The Prime Minister of India, in a statement, on India’s Independence day, asserted “ neither bullets(Goli) nor abuse(s)(Gali) will solve the Kashmir issue. Love will”. These sweet sounding words lend themselves to the suggestion that India is on a course correction and review toward Kashmir and Pakistan. And that diplomacy complemented by dialogue would be the new policy calculus and mantra of the Indian state. Given this apparent inference, many across the political spectrum in Kashmir have welcomed Modi’s statement(s). But Modi’s assertions are belied by the context and structural conditions that obtain in Kashmir. The calculus and premise that appears to inform the state’s actions suggest that the larger aim embedded in the policy matrix toward Kashmir is elimination of militancy in Kashmir- even its rump and residual form-, intense pressure on the manifestation and form of the conflict in and over Kashmir , and a hard and tough posturing vis a vis Pakistan. This is the context and the backdrop of Modi’s statement. Given this context, the question that arises is: Is Modi being sincere or is he being disingenuous and glib? And what accounts for and explains the “volte face”?
The answers lie in the policy review that the Indian state appears to have conducted towards Kashmir and the conditions this has generated in Kashmir. The summum bonum of this review is a hard power, coercive approach towards Kashmir where there is zero tolerance for militancy and politics other than the state prefers and countenances. Inherent and implied in this approach is altering the conditions in Kashmir by force in favor of the state. The new context that is being sought to be created is one wherein most players and stakeholders in Kashmir are on the defensive and considerably weakened. In this created context, the state seeks an upper hand. The premise that undergirds this approach is that once the players have been considerably weakened, signals for dialogue and diplomacy would be made. Hence, Modi’s Goli, Gali remarks.
The larger aim embedded in this approach appears to be to negotiate with a spectrum of Kashmir’s politics and ultimately with Pakistan from a position of strength and power That is, if a functional(albeit inorganic) peace in Kashmir is attained by the state, then the negotiating prowess and leverage of other stakeholders gets diminished. If this happens, then other stakeholders have no real choice other than to submit to the status quo. India is then aiming at a winner take all political algorithm. But this approach is a short term one which falls flat on and flounders on reality in Kashmir besides the flawed premises inherent to it.
First, in any negotiation(s) that precede conflict resolution, a parity of power and status is sought to be arrived at between parties to a given negotiation. Once this parity of power is arrived at, then negotiations can take place on hard and nagging issues. In the context of Kashmir, shorn of accretions, the name of the game between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris, among other things, has been essentially to arrive at this parity. But, as things stand in Kashmir, the Indian state is actually seeking and trying to crystallize an asymmetry and then sending feelers of diplomacy and dialogue. The state’s working assumption appears to be that given its power and resources, it can absorb the manifestations of the conflict and wear down its opponents through attrition.
This is an approach that will not succeed – especially in the long run. The trajectory and evolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir constitutes eloquent testimony of this. The conflict has not moved in linear terms nor has its evolution and direction been sequential. It has been defined by ebbs and flows. But the prosaic fact that undergirded these fluctuations has been that the underlying reality of conflict has been and remains the constant. Dialogue and negotiations shorn of substance and based on power politics can only amount to tampering with certain conflict dimensions which leaves underlying realities unaddressed. In plain words, it all amounts to conflict management obscured by seeming conflict resolution attempts.
The “fact” of the matter is that there is conflict in and over Kashmir. Managing the conflict merely postpones and prolongs its resolution. As Clausewitz, the great Prussian general and theorist of war, has stated, “ war is not an end in itself but an instrument of politics and diplomacy”, a time will come when all parties to the conflict in and over Kashmir will arrive at a settlement and the conflict will be resolved. But power politics , machinations thereof and powerful , zero sum abstractions like territorial nationalisms and Westphalian concepts of sovereignty , militant against and favor obduracy and truculence. The only antidotes to these noxious forces are prudence , wisdom and alacrity. Will these ever descend on powers that be in South Asia? Only when sense and sensibility supplant and replace pride and prejudice is the answer. Both are in short supply in the subcontinent. Alas!
—The author can be reached at: email@example.com. He tweets at: @Wajahatqazi