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Kashmir can’t be delinked from India’s civilisational bonds
Opinion

Kashmir can’t be delinked from India’s civilisational bonds

Hari Jaisingh

In the absence of authentic reports from ground realities, the Kashmir
Valley situation today, to use the famous Churchillian phrase, is an
enigma wrapped in a riddle. This is how a professional media person
looks at the complex goings-on in the Valley. Union Home Minister Amit
Shah says that reports of the “restrictions” in the Valley are only in
the mind, not in J & K. Amit Shah is an honourable person. As the
country’s Home Minister, he is expected to be better informed than
ordinary citizens in New Delhi and elsewhere. Of course, he may not,
understandably, publicly talk about politically inconvenient matters
after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A by the Narendra Modi
government.

Amit Shah said, “To those who are asking questions about human rights,
I want to ask them whether they have even thought of about the human
rights of the widows or children of the 41,800 people killed in J & K
so far.” The Home Minister is right in speaking the truth. The silence
of critics in this regard is quite baffling. The problem in J & K is
one of a selective approach by those who have some stakes in the
Valley. They maintained stoic silence when the Kashmiri Pandits were
killed or thrown out of their ancestral houses in the Valley. The
silence by the human rights activists then was highly disturbing for
most Indians. We have actually paid a heavy price for our policy of
appeasement of the Valley Muslims and vested interests.

In this context, the world ought to constantly remember that unlike
Pakistan, India refused to become a theocratic state as it would have
gone against the fundamentals of our civilization. And we have been
bold enough to state the precise obligations that we, as a society and
as individuals, have to carry forward our civilisational values in the
interests of all citizens, irrespective of caste, creed, community and
religions.

It is regrettable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been able
to make US President Donald Trump understand the country’s rich
civilizational values and heritage. Otherwise, I feel, he would not
have repeated multiple times in recent days that he “is willing to
mediate on the Kashmir issue if both India and Pakistan want him to”.
Mediate for what and for what purpose? Does he want to bend over
backwards to keep Imran Khan’s hopes alive? New Delhi cannot be part
of the US President’s half-baked ideas and concepts.

I must state honestly that the very name, Kashmir, evokes powerful
images and emotions and stirs up deep-rooted memories of a past when
Kashmir was one of the major nurseries of Hindu civilization.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan and his army or the militants and mercenaries of
Islamabad’s intelligence agency (ISI) or “soldiers of Islam” financed
by fundamentalist forces, cannot be allowed to dictate “solutions” to
Kashmir by force and upset geopolitical balance in South Asia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained that the issue is a
bilateral one and no third party has any role in it. May I ask: Why
then should the US President be hammering at the mediation issue?

True, latest tensions between India and Pakistan grew after New Delhi
abrogated provisions of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution to
set aside the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The action evoked
strong reaction from Islamabad. It even downgraded diplomatic ties
with New Delhi. Since then Pakistan has been trying to
internationalise the issue but India has asserted that the abrogation
of Article 370 was its “internal matter”, and rightly so. New Delhi
has also asked Islamabad to accept the reality and stop its anti-India
rhetoric to grab Kashmir by hook or by crook.

I doubt Donald Trump’s credentials as a “mediator”. New Delhi has
rejected all such offers and rightly so. Prime Minister Modi has said
he would “not like to bother any country” over the Kashmir issue, even
though Donald Trump and Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan have been quite
vocal about it. I wonder why the US President has been candid about it, though he knows India’s firm position in this regard.

The moot question is: Is Donald Trump playing a “hidden game or trying
to play some sort of a diplomatic coup against India? I won’t be
surprised about it since we have seen the US President’s position in a
wider context of the changing Afghan situation. He apparently wants to
keep Imran Khan in good humour in view of the complexities of the
Afghan situation. I wish Prime Minister Modi had not allowed himself to be carried away by Donald Trump’s sweet talk. He needs to critically look at the country’s overall strategic interests and work out a comprehensive approach in conducting the country’s foreign policy.

Historically speaking, the US and Britain wanted a foothold in Kashmir
so as to keep a watch on China and the Soviet Union. President Donald
Trump has brought Kashmir into the vortex of geopolitics, keeping in
view Afghanistan.

It may be recalled that Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise
since the turn of this century. Such a phenomenon, in turn, has raised
a number of questions: Do Kashmiri Muslims care for their Kashmiri
identity than for their Islamic identity? Why did they opt for Urdu as
the official language? Why did they adopt the Persian script for
Kashmiri? This was apparently part of the quest for separatism as we
have been seeing for the past 70 years. Seldom have the protagonists
of Islamic identity thought that the people of Jammu and Ladakh have
identities of their own.

Be that as it may. Do the Kashmiri Muslims consider themselves
“special” because they are Muslims? If so, what about the 140 and
odd-million Muslims in the rest of the country? Professor Saifuddin
Soz and other Kashmiri leaders of his ilk are opposed to the
integration of the Valley with the rest of the country.

Asghar Ali Engineer, a Bohra Muslim, believes that if Kashmir goes to
Pakistan as its leaders have been craving for, then it may mean the
end of secular nationalism in India (Secular Crown on Fire: The
Kashmir Problem). He has a valid point, though it is difficult to say
that the basic outlook of the Hindus, their rich tradition of tolerance will change. We have surely a large Islamic and Christian legacy. We cannot disown it. At the same time, it needs to be kept in mind that minority fundamentalism is an affront to the Indian heritage, to our pride in our civilisational values.

Pakistan is the only defiant Islamist in the world. It is inimical to
everything that India stands for. The spirit of the Indian
civilization has given greater assurance of justice and fair play to
all its citizens. The Kashmiris need to take full advantage of this. I
am sure the Narendra Modi establishment must make “friendly” Donald
Trump appreciate how India as an ancient civilization is in the forefront of the fight against terrorism and separatism of Pakistan-sponsored Kashmiri fundamentalists.

Indian leaders need not be goody-goody and speak out in one voice as
to how India is a secular nation, Kashmir included. It is different
from the rest of the world. All that the Modi-Shah duo should do is to
work hard for ensuring a genuine political process on the ground,
revive the basic conditions of democracy and hold talks with
mainstream Kashmiri leaders in detention and not in detention.

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The facts and views expressed in the article are those of the writer.