The Politics of Fear

The Politics of Fear

Niccolo Machiavell- an Italian political theorist and philosopher- attained great fame (or even notoriety) for his political treatise, The Prince. The book was a general guideline for rulers to maintain power. Perhaps the most controversial or even notorious aspect of The Prince was Machiavelli’s dictum or suggestion, “that it is better to be feared than loved”. India’s Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, appears to have taken this Machiavellian suggestion to heart and it , gleaning from his remarks that “ the NIA sends down fear down the spine…”, appears to inform his general policy. It may be stated that fear is and has always been a component of politics- international and domestic. Fear and the politics that flows from and spawns it is essentially a technique of control which, may well work in the short run but it has both diminishing returns and it begets other consequences. All this has a searing resonance in Kashmir. The assumption of powers that be in India appears to be that employing the techniques of fear and control through its various apparatuses can or will resolve the conflict in and over Kashmir. But both prosaic and profound reality is that the conflict in and over Kashmir is larger than the techniques employed to deal with it. The conflict has been defined by ebbs and flows and it would constitute not only a travesty but a flawed understanding of history- both generic and particular- to hold these ebbs and flows as constituting “ victory” or “loss” for any side. If these indeed as held to be the barometers of either, then it means and implies myopia and irrational exuberance. The fact of the matter is that of conflict in and over Kashmir which needs to and must be resolved keeping view the interests and aspirations of all stakeholders. This can perhaps held to be most enduring and eloquent lesson of history that applies axiomatically to Kashmir as well. Techniques, be these of power, control , fear or pacification, can only go so far. There is always, as countless historical examples attest, every possibility or recrudescence or relapse of conflict. The key take away then , that powers that be should take, from the nature of conflicts, generically and particularly, is that conflicts are not resolved by the techniques of power and control but by prudence , sagacity and sobriety. Big doses of these will go far in bringing peace to Kashmir and South Asia at large.

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