Beyond UNGA

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For the past few days, after India first accepted and very next day rejected Pakistan’s offer of talks between the Foreign ministers of two countries at the sidelines of UN General Assembly, once again brazen and brash jingoism is on full public display within the government circles at New Delhi, and in Islamabad too. What is really unfortunate is that war-mongering is openly peddled to create a hysteria of sorts which in reality is dangerous for the entire subcontinent. Even when one cannot deny that in the aftermath of the latest diplomatic row between two countries, both have reasons to show and express some indignation, but then there has to be some difference in what could be discussed and debated inside the offices of the pro-right political groups and what is shared with the public on the mainstream television networks.

Regrettably, the political functionaries of both governments have yet again been so carried away by their respective self-interests that they are simply being indifferent to and ignorant of the larger interests of their countries. Just for the sake of showing off their loyalties, they are pushing both countries towards a sure-loser and deadly confrontation – loser because modern-day warfare does not throw up any winners.

Notwithstanding the recent happenings here, it must be understood that New Delhi’s troubles in Kashmir are not essentially and exclusively about Pakistan’s machinations alone. So people of Kashmir must be spared this unnecessary burden of being seen only as an “enemy’s extension”. And should it happen, it will make life easy both for New Delhi as well as the people of Kashmir, who have otherwise only looked at and suspected each other as the ‘political other’.

Coming to the ongoing diplomatic showdown between India and Pakistan which is likely to climax at the forthcoming UN General Assembly session, while nobody can dispute their rights to slug it out against each-other at the global forums, some clear-hearted introspection if reserved for Kashmir would make it clear that the kind of investments sought of the Kashmiri people here for either sides’ politics are too disproportionate a cost and not really worth “returns”. For years, both countries have pedaled their negative nationalisms at the cost of Kashmir and its people, and yet both have clearly and repeatedly failed the people here and the ones in their respective mainlands as well.

Insecurity, poverty, ambition are stated to be three roots of destructive nationalism. Since all three of these conditions are endemic in both countries, the ambitious political executive has taken recourse to appropriation of a myth of God “being on our side” and is actively pursuing this mythology over the heads of poverty-stricken ignorant masses and pushing them towards certain insecurity of life, and bread and butter. Nationalism centered around religion as the only marker of identity is a convenient wrapper both countries are using to shield their inherent incapacities and deficiencies – of governance, of poverty alleviation, and everything pledged by a welfare state.

Caught up in the midst of two mill-stones, Kashmir and its people too have all along bore the brunt of this constant India-Pakistan rubbing and friction, and yet their own willful ignorance runs so deep that they too have been blinded by negativity to the extent of taking to “a new idolatry of blood and soil”, which according to the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, springs from an incapacity to recover from the loss of “our pre-modern” social structures.

When nationalism becomes a culture of belonging, rather than a civilization of culture, the democratic and humanist ideas of civilization, society and community – all dependent on our ability to imagine the ‘other’ – those who are not part of ‘our’ ethnic or religious in-group – are pushed to the margins, and demonized. This is what is happening in India and in Pakistan and, courtesy of their politics Kashmir too is no longer different.

In such a situation, no matter how India and Pakistan fare at UNGA or elsewhere, who wins diplomatic games and who loses, fact of the matter remains that they both stand losers today, and as long as they are not able to resolve dispute over Kashmir – a place both have wronged constantly and consistently. Wisdom lies in admitting the errors, for then only one could go about fixing the problems. Unfortunately the Indian and Pakistani ethos vis-à-vis Kashmir seems wedded to the suicidal idea that problem is not to be solved.


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