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August 9, 2019

How the peace was lost

Opinion

August 9, 2019

August 5, 2019 will haunt the memory of the people of India and Pakistan forever. India has decided to upstage itself with a presidential order revoking Articles 370 and 35A from its till-now largely democratic, secularist and inclusive constitution. Gandhi, Nehru and Shaikh Abdullah must be turning in their graves.

Moving forward, it will be known as Modi’s India. Exclusive and fascist -- imposing the rule of the Hindu majority over non-Hindus by denying them the right to equal expression of their will. Shed the semantics; Kashmir has been incorporated -- without a plebiscite and without referring the choice to the Kashmiris -- into the Indian Union. The act stands solemnized with a vote in the Indian parliament giving new meaning to the coming August 15, India’s 72nd birth anniversary.

That is how Sikkim was annexed, or Assam or the entire NEFA and Goa. Or how East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, was overwhelmed. They walk in, they subdue and the region and South Asia and the world, now far more globalized, look on without batting an eyelid. The rules-based order -- the foundation on which stood the international order of peace, post World War II -- lies in tatters.

Who will question India on this travesty? The US -- which moved without remorse into Iraq in 2003? Or Russia -- which had no qualms about marching into Crimea? Or China, which carries its own baggage of neighbourly expeditions? India made short work of the international guarantees to the Kashmiris and threw the gauntlet at a staid world which had long ago given up raising a voice for the suppressed and the downtrodden. The Palestinians and their state of existence stands witness to such interest-driven order. Force has prevailed and nothing could check Indian highhandedness despite the sovereign commitment of its forefathers to the Kashmiris and the world at large to respect their right of self-determination.

The over 100,000 murdered Kashmiris – men, women and children – are laid waste before the sleeping conscience of the world as their following generations are denied liberty and freedom of their will through India’s blatant genocide against them. For long now India has been trying to engineer the demography of Kashmir by inducting Hindus and enabling non-Kashmiris to buy land and property in Kashmir. Article 35-A denied such demographic gerrymandering. Its rescinding will now enable Modi and his Hindutva driven government to do just that and carve for itself a political space in Kashmir to dominate the resident Kashmiris.

India’s one act of dissolving the structure of an acceptable arrangement till the final resolution of the Kashmir issue has forced the entire region into an uncertain future. Kashmir was already alight with an indigenous struggle; to push it to a point where the Kashmiris are sure to raise the level of their freedom struggle will only mean even more violence and contention by all sides. That puts at risk the peace of the entire Subcontinent. Kashmir and its resolution is Pakistan’s fundamental national interest over all others per the sentiments of its people and its entire political and state apparatus. Challenging Pakistan to it by manipulating it in its own favour essentially is asking Pakistan to fight for it if it wants it, or deal with it. It does open the region back to its old bad ways rectified by a persistent application of well-intended corrections to the playbook. The niceness is lain asunder.

The rule-based order stands blasted; constitution mutilated; democracy defeated; conscience rendered irrelevant; liberty and freedom denied; exclusivity garnered and fraternity badly frayed; hubris reinforced; the region brought to the precipice of a major catastrophe. What ensues in Kashmir because of this Indian stupidity will not be contained. Rather, it will receive a fillip engendering an even more unstable neighbourhood. When have statutes denied people the right to their freedom? Force begets force. The days ahead are dark and ominous.

Why did it go this way? There are multiple factors but chief among those is India’s desire to keep the fire burning under Pakistan which was just about to see a closure in Afghanistan after a forty-year long war. Pakistan was a witting or unwitting participant for the entire duration. Rather than let Pakistan feel some relief, India has foolishly challenged Pakistan into another duel. Also: India, apprehensive of an increasing International focus over Kashmir – at least three reports by international agencies and rapporteurs, and President Trumps recent overtures to Pakistan to mediate and arbitrate (music to Pakistani ears) – may have pushed it to bring the issue to an early closure entirely at its own terms.

The recent Indian elections, which gave Modi the almost two-third majority to ring the dreaded changes to its constitution, were clearly rejected by the Kashmiris with not even a marginal participation in the recent Indian national elections. It reinforced Indian fears of Kashmiris choosing freedom from India’s control. And, finally, it remains a telling failure of Indian policy in failing to placate the people of Kashmir and integrate them into the Union.

What does it engender? In short, a very bleak future for the people of the Subcontinent. Pakistan cannot abandon the Kashmiris. It is India’s objective to change the demographics in Kashmir and ethnically cleanse Kashmir off its Muslim majority. Whether that comes with even greater killings or genocide or forcing people to flee, it is certain to follow this prescription -- something that Israel has practised with impunity against the Palestinians as the world has looked on in abject capitulation. Without Pakistan being their voice, there is a fear that Kashmiris too might meet the same fate. This cannot be allowed.

Next, whatever actions Pakistan may have undertaken to bring peace on its eastern borders will surely be reviewed. Pakistan had ensured that it did all that was in its capacity to alter the environment towards peaceful coexistence. India’s blatant aggression in policy and intent has irreversibly dented such promise. Kashmiris are bound to react to such Indian brazenness and that will only add to the virulence.

And finally there is the threat of the conflict expanding beyond Occupied Kashmir. The Chinese have called the Indian act an attack to their territorial integrity because they lay claim on Ladakh which India conveniently bifurcated from the larger Jammu and Kashmir region. An intensified conflict in Kashmir could suck Pakistan into another war most ill-timed and unwanted with its own consequences and threats of escalation to even worse possibilities. This is stupidity beyond comprehension. But this is where India has brought the entire region to.

There were simpler and straighter ways of doing the same – across a negotiating table while engaging with the stakeholders in the process and arbitrating peace for the generations to come. Instead, Narendra Modi has called on his basest instincts, led on by a coterie of advisers driven by hate. This isn’t stopping here. There is surely more to come.

Email: [email protected]

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