Indian Diaspora & Modi’s Policy on Jammu/Kashmir Conflict
Seminar on Jammu & Kashmir: Dr. Vishnu Bisram delivered the keynote address and Prof. Ram Shankar Chaired the seminar on the Jammu/Kashmir conflict on February 22hosted by the Department of Political Science, (Jabalpur University) Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya. The Seminar was organized under the aegis of the university’s Jammu Kashmir Study Centre. The Center has been organizing such seminars on Kashmir over the last several years; the university itself has been organizing seminars on the Indian diaspora. There are several popular myths and misconceptions regarding the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir and these were clarified by the eminent presenters. A view of the diaspora on the conflict was presented by Dr. Bisram. The Center wishes to thank those who assisted with organizing the seminar and or have remarks including Dr. Poornima Sharma, Dr. Harish Yadav, Dr. Taruna Rathore, Dr. Pravesh Panday, Kashmiri scholar Dr Parvaiz Querishi, Mr. Ashish Yadav, and other university professors.
Purpose: The purpose of these discourses is to revisit the problem and dispel the legal, political and strategic myths that are floating around in the media, common people and amongst the international community. Dr. Bisram and Prof Ram Shankar as well as several other presenters spoke on various aspects of the Kasmir situation. Dr. Bisram and Prof Ram Shankar described and discussed the Indian Diaspora’s position on the Kashmiri issue as well. Among other learned speakers Brigadier Vipin Kumar Trivedi who has had extensive field experience in the troubled regions of Jammu & Kashmir dealt with the military aspects of the situation. Senior advocate and former Additional Advocate general of Madhya Pradesh High Court elaborated upon the legal nuances of article 370 and 35A. The ensuing discussions touched upon the diaspora’s view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy on Kashmir and how the PM has been addressing the Pakistani aggression and proxy war. This write up is a summary of the proceedings especially from the Indian diaspora perspective.
Introduction to Seminar: The Jammu & Kashmir seminar was organized on Feb 22, 2018 due to it being the 24th anniversary of a resolution passed (in 1994) unanimously by both Houses of India’s Parliament declaring the whole state of Kashmir and Jammu to be an integral part of India. The resolution called for a cessation of hostilities from Pakistan on and in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Center and the Political Science Department decided to commemorate the day with this seminar to remind the World that Pakistan continues to defy the resolution and foment disturbances in J&K. Pakistan continues to have clashes with India over the territory as well as in other areas. Pakistan is engaged in a proxy war with India. Pakistan is accused of adopting terrorism as an active instrument of its foreign policy.
Prof Ram Shankar dilated upon the historical antecedents of the conflict delineating extensively upon the UN resolution, Instrument of Accession to India signed by Raja Hari Singh the legal heir to the Princely state of J&K. Dr. Bisram discussed the position of the Indian diaspora on the conflict. He noted that although the Indian government has not sought diaspora view or assistance in resolving the conflict, the diaspora is very supportive of the Indian position on the territory.
Background: The Jammu/Kashmir conflict involves territorial dispute between India and Pakistan at the time of partition of British India in 1947. The princely state of Jammu & Kashmir had duly and irrevocably acceded to India on October 24 1947, but Pakistan has since but more crudely after 1971 defeat and dismemberment has been pursuing a proxy war and eyeing Kashmir. The two countries have fought three wars over Kashmir in 1947, 1965 and 1999 (the latter known as the Kargil war was fought in the most difficult mountainous terrain in the highest mountains of the World the Himalayas). The two countries have also been involved in intermittent skirmishes over control of the Siachen glacier. There is ongoing trouble in Kashmir valley which is mostly localized in 5 districts which geographically constitute a small portion of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Kashmir as such is just 15% whereas the rest is constituted by Jammu and Laddakh regions of the state. The real problem is the meddling by Pakistan which has tried to internationalize the issue. India resists outside interference. A solution will help both sides so that their scarce resources can be redirected towards development rather than on war efforts.
The locus of the problem lies in its historical antecedents. Jammu & Kashmir was a princely state during British colonial control/occupation of India. After India obtained independence in August 1947, facing a threat from Pakistan, after British India was divided, Jammu and Kashmir ruler, Raja Hari Singh, opted that his state should become a part of secular India rather than Islamic Pakistan. In response, Pakistan sent in troops to take over the territory and tried to camouflage it aggression as that by non-state actors such as the tribals of the region. India intervened to protect the Kashmiris from the Pakistani troops. Indian troops defended the territory rolling back the Pakistani aggressors. With Pakistan on the cusp of defeat and India in a position to push back all of Pakistani troops from occupied Kashmir, India, under Prime Minister Nehru, unwisely accepted an international brokered peace offer that left a part of Kashmir under Pakistan control. And the state has remained divided since 1948. It could never be understood why Nehru accepted a peace offer to leave the territory divided when Indian troops were in a position to liberate the entire territory and make the whole of J&K a permanent part of India or allow the Kashmiris to decide their own fate. Ever since the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India, it has been governed democratically in contrast with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
Leaving aside a portion of Kashmir that China has occupied since 1962 in the Sino-Indian war that was started by China, India controls slightly over half the territory from the Hari Singh accession and Pakistan the rest. Pakistan calls the part under its control “Azad (meaning free) Kashmir”. But it is a misnomer. The Pakistani controlled territory is anything but free. It is a de facto dictatorship. People are yearning for freedom and minorities are persecuted to the point that they want to break away and join India. Also, Pakistan is funding an underground proxy war in Indian controlled Kashmir engaging in terror activities; it has been encouraging insurgency by funding radicals to wreak havoc in J&K. Pakistan encourages pan Islamic-nationalism within the Valley urging secessionism. Until the new political dispensation took over India’s response to military misadventures by Pakistan was subdued and puerile but since Modi took over Indian response has been firm and proactive. Now in response, India carries out surgical strikes into Pakistan controlled Kashmir to eliminate the militants and to repel the troops. All this has made the costs for Pakistan prohibitive. With borders sealed and local militants being eliminated terror activities have mostly been localized to the 5 districts paving the way for ultimate eradication of militancy from the state.
Diaspora Position: Kashmir is an ethnically divided territory. People have migrated from it for decades even long before the division of British India. Kashmiris are scattered even within India as well as in North America, Europe and elsewhere. The diaspora has divided territorial loyalties with some supporting the Indian position on the conflict, some backing Pakistan and others neutral. The clashes have brought the Indian diaspora, to separate it from what is termed the Pak occupied Kashmiri (POK) diaspora, together on the issue. The Indian diaspora is fully supportive of India’s position on the issue. It is noted that India has not sought the diaspora’s assistance on the issue because it does not wish to seek outside involvement in the conflict. The Indian government’s position is that Kashmir is indisputably a part of India, and it will not tolerate any outside intervention in the conflict. The Indian diaspora’s position coincides with India’s namely that Jammu & Kashmir is and must always be an integral part of India.
In reviewing and analyzing the Indian diaspora’s position on the issue, it is clear that the Indian diaspora is very alarmed at the terrorist activities and militancy in J&K. The diaspora feel Pakistan is behind the terror activities funding and abetting it. The media has also reported that elements of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) living in different countries actively support violent conflict in democratic Kashmir that is part of India. Some elements in the POK diaspora finance the ethnic conflict in Indian Kashmir as well as promote extremist ideology. They promote and encourage radicalism and take uncompromising political positions – such as independence for Kashmir or for it to become a part of Pakistan. Both positions are unrealistic. The Indian diaspora, on the other hand, feels Kashmir must remain part of India and that Pakistan should free POK to allow the people to determine their fate. There are several pro-India groups operating within Kashmir that also take this diaspora position. These groups take a pro-Indian position in spite of the violence in the valley that is funded by Pakistan supported groups.
The violence in Kashmir is not sudden and new. Dr Parvaiz Querishi spoke on the violence and terror in the valley. Violence and terror have been a part of life over the last couple decades. But lately, the conflict has intensified. Under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh administration (2004-14), and even before that, there was a violent conflict in the territory. The media reported that the violence was created and encouraged by Pakistan and other outside forces whose interest is to create instability within India. Indian troops cracked down militants moving the valley towards normalcy. When Narendra Modi-ji was elected as Prime Minister, he reached out to Pakistan and the militant (radical) groups in order to create an atmosphere of peace and stability in the valley so that people can return to full normal life. Modi-ji reached out to the radicals to bury the hatchet. He also made every effort to improve the relationship between India and Pakistan by twice meeting the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He invited the Pakistani PM to visit Delhi when he was sworn in, and he also visited Islamabad to restore normal relations with Pakistan. For a while, calm pervaded the Valley during the early days of the change in administration in 2014. But Pakistan and the militants have shown they are not interested in peace for the people of Kashmir to experience an improved quality of life. Pakistan has not responded in kind to India’s peace offers. Of late, the relationship with Pakistan has deteriorated. Pakistan has been shelling across the border killing or maiming citizens and supporting increasing unrest in Indian Jammu & Kashmir. The firm handed approach to militancy in the state has started producing dividends. The Modi government has choked the financial pipeline to the militants in the state. Hurriyat leaders (the radical group) also stand discredited today with their Hawala links to terrorism exposed by the National Intelligence agency-NIA. The day is not far when, due to the cost bar being raised for Pakistan for military misadventures in J&K, choking of funds to the militants in the state, elimination of local terror outfits and International pressure on Pakistan from the US and other EU, militancy in the state is going to fade away as happened with Punjab.
*Dr. Bisram is Director, Center of Indian Diaspora Studies, USA; Prof Ram Shankar is Chair Department of Political Science and Director of Jammu & Kashmir Study Center.