By K.N. Pandita
What would be the appropriate term to appraise Modi government’s latest Kashmir move? We are at a loss to explain. What one can say about the happenings on Pakistan National Day celebrations at Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi is that our country’s take has been farcical to say the least. It makes our previous stand look ridiculous and ill-conceived especially the decision taken in August last to call off foreign secretary meet for a reason that the government itself has torn into shreds.
What is the rationale behind asking the MOS for External Affairs to represent the Indian government at the Pakistan Day Celebration function on the invitation of the Pakistani High Commission on 23rd March? He is the former Army Chief and to be a Minister of State does not take away the military aura from his personality. Did any Pakistani former Army chief ever attend any party or reception thrown by the Indian mission in Islamabad? Therefore, there is nothing surprising if General V.K. Singh issued intriguing tweets, not one but five of them, soon after he returned from the function which he attended for less than 15 minutes. He may have something more on his mind because of his soldier’s pride and his family history. Remember he our defence establishment holds him in highest esteem. He is not made to rub shoulders with those against whose surrogates he has been fighting fierce battles in Kashmir.
It will take us time to understand what the perception at the highest administrative level was in deputing a very high profile personality as government representative to this commonplace function. Did Modi government want to send a signal to Islamabad that unlike Pakistan, he has full control over Indian army top echelons and planners and as such, Indian army has no role whatsoever in conducting negotiations with Pakistan? If this is the concept, Modi government is on the wrong side of the fence.
In addition, this happened when two Pakistani terrorist terrorists carried attacks in two consecutive days at Kathua and Samba in J&K in which the assailants gunned down half a dozen of Indians, security personnel and civilians. As this was happening, Indian Prime Minister was writing sweet letter to h is Pakistani counterpart offering him olive branch on Pakistan Day.
Ali Shah Gilani, the fiercest Pakistani campaigner in Kashmir when asked by the reporters what he thought the Indian government meant not to talk to Pakistan as long as there was terror in Kashmir, shamelessly answered that there was no terror in J&K; it was local terror. It simply means that if Pakistani jihads gun down Indian citizens for no reason and rhyme, it is no terror and the onus cannot be brought to the doorsteps of Pakistan. This explains how the Kashmiri secessionist leader Ali Gilani looks at the phenomenon of terror. Whenever the Indian security forces fire in self-defense, Gilani terms it state terror. In any other country, the law of the land would never play soft with such a malevolent element. However, if the Indian authorities want him to be the India basher to project in world forum that Kashmir separatist leader is motivated by hate India syndrome, well it is their cup of tea.
The presence of representatives of both factions of Hurriyat Conference on the occasion triggered a plethora of controversies in which Indian government became a laughing stock. Ali Shah Gilani, a known pro-Pakistani campaigner has always been on Pakistan’s radar because they do not really trust him ever since his calls for boycott of polling produced no results and ended up in smoke. Kashmiris came out in big numbers to cast their ballot and return PDP to a majority status.
The same is true about the Molvi Farooq faction who calls itself moderate faction but moderate in what sense is contentious. His close associates Abdul Ghani Bhat, Maulana Abbas Ansari, BilalGani Lone, Agha Sayyid Hussain, Musaddiq Adil and Mukhra Ahmad Waza accompanied Mirwaiz. Yasin Malik was also there. Repots are that they held talks with Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit at the embassy. How far does the Pakistani establishment trust them is a fascinating question. Jinah never trusted Sheikh Abdullah nor did Zia.
We do not know what they talked about; we may not know it ever because of the veil of secrecy that shrouds their meeting and the Indian intelligence sources have neither will nor sources to pierce the shroud.
A rational and dispassionate human being will pose to the Hurriyat stalwarts a simple question. Did they, in the course of their exchange with their beneficiary, raise the issue of sectarian and communal clashes in Pakistan? Do these clashes affect their political philosophy in any way? How are they going to sell this stock to their Kashmir constituency that in Pakistan Muslims are killing Muslims?
The more amusing is the presence of two Shia leaders in the Mirwaiz faction. Did they pick up courage and ask the Pakistani host how their community back in Kashmir looks at the treatment of Shias in Pakistan with utter scorn and contempt? What good do they expect from a regime in Islamabad that has proved incapable of controlling sectarian mayhem in that country?
However, the grapevine has it that the Hurriyat faction is no stranger to the Indian establishment and their pressure on elected government does not really obstruct their policy in Kashmir. After all the Hurriyat (M) has comfortably proved that, it would not disrupt the status quo, something that the Indians want to hold with their teeth.
Look at another clumsy part of India’s Kashmir policy. When asked about Hurriyat’s participation in the Pakistan Day function, Abdul Basit said that he did not think that India was against these interactions. Perhaps he cannot be defaulted because Congress leader Mani Shankar Iyer, who was among the invitees, stated that interaction continued during Vajpayee’s days and during Congress rule and he did no find that it had harmed either India or Pakistan. Indirectly he meant to say that as long as the meeting between the Hurriyatis and the High Commission did not disrupt status quo it should be allowed to go on. Incidentally, any other Prime Minister whose visit to Pakistan was immediately followed by Kargil war would not have stuck to his post as a matter of honour and responsibility. It was total failure on the part of Vajpayee and his intelligence establishment.
This precisely appears to be the policy of current government. The only intriguing questing remains that why then did Modi play volt-e-face in August last. He shall have to tell the nation.
All this messy development and point counter point proceeding points to one thing without doubt. There are external pressures on all stakeholders to shun the stereotypes and hammer out new strategies. Kashmir is a spoke in the wheel of countering international terrorism. This is the subtle thinking in US think tanks. This, however, is flawed thinking and will not lead the US, India or Pakistan anywhere. Kashmir is beyond the control of Islamabad. Today the provocative question is that Pakistan has not threat from outside but from inside only. If it survives that threat, it can negotiate on Kashmir. If not, and there are many chances that it does not, then we in India shall have to be prepared for the great disaster.