Kashmir: an alternative view

Published: February 22, 2017
The writer, a former Ambassador, teaches at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities

The writer, a former Ambassador, teaches at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities

Burhan Wani is dead but a new Kashmir is being born. What is happening there is not a revolt but a revolution. Not a protest but a movement. Not by a few but many. Not by politicians but by the people who have taken their destiny in their own hands and finally decided enough is enough. They are saying loud and clear. ‘We want azadi, nothing but azadi’.

Earlier this month, a senior BJP leader and former Foreign Minister, Yashwant Sinha, who led fact-finding missions to the Valley last fall, published a report on Kashmir entitled “Crisis of acknowledgment of the Kashmir problem.” According to the report, there is an increasing lack of fear in the youngsters — or so they claim — in confronting the security forces. They say they take death in their stride. Hatred towards India has grown. The vocabulary of the youth has also changed, as has their psychological attitude towards India. They talk of curfew, hartals, martyrdom and Burhan (Wani).

The fact is Kashmir stands at an historical moment. The youth of today have grown restless and are dissatisfied with the options currently available for them. They represent the third generation of Kashmiri freedom fighters. Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) has never been so popular. Kashmiris have finally started viewing it as both homegrown and as part of the Kashmiri society. HM has succeeded at using social media and internet to appeal to the youth. Additionally, the group has been steadily getting funds from Kashmiris globally.

India knows that on the ground its occupation has been rejected by the Kashmiris. Its massive military presence in Kashmir may have helped her control the territory but has invalidated its claim to it. If the territory were really an integral part of India, then you would not need to keep 700,000 military and security forces there. But if you do, surely that means it is not yours; you are keeping it by force. And that is what India is bent on continuing doing for as long as it can.

India knows that the success of the Kashmir cause depends on two facts — the strength of the insurgency and Pakistan’s support to the Kashmir cause. Kashmiris would not come thus far without Pakistan’s help. So it is not just Kashmiris that stand in India’s way, Pakistan does too. So the Indian strategy is twofold: on the one hand, unleash extreme repressive measures to bludgeon the Kashmiris into suppression and on the other launch a campaign of isolating and defaming Pakistan and put it on the defensive and off balance. The broader theme is to marginalise Pakistan to make it irrelevant in the dispute and then as a consequence weaken the Kashmiris and impose India’s will on them.

Indian plan has been helped by its rising economic profile and geo-political value, as a balancer to the resurgent China, and by the post-9/11 anti-Muslim bias and erosion of Pakistan’s own image. India has used its influence in Washington to harm US relations with Pakistan and by extension the causes it espouses. A legacy the present Administration is going to follow. So don’t expect any help from Washington in solving the Kashmir dispute. Even China and the Islamic world pay but only lip service.

There is a sad irony here. Kashmiris’ struggle has never been so energised in its entire history and the rejection of Indian occupation never so loud and clear. But in contrast to it the international community’s silence has never been so deafening, and the big powers apathy never so morally appalling. And Pakistan has never been so much at a disadvantage in helping the Kashmiris. The rise of their struggle is thus out of synch with the external support.

That means the entire burden of realising the aspirations of Kashmiris fall on the shoulders of Kashmiris and Pakistan alone. And that basically means Kashmiris because Pakistan’s ability to fight for them has diminished not just because of India’s clout and its negative campaign but also because of Pakistan’s own mistakes, Kargil being the most egregious.

The question is how can Pakistan help? Or can it really help? The answer requires some reality check. Here is the core reality. The only way Pakistan can help the Kashmiris is through a dialogue with India as military option is unthinkable. But India does not want a dialogue. Even if India agreed to a dialogue Pakistan would be entering into it with a weak hand as Pakistan has little leverage. Or whatever leverage it has or has had is a double-edged sword and is not employable. We have seen what the Jihadis have done to Pakistan. And denial of trade and transit rights to India, the other option, does not hurt India as much as Pakistan thinks. In fact it hurts Pakistan more. The equation therefore, at least for now — not good for Pakistan, not good for Kashmir.

So where do we go from here? My advice to the Kashmiris, please consider all these limitations and raise the level of your resistance. Energise and organise the Kashmiri diaspora abroad specially in the US. Learn from other resistance movements. And Pakistan can help wherever it can.

For Pakistan the important point to consider is that Kashmir is embedded in Pakistan’s history, identity and moral purpose. It should therefore continue to support the Kashmir cause diplomatically, morally and politically. But that is all it can and should do. Nothing more nothing less. It is not enough but is necessary. Beyond that it is up to the Kashmiris.

While there are obvious limits to what to how much Pakistan can it should never abandon the Kashmir cause. Kashmir should remain on the agenda of India-Pakistan issues. No economic or strategic benefit Pakistan may get from India as a pay off for backing away from Kashmir would be worth the betrayal of the Kashmir cause. But Pakistan must not gamble its own future over Kashmir. Then there will be nobody to help the Kashmiris.

What is required is a great balancing act. And for that you need not only great diplomacy but also focus on Pakistan’s central priority — to strengthen itself first. Good diplomacy and national strength go hand in hand, always.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2017.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Rohit Shenoy
    Feb 22, 2017 - 11:46PM

    Another Do-it-urself advice to kashmirirs. Pakistani commentators eternally strive to separate the state knowing it very well that it’s just impossible.

    BTW no one seems to hv a sharing type modelRecommend

  • Rahul
    Feb 22, 2017 - 11:48PM

    India has the resources and the might to hold Kashmir indefinitely.Recommend

  • R S Chakravarti
    Feb 23, 2017 - 12:05AM

    This is the traditional Pakistani view, not an alternative.Recommend

  • Kolsat
    Feb 23, 2017 - 3:36AM

    Once again a call for Kashmiri youth to raise their level of resistance and not study and improve themselves. If Pakistan stops helping them with weapons etc. then peace will prevail. my advice to Kasmiris is do not listen to advice of Pakistanis and fight. but live peacefully and live well. Recommend

  • Reality based view
    Feb 23, 2017 - 4:46AM

    The reality based view is nobody in the world cares! Even the most extreme, left wing political parties in the West don’t care for Kashmir because they are not impressed by the separatists claim they cannot remain part of a gigantic secular democracy that hosts 180 million Muslims in the reminder of India. The Muslim world also knows this fact.

    If Kashmir is in your identity, it is also part of our identity and our destiny as well.

    But you have very good points about how very little leverage Pakistan has. This leverage doesn’t come from just economic strength of India multiplied by the soft power of a secular democracy. Recommend

  • Chaudhury
    Feb 23, 2017 - 6:12AM

    Naive article. Overlooks too many things.Recommend

  • Varun
    Feb 23, 2017 - 8:18AM

    I must say a balanced article that calls out the bad hand dealt by both India and Pakistan to Kashmiris.

    Regardless of what anybody (including the author) says, Pakistan is likely to consider Kashmir as the ‘unfinished agenda’ for another generation, and to do whatever it can to finish the agenda in its favor.

    Maybe it will take another generation to realize that something ingrained in your moral purpose does not make it rightfully yours. Similarly, another generation of Indians will hopefully realize the folly of treating Kashmir as a parcel of land to be defended against its own inhabitants.Recommend

  • Vineeth
    Feb 23, 2017 - 8:50AM

    As an Indian, I agree with the author. The fact that the Indian Army chief himself had to threaten the Kashmiri civilians not to aid the militants is proof enough that the people of the Valley has become disenchanted with India, and that they see the Indian security forces not as protectors, but occupiers. But there are larger national and strategic interests at stake for India that compels it to hold on to the valley. With the country gaining strength on economic, military and diplomatic fronts in the world arena, it is unlikely to make the slightest concession to the separatists in the near future. And the world is never driven by idealism, but by national self-interests.Recommend

  • PrakashG
    Feb 23, 2017 - 8:53AM

    All this talk of support for the Kashmir’s cause is more out of spite for India, than of any genuine concern for the Kashmiris.
    My advice to the Kashmiris, remember what they did to the East Pakistanis.Recommend

  • R S Chakravarti
    Feb 23, 2017 - 11:52AM

    @PrakashG: They have always been interested in the rivers that arise in Kashmir more than in the people.

    That said, we need to completely stop human rights violations in Kashmir.Recommend

  • M zada khan Dir
    Feb 23, 2017 - 12:55PM

    I agree with the author and it is understood that India has captured kashmir by brutal force and suppress the right of self-determination of kashmiris.Recommend

  • Shankar
    Feb 23, 2017 - 1:24PM

    The Author should have some sense as the caption should be instead of “An alternative view for Kashmir” to “How to provocate Kashmiris”…….. Who have given you degree for you sir ???? and this type of subject your are preaching at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities. You are preaching at these universisites because of DEMOCRACY. Please go and preach some stoies at Saudi Arabia……………..Recommend

  • Pukubanger
    Feb 23, 2017 - 2:43PM

    In one phrase of two words:
    “Status quo”.
    That is all you said. So, be it.Recommend

  • GKA
    Feb 23, 2017 - 3:05PM

    Two nation theory (which is the basis of Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir) will also affect China – Xinjiang will go. Will affect Europe – 40 mln – they will be thrown out as heirs to this poisonous ideology which directly refutes the requirement to integrate. US Muslims as well (especially the Pakistani diaspora there) would be affected.

    Have a think about this – who are the allies of the Kashmir struggle. Really who ?Recommend

  • Sufi Mohi Ud Din
    Feb 23, 2017 - 8:17PM

    I agree with the author that kashmiries are more alienated from India than ever before.Indian policies towards Kashmir are based on military might not on universal principles. India has always betrayed kashmiris. It has not kept its own commitments which it has promised to kashmiries either in the Indian parliament or in united nations. India itself has taken the Kashmir issue to the united nations and accepted self determination to j & k people. India itself created article 370 for Kashmir then what happened u need to see the history. Indian politicians are keeping the people of the country in dark regarding Kashmir so India should see writings on Wall and solve the Kashmir issue on the basis of its promises which it has made to kashmiri ppeple.Recommend

  • Tyggar
    Feb 23, 2017 - 10:34PM

    Indian army should treat the Kashmiri Muslims the same way as Kashmiri Muslims treated Kashmiri PandirsRecommend

  • Chacha Jee
    Feb 24, 2017 - 6:22AM

    The only reason why so called Kashmir issue has not been solved because Pakistan has FAILED TO CONVINCE 200 Million Muslim living in India that they should pressurize Indian Government that they should let Kashmir merge with Pakistan because Kashmiris are muslim. The day you convince India muslim, Pakistan will get Kashmir.

    Now Indians, Indian do not see Kashmir as a human rights issue but a Muslim issue and so does world like Mynamar, French, Belgium, USA, Putin Chechnya. Indians do not see this as a human rights issue because stopping of so called human rights will not make Muslim to act as normal citizens of India.

    In other words, Indian see no difference in s Muslim living in Kashmir or in Delhi or in Mumbai or anywhere else… it is simply a Muslim behavioural issue no different than what Muslim are doing anywhere in the world especially living in secular, non Muslim democratic countries. Recommend

  • Rahul
    Feb 24, 2017 - 8:36AM

    Ridiculous opinion. Terrorism in Kashmir is OK, but not in Pakistan. Killing of Indians is Ok, but not of Pakistanis. We are not the Brtish, we are not the Dutch. Kashmiris have been part of India since ages. Kashmir ws part of the Kanishka King, who held the fourth Buddhist council, whose archaeological remains are still near Srinagar. This king had his empire till present Central India. Kashmir was part of the Mughal empire, Ranjit Singh’s empire etc.

    This is just a manufactured conflict. Manufactured to keep the Military inc. of Pakistan going. Indians at least you should not agree to ridiculous opinions. Leave all that for the Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Osman Din
    Feb 24, 2017 - 10:50AM

    The more force India tries, the worse off it will be in the long run. Repression is never forgotten.Recommend

  • R S Chakravarti
    Feb 24, 2017 - 11:58AM

    @Rohit Shenoy:
    He’s telling the Kashmiris, “Fight and die for Pakistan”!Recommend

  • R S Chakravarti
    Feb 24, 2017 - 12:03PM

    Don’t blame people for things they didn’t do. A group is not an individual. You wrote this just after a Kashmiri Muslim soldier died fighting militants in the latest encounter!Recommend

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