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Complexities of India's relationship to Kashmir... [Brilliant Analysis by The Guardian]
by Saima Alvi
01 June 2002 15:51 UTC
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India turned Kashmir into the bitter place it is now 
----------------------------------------------------

BJP Hindu nationalism has made the conflict more
dangerous...writes Martin Woollacott

ABTRACT:
=======

India bears more ultimate responsibility for the
Kashmir troubles than Pakistan, and that the
confrontation between India and Pakistan would be a
far less dangerous thing had it not been for the BJP's
communal thrust at home and its attempt to turn India
into a nuclear great power abroad. 

Full Article:
=============

When sections of the Kashmiri crowd booed the Indian
side and waved flags similar to the Pakistani flag at
a match between India and the West Indies in Srinagar
in 1983, the reaction in government circles in Delhi
was fury. The Kashmiris, or, rather, the Kashmiri
government, by not preventing the outrage, had failed
the sub-continental version of the cricket test. Not
many months afterwards, after underhand manoeuvres,
the then Kashmiri chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, was
toppled. 

Recounting the story in his book on Kashmir, the
distinguished Indian journalist MJ Akbar notes that
there was at that time no serious Pakistani-supported
subversion in Kashmir. Instead, there was an
established pattern of Indian subversion of Kashmiri
institutions and leaders. From the beginning, the
Indians could not bring themselves to leave well
enough alone in a state that had acceded to the Indian
union - even in the Indian version of events - on the
basis of a document which gave its government full
powers except in foreign, defence and fiscal policy. 

The story of Indian-held Kashmir had, from 1948, been
of efforts to wear down and abolish the Kashmiri
difference. There were periods when saner policies
prevailed. But usually New Delhi wanted a crude
mastery in Kashmir and it wanted Kashmiri leaders,
notably Sheikh Abdullah and his son Farooq, to be
utterly compliant allies. In this, it ignored the fact
that any successful Kashmiri leader had to reflect to
some extent the ambivalent feelings of part of the
Muslim majority toward the Indian connection. It
undermined and detained leaders when they failed to be
as loyal as expected, and replaced them with worse
men. Mrs Gandhi wanted Farooq out because he would not
go along with what amounted to a merger of Kashmir's
main party with Congress. The cricket incident was a
useful tool in the campaign to unseat him. 

Rajiv Gandhi reinstated Farooq in 1987 but the rigged
elections of that year reduced belief in the political
dispensation in Kashmir, Islamic parties gained
ground, the ranks of unemployed youth increased, and
significant armed actions happened. New Delhi's
reaction was to send in disastrously hard-line
administrators. One of them famously said: "The bullet
is the only solution for Kashmir." In the resulting
campaign, with its reprisals, rapes, and killing of
innocents, the insurgents were damaged, but the
population of the Vale was comprehensively alienated. 

The consequence was that, as Victoria Schofield
writes: "No political leader prepared to voice the
demands of Kashmiri activists and militants would be
acceptable to Delhi; any leader of whom Delhi approved
would be rejected by the militants." In her careful
and even-handed account she shows how the first phase
of this deterioration preceded serious Pakistani
intervention. Once it was under way, Pakistan
certainly seized on the opportunity it saw, in both
Afghanistan and Kashmir, to follow a forward strategy
which would supposedly enable it to counterbalance
India's much greater strength. 

But it was New Delhi which bore most responsibility
for the dismal situation in Kashmir - first for the
years in which normal politics in the state slipped
into decline, and then for a counter-insurgency
effort, which lacked the scrupulous care which alone
brings a chance of true success in such campaigns.
Indian governments later tried to repair the damage
done in the early 1990s, even as Pakistani-supported
subversion of a more Islamist character continued,
with Afghan and foreign militants added to the mix. 

But the Bharatiya Janata party's arrival in government
brought new and dangerous uncertainties, something now
often overlooked by an outside world inclined to see
an end to Pakistani-supported cross-border terrorism
as a dependable step toward a Kashmir solution. 

That is to forget that the BJP is not a normal
political party, but the parliamentary wing of a Hindu
nationalist movement that has already succeeded in
radically changing Indian political culture for the
worse. This is a party whose position on Kashmir has
been not just that there can be no talks with Pakistan
until cross-border terrorism ends, but that there can
be no talks until Pakistan has handed over to India
the part of Kashmir which it holds. This is the party
dedicated to the proposition that Kashmir's autonomous
status, so often violated in practice, should be
officially abolished. This is the party intent on
getting rid of the separate civil code for Muslims. 

It is true that Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP leader,
has postponed or temporarily amended such BJP
objectives in the interests of building the coalitions
at which he is so adept. Many say that Vajpayee
possesses a particularly gentle and winning
personality. He has made an ally of Farooq Abdullah,
and he has met Pakistani leaders twice as prime
minister. He has almost certainly explored, in
behind-scenes diplomatic meetings with Americans and
others, prospects for a settlement of the
Indo-Pakistani conflict. 

Against this has to be laid the fact that BJP's
accession to power has made that conflict much more
dangerous. This is the party that, enjoying the direct
support of only a fifth of the voters, tested and
deployed nuclear weapons, provoking Pakistan into
acquiring nuclear weapons too. Some of its members
have openly spoken of using those weapons against
Pakistan in the event of a war over Kashmir, and some
have called for the invasion and occupation of
Pakistani-held Kashmir. 

Nowhere else in the world, as the leftwing analyst and
journalist Aijaz Ahmad says, have nuclear threats been
so lightly thrown around. 

This may be only foolish rhetoric. What is undeniable
is that the BJP has changed the agenda of Indian
politics, resulting in a situation in which the
opposition often competes with the BJP in patriotic
and anti-Pakistani statements, rather than providing a
needed corrective. The way in which it has become
generally accepted that India is a Hindu country with
non-Hindu minorities, rather than a secular state of
many faiths, is another example of the BJP effect. For
a while there was an unhappy symmetry, with Pakistan
and India veering toward their own forms of
fundamentalism. 

Aijaz Ahmad suggests that it is worth remembering, as
the outside world takes a new interest in the
sub-continent's problems, that it is Parvez Musharraf
of Pakistan who broke that pattern. At least let it be
understood that India bears more ultimate
responsibility for the Kashmir troubles than Pakistan,
and that the confrontation between India and Pakistan
would be a far less dangerous thing had it not been
for the BJP's communal thrust at home and its attempt
to turn India into a nuclear great power abroad. 

 Kashmir: Behind the Vale by MJ Akbar, published by
Viking Penguin India. Kashmir in Conflict by Victoria
Schofield, published by IB Tauris. Lineages of the
Present by Aijaz Ahmad, published by Verso. 

m.woollacott@guardian.co.uk

Posted from THE GUARDIAN
http://www.guardian.co.uk/kashmir/Story/0,2763,631010,00.html


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