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August 26, 2015

Theatre of the absurd?

Opinion

August 26, 2015

India put up two conditions for the NSA’s talks to proceed if Sartaj Aziz was to leave Islamabad for Delhi: he would not meet the Hurriyet leadership when in India; and Kashmir will not be discussed in the NSA talks.
There were variations too that were pedalled around by various Indian officials in the days and hours between of which the loudest was to declare the Kashmiris irrelevant to the issue of Kashmir since that had only two stakeholders, India and Pakistan. But for weakening another Indian stance of rejecting any third-party intervention – now principled – the Indians would have loved to quote the UNSC Resolution on Kashmir in support of their argument that makes India and Pakistan the two principal parties to the dispute.
Ever since India invoked bilateralism on a truncated Pakistan in 1972, any mention of the UN or its resolutions on Kashmir – which still stand – is anathema to Indian sensitivities. If that may appear pejorative since India aspires to hold a permanent slot in the same high league of the UNSC is frivolous to India’s imperial hubris.
There was a third condition too which India’s esteemed External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (of the 2004 Agra debacle fame) had imposed – related to the time of the midnight of August 22, 2015 by which she would expect a response; for she had other important business to attend to like preparing to travel to Germany the next day. In the event, Sartaj Aziz saved her some hours and the Indian minister was able to prepare in peace. So much for ‘peace and development’ that the two leaders, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, signed to in a joint statement following their meeting in Ufa in July, 2015. If not for that how else would you recognise this special brand of ‘Humans of South Asia’.
But what really kicked everyone’s imagination as the two sides readied to break the deadlock of death and devastation on either side through a long awaited and promising meet of the two

nuclear nations’ national security advisors was an invitation to some of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) leaders to meet up with Sartaj Aziz when he would be in Delhi. They frequently make an appearance whenever Pakistanis visit Delhi and are invariably always invited by the Pakistani high commissioner to a reception where they end up meeting with the visiting dignitary. Not now, as we are told by the Honourable Sushma Swaraj. In August 2014, as like this time, India rescinded their offer to talk if Hurriyet was invited to a reception by the Pakistani High Commissioner. Why, makes an interesting study.
These are the days of Modi Sarkar, and it is no ordinary sarkar. His vision on Pakistan when he took the helm in May, 2014 was based around aggressive assertiveness that would teach Pakistan a lesson for its excesses like ‘dismembering a country’ (pun, of course), or on a more serious note events such as Mumbai 2008. His objective is to cow Pakistan down into eternal submission so that the psychological dynamics of Pakistan divest forever an aggressive intent towards India. Egged on by self-created illusions of a ‘Rising’ or ‘Shining’ India was additionally meant to permanently entrench an image of a bigger, bolder, stronger, global India that would dominate Pakistan in every space. For some time Pakistanis too began to believe the message.
A not-so-insignificant benefit intended in this exercise was a subtle attempt to gradually dilute from the Pakistani mind its obsession with Kashmir. This conditioning was intended to include the improbability of the objectives in the Kashmir cause of Pakistan. The firings at the LoC and the working boundary physically manifest the approach of an angry India that will bomb at will. Were Pakistan to somehow submit to the status quo on Kashmir, India could be freed from a damning shame that it must still contend with globally by denying a people their fundamental right of freedom and keeping them under forced occupation.
There are four aspects to the Modi Sarkar’s plan to relegate Kashmir from a global frame to an entirely domestic agenda. The first opportunity in this direction came by way of the Simla Accord of 1972, when by design Kashmir was relegated to a bilateral issue from the global basket; this despite the UN resolutions that were still very much alive. The second aspect of the plan deals with the annulment of Article 370 of the Indian constitution which bestows a special status to Kashmir through a legal statute. The BJP’s special effort to succeed in the 2014 state elections in Kashmir under the now-well-known emblem of Mission 44 was a move towards that objective. In time, with a larger share of seats in a coalition, the BJP would hope to recommend annulment of the special status and integration of the state into the Indian Union with a two-thirds majority. Delhi would only happily comply.
Part three aims to insistently desist Pakistan from associating with the Kashmiri leadership. Unilateral red-lines in denying a dialogue with the Hurriyet is one such absurdity meant to invoke disassociation between both sides. The fourth part concurrently in play is the attempt at demographic changes by settling retired army men and officers in Kashmir in violation of the existing statutes prohibiting naturalization of non-indigenous settlers. Similarly, resettling long-gone Kashmiri Pundits back in secure settlements is meant to replicate the Israeli model of Zionising the West Bank and Gaza. Meanwhile, the 700,000 strong Indian military continues to repress and torture the Kashmiris hoping to squeeze the notion of Azadi out from their DNA.
Somewhere along the way the Indians misperceived that the Pakistanis could give in on Kashmir and on the modalities of the engagement on the issue. They also incorrectly surmised Pakistan may be more amenable to the diplomatic scheming that India was putting in place because of being too pressed on a number of internal fronts. That the world was disposed towards supporting the Indian position vis-a-vis Pakistan because of recent history of events and how Pakistan may not have been seen in the best light. That Pakistan’s civil society and political leadership had come to the point of accepting the futility of a hostile relationship with India and it was only the military that remained the bastion of anti-Indian sentiment and could be isolated through a persistent media campaign.
If indeed this was the inevitability on Kashmir that had come to occupy the Pakistani elite’s mind, the Indian thought perceived, it was the moment to press home the unmitigated alteration of the character of the Kashmiri issue – relegating it from a global spotlight into a domestic agenda. As it plays out, India is in the process of reframing the paradigm on Kashmir – making it more domestic, making both Pakistan and Kashmiris irrelevant to the process, and in extricating the issue from the bilateral basket and using its internal mechanisms of force, coercion, and legal contortion to kill the issue as per India’s own design. The rest, to their mind, will only be a cakewalk.
The difficulty, however, is that there are just too many assumptions in the Indian plan. After having given away around 100,000 dead to their cause the Kashmiris are the last ones to give up on what they see is their fundamental right enjoined upon them by the combined global wisdom as the citizen of this world. India also assumes too much about Pakistan’s amenability to look the other way. Pakistan may have given South Asia a window of opportunity for sanity to take course but clearly it has gotten lost and fallen prey to unbridled ambition of an overly clever Modi Sarkar.
It is time to shed the pretensions and deal with the matter as is only appropriate. Political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris may go on; but Pakistan’s rather lackadaisical approach to its relations with India needs to be replaced with a hard look at what befalls Pakistan as a clever manipulation of the environment by India. We need a long-term plan through a deliberate, dedicated approach with strong hands at the helm to deal with India. Making nice will not do.
The writer is a retired air-vice marshal, former ambassador and a security and political analyst.
Email: [email protected]