Kashmir, 2017: Have prospects for peace improved?
On January 8 2017, the second report of the five member Citizens’ Group led by Yashwant Sinha former Minister in the BJP government of Atal Behari Vajpayee (1999-2004) stated that there was a ‘crisis of acknowledgment of the Kashmir problem by the Indian state’. The people felt that India refused to recognize that Kashmir is a political problem, not a law and order problem instigated from across the border by Pakistan.
People’s anger in the rural areas was reportedly greater than in Srinagar, the capital city. Visits by emissaries of the government of India or by civil society groups were seen as farcical and as part of a diversionary tactic in handling the Kashmir disturbances. Anger and alienation, admitted by the government, are not the real issue: the real issue is political and cries out for a political solution.
Ever since the massive use of force by the government of India to suppress the mass upsurge which followed the killing on July 8, 2016, in controversial circumstances of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the youthful Hizbul commander and the serious human rights violations that took place, including killings and blinding of a large number of the young by the indiscriminate use of the so called pellet guns, no significant step has been taken to address the underlying political crisis in Kashmir.
The Yashwant Sinha-led Citizens’ Group had been sponsored by the Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation in New Delhi. It made two significant visits to Kashmir and was able to meet stakeholders in Kashmir including the separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference leaders who called for ‘unconditional dialogue’with ruling politicians in Delhi.
The Sinha Group was the most credible of the several groups that visited Kashmir with a view to finding a solution to Kashmir crisis.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (1999-2004) had set in motion a peace process with Pakistani leaders including President Pervez Musharraf. The process was carried forward by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2004-14) with serious back-channel negotiations. A significant achievement was the evolution of a four point formula for settlement of one of the longest-lasting international conflicts.
Eminent scholar Henry Kissinger has said that in resolving complex international disputes, the point is not to find complete satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction!
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who came to power in May 2014, had simply to pick up the thread from where it was left off by his predecessors and carry the dialogue forward. The fact that he did not do so clearly sent a message.
There has emerged an unmistakable policy divide between the ‘soft’ liners and ‘hard’ liners of the ruling BJP on the Kashmir issue. Atal Behari Vajpayee can be considered a soft liner and his successor, Narendra Modi a hard-liner.
Unlike Vajpayee who was willing to look at the Kashmir issue as a political problem and initiated a political dialogue process with the separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders of Kashmir but also equally significantly with Pakistani leaders.
Modi, on the other hand is inclined to see the Kashmir issue as essentially a law and order problem created by Pakistani interference.
Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the 2002 carnage took place in that state. He certainly did not show himself to be a soft-hearted liberal.
Modi does not seem to see a political dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. He seems to be of the view that Kashmir is an integral part of India whether the United Nation agrees or not. He seems to think that the only relevant issue is the liberation of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by India, if necessary by force. In his framework, military conflict with Pakistan seems inevitable unless Pakistan hands over to India that part of Kashmir which is illegally occupied by it.
Ajit Kumar Doval, Modi’s National Security Advisor seems to agree.
Doval, a former policeman was the Director of the powerful Intelligence Bureau (IB). He had earlier held the view that Maoist violence was the ‘biggest internal security threat’ to India and rejected the developmental approach advocated by India’s Planning Commission (later to be renamed in Hindi as Niti Aayog, by the Modi government).
Doval’s views on domestic and foreign policy appear to be exerting considerable influence on the Modi government policy. Doval Doctrine is the name of the game; it deserves attention.
The Doval Doctrine is said to have been behind the Prime Minister’s August 15, 2016 Independence Day address in which he assumed that Pakistan was responsible for the mass unrest in Kashmir since the July 8 killing of Burhan Wani and issued a frontal threat to destabilize Pakistan’s Balochistan, and the Gilgit-Baltistan and the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
In an earlier lecture, Doval had issued precisely the same threat to Pakistan when he said ‘ you do one more Mumbai and you will lose Balochistan’.
It was the Doval Doctrine seemingly in place when the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh went to Srinagar for consultations on the Kashmir turmoil when he refused to make even the smallest verbal concession to the sentiments boiling over in the streets.
In 2010, Doval had stated that India lacked the mind set to enforce rule of law and that this was an open invitation to the opposite side to try and effect a change of policy through violence. Since the dysfunctional Kashmiri mind set saw the climate of international opinion as favorable to its ambitions, India simply had to rub it in that this was nor true.
India had repeatedly failed to leverage its international clout to change the situation in Kashmir to its advantage, which in turn had encouraged the belief in Pakistan that it could at some point ‘liberate’ Kashmir when it had nothing like the capability to do so.
India needed to insist that there was no political question to be settled with Pakistan. If at all a political dialogue were to take place, the Kashmiri Brahmin community the ‘civilizational inheritors of the land’ should play the central role.
Incidentally, Doval himself is a Brahmin from the state of Uttarakhand. Perhaps a migrant from Kashmir?
He believes that holding firm on this policy would help all to accept the reality. This is an outcome of force, central to the Doval Doctrine.
This Brahmanic political philosopher declares that ‘reason is only learned under the tutelage of force applied with persistence and purpose’!
Peace in Kashmir therefore does not appear to be an imminent prospect.