In the recent days the people of India and Pakistan witnessed a drama around the scheduled national security adviser-level talks. India’s minister for external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, suddenly emerged from a rather long hibernation, that is if you don’t consider the session lost for showing “humanity” to Lalit Modis ailing wife. But just as well. She made a forthright and clear enunciation of the government’s position on talks between India and Pakistan.
For the first time, a top Indian functionary clearly postulated that Kashmir is not and cannot be on the agenda. The topic for the two NSAs was and will be restricted to just terrorism. As far as India is concerned, the “K” word is out and is now effectively replaced by the “T” word. She also made it clear that India will not discuss anything else with Pakistan under the spectre of terrorism. Besides this, discussions on the future of Kashmir are clearly above the pay scale of the two NSAs.
Many analysts here are glad the talks have been cancelled. They even think that the talks should remain cancelled till such time that Pakistan delinks itself from terrorism and attacks on India, either by its security forces or by its brood of terrorist gangs. We must forcefully semaphore to the Pakistani military that there will be costs if it keeps on this path, and that it will not be just restricted to cancelling cricket tours. Yes, we will miss Ghulam Ali, and the poor man will find it difficult to find Pakistani patrons who pay just as well.
There are always people here who want to talk. It’s called “batiyana” in Bihar and is a favourite Indian pastime and many would like to see this elevated to a tradition. That this notion of talks about Kashmir with Pakistan serving some worthwhile purpose still has some valence is quite surprising. Pakistan has taken to the field four times to wrest Kashmir from India. It was soundly trounced all the four times.
Having realised the futility of resorting to arms, its military now wants to wrest Kashmir by talks forced by its resort to terrorism. It’s about time India rejected this proposition and told the Pakistan military that what it lost on the battlefield cannot be realised by sending madcap jihadis and foolhardy young men, mainly from within, on suicide missions to browbeat India into submission.
It’s time they are told that Kashmir is a settled issue with Pakistan. If it is an issue, it is one between the Indian government and the Kashmiri people. For there is no doubt that large sections of Kashmiri people are troubled about their situation in India. We must keep talking to representative leaders of the Kashmiri people and find solutions in consonance with past agreements and the two Constitutions to bridge the divide. But Pakistan has no place in this, and the pusillanimity showed by all our governments in firmly telling it that it cannot insinuate itself into this issue should end.
We keep talking about Jammu and Kashmir being on the agenda. If the accession of that state is final, as in the case of dozens of others, then what are we discussing? I think the only thing left to discuss is whether the Line of Control can be turned into an International Boundary? The LoC is also an ethnic border. Don’t forget that J&K consists of many ethnic groups.
I don’t think any good will come out of any discussions with Pakistan as the hatred for India among those who matter in that country is deeply ingrained, having fed themselves a concoction of fairy tales about being the inheritors of Afghan and Uzbek rulers of northern India. The irony of this is that Pakistan has a justifiable claim to inheriting the mantle of Hindustan, as that was what it was. Bharat was where the Indo-Gangetic civilisation emerged. Instead, Pakistan has scrambled its historical memory by trying to be sometimes Middle Eastern and sometimes Central Asian. Today it is a country that doesn’t know what it is?
It is America’s ally, but also its enemy. It is China’s cat’s paw in its competition with India, when China itself is battling Islamic nationalism within. It protects the Saudi royal family with a brigade, but the Saudi royals treat it with scarcely concealed contempt. It wants to ingest Afghanistan as its strategic depth when most Afghans hate it. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MP from Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi, posed the right question when he asked a Pakistani interlocutor: “What kind of a Muslim nation are you, when you keep killing Shias?” You should see him forcefully advance the idea of India with forthright eloquence. It’s a pity he is not on the Indian delegation to the UN.
The cancer of Taliban terrorism and old nationalisms is wasting away Pakistan. It has failed to create a reason for its existence beyond religion, when religion has so often failed to be the glue that holds states together. It is slowly but surely being destroyed by the canker it fostered and foisted on its neighbours. Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s illusion of a homeland for Indian Muslims, wherever they were the local majority, and under the canopy of a modern and secular state, is long gone. It is now a policed state without a goal, without a reason and without a place among civilised nations.
The Pakistan military and its henchmen, like its NSA, Sartaj Aziz, cling to this ridiculous notion that India wants to undo the Partition and absorb it into an Akhand Bharat. Only the lunatic fringe in India wants to have a Pakistan with all its ills inside. The overwhelming majority of Indians like Pakistan where it is and many are quite happy to have front row seats watching the final acts of the drama being played out across the border. Against this the crude implied threat held out by Mr Aziz yesterday, when he reminded us that “Pakistan too is a nuclear power”, only underscores the paranoid mindset that still holds that country in thrall.
India will do well to bide its time and let that state wither away. The people will always be there and perhaps they will be better served by the new political and organisational arrangements that will evolve.
It is an illusion to believe that Kashmir is our only issue. Pakistan is descending into political chaos and economic ruination, and only an active engagement with us can save it from ruination. But that realisation must come to it and we cannot force a recalcitrant camel to drink from the pool of reason and rectitude. And neither can we force the hand of history.
The writer held senior positions in government and industry, and is a policy analyst studying economic and security issues. He also specialises in the Chinese economy.