Eroding status quo in J&K

By Dr. K.N. Pandita

Kashmir is again under sharp international focus. Pakistan wants to deflect growing public disenchantment with the namesake democratic regime. American pressure on New Delhi to work out some solution of Kashmir issue has intensified. This is to appease Pakistan for fighting America’s war in Af-Pak region.

This war in part and Islamist surge in full are of Washington’s choosing. US did all it could in early 1980s to boost and strengthen fundamentalist resurgence in the region. The wind it had sown has returned as whirlwind. Islamabad and Washington comradeship is now fighting the Frankenstein they had together created in the past. 

Pakistan is building more than one source to bring pressure on India for Kashmir talks. In a recent issue of International Herald Tribune, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s chief intelligence sleuth touched on the subject. He urged the US to push India and Pakistan to fix Kashmir “once both countries see a determined effort by the US in that direction”.  And add that “Saudi Arabia can play a supporting role”.

We do not forget the role which his conduits played in Kashmir during first half of 1980s.

China does not lag behind in openly playing anti-India card on Kashmir. She has departed from her past neutrality and panders to independent Kashmir. Apart from threatening intrusions in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, China has now resorted to diplomatic blackmail by issuing visa to Kashmiris on a separate piece of paper.

Islamabad is constrained to diffuse mounting political uncertainty at home and increasing distrust of the Anglo-American bloc about its ability to prevent Islamists from access to her nuclear arsenal. Kashmir issue comes handy.

In yet another move Pakistan succeeded in prompting OIC declare that it would appoint its special “envoy” for Kashmir. She has been toying with this idea for quite some time. How will New Delhi react to this development is yet to be seen.

However, the OIC members are divided in their perception of a variety of issues pertaining to the ummah. They are unable to pass any verdict on Turkey, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Indonesia, Egypt and many other Islamic states where liberals are locked in a grim battle with fundamentalists. That is why many OIC members tell India in private that they are never serious about OIC’s resolutions on Kashmir. How many Muslim countries provide the same quantum of political, economic and social freedom to their Muslim subjects as does the Indian Union?

Prince Turki al-Faisal has been the closest accomplice of the US in enormous shipments of American arms and ammunition to the Afghan mujahideen during their war against the Soviets. Billions of Saudi dollars equating American contributions passed into the hands of Pakistani handlers and Mujhahideen commanders through his network. The one person most knowledgeable about those shady deals is the acting defense secretary of the US.  Now as the Frankenstein is looking at him with eyeball to eyeball stance, Turki finds himself in an embarrassing situation. He wants to bail out Pakistan.

Nearer home, New Delhi has by now tasted the bitter reaction to its mysterious “quiet diplomacy” and “talking to all shades of opinion” guffaw. Telengana episode will no doubt reverberate in Jammu region if the entire issue is as much mishandled. During last two weeks, there have been several gatherings to reflect on current situation in the state and also centre’s incoherent statements. JK Peoples Forum and two factions of Panun Kashmir, besides the Panthers Party have adequately reflected on current situation and expressed apprehensions that the Union government is showing signs of weak-kneed diplomacy in regard to Kashmir issue. 

Justice Saghir Committee report has added fuel to fire to the extent that the Chief Minister of MP speaking at a function organized by Panun Kashmir (A) said that there can be nationwide reaction to the report. It will be foolhardy to test the patience of nationalists forces in J&K.

Furthermore, sensing that there was adverse reaction to the Saghir report and allied matters, the State Congress chief retracted his earlier avowal. He now finds the report not binding on the Prime Minister.
 
Whatever the compulsion for the union government to wind up the Saghir Committee working group, the report, nevertheless, has imperceptibly done pretty good damage to the nationalist cause. It has exacerbated alienation of the Valley from national mainstream: it has given one more instrument in the hands of separatists to push their agenda: it can invoke nation-wide resentment and create another Telengana type provocation in a reverse manner.

In particular, when we know that our neighbour is struggling hard for its survival and is trying to catch hold of every straw to float to the shores of safety, it would be travesty of events to succumb to the browbeating of the Americans or the Chinese of their proxies. It should rather stiffen New Delhi’s stance and resole of meeting all these challenges with confidence and determination.

Pakistan and the US both are making the path smooth for China to conduct trade, commerce and cooperation with Afghanistan on a massive scale. China is linking up her Afghan ventures with those in Central Asian republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.  Grabbing energy resources is foremost on China’s agenda in Central Asia including Afghanistan. While the US wants an opening to the Persian Gulf through Helmund province, China is eyeing the Afghan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan link for the transportation of Central Asian gas and oil to massive Chinese industrial complexes.  This is in addition to the Sui gas option through Gawadar sea port on Makran coast.

This is a time of test for the Indian diplomacy in the region. Abandonment of status quo in Kashmir means strengthening Pakistan’s agenda of removing India from Afghan radar. It also means exposing India’s northern frontier to the rapacity of our adversaries. At the best India can give an assurance of no active military movement along her western frontier with Pakistan in case Pakistan gives a satisfactory proof of winding up terrorist camps along her border with India including the State of Jammu and Kashmir. After succumbing to the American demand of pulling back some of our troops from Indo-Pak border, India should stop succumbing to Washington-Islamabad nexus which is steadily trying to erode other benchmarks of her traditional policy in Kashmir.

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