India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Leave the K word out

Secular Right India disagrees with the sentiments I'd expressed in my post, "A pragmatic foreign policy". Now, I buy the point he is making vis-a-vis Kashmir, but the progress in Indo-Pak relations that I am talking about does not involve Kashmir. At the moment, there is no solution to the Kashmir issue, no meeting ground between the two countries. War is not feasable for either country; peace talks will not lead to a breakthrough on that issue because the minimum acceptable position of each country is way beyond what the other can accept. Don't expect a solution to Kashmir in this decade, at least.

The progress that I am talking about is on other issues, particularly on opening up trade between the two countries. Over a period of time, I believe, a free movement of goods and people between the two countries will lead to a level of normalcy between them, and once the people at large experience the value in dealing with a nation that has so far been demonised, their positions on Kashmir will soften. This will give the politicians more flexibility to move towards a compromise. Regardless of whether we move towards a solution on Kashmir, though, there is plenty of benefit both countries will get out of this.

The difference between now and 2001, when the Agra talks failed, is that Pakistan is willing to abandon the primacy of Kashmir, and is ready to move forward on other fronts. (Perhaps the USA has forced them towards this, but that is irrelevant.) That is an important sign of progress, and we should pursue it. We may not like the individual we are dealing with, but our government's primary responsibility is to do what is good for its own people, and friendly relations with Pakistan are unambiguously just that. We must stop viewing relations with Pakistan through the prism of Kashmir alone; just as, on a related note, we must stop viewing our relations with the USA through the prism of their relationship with Pakistan. Only then can we progress.

Update: Arun Simha disagrees with this post here. He writes: "I oppose any deal with Musharraf on one rational ground alone and that is the simple notion that the General - as all dictators - will act in the best interest of himself."

He weighs up the advantages and disadvantages that Musharraf would get from peace from India. I have two points to make to counter Arun. One, the USA is a bigger factor than ever here. Musharraf needs their support, and they are pushing the peace process. If he does an Agra, he's going to piss them off, and he can't afford to do that.

Two, Musharraf does want popular validation at some point, and he does want to leave a legacy, as any leader would. If he can keep the Kashmir status quo, by not ceding any ground there, and yet bring about economic prosperity, he will be hailed by future generations, and may even get popular validation in his lifetime. Opening up trade with India, and enjoying the consequent benefits, without changing his hardline rhetoric on Kashmir is quite the logical way to bring that about. That is also the rational way forward for India.
amit varma, 11:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: