writings of ali ahmed ...with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Views expressed are personal and may not be associated with any organisation. Follow on twitter: @aliahd66
India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138019706/
Friday, 1 June 2012
Time not right to let the guard down in Kashmir
Ahmed Research Fellow, IDSA
The report on a political solution to Kashmir has been
kept confidential, giving the govt breathing space to digest its contents and
once its position is formed, either to release it in whole or in
UNLIKE THE usual practice, the report on a
political solution to Kashmir by the three interlocutors Dilip Padgaonkar, MM
Ansari and Radha Kumar has been punctually handed in to the home ministry. They
have been asked to keep themselves available for interaction with
parliamentarians to build a constituency for their recommendations.
The report has been kept confidential, giving the government
breathing space to digest its contents and once its position is formed, either
to release it in whole or in parts. The issue of concern is the implication of
lack of political will to implement it. It conveys the impression that the
appointment of interlocutors was an exercise to help tide over the summer and
ward off winds arising from the Arab Spring. The turnout of a million tourists
and decline in the number of home ministers may lull the government into
believing that the worst is over. Though largely right, inaction is not an
Firstly, the people, led by the youth, have three summers of
experience in peaceful demonstrations. Liberal application of the public service
announcement has kept the lid on tight this time. But its next eruption has the
potential to embarrass India poised on the cusp of great power.
Secondly, the physical attack on eminent lawyer Prashant
Bhushan in the premises of the Supreme Court ostensibly for comments in favour
of resolution in Kashmir, was a demonstration by forces that stand for the
status quo. The timing of the attacks indicates they have the capability of
holding up initiatives, if emboldened by hesitation.
Lastly, the international factor needs to be kept in mind.
The pressures on Pakistan after the US endgame in Af-Pak are evident. The visit
by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to New Delhi and the resulting ‘strategic
partnership’ that envisages increased. Awareness of Pakistan’s capacity for
disruption in both Kashmir and Afghanistan implies that any intention for it to
do so needs to be worked upon. By implementing the report, even if in part,
Pakistan can be kept at bay.
Even if desirable, is it feasible?
The government has, in its earlier tenure, defied
expectations in pushing through the Indo-US nuclear deal. An internal Kashmir
settlement is an issue of equal magnitude to take a stand. But the government
has been under siege throughout the year. The ruling party would be shy of
handing the opposition that is in equal disarray, a ‘nationalist’ card to
The army-ISI combine needs to be displaced over the
long term to end the Indo-Pak
Next, the input of security forces can be
predicted to be negative. The military, for instance, is wary of suggestions on
even a partial roll back of the AFSPA. The commentary is on a ‘collusive’ threat
from India’s neighbours. Evidently, it is not the time to let the guard
The understanding appears to be that the costs have been
affordable so far and can be paid up indefinitely. With India on the seeming
upswing in the strategic trajectory, there is little reason to placate adverse
interests, either internal in the form of separatists or external in the form of
G Parathasarathy, a formidable realist influence, has
opined, ‘Indian ‘intellectuals’ and bleeding heart liberals have zealously
believed that ‘dialogue’ alone can address the animosity of the Taliban and its
ISI mentors towards India’. The subtext is that dialogue does not and cannot
work. Instead the resulting cold war must be managed so as to bring about regime
change in Pakistan by displacing the army-ISI combine over the long term.
Undecided, India’s strategy is poised between containment
and engagement with the onus being on Pakistan to determine India’s choice.
Pakistan’s past record suggests that India will be left with only one choice.
India is apparently prepared, having former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra’s
task force looking at restructuring national security and by investing in
This suggests that South Asia is headed for another lost
opportunity. The nuclear backdrop compels a prayer that this, hopefully, would
not prove the last.