Academic and Theoretical

Academic and Theoretical
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An economist, especially a gifted one, can create elegant constructs, models and arguments that may or may not correspond to reality. The elegance of these constructs and models may correspond to theoretical brilliance which might not even countenance an academic quibble but alas, when these encounter the real world, they flounder. This description has a searing resonance on the arguments and the line developed thereof by the brilliant Marxist economist, Lord Meghnad Desai regarding Kashmir. Pared and stripped to essence, Lord Desai has promulgated autonomy and the attendant devolution of power as the panacea to the Kashmir conflict. The good economist has drawn parallels with the British experience with Ireland and Scotland and claimed that devolution of power by Great Britain to these regions has basically (re)solved these conflicts; the implication here is that given this, the aspirations of the Irish and the Scottish have been satisfied. The larger implication in Desai’s schema is that a similar approach could work for Kashmir. But, while Desai’s intentions and sincerity might not be doubted, what is at issue is the nature of the parallels and the argumentation thereof. The parallels that Desai draws are quasi parallels in the sense that the only similarity between Ireland, Scotland and Kashmir lies in the somewhat ethno-national cum religious nature of these disputes. Beyond this, history intervenes and renders these disputes rather different. As such, the resolution of these cannot be pigeon holed into a straitjacket (be it autonomy or devolution of power). However, perhaps more importantly, the issues that Desai refers to- the Irish and the Scottish ones- are yet unresolved conflicts. Despite the Good Friday Agreement and the results of the Scottish referendum, these disputes have not attained closure. This is made pronounced and poignant by Brexit, wherein Great Britain has actually chosen to opt out of the supra national entity, the European Union, which has basically meant the return of sovereignty and nationalism. In these fluid conditions and situations, nothing is certain. But what is intriguing are Desai’s certainties regarding both Scotland and Ireland and their implied parallel with Kashmir. The hall mark of a good economist (or social scientist) is disavowal of certainties and certitudes but , alas, one work hazard of the academic profession is academics’ penchant for pet theories or what they believe to be axioms. Desai, in holding autonomy as the panacea to the conflict in and over Kashmir appears be holding it to be axiomatic. But, the truth is that this belief is in the nature of a generalization and a project of a good hearted academic who, in propounding his axiom, is eliding both the history and the nature of disputes that he alludes to and draws parallels with but also reduces the complexities of these disputes to a caricature. The real world actually departs markedly from these “neat” constructions. This applies to Kashmir and the conflict thereof. The aim here is not to be contrarian or obstructive but to put matters into perspective. The conflict in and over Kashmir is a multi-dimensional one which cannot and must not be reduced to a caricature but instead, the conflict must be first grasped in all its complexities and dimensions that include its nature, history, development and other shades and hues. This must be the starting point which will allow for clarity and a broader perspective on the conflict. Once clarity is gained then it must be recognized that there are multiple stakeholders to the conflict in and over Kashmir. And, the conflict can best be resolved if and when the interests and aspirations of all stakeholders are taken into consideration and satisfied. Then the contours and shape of a conflict resolution paradigm can be devised. Till a multi-stakeholder paradigm is conceived and actually implemented in Kashmir, anything else would amount to an ephemeral vanity that carries the seeds of recidivism of the conflict, as history of conflicts, generally speaking eloquently attests. It is this axiom more than anything else that well wishers of Kashmir and even humanity must appreciate and understand.

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