better bargain than just war, notwithstanding agreements or disagreements over the notions of fragile peace and just wars.
In one of his starkly contrasted critiques of the contemporary world order, Noam Chomsky writes that the world has not renounced the war. On the contrary, most of the world’s hegemonic powers accord themselves the right to wage war at will, under the doctrine of “anticipatory self-defence” with unstated bounds.
Way before Chomsky’s writings, Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell had issued an extraordinary appeal to the people of the world, asking them to set aside the strong feelings they have about many issues and to consider themselves only as “members of a biological species, with a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire”. The choice before us is intricate and inescapable.
The two nuclear giants of South Asia, India and Pakistan have locked horns many a times on myriad issues. Among various issues, the most palpable and dominant one plaguing Indo-Pak relations has been the Kashmir issue. Since the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 both these countries have been baulking over this issue and fought three wars with a much talked about nuclear escalation in the third war.
The desire to find a solution has always been elusive. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but control it in half. The issue is becoming complicated by each passing day mainly because of intransigence of both nation-states. Historically an issue between India and Pakistan, is now twisting its tail of lately by the active involvement of China as a potential ‘third party’ staking its claim on parts of Ladhak. Give this nuance, if the situation runs out of control then what follows next will be a situation emblematic of ‘catch-22’. And retreat from this supposed position will be an impossibility.
The Kashmir Valley has been going through a turbulent phase. The political establishment has been upping the ante by initiating a number of reckless political adventures. The COVID lockdown coupled by internet and phone suspensions and blockades albeit intermittently has provided cover to many state atrocities.
The State’s monopoly of legitimate use of force has breached the moral norm. The much hyped flamboyance of the Indian constitutionalism is proving more of ominous and less of an elixir. In a typical modern day liberal democracy, a state is morally successful only when it controls and monopolizes less of a public sphere. The more a state tries to exercise control, the more repression it needs, and if it does succeed by means of coercion, the more unsuccessful a state can become. Kashmir is being denied the space it needs to assert itself.
Even the slightest aberration from the state narrative is totally treated as something against the nation. The fissures in the policy circles of India are much palpable, and without an iota of a doubt are haunting the Indian state. As such, the state’s credibility is taking some serious bashing the world over. The war against militancy in Kashmir seems unending and there seems to be no autonomous political process which could have thrown open many options, instead it seems that everything is being engineered from higher echelons in New Delhi. The state furthers its agendas blatantly without caring much about basic and fundamental human aspirations of local populace.
In this regard, the very recent notification of change in domicile law is worth to mention. The whole idea of this new law is to initiate a demographic change by rendering majority into a minority in its own yard. The state earlier altered the geographical and political status of the region subsequently dividing the Muslim-majority region into two federally administered territories with almost no power vested in the hands of local populace.
All these unilateral actions might have satisfied the ‘collective conscience’, but it certainly has pushed the people of Kashmir to wall and has alienated them to unimaginable levels. By not even consulting the political leadership, leave alone common people and naysayers, the Indian state has reneged on everything it had promised Kashmiris since 1947. Slapping of UAPA, arresting students, activists and manhunt journalists will further worsen the already fragile atmosphere. By upping the ante in Kashmir, the state is merely putting the lives of eight million residents in imminent danger.
The Kashmir conundrum is a political problem that demands a political solution achievable only through dialogue. Peace must prevail. Death and destruction will not garner any dividends to any of the parties involved. Further, the perpetuation of the problem will only drain resources and thus weaken both base and super structure of societies.
The current political dispensation has completely alienated the Kashmiri population and pushed them against the wall. This may have serious repercussions. There are speculations that the long and a violent conflict might be in the offing. And if the intensity of this conflict goes uncontrolled, it may run amok and has enough potential to escalate into a full scale nuclear encounter. The political will has been relegated to the shelf of myth. Disingenuity and mere passing on the buck has the potential to stir up the hornet’s nest. As a great scholar of international politics, Kenneth Waltz once wrote, wars happen because there is nothing to stop them. Peace is imperative, and hence must be given due significance before any political process is to be started.
Views expressed are personal.
- Abidullah Baba, Doctoral Candidate at Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India, E-Mail: [email protected]