Let us talk to the silent majority of the Kashmir Valley who would still be receptive to the idea of India, and until then, talks of ‘dialogue with Pakistan’ ought to be dismissed summarily.
The history of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry can be traced back to the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir in the winter of 1947. In the face of a determined onslaught by the ostensibly ‘tribal’ invaders, the people of the Kashmir Valley organised themselves into militias in order to mount what was ultimately to be an eminently successful resistance. The birth of these militias was midwifed by cadres of the National Conference, including but not limited to the redoubtable Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, who later went on to serve as the prime minister of Kashmir after Sheikh Abdullah was deposed following the Kashmir conspiracy case of 1953.
The said militias were initially deployed as a paramilitary force on the Line of Control or LoC (then known as the Ceasefire Line) before they were promoted to the status of a full regiment of the Indian Army in 1976. Like most other regiments of the Indian Army, it draws its rank and file from fixed ethnicities. Almost 50 per cent of its personnel are recruited from amongst the Muslim populace of the Kashmir Valley, while the rest are drawn from the other ethnic groups of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Sujuwan Army camp, which came under attack by the Pakistan-based terror outfit-the Jaish-e-Mohammed, on 10 February 2018, was being occupied by personnel of the regiment and their families at the relevant time. The details of the attack and whether it could be prevented with better preparation and intelligence gathering, need not concern us at the moment and an analysis of the same is best left to defence experts. Having said that, the attack is merely a link in the larger chain of events whereby ethnic Kashmiri Muslims who have chosen to serve their country thereby refusing to act as foot-soldiers for Pakistan’s jihad project, have been targeted. The lynchings of Lt Umer Fayyaz (March 2017) and Ayub Pandith (July 2017) and are still relatively fresh in public memory.
The worrying part here though is not that these attacks are taking place. The same are to be expected for the simple reason that since Narendra Modi’s ascent to power in 2014 and Ram Madhav’s appointment as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary in charge of Kashmir and North East affairs, a concerted policy of elimination of high profile militant targets like Burhan Wani has been adopted and effectuated with more than a fair measure of success. As a matter of fact, what should concern us is that no less a personage than the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is making noises about how . A visitor from Mars who has but a passing acquaintance with the Indian Constitution and the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Instrument of Accession would be tempted to ask as to what the ‘talks’ are going to achieve and whether after 70 years of talks, India and Pakistan have ever come close to agreeing upon a working solution to the problem, even in theory, leaving aside the question of implementation.
The answer to this question is likely to differ depending upon who it is put to. The average ‘nationalist’ who is likely to be labelled as ‘communal’ would tell you that there is absolutely no point in talking peace with Pakistan given their perfidious record. The garden variety bleeding heart would tell you that the Kashmiris should be given aazaadi. As a matter of fact, a prominent columnist and editor went so far as to advocate inter alia because India need not concern itself with a region which was not even half as populous as the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
Ostensibly, enlightened travellers on the strategic and Track II circuit from both India and Pakistan would tell you that the solution lies in the ‘Four Point Formula’ that was agreed upon between then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and the Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf before the latter was deposed in December 2007. Both, the former Indian premier and the Pakistani military dictator later went on record to state that the formula had been agreed upon in principle at the highest level and it was only the modalities that were left to be worked out before the Lawyers’ Agitation in the winter of 2007 unseated Musharraf. Sanjaya Baru-the former editor of the Financial Express who served as the media advisor to Dr Manmohan Singh during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) I years, has also attested to the veracity of the assertion in his book The Accidental Prime Minister. He has also gone on record to say that if ever the Kashmir dispute is to be resolved, the template has to be the aforementioned formula. Similar claims have been made by Khurshid Ahmed Kasuri in 2015 in the run up to the launch of his memoirs titled Neither a Hawk or a Dove.
However, in the opinion of the author, the fact of the matter is that if the Four Point Formula, which is something that is bandied about as a concrete outcome of talks in the past, was actually ever acted upon, it would have been a recipe for disaster with respect to India. As for Pakistan, it would merely have been a first in a series of salami tactics that they would have then surely employed in order to sever Kashmir from India. As far as the brave sons and daughters of Jammu and Kashmir who are serving in the Indian security forces and have been targeted in a series of dastardly terrorist attacks of late are concerned, the same would have amounted to nothing less than a shameless sellout. The devil-so to speak-lies in the details!
The Four Point Formula is as follows:
- Demilitarisation or phased withdrawal of troops
2. There will be no change to the borders. However, people of Jammu & Kashmir will be allowed to move freely across the Line of Control.
3. Self-governance without independence
4. A joint supervision mechanism in Jammu and Kashmir involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir
In the subsequent paragraphs, we shall try and show as to how each and every one of these clauses is a recipe for unqualified disaster and from an Indian point of view, these points could have only been agreed upon by a dispensation that did not have the best interests of the country at heart.
1. Demilitarisation or phased withdrawal of troops: Although this sounds fine in principle, it does not take into account the possibility that in a situation where India scales down its military presence in the Valley, the local administration might be rendered sitting ducks in a situation where militants with the tacit and surreptitious backing of the Pakistani establishment foment trouble. The law enforcement machinery in such a case would be unable to take the action required to bring an expedient situation under control without the assistance of the military and the para military apparatus. Also, it would effectively imply that illegal arms and ammunition would be allowed to flow into Kashmir unabated.
2. Open borders: The second ‘point’ in this Four Point Formula is also as unsustainable and disastrous as the first ‘point’. If there is free movement of people and goods across the LoC then again it would be problematic for India. It is tough for us even now to prevent young Kashmiris from going across the border where they are brainwashed by radical Islamist propaganda. The formula itself does not enjoin any legally binding obligations upon Pakistan to ensure that the aforementioned propaganda is not disseminated in madrassas across the LoC. In this view of the matter, it is difficult to appreciate how this point would be in our interest.
3. Self-governance without independence: Like the other two points, this sounds quite enticing at first blush. However, it would decidedly fall afoul of the principles enshrined under the Basic Structure doctrine of the Indian Constitution. Also, unlike the other two points, the contours of this provision are quite nebulous. It could mean either a reversion to the 1951 position whereby apart from foreign affairs, defence and telecommunications, the writ of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly reigned supreme over even other matters specified under the Union and Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule. Equally, it could also mean a new normal which has been described by Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party as ‘self rule’. Having said all of this, the question that we need to somewhere ask is if it is prudent on our part to allow Islamists, like Akbar Lone (An MLA and a member of the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference) who recently stated on the floor of the assembly that he found the slogan of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ unpalatable, as he was a ‘Muslim’ first, to take charge of the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir, which in turn have ramifications that transcend the borders of the state itself. Does this not sound suspiciously like allowing the lunatics to take charge of the asylum? We also need to keep in mind that even mainstream politicians of the Kashmir Valley have in the past shown a propensity towards Islamism and thinly veiled majoritarian bigotry. Former governor Jagmohan has quite eloquently described a few of these instances where anti-Hindu bigotry was allowed a free run on the floor of the House in his account of his tenure as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir.
4. The Joint Supervision Mechanism again is constitutionally unsustainable for no other reason but the vastly divergent provisions in the respective constitutions of India and Pakistan. The Constitution of India envisages no such joint governance mechanism with any neighbouring country. It very clearly states that sovereign powers are vested in the people of India who have agreed to abide by the said Constitution. Various entries qua which the state and central government can respectively makes laws have been enumerated in the State List, Union List and the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule. There is absolutely no provision for the sharing of these sovereign powers to make laws and to implement the same with Pakistan. If this point were to be implemented, it would require an amendment to the Constitution. Now, the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution is not at all unbridled and is subject to the judicial discipline of being tested on the touchstone of the doctrine of Basic Structure. It is extremely unlikely, if not impossible for this last point to be implemented as well.
To conclude, it may be fairly stated that ‘talks’ to solve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan have miserably failed in the past. The crowning achievement of these 70 years of needless discussion with a rogue Islamist neighbour is a constitutionally untenable Four Point Formula that is but also something that has been rejected by the separatist lobby in the Valley.
To somehow assume that just because talks are taking place, there would be a cessation of violence sounds quite suspiciously like the doctrine of appeasement adopted by the much reviled Right Honourable Neville Chamberlain who was the prime minister of Great Britain around the time Hitler embarked upon his ascent to power. Furthermore, by initiating talks with the Pakistani Establishment, when they are trying to shore up their flagging popularity by hitting us through these terrorist attacks, we would be betraying the memories of the brave Kashmiri men and women, including but not limited to the martyrs of the Sujuwan attack, who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of the founding principles of our country enshrined in our Constitution.
The only manner in which they can be honoured is if we assiduously cultivate and expand the pro-India constituency by directly talking to our people in the Valley. Even if we must have local interlocutors, they need not necessarily be drawn from the ranks of the mainstream parties. There are many common people, verily the silent majority of the Kashmir Valley, especially in the smaller towns and villages who would still be receptive to the idea of India given that many of their compatriots continue to risk their lives for the same. Let us speak to them and until then, talks of ‘dialogue with Pakistan’ ought to be dismissed summarily.