June 19, 2001


 Search the Internet

E-Mail this column to a friend

Print this page
Recent Columns
One irony, one mystery
    too many
The mush about
J&K: The confusion
Living with Ghalib's
Time for RSS

Arvind Lavakare

The resident non-Indians' take on J&K

As a nation, we Indians must be the stupidest suckers on earth. Whenever we are in a tight corner against an adversary, we think only of appeasing him. Excepting the 1971 war waged on East Pakistan and Pokhran II in May 1998, our history is replete with such masochistic submissiveness -- right from forfeiting J&K's fate to the United Nations in 1948 through letting China build a road in Ladakh in 1956 and down to giving free passage to two terrorists holed up in a mosque in Shopian the other day.

With "mush" Musharraf about to visit us for talks, look at the servile 'solutions' to the J&K issue being suggested by the eager beaver intelligentsia. Some have thought of a referendum. Neerja Choudhury, a senior journalist of The Indian Express, suggests that we grant greater autonomy to J&K and accept the Hurriyat's demand that elections in that state be held under international supervision.

Kanti Bajpai, a lecturer at the left-oriented Jawaharlal Nehru University, wants 'soft' entry points on the LoC, wants Pak and India to jointly determine J&K's policy on foreign affairs, defence and communications even as the state is given such autonomy that it will be consulted before India/Pakistan sign any treaty or agreement in future. Do you think any Israeli journalist or American academician will make such self-demeaning suggestions?

The most shameful 'solution' to the J&K problem so far has come from the weekly Outlook. In its cover story of June 11, the magazine's so-called analyst came up with a bizarre proposal. It is based on a US-based Muslim businessman's 'Kashmir Study Group', Track II discussions, and interaction with a former US ambassador to Pakistan.

The magazine gloated that its 'solution' was largely endorsed by an opinion poll among 392 (sic) respondents in four metros, and supplemented it with compliments or comments from a professor at Texas University, some person from the W Alton Jones Foundation, a director at Woodrow Wilson International Centre, and, of course, such quaint anti-establishment activists as Kuldip Nayar, Rajinder Sachar, Muchkund Dubey and Kanti Bajpai. With such a base, it isn't surprising that the Outlook solution suggests that India and Pakistan

  1. accept the LoC as the border,
  2. facilitate closer ties between Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and J&K through a soft border, subject to reduction of cross-border violence,
  3. establish a verification mechanism to monitor reduction in violence,
  4. open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road over time, allowing easy movement of people and goods between PoK and J&K,
  5. work towards a J&K free trade zone,
  6. announce their intention to demilitarise the entire region through bilateral steps,
  7. announce a comprehensive autonomy package for J&K while Article 370 stays,
  8. keep only defence, foreign affairs, currency, communication, the Supreme Court, Election Commission and UPSC with the Centre,
  9. reflect the Kashmiri identity in passports and such other documents
  10. hold elections observed by a commission comprising Kashmiris, civil rights activists and eminent people not connected with the government.
Each and every feature of the above 'solution' is as suppliant to Pakistani propaganda and terrorism as it is subversive of and oblivious to India's invincible constitutional, legal and moral position on J&K.

Start with the acceptance of LoC as the international border between India and Pakistan. That this was offered to Pakistan and rejected by Ayub Khan in the Sixties is just one part of it. Pakistan, you know, has always wanted the entire Kashmir Valley, 84 miles in length, 20 to 25 miles in breadth, nestled in the Himalayas that feed the River Jhelum, and cut off from the Punjab-Himachal Pradesh area by rocky barriers that are 50 to 75 miles in width.

What creates rage about the LoC-as-a-border suggestion is that, without a dollar in return, it legitimises Pakistan's blatant, violent theft from India's J&K state in 1947. This stolen territory, called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, then measured 83,362 square km or 37.5 per cent of the whole princely state of J&K that had acceded to India under a provision of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, of the British Parliament.

Equally bad is that the acceptance of LoC as a border legitimises Pakistan's gifting of 5,248 sq km of its stolen property to China in February 1963. Should we Indians as a nation accept such a humiliating 'solution'? The answer would depend entirely on what your 'outlook' is on the price we should pay for 'peace' with Pakistan. (Incidentally, forgotten by everybody, China is illegally occupying another 32,307 sq km in Ladakh district.)

Take, next, the idea of a 'soft' border, meaning easy entry points between PoK and our truncated J&K state. If ever Pakistan wanted an OGL for jihadi terrorism on our soil, this would be it. Those flippant fellows -- videshi or swadeshi -- who suggest this are totally ignorant of Pakistan's ingrained commitment to dismember India. And they are so ignorant because they discuss J&K with firangis at coffee tables abroad and not with committed Indians like B Raman, an active researcher on Pakistani psychology who has personally interacted with every senior Pakistani political leader except Nawaz Sharief.

Oh yes, there is that suggestion of a mechanism to monitor reduction of violence. But dear, dear, haven't its advocates heard of a UN Military Observers Group that's been stationed in J&K for the last 53 years? Has anybody ever bothered to ascertain why the UN bunch has been drawing tax-free and pensionable salaries just sitting on their haunches?

Permitting free movement of people and goods and the aim of creating a free trade zone in J&K is another OGL -- for Islamic fundamentalists to smuggle everything from drugs to dinars that can erode the economy of the rest of India.

Next, there is the suggestion of demilitarisation. Pakistan has wanted a reduction in Indian forces in Jammu & Kashmir for a long, long time and Hurriyat leaders have been echoing that demand whenever our mindless media go talking to them. Now if the truncated J&K is in our possession, what right does anyone have to tell us how many troops we should station there? Ought anybody to tell Farooq Kathwari of the US-based Kashmir Study Group as to how many security guards or Dobermans he should keep to protect his furnishing business or his home?

An autonomy package for J&K, retention of Article 370, reflection of the Kashmiri identity on passports -- all these constitute nothing but appeasement of the Muslims in the Kashmir valley. It also displays a frightful ignorance of the fact that J&K is already more autonomous than other Indian states, that its people's problems are not in their passports but in the governance they've suffered.

For instance, even when the President of India is satisfied that the security of India or any part of its territory is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion, he can proclaim Emergency under our Constitution's Article 352(1) in the whole country. But to make it applicable to Jammu & Kashmir he requires the state's request or concurrence.

Further, the Indian constitutional provision regarding minorities does not apply to J&K. Thus, if Vajpayee is at all to cut a deal with Musharraf on the LoC, he must first take the consent of Farooq Abdullah's legislative assembly!

Again, even some important laws of Parliament pertaining to the provision for CBI investigation, the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Corruption Act, etc are not yet applicable to J&K. And, believe it or not, while Parliament cannot legislate on inter-state migration or quarantine with regard to J&K, it requires the state legislature's consent to change the name or the boundaries of the state.

What is truly a Himalayan joke is that although the state is so economically underdeveloped and unviable an entity that it survives only because of liberal doles from New Delhi, the constitutional provision permitting the President of India to declare a financial emergency under Article 360 is not applicable to J&K.

It is, moreover, an irony, a Himalayan irony, that this continuing fetish for recommending a separate status for J&K comes even as the most recent interaction of K C Pant, deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission, with people from various sections of the state has made it clear that the Jammu region, the biggest district of Ladakh and the exiled half a million Kashmiri Pandits want very much to be integrated with the rest of India, unfettered by Article 370. Why, even that much-touted 'Kashmiriyat' word is known to have no acceptance outside the valley.

Lastly, there's that quaint idea that elections in J&K should henceforth be conducted not by the Election Commission of India, but by a bunch of Kashmiris and others not connected with government. This disgraceful lack of faith in a constitutionally established and well-functioning Indian institution is tantamount to sedition; it reflects the nadir to which allegedly intellectual Indians can descend when they look to foreigners for solutions instead of grasping the home truths.

Some of these home truths that have gone unrecognised are:

  1. Jihadi terrorism from Pakistan can be eliminated by electric fencing already under way on the entire Indo-Pak border and by giving charge of finishing those jihadis to someone like K P S Gill.
  2. With an annual expenditure in 1999 of Rs 70 billion as against a corresponding revenue of Rs 7 billion, what J&K needs is huge human and financial investment, possible only by abrogating Article 370 that has created exclusive property, employment and other rights for the so-called "permanent residents" of J&K.
  3. What the people of J&K need most is good, responsive and entirely just governance from Srinagar -- not New Delhi, mind you. And if at all the LoC is to be conceded as the international border, India must insist that, in order to retain stolen property, Pakistan will have to pay India a compensation of Rs 10 billion, half of which will be set aside for J&K's economic development.

    When these home truths are swept under the carpet, what you get are such solutions to the J&K issue as are suggested by confirmed RNIs -- Resident Non-Indians.

    Why the Indo-Pak summit is doomed
    What validity does a Vajpayee-Musharraf deal hold?
    This is not Nirvana
    Supping with a rogue general
    Tackle Mr Hyde, not Mush Musharraf
    Internal security slips, but the red carpet is out
    That treacherous road to peace

    Arvind Lavakare

Tell us what you think of this column