It was a rare treat as the three of the persons present to enrich the knowledge of the select audience in the framework of what has come to be known as the Kashmir problem were former RAW chief A S Dulat, former Army chief General V P Malik and former state DGP and former Governor Gurbachan Jagat who tried to analyse the issues involved in their own way and the approach to conflict resolution. All of them have worked inKashmir and thus have first hand information.
It was a round table discussion on Dulat’s book “Kashmir- The Vajpayee Years” that is the personal experience of former intelligence officer handling sensitive situations.
The venue was the Institute for Development and Communication and was its Director Dr Pramod Kumar who came out with a fresh approach in the context of not only Kashmir but the entire South Asia and his basic premise was that the emphasis should shift from territorial sovereignty to political sovereignty as the concept of territorial concept was already getting phased out.His emphasis was that for peace in South Asia which was also include resolution of India-Pakistan conflict including resolution of Kashmir and other regional tensions, forces of intra-state peace would have to be unleashed to end inter-state conflicts. “We should talk of peace in South Asia rather than just India-Pakistan peace” was his thesis.It was in this context that he talked of identities transcending territorial boundaries in the region.
In the long term interest of the region, the culture of violence would have to be replaced by culture of peace. Dr Pramod Kumar took his thesis to the logical conclusion that the regional and sub-regional identities would have to yield space to what he described as the South Asian identity. This would transcend the territorial boundaries ultimately leading to confederation. This is the soft borders approach.
He opined that comprehensive framework would have to be evolved to replace military security.Referring to conflicts within India, he said in Punjab, the problem was identified as Sikh separation and a counter-strategy was operationalised against the Sikhs, leading to attack on Sikh symbols, Operation Blue Star (attack on the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most revered Sikh religious shrine) and victimisation and brutal killing of Sikhs in November, 1984. In Kashmir, the problem is understood as Islamic Jehad leading to migration of non-Muslim Kashmiris (Pandits) from Kashmir, strengthening the theocratic concepts of nationality assertions.
All the north-eastern states are embroiled in violent assertions of secession to autonomy. There are about 238 ethnic groups having a population of around 30 million which are increasingly defining their identity in relation to the Indian state. There are two main trends. The assertions of groups like Nagas, Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), Mizos, Mizo Nationalist Front (MNF), Asomiya, United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Manipuris, People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Bodos, National Democratic concern of Bodoland (NDCB), Tripuries, All Tripura Tiger Forte (ATTF) are secessionist in nature, whereas, groups like Karbi National volunteers, Bodoland Tiger Force in Assam, Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) in Meghalaya etc. are raising demands for greater autonomy and using secessionism as a bargaining plank.He provided comprehensive framework for conflict resolution in the region with emphasis on South Asian Confederation.Dulat, who had been handling Kashmir, saw no reason as to why India and Pakistan should not work together without which the resolution of Kashmir might not be possible.
He said the situation was not getting further complicated as militancy was drawing cadre from the educated sections of the Kashmiri youth . He said a number of educated youth had just disappeared in North Kashmir and they were being driver by the idea of ISIS. He identified the major problem as the trust deficit between New Delhi and Kashmir and this was historical. He was clear that the issue could be resolved by providing more autonomy to the region. Jagat stressed the need to take people into confidence but ruled out resolution without involving Pakistan. He said operational aspects and dialogue would have to proceed side by side but it is the people who would have to first convinced. General Malik felt Kashmir was the core issue not for the people in Pakistan but the army. However, it was the internal dimension of Kashmir that was more important than external dimension.He said what was lacking was a good conductor to conduct orchestra. He strongly appeasement policy and called for two pronged approach of based upon compassion and firmness. He said India had so far failed to negotiate at the political level.