The idea of Kashmir

Jammu Kashmir can act as a bridge of friendship for India and Pakistan

Khurram Wani

As a believer, I have faith in Gods intervention for oppressed people which comes sooner or later through different forces of nature to break their miserable plight.

And it is not only the believer in me that feels that a change will soon take place to break the Kashmir political stalemate but major changes in contemporary politics pave way for the same. Let me elucidate

Strengthening local rivalries

Ever since Narendara Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India, the country broke away from its traditional foreign policy of non-alignment, which was to maintain a diplomatic balance between the major global powers, especially between the US and Russia.

Over the past three years, India has come closer to the US and Israel, losing its neutrality at the global stage and gradually estranging itself from Russia.

At the same time, India hasn’t made any significant progress in resolving old and compelling border disputes with China. Instead of working out a peaceful security scenario with Beijing, New Delhi is fast becoming a proxy of the US to counter China’s influence in Asia.

To connect the dots, one has to understand the sequence of events that has recently occurred between Russia, North Korea, China, Pakistan, Turkey, Qatar and Iran. The one thing that binds these countries together is American hostility.

At present, Pentagon is not only nervous about resurgent Russia and China, but also grappling with nuclear armed North Korea. It has also antagonized oil-rich Qatar following Trump’s visit to Riyadh last May, where he signed a weapons deal worth $110 billion.

After the fall of the Soviet Union around three decades ago, the balance of power is tilting once again. This time, however, the US is on the wrong side. The country is already losing its influence in the Middle East. In Yemen, Iran backed Houthi militias are invincible. In Syria, Moscow and Iranian backed Assad regime is holding its ground while the US backed Kurdish militias are being neutralized by Turkey. In Crimea, the Russian troops gained a significant ground, turning US backed forces irrelevant. The same goes in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Afghanistan.

A small country like North Korea under Kim Jong Un unwilling to give into the US’ hegemony is a huge embarrassment for the super power.

As is the recent vote in the General Assembly of the UN about shifting of embassy of the US to Jerusalem. The US made a laughing stock of itself and was left alone with sparingly known nine countries of the world namely Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.

In such a situation India’s hobnob with a weakening Trump led US is in turn making India weaker in the South Asian region, especially because China and Pakistan, which are rivals to India in the region are not happy with American policies as well and disdain the hobnob between Trump’s US and Modi’s India.

The US has already enticed India to display a show of strength against China by harassing Beijing’s naval forces in highly contentious South China Sea.

In an effort to gain strategic dominance over Pakistan, Washington is also keen on India’s direct intervention in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, India not only came to the brink of an armed combat with China over a border dispute last year in Doklam, but also objected to China’s highly ambitious One Belt One Road initiative, a road network that connects Beijing with the Middle East and Europe via Pakistan. The road also cuts through disputed Kashmir region in Pakistan.

India’s growing alliance with the US and Israel, and its competing foreign policy with China will put New Delhi in a vulnerable position in near future.

In fact, last year Chinese Foreign Office did not hesitate in saying that they could send troops to Kashmir on Pakistan’s request, an indication that both the countries have a clear understanding on the Kashmir issue.

The ways in which the regional politics is shaping up is bound to throw a surprise for Kashmir and the dream of political self-determination of the region may not be a far cry. As they say, “doh ki ladayi mae teesrey ki jeet.”

With the passage of time, India’s military and diplomatic reliance on the US and Israel will increase notwithstanding the fact that India is one among the top importers of arms and ammunition manufactured by Israel among developing countries.

And India will only be growingly seen as one of the close allies of the two countries. But at the same time, India will be a geographically distant ally, engulfed by two nuclear armed powers, China and Pakistan being backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey for their respective reasons, which is developing supremacy for Russia and a chance of exhibiting love of Islam for Iran and Turkey, as both of the countries wish to be the leaders of Islamic world.

At the same time India’s growing ties with Israel is one more reason why Iran and turkey supposedly will not be so pleased with Indian foreign politics.

When the counter alliance to the US will have to put up a show of strength, India is likely to become an easy target. It’s true the country possesses nuclear weapons and is strong enough to defend its integrity, but in modern warfare, it’s the proxies that drain nation-states both militarily and economically, to the point that the victor dictates the peace deal.

A lethal military mullah complex

Kashmir issue has gone too deep into Pakistani politics with a long emotional and financial investment of Pakistan in Kashmiri cause. It has not only become their religious war but also point of prestige.

The aspirations of Pakistani people to see a free Kashmir from Indian state derives validity from the oppressed history of Kashmir and acceptance by UN of Kashmir issue  as a dispute  which deserves to be addressed.

Kashmir issue is discussed by preachers in mosque to indoctrinate the youngsters who then cross borders to do their ‘Jihad’.

The power of the religiously motivated groups in Pakistani state cannot be underestimated with Jamat u dawah all set to launch a new political party.

Earlier these religious organizations and the military groups pulled the strings of the so called democratic Pakistani state shrinking its democratic working.

The anger and rivalry from India’s support to Bangladesh’s creation in 1971 also compounds the Pakistani interest in Kashmir, other than the religious sentiment and the local vote bank politics in which Kashmir issue is racked up during elections for major political gains.

And Pakistan would be definitely motivated to take a firm step during coming times, as now it enjoys great support and common interest with China against India, which is becoming very evident through Pakistani major violation on borders already, killing large number of soldiers and injuring many.

Though,the recent statement of Nawaz Sharif in 2016 describing accession of Kashmir to Pakistan as ‘wishful thinking’ was possibly an acceptance of Pakistan’s fast losing grip on Kashmir or pointing towards reconciliation with the possibility of a free Kashmir in place of a Pakistan administered Kashmir to avoid a major war.

Pakistan’s tangible interest in Kashmir in terms of water resource – which is their only lifeline will never let Pakistan work against Kashmir but for its independence and a better relation with Pakistan

Losing Kashmir and Pakistan

The modernist card of rights abuse and humanitarian crisis does not work anymore in the contemporary politics based in absolute self-interest.

Had that been the case, the new contours in the middle-east that literally uprooted the oldest nations would not have taken place with European countries left unaccountable.

The principles of Realism in statecraft make the states commit atrocities against their own minorities and at the same time cry hoarse in support of the minorities within the borders of other countries, especially if they are ideological rivals: Balochs in Pakistan, Bangladeshi in the east Pakistan of that time, Uyghur Muslims and Tibetans in China and Kashmiris in India just fit the framework.

So, Pakistan crying that Indian state is committing HR abuse against Kashmiris on the top of its lungs is not a reason enough for India to come to a negotiation on Kashmir.

This specific dynamic—countless sacrifices of Kashmiris, Indian politics in Kashmir and lack of consensus to let Kashmir merge with either of the two nations—will strengthen Kashmir’s call for independence.

The international consensus, which is less likely to be steered by the US , rather will be initiated by an emerging alliance of new countries, would rather support a free Kashmir than letting it continue with their rival, India, a US ally.

Now the question arises if Pakistan can easily have Kashmir then? Realistically, the territorial prestige that Indian federation takes in Kashmir which if lost can further stir the voices of dissent in other Indian states will certainly not be allowed by India.

In which case, in order to avoid a war between the two nations, Kashmir should be let free. Same happened in 2011 in Sudan with the creation of a new country of South Sudan. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president had to admit that unity cannot be forced through power.

Similarly, it is not impossible to have an independent Kashmir. There will certainly be socio-economic issues as in South Sudan but that is not a justification for not letting people determine their future politically.

A free Kashmir

To avoid a major destruction which can be caused by a war between the two rival groups, a peaceful deal lettingof Kashmir emerge as free from both the sides is the most sensible and humane decision.

This way neither side will feel as losers nor will it affect their local politics and in fact it will create respect for both the countries on the world stage as lovers of peace and will grant them eternal respect in the books of history which will in return get them rid of their huge intelligence and military investments in Kashmir, with a space to focus on the immediate issues of their own country.

In the words of Arundhati Roy, Booker prize winner, Kashmir needs Azadi from India (and Pakistan too) as much as India (and Pakistan) need Azadi from Kashmir.

It will only be in everyone’s favor with clear winners and no losers. And a free Kashmir can act as a bridge of friendship for both the countries acting as an exchange place for religion and culture as it can be a melting pot of two great mystic paths of Sufism and Shavism which can help both the countries to come out of their extremist ideologies.

Such views may sound acutely unrealistic to the majority but history bears witness that countries have become friends from being arch nemesis, France, Germany and Britain being an example from the Second World War The two Great Wars cost millions of lives. There were no definite victors but absolute losers.

But humankind again learnt no lessons and the oppression of one people by the other continued, causing more wars and disputes: Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir, Rwanda, Eretria, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and many more.

So having a peaceful way out is always a better option. The world cannot afford such another war because there’s nuclear power with most of the countries and there will be no one side that will win but only destruction.

This newly emerging trend in which aggressors like US and Israel is hardly finding allies is moving in the direction of forming a new alliance— Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Qatar, Pakistan and Turkey. Instead of bullying them, the US will have to come to the table.

With natural justice of the divine which emerges sooner or later, the current politics of Pakistan and India and the changing politics on the international, the way forward is to let both sides of Kashmir free and let them flourish alongside India and Pakistan.

Changing global politics

A safe and peaceful India and Pakistan are in an independent Kashmir’s favor. Militaristic ways to gain freedom or to combat, especially by Muslims across the globe in contemporary times has only brought about the unwanted tag of terrorists on to them.

Three decades of gun, a tormented psyche, lost ethos and a disturbed life along with countless young deaths should make us change our strategy.

A reconciliatory tone with the members of our own Kashmiri community who fled Kashmir in the 1990s is also necessary. Kashmir Pandits need to be back home as much as our society needs to be plural and tolerant. This becomes relevant especially in view of the growing radicalism among Muslims. Kashmiri Muslims must understand the importance of surviving the odds.

Muslims worldwide are taking a lesson from the failure of extremist armed groups such as the ISIS. The idea of waging Jihad against non-Muslims was inspired by the Wahabi ideology, which was backed and transported by the ruling family of Sauds in the Saudi Kingdom.

Now the same Saudi Kingdom works closely with the US and also strikes backdoor deals with Israel. While the Imaam of Mecca prays for the freedom of Palestinians, the Saudi Kingdom considers Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organizations. Understanding this equation is necessary for Kashmiri youth.

So the best way forward is of love, tolerance and inclusiveness internally and externally to assert our right of dignity, equality and freedom.

Author is a businessman and has studied at University of Kent, England. He also heads a NGO called Kashmir Reforms Group –