It was in the aftermath of the 2001 Parliament attacks that India came close to a war with Pakistan. Fifteen years later, another conflict looks likely. The situation has arisen when India believes it has had enough after the brutal murder of 18 soldiers in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir. The crisis in Kashmir has reached a boiling point and the mindless shouting on news channels is not going to destroy the camps across the border. Neither does the tenor of debate have any impact on Pakistan. Much of the shouting and humiliation that goes on TV channels in India is censored in Pakistan, so whatever they might say, an average Pakistani is clueless about it. Censorship and control have been the nature of the Pakistani state from the time of its birth. It thrives on India bashing and a false sense of insecurity where India and its intentions are concerned.
While India struggles to rally world opinion on the matter, it needs to be acknowledged that the unrest in Kashmir is a bigger issue. It has taken a dangerous turn. There is complete lack of dialogue or perhaps the desire to have it at all. This feeling stems from a sense of distrust from both sides and more so from the side of the Kashmiris. Over the past two decades, the state has not made any progress and the result is years of tension, distrust and conflict. In this case too, rallying world opinion is not going to help for we have seen that world opinion has not moved beyond standard statements of condemnation and shock in response to terror attacks.
Appeals to the UN, US and the European Union have so far not yielded results. Most of their actions have been too little and have come too late. In 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru faced the prospect of deadly conflict in Kashmir, which carried the risk of shaking the foundations of the new Indian state at a time when the issue of accession of Kashmir to India was a question mark. The document thus signed has remained contested for a variety of reasons. Nehru, with his strong belief in the newly constituted UN, appealed for help but was denied any since the British were not interested as they were leaving and India was not central to the scheme of things at the time. Little has changed since then. The United States has a host of problems ever since it anointed itself as the messiah of liberty and freedom of the world. The recent clearance of the US Senate allowing the sale of $1.15 billion arms to Saudi Arabia is a matter of concern especially since the Saudis have not been known to very transparent where dealings in the Middle East or with Pakistan are concerned. Whatever we Indians may think, the Saudis remain central to US foreign policy in the Middle East and will continue to be so for years to come. We have to understand that Kashmir and the terror attacks are our problems.
If the separatists want azaadi, azaadi has to be in a form suited to everyone and not just them. In Kashmir, most people want azaadi from being told to do things either by the separatists or by the terrorists. The Indian state is an outsider in this social milieu. The Kashmiri youth want jobs and security and they have given proof of this by turning up for the police recruitment drive recently. It is not the time for talks and neither the time is ripe for impulsive moves. It is also not fair to question the nationalism of those calling for restraint. Nationalism can mean different things to different people. War will not guarantee peace; it would only bring back coffins, lost hopes and shattered dreams. What is worrying is that the divide between the Army and the civilian population has gotten wider over the years. The anti-India and anti-Army propaganda has been successful among the people and the current crisis stems for the lack of trust between the two. Political parties, especially the PDP-alliance and Congress have played their part. The dialogue between different stakeholders in Kashmir and those in Delhi has not progressed. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the government of Nawaz Sharif is shaky; the speeches of the Pakistan PM at UN reflect his unease and discomfort with happenings back home. We have been dealing with a weak civilian government for years; sanctions will only drive it up the wall. Disturbances across the border also spell doom for us and instability in Pakistan would mean more trouble in Kashmir. The current crisis in Kashmir is an attempt by Pakistan to deflect from its internal problems of rising prices, failing markets, civilian unrest in Balochistan, and use Kashmir to rally national sentiment.
The question is where does this current stalemate lead us to? It should not lead to the path of destruction. “Freedom” may be liberating for one, yet cause insecurity to another. The Indian state is in a situation where saying “Kashmir is an integral part of India” is not enough. Nor is it enough for Pakistan to mourn the death of Burhan Wani, at the UN. Pakistan does not have the moral standing to make a claim for human rights and freedom since the lack of these has been the hallmark of that state since its inception.