By K.N. Pandita
PDP patron, Mufti Muhammad Saeed is discussing coalition formula with BJP. Both swear to work for development of the State. That is patent rhetoric of all political parties. Mufti Sahib did not disclose the parameters of their discussion. In the same breath, he said that his party will not be secretive about these parleys. This is contradiction in terms.
However, in reply to a question from a reporter, he said, “PDP’s priority will be to change the destiny of the people of the State and work for friendly relations between India and Pakistan.” Both of these propositions need to be analyzed separately and critically.
Firstly, changing the destiny of people is patent rhetoric with all political parties. Amusingly, they do not elucidate the cliché of “changing destiny”. For ordinary citizens, it means improving quality of life, assuring better opportunities to future generations and conferring dignity upon human beings. But all this is achievable only through carefully drafted economic planning doggedly pursuit at implementation stage. Change of destiny of a people is contingent upon the growth and success of planned economy. Hopefully Mufti Sahib has no reservation about this explanation.
Hammering out economic planning in its entirety is not done in vacuum. The first step is adequate availability of raw material and human resource component on the basis of which comprehensive economic planning can be made. What is the ground situation in regard to resource component and operational potential is the crux of the issue.
J&K is a deficit State. It has no viable deposits of commercial raw material like energy, precious minerals and ores or industries. Depleting forest cover is already causing grave damage to State’s ecology. Our forest wealth at the best is only supporting as fringe source of economy. Use of timber for manufacture of furniture and constructional material is subject to mechanized and modernized method of forestry. As of now, that is a distant cry for our state.
Commercialization of our water resource, no doubt plentiful, is circumspect, firstly because of enormous investment required for generating commercially viable hydropower units. We are neither in a position to raise funds for investment in such mega projects nor do we have advanced technology and commensurate technical know-how to make the best use of the funds even if procured through neck-breaking loans from international funding agencies. Secondly, Indus Water Treaty has laid down conditions that cannot be violated. It is an international agreement with World Bank signed by two sovereign states viz. India and Pakistan. Kashmir, on both sides of LoC, does not figure anywhere. Indirectly, the World Bank has virtually recognized sovereignty of the two States on respective parts of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir.
As for tourist industry, Kashmir tourism in its existing state has almost negligible potential of changing the economy of the State. The reason is that the industry is primitive in content and delivery. It has not developed in past six decades despite sporadic but mostly unproductive investments and input. With each passing year the number of foreign tourist is dwindling. Foreigners are used to modern amenities, facilities and comforts, which Kashmir tourism is unable to provide. Tourism is more a culture than business. Tourist industry culture does not develop in non-industrialized environs.
What then is there that will change our destiny? A State lacking essential resources suffers serious handicaps. What cannot be cured must be endured, goes the saying. As for industries, we shall speak a little later.
Mufti Sahib’s intentions may be pious; he may be well-meaning in his purpose but the question is what we have and what we have not. If PDP is convinced of that economy is the key to change of destiny, then Mufti Sahib’s entire narrative should concentrate on economy of the State and not the destiny of the people which is only a by-product.
Therefore the question will be asked: when, in the light of what has been said, J&K is an equal beneficiary of the philosophy of development pursued by the Indian State, what magic wand is with Mufti Sahib to give new meaning and content to the slogan of “changing the destiny?”
Primary reason for Kashmir’s backwardness from earliest times is that it is a landlocked geographical region cradled in formidable mountains of Himalayan ranges. Its outlet has been through tortuous and deadly passes. Therefore for millennia Kashmir remained unexposed to the wide world outside. It may have some advantages but disadvantages are far more. Any effort of changing the destiny of the people depends on development of economy and industries. But the precondition for both is easy, quick and unobstructed exit, which will gradually integrate her into regional and national economy. The immensely important and prestigious project of four-lanning of National Highway with several tunnels en route is underway which will reduce the distance as well as journey time. But more importantly, what will change the destiny of the people of the State in letter and in spirit is the incredible rail link connecting Srinagar (and later on other tows of the valley) with the national capital. When made functional in next one year or two, this rail link will go down in history a marvel of engineering bound to change not only the history but also the geography of Kashmir.
PDP was born out of the womb of militancy in Kashmir. Its primary commitment is to the ideology of undoing status quo. We are no protagonists of status quo. But simple logic says that disruption of status quo carries sense only if it is replaced by a more creative option.
Some people might think that doing away with Indian presence in Kashmir, in whatever form it is, is the way to “changing the destiny”, a notion with which PDP has fed its constituencies, they will need to be more objective and more realistic rather than just emotive.
Unfortunately it has remained as the meeting ground between the PDP ideologues and the militant leadership in Kashmir. It is not just a coincidence that the document called self-rule was formally released not in Kashmir but in the US. PDP leadership needed face-saving option. It cannot shun the backlog effortlessly. But in realpolitik, a time comes when semantics may not work.
Ideological inconsistency has been the bane of valley-based leadership. Even a stalwart like Sheikh Abdullah succumbed to this aberration. Long and chequered history of Kashmir can be blamed for this abnormality.
For talks with Pakistan, Mufti Sahib’s intentions again are valuable in principle. But he is no stranger to the history of bilateral conflict and its ramifications during past six decades. What one would like him to do is to substantiate where Indian government has not been positive in extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan. Very dispassionate and objective analysis is demanded. Nobody will be unhappy if a step in the direction of improving bilateral relations is taken. It should be reminded that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah took the initiative in 1964 and went to Pakistan where he talked to Field Marshal Ayub Khan and others in PoK. Ayub Khan told him that he would settle for nothing short of entire J&K to be part and parcel of Pakistan. The Sheikh returned disappointed.
Yes, circumstances have changed. Militancy has caused grave loss of human life in Kashmir irrespective of who is right and who is wrong. Spilling of innocent blood should stop. Foremost of all, it is Mufti Sahib whom destiny has made to feel the deep cut caused by this tragedy. We would implore him not to ask New Delhi to do something which it is unwilling to do but take the initiative and proceed to Pakistan. In Pakistan the first and foremost thing he ought to do is to seek a meeting with Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed and earnestly ask him to recall all his armed jihadis from Kashmir and discontinue their infiltration for all times to come just for the sake of saving innocent lives in Kashmir. If he is able to bring about a change of mind among the Kashmir-oriented jihadi leadership in Pakistan, he will do a service to the sub-continent that will be written in words of gold in our history. Entire Kashmir nation will hail him as their Messiah.
(The writer is the former Director of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir Univerity).