TODAY, more than ever before, people are asking the million dollar question: Can India retain Kashmir?
And it is strange that the question is being asked during the prime ministership of Narinder Modi, the most astute head of government that we have had in a long, long time.
When Modi assumed office, he made a number of moves that seemed to augur well for a relationship with our neighbour that would provide a dominant role to India. He called a kind of SAARC summit to be held at the inauguration of his tenure, he pretended a friendly relationship with Nawaz Sharif, even going to the extent of attending a family function at his house when there was no invitation, formal or informal to the event.
He blew hot and cold with reference to the holding of talks at foreign secretary level, inclusion of the representatives of the separatist lobby, allowing the High Commissioner of Pakistan to host a party in honour of the visiting separatist leaders and so on.
He allowed considerable latitude to the alliance partner, even to the extent of not breaking the bond in the face of extreme provocation and letting the stone pelting and school burning mobs have their way. He gave away huge amounts of aid for public welfare to gain the goodwill of the people affected by floods and other calamities.
The overall impression he gave was that of an avuncular affection from an indulgent relative who wanted to earn approbation and goodwill from the disaffected Muslim population in the valley in order to create a power base for the BJP.
In this strategy he did not deviate much from that of his predecessors. Even the much-touted surgical strike was claimed to have been tried in the past by the Congress and National Conference regimes.
So where have we got to? Most observers feel that Modi has reached the end of his tether and will have to try out a totally different strategy if he wishes to retain Kashmir valley.
Some of the ideas that have been floating round are:
- He should mastermind a coalition of powers that are being hurt by the Pak menace, with a cohesive, coordinated, cogent response.
- He should take the Baluchistan offensive to its logical conclusion, leading finally to its breaking away like Bangladesh.
- The final solution would, of course, have to be demographic a la the Chinese treatment of Tibet.
- Many astute observers have stated in private that the threat to Kashmir constitutes a threat to the very existence of India. The RSS will have to play a major role in countering the Pak challenge to the concept of Akhanda Bharat.
- Some of the ideas would require legal amendments like abrogation of article 370 of the Constitution, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in secure agglomerations and even walled cities, creation of cantonment-assisted areas where retired army personnel can be allotted land and provided free housing.
- All this cannot happen without a tremendous input from Modi. It will need a massive initiative on the diplomatic front, somewhat reminiscent of Indira Gandhi’s diplomatic onslaught prior to her coup in Bangladesh. He will have to convince the great powers that Pakistan is a rogue state, it is the fountainhead of terrorism and drug trafficking and nothing short of its is memberment would be required if peace and amity has to prevail in the region.
- In this diplomatic offensive he will need the support of other neighbours like the SAARC powers, Iran and so on.
The entire narrative may appear to be an extremist vision not related to the ideals of the UN. It will be objected to on the ground that Pakistan’s friends like the Chinese, the Wahabis, the ISIS and others will not take such initiatives lightly and that this might trigger off a nuclear war, even the third world war.
As behoves a world leader like Modi he will naturally take all perspectives into consideration.
Not for a minute is the present writer in favour of all the steps conjured up in the above paper. He has merely inscribed the thoughts of a number of intelligent people who cannot stomach the daily fare of assassination, mutilation, mayhem and destruction that our wily neighbour serves up every morning for our consumption.
MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India