Friday, 1 June 2012


Acknowledging the blind spot on Kashmir
Kashmir Times
  • Published:1/27/2012 12:00:00 PM
  • Updated: 1/27/2012 10:32:49 AM
  • By: BY ALI AHMED
  • Filed Under: opinion
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ASHWIN Kumar’s placing of his documentary, Inshallah Kashmir: Living Terrorism, on the internet for 24 hours in protest against the censors not allowing it to get past, helps revert the spotlight on Kashmir. It tells the wider audience in India that there are dimensions to the problem that keep it alive. It reveals India’s own role in the alienation. The advantage that could accrue from acknowledging this is that the necessary balm can be applied by the government without looking over its shoulder fearful of criticism of being ‘soft’ on Kashmir.
The dominant narrative on
Kashmir is not entirely wrong. It
does capture the role of
Pakistan’s proxy war. The film
brings this out in its interview of
a terrorist unapologetically discoursing
on his prescription,
Islamism, for Kashmir and, as a
next step, in the rest of India.
While Pakistan has real world
concerns for proxy war, such as
tying down India’s power in internal
security, its human resources
policy for its ‘strategic assets’ is
more other worldly.
While this view has a limited
constituency in Kashmir, it
acquires a magnified influence
due to infirmities in India’s
counter insurgency strategy. The
film’s contribution is in bringing
this out as India’s blind spot. It is
not as if policy makers are not
alive to this. The rigging of elections
that set off the insurgency is
an accepted fact and India has
taken great pains in ensuring
democracy in letter at least thereafter.
For instance, it extended
the deployment of Indian troops
even after the 2001-02 crisis had
subsided to ensure a trouble free
election. The panchayat polls and
the report on regional aspirations
of last year are facets.
The internal political dimension
being taken as furthered by
these initiatives, it leaves the
external political dimension to be
addressed. India has gone down
the talks route once again wrapping
up the first round and stepping
into the second. Pakistan’s
credibility and ability to reciprocate
has been limited by its introspective
course since 2007. The
situation is unlikely to change
into the middle term. Therefore,
politically little else can realistically
be done but the ‘wait and
watch’ underway.
As for the developmental prong
of strategy that reaches the benefits
of India’s growth to the people,
there has been considerable
investment under the prime ministers
reconstruction program of
about Rs. 26000 crore. Mr. C
Rangarajan has made recommendations
twice over on generating
employment for youth. Trans LC
linkages are being strengthened.
While the recent incident at the
Uri hydel project suggests all this
is too slow, it is nevertheless
never too late.
These measures are certainly
necessary. The film however
warns against mistaking them to
be sufficient. What more must
India do?
Firstly, the film highlights the
urge for ‘freedom’ in the youth.
The idea is described by a former
civil servant well known for his
sympathetic approach, Wajahat
Habibullah, in the film and elsewhere
in his book, The Dying of
the Light, as no more a desire
than beats in any other Indian
breast. This means that procedural
democracy is not enough. India
would require to self-confidently
dismantle militarization that had
unavoidably attended its counter
insurgency campaign. It would
have to rethink its belief in the
AFSPA as panacea: intoxication
induced by its seeming necessity
also in the North East.
Secondly, the future may find
‘wait and watch’ in respect of
Pakistan as a lost opportunity.
The uncertainty in Pakistan provides
an alibi in the form of lack of
credible interlocutor. Even though
the military there is one, India for
good reason is unwilling to associate
with it. However, it is not
unable. Just as it is in a strategic
dialogue with its strategic partners,
such as the US, and even its
adversary, China, India needs to
engage the Pakistani military in a
strategic dialogue.
At a minimum it must have a
coordination mechanism that it
has just arrived at with China in
place with Pakistan, to ensure
that terror action in the interim
does not unduly rock the two ships
of state. The strategic dialogue can
over time unlock the status quo,
besides providing a lifeline for
Pakistan to step back from the
brink of extremism with potential
to spill over into Kashmir. This
would enable the two sides, that in
face of extremism, are actually
batting on the same side to fashion
a viable innings.
Lastly, India needs to reexamine
its counter insurgency record.
Indeed it has done so with the
eased conditions in Kashmir and
the North East enabling the
breather that has been well utilized
in rethinking counter insurgency
repertoire. India has found
that it is better placed in best
practices than any of the foreign
armies, not excluding the US and
Pakistan, that have confronted
insurgency and have been exposed
as wanting, over the past decade.
Even as this is a proud record, can
it be bettered?
The film brings out the damage
that the pursuit of the intelligence
imperative. The raising and handling
of renegades and questionable
methods in extracting intelligence
are two disturbing points.
The Supreme Court strictures in
the case raised by Ramchandra
Guha and Nandini Sundar
against the Salwa Judum need to
be taken seriously. Second, the
torture bill, currently under
review at the behest of the Lok
Sabha, needs to be taken to its
logical conclusion. Additionally,
and more importantly, parliamentary
oversight of intelligence
agencies and their institutionalization
needs to be progressed.
The private member’s bill being
spearheaded by Congress MP,
Manish Tiwari, can be a start
point.
However, the brutalization of
the insurgency also owed to the
judicial system being unable to
measure up to the extra-ordinary
demands. Unable to meet its routine
obligations, this is understandable.
However, it cannot
escape a proportion of the blame
for summary ‘encounters’ that
resulted in at least some bodies
ending up in unmarked graves.
Amends are apparent in the
Supreme Court’s inquiry after the
Pathribal incident. While judicial
deficiency does not imply that
anyone else can simultaneously
be ‘judge and executioner’, such
incapacities suggest that prevention
is better than management
and cure.
Lastly, it would be self-delusion to believe that India’s creditable record over the past decade can erase the past. The chief minister has made a case for reconciliation.
This is a point that is sure to have figured in the confidential report of the three interlocutors, given their proclivities. India must draw inspiration from its cultural tradition, experience of the freedom struggle and peace studies theory to arrive at home grown remedies. This domain is beyond the consciousness and knowledge base of its national security managers.
Since quiet in Kashmir reduces the incentive to address the issue, it is necessary to keep Kashmir in focus. At a minimum this helps prevent disturbances; the way that otherwise gets Kashmir, and indeed India’s North East, any attention.
Keeping Kashmir in the spotlight, that Ashwin Kumar has succeed in doing, ensures that far away New Delhi acknowledges that the problem will not go away without political intervention.
(The author is Research Fellow, IDSA)

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