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Updated: July 20, 2013 01:33 IST

Not losing it in paradise

Sushil Aaron
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Kashmir need not be Manmohan Singh’s last failure if he can summon the will to take the bold initiatives he promised early in his tenure

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh avoided any political comment on Kashmir during his recent visit to Srinagar. He focussed on developmental issues, announcing power projects and inaugurating the railway tunnel that will eventually connect the regions of Jammu and Kashmir. He said he was ready to talk to those who shun violence — but it wasn’t a voluntary statement but one offered in response to a question about separatists in a press conference.

Dr. Singh’s reticence was a marked contrast to the introspective tone adopted by Home Minister P. Chidambaram during the 2010 unrest when 120 protesters were shot dead by the security forces. In a statement then, he admitted that “Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India under very unique circumstances” and that is why “we must put our heads together to find a solution, a unique solution to this unique problem.” Mr. Chidambaram’s statement was a rare official recognition that Kashmir was not just any other federal problem, but one where issues of national belonging and political agency were yet unresolved.

Kashmiris are thus mystified by Dr. Singh’s disregard for their concerns — which include a resolution of the State’s political status (entailing at least a restoration of its autonomy, guaranteed under Article 370 but undermined over the years); addressing the presence of security forces and immunities afforded by special legislation like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); accountability for previous — and occasionally ongoing — brutalities of the security forces; and the calibrated, if not wholesale, stifling of democratic freedoms and so on.

Approaching election

Dr. Singh’s reserve seems to conform to several lines of reasoning in New Delhi’s policy circles. One is that the UPA cannot address Kashmir now as national elections approach — this visit was about the Congress party’s prospects in the State rather than anything else. Dr. Singh’s indifference could also flow from a sense in Delhi that inaction is a legitimate way to handle Kashmir. As Omar Abdullah alluded to such perceptions recently, the State is returning to “normal,” militancy continues to be in relative decline; Indian tourists are thronging for summer relief; some Kashmiris are doing well in Indian civil service exams and clamouring to be part of India’s growth story and its cricket team. The international community has, in any case, forgotten Kashmir as Delhi has deftly made growth of relations with Pakistan conditional on not uttering the ‘K word’ — so why bother dredging up political issues?

UPA defenders would argue that the government did indeed address Kashmir when it could, but it can no longer do so because of the uncongenial state of India-Pakistan relations and the domestic political climate. India and Pakistan had, after all, in Dr. Singh’s own words, “the most fruitful and productive discussions ever” during 2004-07 about “a permanent resolution” to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “Intensive discussions” were held on the backchannel centring on President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula for a non-territorial solution, based on the principles of soft borders, self-governance, demilitarisation and joint management. That process, however, got nowhere as India was then focussed on the India-U.S. nuclear deal; and President Musharraf subsequently got into domestic trouble and was eventually ousted. The successor PPP government got on well with New Delhi (despite the Mumbai attacks) but was wary of embracing a framework adopted by President Musharraf.

The Manmohan Singh government took steps on the domestic front as well. Mr. Chidambaram initiated a discreet “quiet dialogue” with Kashmiri separatists in 2009, but it floundered after Fazl Haq Qureshi was shot by militants. The separatists read that as a sign of Islamabad’s disapproval of a Delhi-Srinagar track that left Pakistan out — and backed off.

The Valley then saw massive unrest in 2010 which Delhi attempted to pacify through the appointment of three interlocutors to look into the “contours of a political solution” for Kashmir. The interlocutors submitted their report in October 2011 and recommended a “new compact” between Delhi and J&K that would involve a review of all laws passed by the Centre that “dented J&K’s special status.” They anticipated an eventual re-institution of relevant powers to the State provided it was passed by a two-thirds majority in both the J&K legislature and Parliament. The UPA — plagued by corruption scandals — lacked the authority and numbers to push through a constitutional process relating to J&K.

Not the whole truth

These narratives do not, however, capture the whole story. By privileging political compulsions, they obscure the degree of continuing Kashmiri disaffection with India and its wider political import. It is clear to any visitor, a follower of the State’s print or social media that Kashmiri anger with India has not abated in recent years. Memories of firing on protesters in 2010 are vivid and they have socialised a large cohort of young Kashmiris to a default anti-India sentiment. Nearly 6,000 Kashmiris were imprisoned after 2010 for varying periods, traumatising families and inevitably creating extorting opportunities for local notables and State authorities. Social media is believed to be carefully monitored while separatist leaders (including moderates like Yasin Malik) have been arrested or detained frequently to pre-empt civilian protests. Afzal Guru’s execution in February is another prism through which Kashmir looks at India — the failure to inform his family, his hasty burial by the state and the Supreme Court’s statement about sentencing him to “satisfy the collective conscience of society” are now part of collective lore and stoking widespread resentment. The presence of security forces across the Valley is a constant reminder that Kashmiris are not in charge.

This anger has not yet translated into a full-blown resurgence of militancy. But there are disquieting trends. Analysts have pointed out that some local militants killed in encounters this year were well educated, with degrees or diplomas in engineering, physics or Islamic Studies. Kashmiris realise that an armed struggle is impractical in view of India’s military might, but funerals for militants are again beginning to attract large crowds.

Delhi thus needs to have a policy for Kashmir, which is unrelated to the India-Pakistan bilateral calendar. This is in its self-interest — an unresolved Kashmir has a toxic effect on the Indian public sphere constantly pitting nationalists and liberals, security specialists and human rights activists against each other. Kashmir also negatively shapes the kind of actor India is becoming internationally. It is partly the reason Delhi needs to invoke non-interference in internal affairs when assuming positions on Sri Lanka, Syria, Burma, Kosovo, etc. There is also the immediate future to be mindful of. 2014 is a crucial year for the region. J&K will go to the polls while Afghan politics approaches a denouement that may hold within it a potential for jihadi energies to be reoriented toward Kashmir.

Towards reengagement

In view of such imperatives, the UPA must endeavour to create the conditions for a political process to resume in Kashmir. A few immediate options could help. First, revisit the issue of lifting AFSPA from two districts in Kashmir. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Mr. Chidambaram have forcefully spoken in favour of this but are facing resistance from the Army. The brass could be assured that its veto on a deal on Siachen would hold but it must be willing to agree to try this for a period of time. A globalising power keen on regional integration cannot have unevolved approaches to counterinsurgency in perpetuity. Two, address the perception that Kashmiris do not have a say on key governance issues, through a menu of policy interventions. For instance, key hydropower projects on waters in J&K produce energy for other States but they are not owned by State entities. J&K’s leaders want the ownership of NHPC projects to be transferred to the State to help generate more revenue — but haven’t made headway.

Three, allow democratic protests. The absence of dissenting spaces can only turn movements underground and allow their appropriation by extremist groups. Muzzling student politics in universities, incarcerating young activists and moderate separatist leaders frequently undercuts their ability to (ever) enter into a dialogue with Delhi. It also severely damages the authority of the State government, which is believed to be complicit in such measures. Such steps could, in time, prompt a rethink of outright rejectionism by separatists and prepare the ground for resumption of substantive talks on Kashmir with Pakistan.

These may be doable even when the country is in election mode. A robust Kashmir policy may be good politics for the Congress too, as it will test Narendra Modi’s efforts to burnish his inclusive credentials — and offer Dr. Singh another legacy item to strive for at the end of his second term.

(Sushil Aaron is Director of Projects at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. These are his personal views. Email:

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Instead of bashing up army, BSF we need to put ourselves in their shoes. Poor jawans live in constant fear and add to that we have mad mullas inciting Kashmiris. Jawans get very little time (split seconds) to react. Sometimes their action is not entirely unjustified. If we live in such hostile situations even we may react the way our jawans reacted. Root cause of the problem is not that we are foisting army on kashmiris. They have invited themselves.

from:  Balram Rathod
Posted on: Jul 21, 2013 at 09:03 IST

Yasir janaab. Even we feel the same thing, when pandits are mowed down our army jawans are moved down. Army and BSF are not in Kashmir for a picnic. You have invited them.

from:  Balram Rathod
Posted on: Jul 21, 2013 at 08:58 IST

Excellent one sided article, however wish to highlight the following;
a) Kashmir is not the same prior to 1947 or after 1947. If status quo to be maintained as independent country than Karan Singh or its inheritants to be made the king including Indian + Pakistan Kashmir.
b) Since a) seems unlikely than J & K should be considered as extended federal independent part of India and should not be isolated by article 370. The people of J & K and across board of India can freely move and transfer its base across in any region they wish to do so.
c) The higher education system should be such that J & K students can move in the main land for seeking education and vice versa.
d) Industrial and infrastructure development should take place at much faster pace and bring the majority of population in the mainstream of employment and constructive engagement to the economy by CPSUs or State PSU or private participation.
e) Uniform civil code to be applied across J&K

from:  Mukesh
Posted on: Jul 21, 2013 at 02:20 IST

Kashmiris include all Kashmiris including Pandits. Why is there no mention of Pandits being driven out of valley? Is there nothing in agenda to rehabilitate them. Everyone wants peace there, true, but it should include all Kashmiris.

from:  Krishnan
Posted on: Jul 21, 2013 at 01:30 IST

Kashmir issue became an issue because of religion based creation of
Pakistan,which thereafter started claiming for Kashmir due to common
religion and then created an army of separatist in Kashmir against
India,who are taking advantage of democratic freedom in India by
spreading poison against Indian state.If India had deported these
anti-national element like China did in Tibet and could have carried
out development on big scale,then Kashmir's people would have never
nurtured grudge against India and would have never felt need to merge
with failed state like Pakistan....

from:  anoop kumar bhardwaj
Posted on: Jul 21, 2013 at 00:28 IST

" Kashmiri disaffection " ? All Kashmiris ? Sikhs , Buddhists, Hindu ,Shias or just ...?

from:  Shikha Pandey
Posted on: Jul 21, 2013 at 00:26 IST

Is this a issue of Azad Srinagar Valley or Indepe J&K? If the issue is
of Azad Kashmir Valley, then come what may- Valley will not be made
Azad because then it will be in self destructive for the Kashmiris.
Jammu region including border districts of Poonch and Rajauri and the
Ladakh region do not want Azadi. Srinagarites cannot impose their
version of Azadi on others. 99% of Kashmiris do not know what will
they do after Azadi? Will they merge with PoK and accept Muzaffarabd
as its capital? I am sure people of PoK will never accept Srinagar as
its capital. will it be a democratic govt after Azadi? What will be
the constitution and how long will it last? Loving Islam is different
than loving Islamic Government. And Azadi from what? Armed Forces
presence? Where were they before 1989? They are there in response to
Pakistan's involvement. A new Corps was raised only as a reaction to
Kargil war. Presence is vital to ensure the lines of communication
remain open.

from:  Akbar
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 23:20 IST

Why isn’t anything being said about Kashmiri Pandit minority who were hounded and thrown out of valley by gun totting militants? The only problem in Kashmir is, Pakistan is exploiting the sentiments of Kashmiris in the name of Islam and pushing them to violence. Unless Kashmiris stand up against violence, lasting peace is not possible.

from:  Vijay Raina
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 22:29 IST

Kashmir problem defies solution for the reason that its majority
community is intolerant of the minority i.e.the Hindus whom they have
driven out ruthlessly.It is a case of ethnic cleansing that the
separatists have resorted to to accede to Pakistan.The latter will
always foment trouble there to give continuous troubles to the Indian
State.China will side with its all-weather friend-Pakistan-to impede
our progress as a military and economic power in Asia.The situation is
complex because both China and Pakistan are nuclear-armed and the
domestic political and administrative conditions in our country
militate against decisive steps to nail the issue for good.The
presence of Article 370 on the statute book is at the root of the
problem.Under the present political system the problem may not be
solved.Hence the nation will have to brace for a different set-up or
place a group of hard-core statesmen in authority to fix this
sore.Bloodshed may result but the nation is above every thing.

from:  Ram Vilas Prasad
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 22:29 IST

Kashmir issue is peculiar in that it has become hard to find a solution. All the states under British India (around 565 states) ,small and big ,were desired to join either Pakistan or India and except Kashmir,all the states with some concessions joined Pakistan and India accordingly. However, initially, Kashmir' king Hari Singh did not join either India or Pakistan and rather he was found to be a confused ruler. What was his motive was not clear.Finally,Hari singh joined India after Pakistan attacked Kashmir in October,1947.Since then, Kashmir has become an integral part of India. It was actually decided to divide British India into two parts to be known as India and Pakistan. Creation of third country called Kashmir was never visualized. As Bruce Riedel says in his latest book 'Avoiding Armageddon' -'A Kashmir solution would have to be based on a formula for making the line of control both a permanent, conventional international border.

Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 21:57 IST

A sensible article!Kudos to Mr Sushil!

from:  RASOOL
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 20:27 IST

British imposed problem/solution: Kashmir helps both countries keep big armies specially pak's ' disproportionately large thus diverting resources for " real human development"( in both).In India too army thus " drives the foreign policy" indirectly.Seems 'no solution with some terrorism' been the goal of all groups, including Kashmiris, looking at the affordability of various players:, Pakistan could not afford such ' grand developemts'done in 60 yrs and keeps india on defensive with low cost jehadists while USA supports the army size for its own policy.
India,desirous of 'global status/security council memebership'is effectively blocked- not fulfilling UN resolutions--that makes china 'very happy'.Solution: 4 points plan,desirable to civil societies of both 'seems unattractive' to " armies" and also to USA/china. Kashmir's thus defies any solution ( hope I am wrong) but major beneficiary is " Kashmir's civil society". British seems to have effectly blocked india from a global role.

from:  Dr abdul jamil khan
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 19:31 IST

Kashmiris have the right to live in harmony and peace and their children should have a prosperous future. I do not know if this dreams will ever become true for them.
The conflict in Kashmir dates to the partition ofIndia in 1947. The State of Jammu & Kashmir was at this time majority Muslim but with a Hindu ruler, and it was unclear whether it would accede to Pakistan or India. Its eventual accession to India became a matter of dispute between the two countries, with both India and Pakistan claiming ownership of Kashmir. After a brief war in 1947-48, Kashmir was divided between Pakistan and India administered territories. A ceasefire line was agreed under UN supervision, which has since been renamed the “Line of Control”. Further wars have broken out between both countries in Kashmir in 1965 and 1999, whilst there is also a Kashmir separatist movement. To further complicate matters in the region, the border with China is also disputed. India does not recognise the border established after war between India and China in 1962. China has traditionally diplomatically favoured Pakistan though relations with India have improved in recent years.
Given the irreconcilable territorial claims in Kashmir, there is no immediate end in sight to this conflict. Now that both India and Pakistan are in possession of nuclear weapons, the stakes in this conflict are of global significance. Let us hope that the region may be moving forward into a ripeness for reconciliation , but many in Kashmir and the international community call for the right of Kashmiris to determine their own future and call for a referendum on independence.

from:  kurt waschnig
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 18:39 IST

UPA has dealt with the issue so passively for a quite long period. It suggests as if Delhi is not wilfully willing to put forward a substantial policy for resolving it. Constant avoidance has very much contributed to the rising discontent among the masses. The more it is avoided, the worse the situation turns. I hope Mr. Singh may not be waiting for a disaster to happen and then respond.

from:  Shivam Shukla
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 16:37 IST

Being an ordinary Indian citizen, I consider Kashmir our part and its people our own people and desire to visit and enjoy freely there as I do anywhere else. I also want its people to enjoy the same liberties as I do here without unwanted interventions. I can realise the problems being faced by its people due to AFSPA, but at the same time, I let terrorists occupy my motherland and hence presence of Armed forces is an undesirable but compulsory requirement.

from:  Shivam Shukla
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 16:27 IST

Indian Govt should realise that it can't make kashmir its part on behest of draconian laws and inhuman policies.....Every common indian needs to stop watching our struggle through the prism of pakistan.We kashmiris are mature enough that we ourselves realise what was promised with us in the past and what we are getting in return for our patience and perseverance......Every now and then killings,fake encounters,custodial killings,shadows of army men everywhere....Enough is enough, even we are humans and we have every right to live!!!!

from:  waseem lone
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 15:57 IST

The questions which arise after reading this article is, in spite of
having a separate constitution(Art 370) is the consensus between the
State and centre have not been reached?, or is the centre been using
more of its Union list powers than required?. I think it is both, the
issues which is mentioned needs greater will both by the centre and
the state govt to resolve this, it is sad that its taking more time
than ever. There is a need for govt to implement more confidence
building measures and implement it, make a positive impact on the
lives of the Kashmiri people and be a role model in the national as
well as on the global level.

from:  Hareesh Kumar
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 15:43 IST

Kashmir has always been the epicentre of political
discussion,debate,lobbying,instigation...The fact that bothers kashmir
even today is that it suffers from a serious lack of coordination
between the government and the executive.The special status accorded
to kashmir is a hypothetical one.It is even not able to govern itself
as an ordinary state.The effervescent alltruism that existed on both
sides of the border during its accession and subsequent division is
now extinct.It is a frozen piece of history that current indian
government attempts to use to attain international affirmation.Both
sides address the issue as and when they think it would be better to
appease the world.All the dialogs clearly showcase the lingering
reluctance to arrive at any particular stand.

from:  Aman
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 14:38 IST

Being a kashmiri..i m very well known about the kashmir issue is a case broken promises made by jawahar lal nehru himself. Kashmir is an international issue and cant be solved within the ambit of indian constitution.

from:  Irfan
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 13:54 IST

We are fed up India's attitude towards us, as a Kashmiri we've suffered a lot, nobody gives a damn when a Kashmiri dies, you people care about Yatra getting halted but not about the human life, six innocent, unarmed men were mowed down and more than 50 got injured in cowardly bsf firing, were not they human beings, are we fooder of Indian security forces, are we cattles don't we posses the right to life.

from:  Yasir
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 12:52 IST

The cry for 'separation' is the big hurdle, sponsored by Pakistan which
orchestrates it on 'prestige' and political grounds. The Army's
involvement is triggered by ISI which wants this offensive to continue
to further their agenda of separation. This is somewhat similar to
LTTE's demand for separation, the difference being India did not support
or assist it. Problem is highly complicated. Solution is quite difficult
because of the religious factor. . Who ' blinks ' first is the
situation. Time is most likely to find a solution.

from:  S.Rajagopalan
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 12:48 IST

Due to historical events like conditions in which instrument of
accession was signed, people have opportunity to relate problems like
lack of development to their secessionist motives.

Instead if people really want (only)development, they need to demand,
protest for those specific issues of development and more importantly
all this with an attitude devoid of any concealed intentions of

from:  Arun
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 12:47 IST

First of all, the latest issue at Ramban, a peaceful place, seems to be due to an over zealous religious persona inciting passions. This is a place where the BSF is stationed to protect on-going railway work, unlike in the Valley. Obviously, attacking the BSF would elicit a response from them and the action seems to have been knowingly done to create disturbance during this holy Muslim month. Secondly, the author is suggesting three immediate actions. He wants AFSPA to be repealed while the Army is assured in a quid-pro-quo on its stance on Siachen. However, the Army has its own and justified reservations on lifting the AFSPA and would not be expected to take part in barter deals. Next, on the issue of NHPC generated power. All centrall power projects have a power sharing formula right across the country. May be some relaxation can be done for J&K. But, they cannot be owned by the State. Last, democratic protests. He refers to 'moderate separatists'. Do I need to say more ?

from:  Subramanyam Sridharan
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 12:35 IST

It is difficult to find a solution to the Kashmir Issue unless separatists and locals over
there, leave the "secessionist attitude". Agree that the government has a major role
to play in formulating favorable policies but the role of civil society of kashmir can't
be ignored. Sane people have to raise their voice against the ones who have taken
the violent path and attack the Indian forces.

from:  Siddharth Pandit
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 10:50 IST

As always Dr. Manmohan singh remained a mute spectator. Instead of being active to redress the problem he has preferred remaining inactive. There is no denying the fact that kashmiris are having a feeling of distrust and hence they are getting alienated from whole of the India . It is a matter of concern because if conditions remain similar then there are all possibilities of a revolt like situation in near future. UPA just like other political group is becoming a "VOTE MAXIMISER" and thus only working for their self interest. This may lead to scratch becoming a wound. Proper policies should be framed regarding this issue so that people of kashmir along with rest of India generate a "WE FEELING" then only our dream of getting an integrated one nation India could be fullfillled.

from:  Shubham Mishra
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 07:04 IST

India need to be more open and target inclusiveness in the state of J&K. A state which is part of the union cannot have a separate armed forces policy for ever. The thinking of maintaining status quo is pretty dangerous when it comes to the states like J&K. We need a stronger political class and a strong willingness among the political class to resolve the valley issue amicably.

from:  Muthu
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 05:45 IST

Regarding the accession of J&K with India- a unique issue- a powerful country wanted to question this by referring it to the International Court of Justice, but realized that the court may agree with India and it would be embarrassing for that country.
It must be known by this time that all terrorists in 9/11 in New York or 5/6 in London were very educated and were holding good jobs; local militants killed in encounters this year were well educated, with degrees or diplomas in engineering, physics or Islamic Studies does not mean anything, but they might be paid by ISI. The insurgency and mayhem are sponsored by neighboring country after 1989 ;which is not even mentioned.
The separatists want Pakistan's involvement in the Kashmir talk to internationalize the issue- an Achilles' heel for India . Delhi needs to have a policy for Kashmir to declare unambiguously that Kashmir is an internal policy of India.

from:  nirode mohanty
Posted on: Jul 20, 2013 at 05:24 IST
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