‘Insaniyat’ template wasted!
It has become a sort of cliché to hear India saying that it could do business with Pakistan only after it stops supporting separatism in Kashmir. After harping on this line for years together, today we have seen India making it a pretext for shying away from any meaningful engagement with Pakistan – the calling off of Foreign Minister-level talks recently is just one such example.
Like India, Pakistan establishment, irrespective of who is in the ruling chair, has certain compulsions which it cannot easily do away with. Kashmir, as everybody knows, has been there as a “core issue” which has plagued not only its relationship with India but has also, in so many ways, dominated the country’s foreign and defence policies as well. So expecting it to call it a day with Kashmir is outright unrealistic. It is not going to happen, certainly not yet when its overall relationship with India is yet to graduate to a level where it could be expected to barter away Kashmir for some other larger benefit. For that matter no one can say it for sure that Pakistan will rethink its Kashmir policy even for any larger economic or other stakes. So the political realism demands that India will have to engage with Pakistan as it is without actually waiting for it to be and behave it in a manner of India’s choosing and liking.
Indeed Pakistan too, like India, has to take care of so many things domestically — and Kashmir certainly has a big influence on the country’s domestic politics. Now take for instance the BJP-led NDA government of Narendra Modi in India. Can it deal with Pakistan vis-à-vis Kashmir without taking into consideration its own domestic pressures and constraints, particularly when general elections in the country are round the corner? So fact of the matter is – no doubt what Delhi says, it will have to talk with Pakistan on Kashmir as also on other issues without putting any sort of pre-conditions for the same. This is how the states do business – as equals, wherein both parties have a sense of achievement and neither thinks of the other as a hegemon using coercion of any sort to thrust a bargain of its choice down other’s throats.
The biggest problem with the politics in India is that various national political outfits often confuse their party’s political interests with the interests of the country. What may be politically convenient for the BJP or Congress at any given point in time may not necessarily be in the interest of India, and vice versa. The biggest fallout of this kind of selfish and partisan politicking is that the country’s policies lack a continuum effect. They get changed each time there is change of guard in the country as well as any major or minor change in various political permutations and combinations in ruling dispensations, or in each individual ministry.
Kashmir has for long suffered because of this shortcoming. Even today, the current impasse here is direct fallout of the Central government being too engrossed with its own domestic politics, and too unsure about its strategy of dealing with Pakistan. On one plane it claims, and rightly so, that it cannot change its neighbours and as such there is no substitute to talking with Pakistan, but on the other plane it keeps on searching for excuses to shy away from talks. In such a situation those expecting any big initiative on Kashmir coming from the BJP government at the Centre are certainly living in a fool’s paradise. By inference, it must also be noted that those political outfits, including BJP, which are trying to woo people towards them by talking tough on Pakistan, are actually indulging in brazen deceit. BJP-led government at the Centre is in no position to think or talk big on Kashmir, leave aside it doing anything worthwhile on this front, primarily because it has recently made a big departure from a template its own patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee had set during his tenure as the Prime Minister. And this is really unfortunate because Modi government could have easily picked up threads from where Vajpayee had left them – talking Kashmir within the ambit of ‘Insaniyat’.