Opinion | Another draft of history as a renewed push for lasting peace4 min read . Updated: 07 Aug 2019, 11:21 PM IST
India has not only cut to the chase on J&K, but challenged over 70 years of ignominy heaped upon it globally by Pakistan
You don’t have to be a cheerleader for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to understand the full import of its move on 5 August to revoke Article 370 and turn Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union territories (UTs). You only have to be an Indian to appreciate this measure to unite all of India as one, pulling the rug from under the feet of Kashmiri leaders, who have played hide-and-seek as patriots and wronged J&K’s people for decades. New Delhi has rewritten history and one feature is notable: The religious aspect that is brought to bear internationally on the issue will no longer be part of India’s foreign policy math. Let that sink in.
In today’s geopolitical waters, erasing that column matters. Foreign policy highs are episodic and unpredictable, but their planning and success cannot be dominated by religion in secular India. No longer will conversations at the high table look at India and Pakistan through a religious prism because India has so willed it without violating any international law. In complete control over Kashmir, it can secure its borders freely. No longer will India have to bend backwards to make a hundredth speech about its innocence in the face of cross-border terrorism.
For as long as the country has been a democracy, the J&K situation has hung around India’s neck like an albatross, first as a historical-political reality for a young nation in the 1950s, and later as a nightmare in a growing democracy. Pakistan is created on the basis of a religion, Islam, and that identity is its raison d’être. The country’s aggression began even as the two countries were being divided, resulting in the infamous Line of Control (LoC), which Pakistan has used as a baseline for launching terror across the border, while playing the victim internationally.
India and Pakistan have fought several wars and the international narrative never fails to remind itself of the threat of two embattled nuclear-armed states, implying that both are irresponsible, when it actually means that Pakistan cannot be trusted. Besides the neighbour’s machinations, the driving out of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits 20 years ago has vitiated J&K’s atmosphere. Article 370 was turned into the proverbial fig leaf that allowed two political dynasties to turn the Muslim-majority state into a personal fiefdom. From their perch, they blocked economic progress and social development and also cast doubt on New Delhi’s intentions.
In today’s scenario, nations no longer negotiate in groups (Group of 77, Group of 20 etc.). Bilateral deals are primed over multilateral successes, leaving countries to fend for themselves. One of the more vocal groupings is the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), where Pakistan has used its perpetual victimhood to make some inroads. The OIC may groan and the United Nations (UN) may grumble at this week’s developments, but they—especially the latter—matter little as their resolutions are non-binding. India’s potential emergence as one of the world’s largest markets is of greater interest to many countries, particularly in the West.
India-bashing platforms are at their worst in UN human rights meetings and negotiations where “Hindu India" is portrayed as the villain and “Muslim Pakistan" the sufferer, despite the wide acceptance that cross-border terrorism is funded and foisted on India by Islamabad. Historical blunders have historical narratives. In recent years, Western nations ignored the Pakistani establishment’s “useful" links with the Taliban in Afghanistan in the hope that it could serve some purpose. Then terrorism came home to the US and Europe, and the penny began dropping in India’s favour.
Historical blunders outlive their utility either because the leadership that set them up has died or ground realities have changed. In J&K, local leadership has meant political decay, and economic and social turbulence. Troops have now been amassed in J&K because, beyond the safety of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims, New Delhi is keeping a keen watch on events in Afghanistan to see what follows after US President Donald Trump takes his troops home, leaving behind an armed-to-their-teeth Taliban, and Pakistan hovering in the background. Peace in Kashmir and a face-saver in Afghanistan may be Trump’s next shot at the Nobel Peace Prize; India, however, is not impressed.
History can be rewritten if there’s a will for peace. The fall of the Berlin Wall is a spectacular example of this. Peace is not about paragraphs on paper, but concrete action on the ground that includes economic initiatives. Prosperity, not religion, is the glue that binds the European Union, a lesson for the rest of the world.
Religion makes tough geopolitical negotiations worse for secular countries. New Delhi has paid a heavy price for Pakistani propaganda over India’s “Hindu territorial intentions". Negotiations, talks and treaties suggest momentum, but rarely do they solve real problems. Sometimes, it is imperative to cut to the chase.
That’s what happened in New Delhi this week. India has not only cut to the chase, but also challenged over 70 years of ignominy heaped upon it globally by Pakistan. In one stroke, it snipped the cord that feeds Islamabad’s anti-India tirade. With India now a fully integrated country, Islamabad will have to find something other than religion to remain relevant on the world stage. For a country founded on faith, that’s a tall order.
The Narendra Modi government has pulled off a masterstroke. Every Indian now has to make sure that it works.
Chitra Subramaniam is an award-winning journalist and author