Monday, September 26, 2016

On the Kashmir Issue

Kashmir is burning again. After the killing of the young Kashmiri fighter Burhan Wani by the Indian forces the valley has erupted in violence again. After many Kashmiris protested the killings of Wani by demonstrations of roads, the Indian armed forces tried to suppress that protest by firing pallet bullets and killing scores of innocent Kashmiris and injuring thousands. To take the revenge of these killings militants attacked the Indian armed force camp in Uri sector few days ago at dawn killing 18 Indian soldiers. After this attack the tensions between the Indian and Pakistani nation states have reached their highest in the recent history. The mood in the Indian public is that of revenge and a final war with Pakistan to teach them a lesson of their lives. Many, especially retired army personnel, are calling for very stiff retaliatory action from the Indian armed forces; they want them to cross the line of control (LoC) to dismantle the terror camps in the so-called Azad Kashmir (aka Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Some people like the BJP Rajyasabha MP Subramanian Swamy went as far as to say that around 10 crore Indian people should stay ready to die in a nuclear war with Pakistan (see here)! He said: “In the event of a nuclear war, Pakistani nuclear bombs can kill not more than 10 crore people. We are the country of 112 crore population. But our nuclear bombs can wipe off Pakistan altogether...“I think the chance of a nuclear war is very low. But should it happen, 10 crore people should be prepared to be killed. Our soldiers die while protecting the border. Indian is the only country where officers to the rank of captains and brigadiers put themselves at the frontline. If they can die for the country, why can’t us.”!!!

The general mood in public is that of anger, especially after the so-called luke warm response of Narendra Modi and his ruling BJP government of not launching any war on Pakistan. In the run up of 2014 Loksabha election Narendra Modi very intelligently crafted an image of a strong leader for himself. He was calling Manmohan government timid for not giving a befitting war reply to Pakistan whenever there were attacks during UPA rule. Now that he himself is in power, he is understanding the delicate and dangerous nature of such conflict issues and so he is responding in a measured way instead of fulfilling his nationalist backer RSS and others' wishes of launching a war on Pakistan. In fact, in the recent speech in Kerala, Modi was seen deflecting attention of people from war to economy front again! This shows that Modi's nationalist rhetoric has now put himself in trouble. The nationalism chicken of Modi is now coming home to roost! Inciting virulent blind love for one's country is one thing, and fighting and dying for that country when it is attacked from outside in another thing. This fact many nationalists, including Narendra Modi, are now discovering very painfully. Modi is trapped between Scylla of angering voters and losing election - a new poll by Pew research said that around 50% people who are asked question do not approve of Modi's policy of handling Pakistan by peaceful diplomatic ways! - by not waging war on one side and Charybdis of destroying this country by waging a war with Pakistan on other side. He must be seeing a Damocles' sword hanging on his head right now! Anyway. Karma.

Is war the solution of Kashmir problem?
All the sabre rattling aside, the serious question that all the Indians today should be pondering is whether war is the only solution of  the Kashmir issue? The answer should be a clear cut, No. War is not a solution of any conflict issue. War is nothing but total horror. If you don't believe me then take a look at some pictures of Iraq war here (the pictures are gruesome so please use your discretion before clicking that link). It is destruction of life and property on a vast scale (take a look at some videos of bombing of Syrian cities by air forces here) . Do you want to see the city where you live in India, whether that be Delhi or Mumbai or Ahmadabad or Calcutta or Surat or Bhopal or Bhubneshwar, reduce to rubble like that under bombardment? Are you ready to sacrifice 10 crore Indians (that will include you, your dear and loved ones etc.) just for the sake of a Kashmir conflict which is not of your making?

The reason why many Indians are talking about war today is because they haven't seen a single war in their whole life time and so they don't understand the horrors of war. Most Indians have lived their lives in relative peace during last 70 years after the so-called Independence. Most wars with Pakistan and China were fought on border regions only. People in India haven't seen a series of bombs dropping from the sky on their houses. I think this is the reasons many of them are sucked into the nationalist rhetoric of Modi during election and are now calling for an all-out war with Pakistan. The heightened nationalist fervor is now putting whole of India in danger of normal existence.

What is the solution of Kashmir issue? 
The only way to end the Kashmir conflict is in the peaceful way, and for that it is important to understand the nature of this conflict. Just like most conflicts in our scarcity driven world, Kashmir is a typical property rights dispute. Various groups of people, the Indian and Pakistani government and majority of people as well as Kashmiri separatists and people,  are claiming the property right of a Kashmiri land. The problem is there is only one Kashmir and it can only be owned by one party i.e.., one group of people. The principle of natural rights to property clearly suggests that the Kashmiri land belongs to those group of people who first homesteaded it i.e., the people of Kashmir who are living there since centuries. It doesn't belong to anyone else. The reason of conflict and the bloodshed is the occupation of Kashmiri land by both Indian and Pakistani forces since many years. Neither Pakistan nor Indian government and its people have any property right whatsoever over the Kashmiri land. This means that, as promised in UN long ago, the Indian and Pakistani government should remove their forces from Kashmir and then take the referendum vote of Kashmiri people about whether they want to stay with the Indian nation state or Pakistani nation state or they want their independent nation state. Whatever is the result of that vote should be accepted by both Indian and Pakistani government and people. We must respect the choices of Kashmiri people and let them decide their fate. Every individual has a right to self determination. By not allowing the Kashmiri people do decide their fate, the Indian and Pakistani governments are violating this fundamental right every Kashmiri individuals.

Is the above solution likely to be implemented? 
The above mention option is the only just and peaceful way of resolving the Kashmir property right dispute. Anything else means war. So how likely it is that such solution will be implemented voluntarily by both Indian and Pakistani government? Very unlikely. Kashmir dispute is a big vote bank for both Indian and Pakistani politicians and army generals and war mongers. It is in benefit of both Pakistani and Indian politicians to keep this issue alive. And that is the reason why I said it is very unlikely that any peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue is possible in future. That means, the resolution of this conflict will be in the form of some chaotic means. There may be a war finally between India and Pakistan nation states or the Kashmir issue will drag on for some time killing the Indian and Pakistani both economies with it. War spending is the big chunk of expenditure of both Indian and Pakistani nation states. Both countries have millions of people starving everyday, but both governments are busy buying war machines only. One day this military spending and the ensuring war will destroy both countries.         

The only hope right now is that people from both India and Pakistan, especially those who understand the danger of this conflict, mount a heavy pressure on their respective governments to let Kashmiris decide their own fate. They must force their governments to avoid any kind of war and rely on peaceful means of dispute resolution. Only a changed public opinion in both countries will stop these two nation state governments from destroying lives in both countries. 

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