Peace for Jobs: A Faustian Bargain?

Peace for Jobs: A Faustian Bargain?

Mehooba Mufti, in an address, has enjoined youth to help her restore peace in Kashmir.  Drawing attention to the 2005 peace process between India and Pakistan, Mehbooba said, “If you support me in restoring peace I promise you that I will take the peace process forward which got shelved after 2005. You have to play a positive role by helping in maintaining peace in the State so that my Government is able to pursue the agenda of development and peace”. Mehbooba , holding  unemployment as biggest challenge to her Government then added,  “Give me peace and I will create jobs for you in Tourism, PHE and other sectors. I assure you that I will get Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) here and try to persuade him to announce some kind of job package for you. But all this is possible only when there is peace”. Cutting through sieve of contradictions in Mehbooba’s assertions, and her desperate pleas, one sub text stands out. This is in the nature of a correlation between peace and its absence in Kashmir and unemployment. Mehbooba appears to think more employment will lead to peace in Kashmir. Strictly speaking from the perspective of social science(s), this imputed correlation falls flat on the rocks of reality. The conditions of conflict that obtain in Kashmir do not lend themselves to simple minded and simplistic economic solutions. There then is an element of determinism and flawed assumptions in Mehbooba’s assessment.  Moreover, there is also obfuscation involved in Mehbooba’s rhetorical harking back to the 2005 peace process. It was structural conditions, overlaid by a certain geopolitical condition and other important variables that brought India and Pakistan into the ambit of dialogue. These conditions no longer hold. It is also pertinent to note here that there is a far right political dispensation- the BJP- in power in India. The BJP is a coalition partner of Mehbooba’s party, the PDP, in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP, after initial feeble attempts at tepid rapprochement with Pakistan has fallen back on its stance and rhetoric of hostility towards Pakistan. And the far right party is creating and encouraging a narrative of nationalism in India in which Pakistan is the irredeemable “other”. So for the BJP and its assorted security advisers, hostility with Pakistan serves an ideological and instrumental purpose. Amid this charged milieu, Mehbooba’s claims to restart the peace process do not hold water. In the final analysis, peace and development in Kashmir- even though much needed and desired- cannot be elevated over sincere and prudent, multi stakeholder conflict resolution. It means putting the cart before the horse. And, economic development, growth and thus a more robust employment and opportunity structure can only happen once Kashmir is tied into the sinews of the global and the regional economy. Again, this means and points out to resolving the conflict first. Any other alternative can but be a balm defined by artificial economics and patronage. This was something that Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad tried and attempted but what got incubated during the Bakshi interregnum was the militarization of the conflict in Kashmir. If history is any guide then and if the past is not to be the prologue in Kashmir, then prudence and far sighted statecraft should be elevated over crude and populist but transient schemes.

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