India's Dangerous Policy Shift in Kashmir
by Dr Syed Inayatullah Andrabi
The paper is an attempt to draw attention to India's policy shift--from REACTIVE to PROACTIVE-- in Kashmir. The shift is explained with reference to some concrete instances in India's handling of the situation in Kashmir. How India could manage to step onto the proactive level is explained at length. Towards the end some recommendations for various quarters are made.
1. FROM REACTIVE TO PRO-ACTIVE: THE SHIFT EXPLAINED
The present movement in Kashmir started almost seven years ago. Kashmiri people had, in fact, never before accepted Indian occupation of the Muslim land and the peoples' resentment kept on finding so many ways of expression at different times right from 1947. In 1989, however, India had to face a movement with a new method. It took India quite some time to understand the `new' movement in all its dimensions and then formulate a policy. But for most of the time, in fact, till as late as the later part of 1994 India just went on reacting to a situation that was already created for her. The initiative remained with the movement (by movement we refer to the present freedom movement of Kashmir which we describe as a single entity constituted by the armed & political movement inside Kashmir taken together with the element of support that comes from Pakistan. This single entity will be termed as the Movement throughout this paper). All that India did or could do was to play effectively or ineffectively (which is not relevant in this context) to any kind of move initiated by the Movement. Some Indian commentators even dubbed this reactive Indian policy as `no-policy' and it was heard from so many quarters that India had no Kashmir policy. This, in fact, was not wholly true because India was after all following a policy of intimidating the people and ruthlessly eliminating the fighting force in Kashmir and thus taking the sting out of the Movement after which India could seize the initiative and come up with her own policy and agenda. But, nonetheless, the decision rested with the Movement as to when, where and on which front India was to be engaged. There are some very clear instances of this. The siege of Dargah Hazratbal in 1993 and introducing a resolution in the human rights committee of the UN at Geneva in 1994 are, for example, two such instances. Although in both cases i.e Dargah as well as Geneva, India manipulated successfully, yet all this was an imposed agenda for her. it was definitely not India's choice, neither was it in her interest to debate the Kashmir case, 'a law and order problem in an integral part of India' (this is India's characterization of the situation in Kashmir), at such an international forum as Geneva. It was imposed on India and although she managed to get out of it rather successfully but that even could not hide the fact that the Movement had in the first place achieved a great success by dragging India into a field which otherwise she would have never chosen for herself.
Same could be said of India's overall engagement in Kashmir in response to the Movement. For quite a long period of time India remained stuck in the business of collecting and then presenting to the world 'proofs' of Pakistani involvement in what India termed as 'cross-border terrorism in Kashmir'. In fact, once the Indian Ambassador to U.S, S.S.Ray had a meeting with the U.S Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbot, in Washington to convince the latter about Pak involvement showing the 'documents'. After the meeting Talbot told his Indian interlocutor that the documents were not sufficient and that he should go back to India and come with more evidence. Ray, in a perfect 'gentlemanly' manner boarded the immediate flight to Delhi and reported to his Prime Minister that things were going very well and only some more 'proofs' were needed. Thus India got bogged down into so many such futile exercises which she did not choose for herself, the movement imposed on her. However, my contention is that the situation is now fundamentally changing. Even the roles may be getting reversed. The Movement may be coming on the reactive side of the fence with India taking up the proactive role. This is a very significant development and must be taken note of. Let me briefly describe this change of situation. What exactly is meant by India becoming proactive is that while on the reactive side India went on 'crushing' the Movement without offering anything in its place (this process of targeting the Muslim youth of Kashmir is still on. It, in fact, never stopped for a day even), she is now pushing through her own agenda and while liquidating what it calls Pak sponsored Movement India is moving ahead with her own 'movement' (hereafter called Indian movement). This Indian movement, like the one it seeks to displace, has a military as well as political level. As far as the real substance is concerned, over six hundred thousand heavily armed Indian military and paramilitary forces now stationed in Kashmir constitute the military level of this movement and the pro-India political forces like Kashmiri Pandits, Congress, National Conference etc. etc. constitute its political level and, therefore, in essence the Indian movement is just an integral part of the Indian establishment. But in order to disguise it as an independent movement and that too similar to the Movement in Kashmir, the Indian movement has got to have show-boys both on the military as well as political levels. Kuka Parey (an India-created militant) is the show-boy on the military level and on the political level the arrangement is quite understandably more complex and skillful. Here the show-boys in the vanguard have to be non-entities, like for example, the boys who traveled to Delhi recently to negotiate with India and whose grouping was named as Forum for the Permanent Resolution of J&K (FPR). FPR or any other such non-entity suits best in the vanguard because it has no political stakes. The FPR need not be a permanent entity. In fact the showboys in the vanguard are supposed to be one- time actors. They discharge a single function and that is all, after which they can be replaced with another set of showboys with a new label. National conference and other such established groups who have high stakes involved are arranged in this Indian game as B-Team, C-Team and so on and so forth. Since the Indian movement is designed basically to displace the Movement in Kashmir, it should look something 'similar' to the original Movement. It should have an armed wing which it has, and the 'leaders' should be from among the Movement. National Conference does not fit in this frame. A 'similar ' movement can be most effective as an instrument of displacing the original movement, and established Indian political forces can take charge after things change and settle down.
India's policy shift from reactive to proactive has to be traced back to mid 1994 when the Indian Prime Minister, Narisimha Rao, for the first time seriously spoke of holding 'assembly' elections in Jammu & Kashmir. By doing so India in a way initiated her own movement and gave a message to the world outside that regardless of what was going on in Kashmir i.e regardless of the Movement there, India had a 'positive' program and an agenda of her own. Accordingly India sought from the world community not only condemnation of what India called Pak involvement in Kashmir but more so the endorsement of her own proposals, for example, elections. While in the reactive phase India demanded only condemnation of 'Pak involvement' in Kashmir in this new phase of proactive policy India has not been so much insisting on condemnation (for example, she did not demand this from Iran) as she is insisting on the endorsement of her 'positive' program and quite a few countries have endorsed India's proposals so far without condemning Pakistan. Since India initiates a move (for example, the talk of elections, allegation of APHC leaders involvement in Hawala scandal and now the 'negotiations' ) and others react to it, this has resulted in an overall change in the configuration of forces involved in the conflict. The configuration was Movement versus the rest, the latter including India as well as pro-India forces like National Conference. But now it is India versus the rest, the latter including the Movement and also pro-India forces like National Conference which for her own reasons 'opposes' elections and also the fresh Indian move of negotiations with FPR. This is not a change at the level of real polarisation. National Conference and India continue to be on the same pole as against the Movement. This is just a configurational change which India has deliberately engineered so as to distort the true identity of the Movement i.e making a freedom movement look like an opposition movement within the political system of the country. The other objectives behind this configurational change need not be discussed here. However this process is likely to move on. India will be articulating a political agenda for Kashmir through the FPR or any other such medium and making all others define their positions vis-à-vis this agenda. This can have disruptive consequences for the Movement in Kashmir.
Before coming to the discussion of how India could switch on to a proactive approach in Kashmir, let us be very clear about one thing: This approach of India is fraught with serious and dangerous consequences. It will definitely lead to escalation of tension and to more and more bloodshed in Kashmir. By embarking on this course India has in fact demonstrated her will to 'restore order' in Kashmir not necessarily without but inspite of the Movement there, i.e by ignoring it. The Movement in Kashmir-- the sentiment, the structure, the function-- is a reality. India knows it better than anybody else. But while dealing with the situation if she chooses to ignore it, what does that mean? Nothing short of a clear decision to go for a head-on collision with the Movement.
2. INDIA'S MULTI-TRACK APPROACH IN ORDER TO ASSUME A PROACTIVE ROLE
We must honestly admit that with the emergence of the present Movement India was caught up in an unprecedentedly difficult situation in Kashmir. In fact Indian political elite recognized it so and they took it up as a challenge to the Indian statesmanship. If, while dealing with this difficult situation, they have managed to become proactive instead of continuing to be reactive all along we must look for those vital policies and measures which enabled India to take up the proactive role. This we can do by trying to first understand what after all was so difficult about this situation that was created for India in Kashmir? Which aspect of the situation presented, as we call it, unprecedented difficulty for India? An answer to this question will provide us the proper background necessary to understand the policies and measures India took with regard to Kashmir.
As far as the movements for the liberation of Kashmir from India are concerned, these have always been there-- some open, some secret. In that sense the present Movement was not the first one. But what India used to do before was to control everything within Kashmir. This India could do using the pro-India network within the valley. Kashmiri Pandits i.e Brahmin Hindus of Kashmir constituted the core of this network and the formation of this network has to be traced back to early thirties when Hindu Congress leaders like Nehru and Gandhi started making inroads into the politics of the then independent Kashmir. Not going into any details here about the formation of this network, let us note that this basically comprised of a small number of individuals with high mischief potential and after Indian occupation of Kashmir in 1947 this network, fully backed by state resources was built up into an effective control mechanism to serve Indian interest in Kashmir. The so-called democratic institutions and structures like 'State Assembly', political parties, Cabinet etc. etc. where just a facade, the real power and the function of actual control resided in the pro-India network. When the armed uprising started in 1989, it worked as an automatic and effective deterrent for this network resulting in its almost total collapse. The most important result of the collapse: India's ability to maneuver in Kashmir got considerably reduced. This aspect of the situation presented her a difficulty which India had never faced before i.e an unprecedented difficulty. And this according to former Indian foreign secretary and diplomat K.Shankar Bajpai was the highest price India had to pay in Kashmir. Bajpai in a two part article in an Indian national daily `The Hindustan Times' dated Feb 21,22 1994 writes "At little cost of itself, Pakistan makes us pay heavily by its proxy war against us-- in operational expenses, external pressures to resolve the issue, above all in making any internal settlement more difficult." Bajpai by saying so was in fact lamenting over the collapse of India's network in Kashmir that used to be the instrument for 'internal settlements' in the past. India's political suffocation in Kashmir was brought about by a Movement which essentially had her roots in Kashmir itself although Pakistan's support did play a galvanizing role. Yet Indian analysts, almost all of them, viewed Pakistan as the main reason for India's difficulties in Kashmir. No doubt-- they regarded armed movement inside Kashmir as the most immediate factor behind their ills, but here also they considered Pakistan as the more basic factor because they linked the effectiveness of the armed movement with Pak involvement. Bajpai in the aforementioned article wrote " arms may have been stacked in the valley and local activity can go on for months but its long term effectiveness depends on Pakistan." With this view that the Indian strategists chose to have of the situation in Kashmir, they identified two main objectives to be pursued, namely:
(a) elimination of the armed movement inside Kashmir which India called crushing militancy or terrorism, and
(b) curtailing Pak support. To achieve these two objectives India followed a multitrack approach, a full discussion of which is not possible here for the reasons of space as well as scope of the present write-up. However some important measures both overt and covert that India took will have to be mentioned because of their being very instructive.
i) India gave a free hand to her forces to kill every, actual or potential, combatant, thus aiming at the physical liquidation of the armed movement. Practically, it almost amounted to a full scale massacre of one full generation of Kashmiri youth.
ii) Apart from physical liquidation India took concerted measures aimed at moral assassination of the armed movement. This was done by covert methods, chief among them infiltrating various organizations of the armed movement and engineering group clashes between them.
It was not the gun actually, but political powerfulness and the influence of the gun that threatened Indian interest in Kashmir. The gun had captured the imagination of the oppressed masses of Kashmir, giving them a fresh hope and when India talked about the 'fear of the gun that the masses were facing from the militants' she actually referred to that fresh hope and the enormous influence that had come to be associated with the gun. Fear did not exist at all, not to talk of men even old women used to shower sweets and flowers on gun holding youth. The armed movement because of her moral superiority reigned supreme and held sway over the affairs and events in Kashmir. This in turn maintained the right type of political atmosphere-- an atmosphere in which Indian network referred to above remained paralysed and defunct and when India talked about the 'fear of the gun' to be removed, she actually meant this atmosphere to be changed so that her network could reorganize and become functional.
iii) Again as an important covert measure, India, instead of remaining embroiled in Kashmir, engaged Pakistan in Karachi and thus dragging her into a field of her (India's) own choice. This move by India was to restrain Pakistan in Kashmir making her involvement there a very costly affair and limit her options in any solution of the Kashmir tangle. Bajpai in the said article had made no bones about the indispensability of such a covert measure. He wrote "we have to take a hard-headed look at the way Pakistan has treated us. It will not give up pressure without a quid pro quo or until counter pressure prevails. There is no third choice."
iv) To get an absolutely free hand in pursuing the agenda of massacre in Kashmir, isolate Pakistan and to get rid of the so-called external pressures to solve the Kashmir issue (these pressures never had any substance, if anything, they amounted to pin-pricks at the most), India took some very important foreign policy measures. Most important among these measures are (a) shoring up relations with the West, particularly U.S, and (b) establishing meaningful relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As far as Indo-U.S relations are concerned the truth of the matter is that these relations have never been bad, even in the so-called cold war era. However, one may recall that during the initial periods of the movement U.S authorities expressed concern over the 'human rights' violations by India in the occupied territory. India, understanding the rules of the game, knew fully well that human rights per se is nobody's concern in the West, it is just a convenient tool used basically for reasons other than those of 'human rights' violations. if there were any such 'reasons', India removed them all by opening up its huge market. Now not a single voice is being heard in defense of the oppressed Muslims of Kashmir. We must note two important ways in which India sought to make herself attractive and important for the world outside and thus improve her regional standing. This in turn placed her in a stronger position to pursue the hegemonic agenda in the region, take an extremely arrogant position with regard to Kashmir and ward off external pressures, if any. The two ways are as under:-
(i) Economic: By opening up, India offered to the world a market next only in size to China. Narisimha Rao, the Indian Prime Minister, while on a visit to U.S deliberately and repeatedly emphasised the integral link, as he saw it, between free market and democracy. What Rao was conveying to his audience was India's added importance as compared to that of China, the latter being not a 'democracy' as India is. So a free market in India was preferable to the one in China. India is now classified as one of the top ten consumer markets of the world.
(ii) Strategic: Another way through which India sought to improve her size was by making such significant foreign policy moves that added to her strategic importance in the region. India's relation with Iran has to be understood in this context. Iran from her side might have had her own considerations which I have reasons to believe to have been genuine, but nevertheless, this relation has been viewed by political analysts as highly significant because of its crucial impact on regional power balances and, therefore its role in considerably adding to India's strategic importance and size in the region. This also needs to be pointed out that American strategists need not look at this relationship with suspicion or any kind of alarm. There are no reasons for that. In fact, U.S looks at India as basically a neutralising influence in the region as far as Islam and other radical tendencies are concerned. After all we must not lose sight of the fact that India is already West's choice as a counterweight against China. In that respect she has been for long strategically important to the West.
i) The present proactive policy India is following in Kashmir should not be taken as a government-particular policy, it is a considered policy of Indian state.
ii) The present movement in Kashmir has not been able, so far, to impose on India what it might have sought to -- for example forcing India to agree to tripartite talks, i.e talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmir. This has to be borne in mind that the armed movement that constituted a part of the present movement represented a strategic tool in the whole scheme for the achievement of the political objectives that the Movement had set out for herself. It is my submission that the present state of affairs gives enough reason for the planners and the strategists of the Movement to have some introspection. Not only that-- I will move further and submit that the planners need to take a fresh view of the basic premises. For example equating India with former Soviet-Union and presuming that what Afghanistan could do to Soviet Union, Kashmir could do to India was in the first place a theoretically invalid assumption; facts too have proven it wrong, at least so far. Indian State like any other system has her strengths and weaknesses. One is not sure how correct a perception of these has gone into the basic calculations underlying the whole scheme of the Movement. For example, geographical vastness of India in, general perception, is her great strength, yet the same can prove to be her crucial weakness.
(iii) Wherever the interests of Islam and Muslims and the oppressed people are at stake, Iran has a vital role to play. It is duty bound to do so, because Iran is the only state which is representative of the true Islamic Political Order. In the first place, like everyone else Iran too should take cognizance of the fact that India is pushing through her own movement in Kashmir inspite of a genuine movement there. Talk of elections and other things are part of this Indian movement. Far from supporting such moves, Iran should use all her influence to impress on India not to ignore what is being articulated through a genuine movement in Kashmir for the last seven years and to recognize the fact that the situation in Kashmir is not one of law and order. It is a genuine political issue that has given rise to the whole situation. India should address herself to the solution of this issue, things will automatically turn to normal. Iran must take a serious note of the fact that the present Indian policy is bound to cause more and more bloodshed of Muslims in Kashmir, and, hence India needs to be restrained.
(iv) The political and intellectual elite in Pakistan needs to be more creative as far as the solution of the Kashmir issue is concerned. There is no doubt that the U.N resolutions provide a best and a just solution to the Kashmir problem, but the elite need to work out a full range of other options if they mean business. A bottomline-- which is essentially the unity (political unity included) of Muslims should be adhered to and while doing that all the right possible options should be worked out. That is just a normal thing to do. I have got to say something more on that, particularly about the bottomline, but that I will do when I come to discuss Dr Mahboob-ul-Haq's proposals in my next paper-- Insh'Allah.
(v) The political elite in occupied Kashmir or to be more precise the All Party Huriet Conference (APHC) has got to take care of certain things in the wake of new Indian policies. It is recommended that:
a) The right of self-determination for Kashmiri people should remain the political stand of the Movement and APHC should in no circumstances budge an inch from it.
b) APHC should strictly guard against dubious political formations outside her fold. They should not allow any group, for example the four boys who made the offer of negotiations, to get consolidated as a separate political entity. The strike call given by APHC on the eve of negotiations between Indian home minister and Kashmiri boys in new Delhi was alright as far as it conveyed the total rejection of such moves by Kashmiri people, but it had a negative potential as well. Such a move, i.e open political opposition could give these boys a political existence. There are so many other methods to control unhealthy trends.
c) APHC should strictly guard against dissensions and should maintain unity in her ranks. It is rather a common political purpose more than a common ideology that binds or can bind the APHC constituents together. A thorough ideological commonness is not achieved in days and that too in a war-like situation as that of Kashmir. APHC constituents should develop a single-minded devotion to the common purpose that binds them. By keeping on initiating new moves India will in a way keep throwing new balls and make APHC members play to them differently. This, after all, is the disruptive potential of India's proactive policy. APHC should be on guard against it.
(vi) Muslims world-wide committed to the goals of Islam should take a serious view of the whole affair. With a keen eye on what is happening now in Kashmir, they should look beyond and outside the present situation and the Movement. This approach, I must emphasize, is one of the elemental ingredients of the Islamic Worldview. Every particular situation is a stretch of reality necessarily limited by time and space. As such it has a finite potential in terms of possibilities, opportunities, means and resources. A believer is told not to get seized by the situation, but to have his vision and hope centred on The Creator of the situations. Thus a believer is asked not to become arrogant in a situation of victory or to get depressed in that of defeat. Once one's vision is centred on Him, one will look for possibilities, means and resources not only in an existing situation (where they may or may not be sufficiently located) but outside and beyond it with the belief that since The Creator is the Real Source of all possibilities, means and resources, He in His Absolute Wisdom, might have kept them elsewhere. After all this is the philosophy of Hijrah i.e migration-- a Quranic precept and the noble practice of almost all the Prophets of Allah (SWT) and most notably that of the noblest servants of Allah and His Messenger and our most beloved Prophet Mohammad (SAAW). The principle of Hijrah teaches us never to be cowed down by the suffocating atmosphere in a particular situation but to move and explore the means and possibilities elsewhere in the God's universe. So it ultimately turns out to be the question of resolve. And this is exactly what all the fights in history have been all about. Military defeat has never been an objective per se, it has been used as a means to break the resolve of the opposite party. The massacre India has been carrying out in Kashmir is aimed at the same thing-- breaking the resolve of Muslims. If serious minded Muslims make a firm resolve that the Hindu occupation of the Muslim land--Kashmir has got to be vacated, and then do what is found necessary to be done, there is no reason why this occupation cannot be vacated. The means and possibilities for doing this may be there in the present situation or may lie beyond and outside it, which for men and women of resolve does not make a very big difference. After all the world is not static. Changes do take place. They are brought about by working out effective strategies. Serious-minded Muslims the world over should attend to this task.
Dr Syed Inayatullah Andrabi is an intellectual-activist from Srinagar, the capital of occupied Kashmir. He has been actively campaigning for the liberation of Kashmir from India for several years. Dr Andrabi, facing massive hunts from Indian police had been working underground in Kashmir for several years and has written extensively on the issues underlying the bloody conflict in Kashmir in the wider framework of the political destiny of Muslims in South Asia. For the past several months Dr Andrabi has been living in exile.
The Centre for Kashmir Affairs, London, U.K