Kashmir at an Inflection Point: Why More of the Same will Not Do?

Kashmir at an Inflection Point: Why More of the Same will Not Do?

Perry Andersen- a British historian and an essayist- , in his book, “ The Indian Ideology”, had asserted that the politics of Jammu and Kashmir had been “outsourced” to the Intelligence Bureau(IB). This claim appears to find a resonance in the appointment of an Intelligence Bureau operative, Dineshwar Sharma, as an interlocutor for a “sustained dialogue” on/over Kashmir. The implication of Andersen’s assertion is that the politics of Kashmir remains over- determined by “sub rosa” agencies. This is perhaps because Kashmir, in the schemata of powers that be in India , is held to be a delicate “national security” issue. But , it is precisely perhaps because of this formulation and thus approach that Kashmir remains in conflict and a deadlock and stalemate accrues over it between India and Pakistan. Holding an eminently political dispute to be a “ national security” one renders it into a zero sum conflict where each side’s or party’s gain is held to be the other’s loss and vice versa. The rendition of the conflict in and over Kashmir into a zero sum game renders parleys, talks and dialogue as part of a politico- strategic process where the name of the name is either attempts at co-optation, the employment of force as the arbiter of the conflict and other forms of maneuvers- usually tactical or sub-tactical.
Given this, the question is, will the IB interlocutor’s mandate and the attempts at “sustained dialogue” be any different?
There can be no clear cut answers to this. The modus operandi of intelligence games or maneuvers and persons associated with these is to operate “ sub rosa”- that is, in secret. But these people have a comparative advantage in terms of deep knowledge of conflict(s) and the players involved. However, this is not a sufficient condition to actually resolve conflicts, generally speaking. The very nature of dialogue gives short shrift to secrecy; it(dialogue) has to be an organic process which considers and satisfies the interests of all stakeholders. This formulation is key. Before, however, dwelling on the issue further, it may be prudent to put into perspective the nature of the conflict in and over Kashmir, especially in its contemporary avatar.
It may not be far -fetched to posit that Kashmir, contemporarily, is at an “inflection point”. ( An inflection point is in the nature of a significant change in a given situation). In terms of Kashmir, it accrues from a confluence of structural change(s)- political, social, economic and even demographic. However, there is a constant which undergirds this inflection point; it is that the sentiment in Kashmir remains or has even grown stronger with the passage of time. What structural changes are happening in Kashmir occur below and above this sentiment. Politically, Kashmir gyrates to a momentum in sync with the sentiment , which along with other allied developments, has rendered the so called “mainstream” political class rather irrelevant. Their politics and connection with the people(tenuous) is predicated on the power and politics of patronage, which naturally, has diminishing returns. The form and shape of politics in Kashmir is then manifested in those who profess to reflect the sentiment in Kashmir. But, here, another factor creeps into the overall condition of Kashmir- a factor where political emotion melds into demographics. The reference here is to the youth cohort of Kashmir whose politico-emotional universe and consciousness is structured by the conflict in and over Kashmir. These psychical and politico- emotional themes have only grown stronger and more intense with the passage of time. The youth cohort of Kashmir is actually the most significant and core constituency of Kashmir. How, the question is, can their aspirations be satisfied?
Here the answer is rather clear cut: by resolving the conflict in and over Kashmir in all its dimensions and forms. This is not to demean and understate the importance of other key stakeholders which includes Pakistan. The conflict in and over Kashmir, in the final analysis is in the nature of a religio- cum ethnic conflict overlaid by an ingress of territorial nationalism and competing sovereignties of India and Pakistan. It is then multi-dimensional. Addressing or attempting to address one manifestation and dimension of the conflict while as ignoring other salient dimensions amounts to an oversimplification of reality and foisting simplicity over a very complex situation and condition. For a lasting resolution of the conflict, a robust framework that incorporates and includes Pakistan has to be the sine qua non of any formulation. Ultimately, Kashmir being Kashmir cannot be divorced from the geopolitics of the South Asian region and perhaps even the world at large. The geopolitical condition of both South Asia and the world is both fluid and uncertain. In this context, yet again, holding Pakistan as a stakeholder becomes important.
The delineation of the context and the conditions that obtain in Kashmir contemporarily and other structural factors is important for obvious reasons. The question is: will powers that be in India seek a framework of a multi-stakeholder paradigm for conflict resolution or will it be more of the same? The answer again is not clear. But, if the context to the appointment of the interlocutor is any guide, then it may might not be too sanguine. This context yields itself to the assessment that powers that be in India sought to create conditions of pressure on some players in Kashmir and after or perhaps even during this pressure(d) circumstances, the prospects of dialogue are being trotted out. If this assessment holds true, then yet again tactical supremacy appears to be preferred over an organic, multi stakeholder conflict resolution paradigm.
South Asia and the world, at large , is on the cusp of deep uncertainty. No one can actually foretell the form and shape of both the region’s and the world’s politics. Amidst , this fundamental uncertainty, Kashmir simmers and remains in the domain of the “ unknown unknown”. Even real politic and its assumptions would suggest that key to stability, peace and prosperity of South Asia is Kashmir. Prudence and sobriety would then suggest that the tea leaves be read and a paradigm which redounds to the benefit of all stakeholders including the people of Kashmir be instituted. Any other approach would not only mean more of the same but also amount to tinkering which leaves Kashmir festering.

—The author can be reached at: [email protected]

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