No, You Can’t
By Nawaz Gul Qanungo
18 November, 2010
It is true that the question of Kashmir cannot be answered fully without bringing Pakistan on board. It is also understandable that the US can, if it ever so desires, push for such an engagement. However, what is more important is to recognize that it is the Indian state which is responsible for such a thing not happening. India will not bow under what the United States says or believes. To bring change, Kashmir must look back within, not without
There are statements and there are “statements”. And the latter is the most bizarrely overrated commodity in the sick, all-pervading media of today. It has, indeed, been so since long. And it is also a trait that the media share with politics. Paper mills thrive up on selling the newsprint used to publish such “statements”. Politicians use them for easy-breathing difficult moments away.
Reams of paper and cans of ink have been used during the last few months in repeating just one statement: That of the first prime minister of India which he made inside the Indian parliament right after Kashmir’s partition/annexation by India and Pakistan some 63 years ago. Kashmiris will decide Kashmir’s future is what he had in effect “stated”. Reams and cans are used just to emphasise the fact that he didn’t “mean” it.
Similarly, significant statements have come from successive Indian prime ministers and other leaders spoken as and when it suited them or simply under compulsion. So: “Anything less than azadi.” “The sky is the limit.” “We shall do anything within the framework of humanity.”
Quite obviously, in terms of its significance, the more recent statement of the Indian home minister admitting the “unique” nature of the state of J&K and the “unique” solution it would require would fall far below the rest of many statements. Not very long before, his prime minister while standing on a train-inauguration dais just outside Srinagar even declared in his “statement” that there would be no toleration towards any human rights abuse in Kashmir. What he actually “meant” should be visible even to the blind: He didn’t mean anything at all.
Barack – Hussein, before I forget to mention the celebrated Muslim connection – Obama during the run up to the US presidential elections he eventually won had stated that the resolution of Kashmir was essential both for peace in South Asia and indirectly (or directly?) for a relatively safe exit of the US from Afghanistan. It was a statement that he in all probability meant. It was a statement of actionable nature: deployment of a US envoy committed to a Kashmir resolution. Harder realities weighed him down not long afterwards. India’s holy cow was much annoyed, too.
Now, some two years later, Obama has even been snubbed by his own electorate. In the US mid-term polls, his Democratic Party lost majority in the US House of Representatives. Understandably, in his last Cabinet meeting before he left for his first India visit, and right after the mid-term election results, he stated (and meant, too): “I’m going to be leaving tomorrow for India, and the primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia and some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States of America.” (Emphasis added.) It was the only actionable statement that was meant for the trip, ever. The rest was incombustible gas. Try igniting.
The media have their businesses to run. No one expects them to be any different, however much one would desire. What is disappointing is the “seriousness” of the so called political leadership of Kashmir with which it anticipated what Obama told India vis-à-vis Kashmir, where the stakes in what he uttered were raised so high as if his utterance were something of an actionable nature. Suddenly, there was nothing to do in the world but to wait for Obama and expect alms with both hands stretched open. For heaven’s sake, statesmen state many a “statement”! Why get so serious and pull poor Obama’s memorized speeches apart to shreds? If anything, it displays the political ineptitude of Kashmir’s pro-independence political establishment. It also underestimates the fossilized nature of India’s nothing-doing Kashmir policy.
It is true that the question of Kashmir cannot be answered without bringing Pakistan on board. It is also understandable that the US can, if it ever so desires, push for such an engagement. However, what is more important is to recognize that it is the Indian state which is responsible for such a thing not happening. (And, over the last more than six decades at that.) India, with its increasing economic might and clout, will not bow under what the United States says or believes. Not for a very long time to come.
If there’s anything that can force the Indian state to radically change its Kashmir policy on the ground in favour of Kashmiris, it is the people of Kashmir. (If only we could save our own lives.) If the Hurriyat wants in any way possible to catalyse this process, it must look back within, not without.
PS: Wonder what happened after a famous, historic speech at Egypt’s al-Azhar? The famous assalaamu alaykum? “I am honoured to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over 1,000 years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.”
Let’s say waalaykum assalaam, and do something more useful.
The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. Follow him at www.drqanungo.blogspot.com