The short answer to the above question is, both!
Recent bout started with Uri, the Indian border post at the Kashmir front. 18 Indian soldiers were killed by across-the-border assailants. India blames Pakistan and Pakistan denies and says it is the work of the disaffected Kashmiri insurgents. In the ensuing row India is winning diplomatically, Pakistan is rambling madly and in between the losers are the repressed Kashmiris.
India, the largest democracy in the world, cannot deny the fact that over the years prolonged suppression and mistreatment of Kashmiris (the people of Kashmir valley) who are predominantly Muslims, have transformed these peace-loving protesting people.
In recent days violence in Kashmir has intensified to an unimaginable level and sadly, instead of doing something constructive, Indians are diverting attention of the international community to Baluchistan province of Pakistan where the ethnic Baluchis have been the victims of similar systematic persecution by the Pakistan state since 1947.
Indeed, like the Baluchis in Pakistan betrayal of the Kashmiris by the Indians also commenced right at the time of India-Pakistan partition in 1947 when Sheikh Abdullah, the then leader of Kashmir decided to join neither Pakistan nor India but wanted a separate independent state for the Kashmiris.At the time he famously said, “I have a religion in common with Jinnah, but a dream in common with Nehru”. Abdullah went with India and trusted Nehru to deliver his dream. Nehru responded by arresting the Sheikh.
This was the beginning that over the years has spiralled into a continuum of protest-violent reprisal-more protest- more repression- more violence that has since turned a tranquil Kashmir into a bloodied Kashmir.
In recent times, BJP’s ascendency to power and its Hindutva policy that is increasingly turning India into an ultra-right sectarian state is not exactly helping the cause of the Kashmiris. Its scripting of Kashmir’s freedom aspirations as a Hindu/Muslim issue is increasingly turning Kashmir into a veritable battleground of extremities of all shades – insurgents, Muslim fundamentalists, Hindu chauvinists, the military, the indomitable cross-border trouble mongers etc. etc.
Kashmir’s problem is also lack of genuine democracy and representation in the state. Even though India prides itself as the largest democracy in the world and this in large part is true where its citizens do enjoy reasonable measure of in political process, not in Kashmir. Kashmiris are governed through a form of military-political governing framework that many Kashmiris view as ‘Demon-Crazy’, democracy without freedom. An Indian human rights activist explains the situation poignantly, “For all these years the state has done everything it can to subvert, suppress, represent, misrepresent, discredit, interpret, intimidate, purchase—and simply snuff out the voice of the Kashmiri people” so much so that the “…military occupation of Kashmir [by the Indian State] makes monsters of us all.”
Ironically, in many ways India’s xenophobic sectarian politics and its apathy to its own people, the Kashmiris are increasing making it look more like Pakistan these days. This is unfortunate.
Indeed, the cycle of violence that goes on relentlessly in Kashmir is giving India’s arch enemy Pakistan the perfect backdrop to fish in the muddy water and deepen the crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response to the crisis is also quite baffling. Instead of addressing the issue rationally and sensitively Modi is attempting to shift the battleground somewhere else, in Baluchistan province of Pakistan where he is focusing, not too incorrectly though irrelevantly, on Pakistan’s human rights abuses in the province and this has opened a Pandora’s Box thatnot unexpectedly is encouraging the separatist Baluchis to drag India to “do a Bangladesh” in Baluchistan. This is not only overly ambitious but also utterly delusional, for India knows that if it pushes the agenda too far it would fall on its own sword.
To start with separatist Baluchis in Baluchistan are a minority, whereas Bangladeshis were not and also that Baluchistan province does not border with India (a military advantage that made Indian intervention in Bangladesh – former East Pakistan – easy). On the contrary, Baluchistan borders with Punjab and North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the locations of its major military cantonments and its other border is with Iran who are not known for their affection for Baluchis. Furthermore, in recent years China has made significant investments in Baluchistan that are of strategic importance to them and therefore, any attempt to separate the province from Pakistan is bound to nudge the dragon to what end no one knows. Pakistan will also not sit idly, it will respond with more espionage in Kashmir and also in mainland India.
If anything the current crisis is hardly a cause for joy for either party. Both India and Pakistan should know by now that folly of one becomes asset of the other and vice versa and therefore it is in their best interest that neither perpetuates known mistakes. Instead both the countries must talk to each other, while Pakistan must abandon espionage and terrorism as its on-hire armoury to overcome its internal strife and India must also acknowledge that its new found role as imperialist’s deputy sheriff in the region that has given it few ounces of borrowed muscles has not actually made it as big as it likes to think. Instead it has only made India arrogant that in the long run may prove its undoing.
In summary, neither India nor Pakistan has much to gain from mutual bullying/bombing/blaming exercise, something that seems to characterize their bilateral relations at the present time. Instead both parties should devote their energies to fix mistakes that they are committing within and across their borders.
Both must know by now that there is not much joy in throwing stones at each other when the houses they live in are made of glass!
Professor M Adil Khan, School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland