By Javeed Ahmad Mir
Concluding her speech at U.S.-India Business Council’s 34th Anniversary ‘Synergies Summit’ just before her India visit, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said, Sixty years ago this October, then-Prime Minister Nehru told a joint session of the United States Congress that, quote, Progress cannot go far or last long unless it has its foundations in moral principles and high ideals. The United States and India share an allegiance to what Nehru called the fundamental human rights to which all [those] who love liberty, equality and progress aspire.
She summed up her June 17, 2009 speech at U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC with an invite saying, So let us build on those timeless principles, and let us create a new era in our relationship that will produce so much progress for our people, so much more peace for the world, and live up to those high ideals that both of our nations and our peoples represent and aspire to. Her remarks were greeted with a resounding applause, said the US Government Website.
Secretary Clinton spoke briefly about some of the identified areas of engagement with India. Like international security challenges including Nuclear energy issues, Afghanistan, Terrorism, Human Development, Economic cooperation and Environment.
Hillary Clinton tried to ground her Version 3.0 of Indo-US relations, which spans from terrorism to trade, in the commonly stated worldview based on the democratic ideals of liberty, equality and progress.
Even though such a moral speak in a foreign relations speech with all its rhetorical flourishes does not burden the states with any political or legal obligation but it certainly tries to invest their external relations with a sense moral legitimacy.
That is why again in her comprehensive foreign policy address about India at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), she said, America will always be a world leader, as long as we remain true to our ideals and embrace strategies that match the times. We want to support and encourage democratic governments that protect the rights and deliver results for their people. And we intend to stand up for human rights everywhere. Liberty, democracy, justice, and opportunity underlie our priorities….
However, in practice, both the oldest and the largest democracies (as they claim to be) have so far failed to be somewhat closer save live up to the ideals that both claim and consider as their shared national virtues.
Iraq occupation has not only been the recent foreign policy disaster, in terms of prestige and soft power, for Americans but more than that it has left an indelible blot of infamy on the nation whose very raison-d’être rests on the principle of a decent respect to the opinions of mankind (United States Declaration of Independence).
And Kashmir stands muted as a battered and bruised testimony of the ever-widening gulf between the moral precepts championed by Gandhi, parroted by Nehru and the practical attitude of Indian state in dealing with the rights’ movement of Kashmir in the name of its national interest.
In an incisive review article Nehru and the cold wars, Abdul Gafoor Noorani, the only staunch revisionist in India vis-à-vis Indian policies in Jammu & Kashmir, wrote, Contrary to both hagiographers and detractors, Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy was governed by realpolitik that was based, sadly, on a narrow conception of national interest. He did not practice in relations with his neighbors what he preached to the big powers- settle disputes and ease tensions; for, good relations provide the only possible security. (Frontline, Feb-27, 2004)
At the height of cold-war, Muslims collaborated with United States and mighty Russia, the harbinger and protector of Communism was brought to heels and defeated in the rugged terrains of Afghanistan.
It was the land where the dangerous liaisons between an intense ideology and raw military-power facilitated and encouraged by the US herself began. Consequently more than a decade of dogged resistance against the godless USSR that ended in its disgraceful withdrawal took its heavy toll on the Muslim psyche in general. It radicalized the contemporary young generations and they began to fancy the restoration of justice and peace in the territories facing same situations. Interestingly, it was also after the cold-war that Hindutva as a political ideology began to gain ground in India which led to the coming of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power.
It proved to be an extreme point in the history of international relations when the balance-of-power collapsed and cold war ended. Indifferent to the fate of Afghanistan and the mess it had left behind US became the sole super power and Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history. However, Afghanistan continues to be at the heart of ideological cul-de-sac that has now translated into a real and brutal military duel between the US-NATO forces and the once moral equivalents of the founding fathers of America.
It was in this context, India entered into the Muslim consciousness through her unjust attitude towards the historical veracity of Kashmir’s struggle for right to self-determination besides unjust and oppressive treatment of Kashmiris.
The festering political sore in the guise of unresolved Kashmir further drew upon the newly radicalized generation of young Kashmiris besides other Muslims in South Asia. Thus, more-than-forty-years-old peaceful political struggle for right to self-determination acquired dangerous proportions close on the heels of Russia’s withdrawal from the lands of Afghanistan.
Retrospectively, that radically charged political context of South Asia merged with the deep-rooted suffering and strong sense of injustice and humiliation of Kashmiri people at the hands of Indian state. This also coincided with the failure of electoral means of realizing the justice when Muslim United Front (MUF), a conglomerate of moderate political forces, was made to taste the electoral defeat by India through the rigging of ballot in 1987. From the ashes of electoral political struggle rose the phoenix of armed rebellion.
This hurriedly romanticized idea of completely asymmetric combat supposed to compliment the political struggle brought unprecedented misery to the people of Kashmir in its wake.
How could a rag-tag armed rebellion withstand when it was met with the lethal and disproportionate military might of India? India made no discrimination in its extreme response between armed men and the civilian population.
An entire generation got consumed and was turned into dead statistics. With 70,000 people including women and children dead, 7000 disappeared, more than 50000 orphans and half-widows, lakhs of displaced, and thousands of tortured, maimed, prisoners etc. and unthinkable associated sufferings in search for their fundamental rights and justice, Kashmiris just manage to hover around news as getting killed in ones, twos and more at times.
However, the peaceful political struggle that had preceded the armed rebellion has successfully and more powerfully precede it. The last summer mass uprising across the state except few areas bears testimony to the transition that remains unique in the Muslim world. This needs to get acknowledged both in India and outside.
No Middle Ground
We were being misinformed by the ministry of Home Affairs which tells us about the problems of security forces; and the problems of people are not told.
The statement was made on June 19, 2003 by Somnath Chatterjee at a Communist Party of India (Marxist) meeting in Srinagar. (Harsh truths about Kashmir by A G Noorani-Frontline, Aug 15, 2003)
So far, as a matter of policy, Indian state has conducted its business in J&K aggressively and played in extremes not only militarily but politically as well.
Let’s listen to something latest on this. In the words of senior journalist Prem Shankar Jha, an old Kashmiri hand having India’s national interest at his heart, The Home Ministry has ensured that every attempt to fill the political middle ground in Kashmir fails. (Tehelka-July16)
India continues to remain intransigent with her classical responses to everything that could resolve Kashmir or help its resolution. Like for Azaadi they have live ammunition, for right to self-determination they have prisons, for autonomy resolutions passed in the elected assembly itself they have a parliamentary dust-bin, for self-rule they feign a Machiavellian indifference and for demilitarization they have 500 militants. They have perfected the art of what to tell whom, when and how. So, in a way, everything must go their way in the end; which is total hubris and a deep nationalistic prejudice.
Deep US Footprints
One can trace the visibly deep politico-military footprints of US across the geo-strategic terrains of South-Asia long before the much trumpeted raison d’être of their presence since 9/11.
This naturally saddles US with somewhat additional responsibilities vis-à-vis Kashmir that has been affected considerably by their militaristic adventures in the region since Afghan occupation by Russians.
Presumably, conscious of its political guilt or convinced of its waning soft-power across the globe post 9/11 United States under President Barack Obama has embarked on a mission of renewing its engagements particularly with the people who feel wronged by her.
In Egyptian capital of Cairo Obama has already made some important diplomatic overtures last month to attract and engage the thinking minds across the Arab-Muslim world including Iran.
Extending the olive leaf further, Hillary could have made a beginning from Kashmir with south Asian Muslims who form a good and influential chunk of Muslim world.
Although wearing a Kashmiri Pheran by the Secretary of State and striking poses with a few Kashmiris is being read here with cautious optimism, but US ought to move further. For, Kashmir resolution entails solutions to so many political headaches that haunt the region from Kandahar to Kargil.
And one can feel that the churnings within the Muslim regions, on a peoples’ level, have already begun and may culminate in a fruitful US-Muslim engagement once US’ conciliatory gestures are matched by their commitment on ground.
In this regard United States under the leadership of Barack Obama can extend a diplomatically moral, if not political, support to the peoples’ aspirations for a just peace so that they too live up to their God-given potential, which completely jells with the broader ideals and objectives shared, theoretically, by both United States and India.
Besides, one hopes that US keeps its diplomatic eyes and ears not only open but remains conscious of the ˜temporary fog of silence’ that has distorted the understanding of Kashmir’s political scene from distance many a times in the past.
India needs Azaadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs Azaadi from India, suggested Arundhati Roy during the summer uprising of August-2008. It contains the seeds of a win-win situation for all the players in the region.
For, it seems quite a literary reflection of the thought that underlies the concept of smart-power as articulated by US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton at CFR. She said, It’s a blend of principle and pragmatism.
India’s agreement in principle will liberate her from all political prejudices and elevate her prestige among the comity of nations.
Besides, her willingness to accept the internationally acknowledged rights, of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, shall practically go a long way in facilitating a global role that befits her, of late, economic grandstanding.
And Kashmir can once again become the silk-route for enormous economic revolution that will sweep the lands from South-Asia to the far off valleys in the central Asia.
Most important of all, anchored in the moral principles and high ideals of liberty and justice, confident and secure India of the 21st century would be well placed to share the UN seat with the most powerful five of the world.
This may apparently sound too simplistic to most of the Indian minds. But let them reflect sincerely and conscientiously on it for a while. Let them keep more-than-ten-million-souls of Kashmir, who have endured unprecedented sufferings and humiliations, in mind. They too will reach the same conclusions.
It’s because the most complicated political quandaries in the world have simple solutions that we all know but don’t want to accept. For, it hurts our ˜big’ national egos and hardened-for-years self-images.
Breaking from the past, let India have the courage to shed this mythical self-image to move ahead as self-assured nation with strong credentials for being the real largest democracy in the world. And Justice does pave the way to be so.
Otherwise, India’s own refusal may stand between her and her to-be-realized destiny.
Javeed Ahmad Mir is a freelance writer-journalist based in Kashmir.