Heed the Lessons of History

Heed the Lessons of History

The “onus” for talks between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has been laid on Pakistan by India. Generically speaking, this is a loaded and even flawed premise for any talks between opponents and antagonists trapped in a conflict condition- rendered more poignant in the instance of India and Pakistan. The Indian approach appears to be premised on India being the “status quo” power in the dispute over Kashmir with Pakistan. This approach is, in turn, based on power and power politics and implied in it is a certain denial and truculence which can bode ill for the broader dynamic between India and Pakistan and for Kashmir and Kashmiris. Consider the antagonistic dynamic between India and Pakistan. It is based on the respective self identities of Pakistan and Kashmir is central to this-both discursively and in real terms. Disaggregated, this dynamic with Kashmir’s centrality to it means that India’s attempts to hold onto Kashmir will be matched by Pakistan’s attempts to wrest the territory and people from India. Essentially emanating from different and different territorial nationalisms, zero sum dynamic inheres in the India Pakistan antagonism. In this zero sum schema, one side views the others side’s minimal gain as its loss and vice versa. (Lost or sought to be lost in the whole dynamic are the aspirations of the people of Kashmir). As is well known, the immediate genesis of the Kashmir dispute and the conflict in and over Kashmir, is the year 1947. Since this baseline year, both India and Pakistan have attempted to accord Kashmir with their own ideas of nationalisms. The intensity of , what amounts to a see saw, has been the ebbs and flows of regional political, international relations and conditions within Kashmir. So, while in a given permutation and combination, one set of conditions might prevail, in another context, another set of conditions prevail. The only constant is that the conflict in Kashmir remains unresolved and Kashmir remains fluid and defined by deep uncertainties. The very nature of the uncertain and fluid conditions that define Kashmir is that it remains prone to deep conflict and by this very condition, conditions remain open for a wider and broader conflict- potentially of a military nature- between India and Pakistan. Given all this, prudence would suggest that both India and Pakistan enter into a real and genuine negotiating matrix and imbibe all that genuine negotiation and talks entail. Talks either from the perch of power and power politics are meaningless and merely mean prolongation and transformation of the conflict into something more truculent. History bears witness to this. It is then time to read and imbibe the lessons of Kashmir and apply them to the conflict in and over Kashmir.

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