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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kashmir should top the Indo-Pak agenda

Hand-in-hand: Sharif-Modi Bromance
Narendra Modi has taken a bold decision to visit Pakistan and meet Nawaz Sharif. This spontaneity will undoubtedly lead to a breakthrough in thawing the relations between the neighbours; it’s about time for India and Pakistan to make a new beginning.

It’s a calculated risk that the Indian Prime Minister has taken, one that is fraught with inherent risks, and one that will certainly draw flak from his own party. But it’s a step that all sane people in the subcontinent will support, and encourage.

However, beyond the optics, and the people-to-people bhai-chara, it will be necessary for both sides to deal with concrete issues. For any meaningful forward movement, the Kashmir situation should be on the top of the agenda.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership has given the dark days of Emergency (1975-77) under Indira Gandhi nearly the same status as the Quit India movement (1942), because its leaders were part of the nationwide struggle to fight and overthrow Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s autocratic misrule; and they have always considered Jayaprakash Narayan, the socialist leader who led this fight, as one of their political philosopher.

Jayaprakash Narayan
It would do Narendra Modi a great deal of good to read what Jayaprakash Narayan had to say about the Kashmir situation (which has changed for worse since JP issues this press statement more than 50 years ago in December 1964; it’s reproduced here from Makers of Modern India, Edited by Ramchandra Guha, published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011; Guha has reproduced it from Balraj Puri’s JP on Jammu and Kashmir, Gyan Publishing House, 2005): 

“The question we must squarely face is whether constitutional integration of Kashmir with India is more important in the national interest than friendship with Pakistan and justice to the people of the Valley of Srinagar. Legal technicalities will not provide the answer. What is needed is a mature and realistic reckoning. As far as I can see, the disadvantages of the present policy far outweigh the advantages.

“Let me take up first the issue of justice to the people of the Valley. There has been no credible proof yet that they have freely accepted the legal fact of accession. Constitutional integration has little meaning in the absence of emotional integration. In this age and time, it is impossible to hold down by force any sizeable population permanently. If we continue to do it, we cannot look the world straight in the face and talk of democracy and justice and peace. Nor, on account of the historical circumstances, can we take shelter behind the internationally recognized limitations of the right to self-determination. Perhaps the most harmful consequence of the policy of forcible integration would be the death-knell of Indian secularism and enthronement of aggressive Hindu communalism. That communalism is bound in the end to turn upon the Hindu community and destroy it.

“As for friendship with Pakistan, let us calculatedly determine how dearly we need that friendship. No country can afford to buy friendship at any cost. So let there be a reckoning of gains and losses. First of all, let us be mature enough to understand that we persist in our present Kashmir policy, there can be no friendship with Pakistan. The leaders of that country have not left us in any doubt on that score. If we disbelieve them, we shall have only ourselves to blame.”

After analyzing the geopolitical fallout of the differences between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, JP concludes with a sharp observation on the emotional division the rift has perpetuated between the people of subcontinent.

Modi at JP anniversary celebration program
He says, “The last and in some way the most disastrous consequence of the quarrel is its human and moral cost and the alienation of peoples that it threatens to bring about…These conditions would be sure to cause mass human degradation on both sides. The political division of the subcontinent cannot hide the fact that the peoples of India and Pakistan are really one people. This is not the first time that India has been divided politically. But there had always been a feeling of oneness and identity among the people divided between kingdoms and republics. Today, Bengalis of the West and the East are one people, irrespective of region; so are the Punjabis. In like manner, the Bengalis and Punjabis and Sindhis and Pathans and Jats and Rajputs and others of both countries make up one single Indian people, who are distinct from all other people of the world. States are passing shows, but people are eternal. Therefore, I would consider this alienation of the people of India and Pakistan from one another to be the most disastrous consequence of the present quarrel.”


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