Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Kashmir : Give them Azadi

Thats not as radical as it sounds. You see, "Kashmir" is only a very small part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. For the uninitiated, J&K consists of 3 major regions - Jammu, the Vale of Kashmir and Ladakh. Ladakh is culturally close to Tibet and is largely Buddhist, while Jammu is very like Punjab. In any plebiscite, these 2 regions will certainly vote overwhelmingly to stay with India. The Valley of Kashmir which is quite small in area but has a large population which is now overwhelmingly muslim (after the Kashmiri Pundits (400,000 of them) were systematically massacred and forced out in the early 1990s) will almost certainly vote for Azadi or union with Pakistan.

Let them go.

The major objections to such a move are strategic and not ideological or value based. One of the 2 highways that goes to Ladakh passes through Srinagar (the other being the Manali-Leh route) and is as such a vital road to keep Leh and the Siachen Glacier supplied. Ladakh is contiguous with the Aksai Chin region occupied by China and is a theatre where the Chinese have been making repeated incursions and provocative moves in the recent past. This means that keeping Ladakh well armed and supplied is vital.

Secondly, once the Valley of Kashmir is free (and if they remain free, I respect them and wish them well) or a part of Pakistan (in which case they will have made a mistake, and it'll serve them right !) one must expect that it will become a hotbed of terrorism and anti-India activity. Therefore, we must ensure that all around the Valley of Kashmir we control the passes and the heights. Our armed forces must be in complete control of the borders before any independence is given, and must oversee the opening of the borders with Pakistan (if that is to happen) in an orderly fashion. Most important of all, we must spend years (maybe a decade or more) developing an alternate route to Ladakh through the harsh terrain of the trans Himalayan ranges that avoids the Kashmir Valley altogether. We could also take this opportunity to strenghten the road and military infrastructure along the border with China in that region.

India can only gain from this arrangement. The land area we are giving up is small (though beautiful, fertile and heavily populated), and through careful preparation it might be possible to keep the strategic disadvantage to a minimum. Kashmir is a huge drain on our resources, financial and military. India spends 10 times more per capita on Kashmir than on any other state (excluding military budgets, this is simply aid from the Union budgets) and the social indicators in Kashmir are among the best in the country. For years, India has sunk billions and billions of dollars into the beautiful black hole that is the Vale of Kashmir and it will remove a huge burden on the exchequer once it is off our hands. Not to mention the fact that something like 200,000 troops will be free to go home, rest and redeploy in more useful places like the Bangladesh and China borders, our capacity to face bullying from China will increase manyfold.

Besides, what more can we do ? I think I am right in saying that Indians do not see themselves as imperial occupiers, we do not want to be imperial occupiers. India wanted Kashmir to be a happy prosperous and peaceful part of the Union. India was willing to give special privileges (as we have, in many cases being unjust to Ladakh and Jammu, and that anger is now boiling over) and infinite amounts of money. The classic case of the beggar giving away his bread to win hearts and minds. And yet, and yet it remains a dangerous place for our soldiers and policemen, it remains a place where security forces regularly have to fire on protesters, where Hindu and Sikh communities in remote mountain villages where they have lived for centuries are massacred, where the population justifiably feels repressed and humiliated by a huge military presence that dominates their daily lives. We can do no more, its time to accept defeat, strengthen our hand strategically for the post Kashmiri independence situation, and get rid of the issue.

Maybe things will work out, maybe they will manage themselves well and Indian tourists will flock to Paradise on earth, but we must prepare for the worst and expect that they will find more reasons to attack our country and murder our citizens. We must give them freedom, and we must ensure that they cannot harm us once they are free. Kashmir is a disgrace to India, we are an occupying force, our soldiers kill and die there every day, they hate us, they celebrate 15 August as a black day, they wish us death and sing odes to Pakistan (of all the messed up places !) - why should we spend our money (and we are a desperately poor country) and the lives of our soldiers on them ? What do we gain ? Hate and international embarrassment and frustration. Its just not worth it.

Let the Valley of Kashmir go its own way. India has more pressing matters to attend to.

Image sources : Wikipedia, BBCnews


Niket said...

Anyone with a discerning eye will accept that the youngsters would prefer to integrate into India.....where-as the older fellows....Geelani types have always some reason to flare up issues....probably he is dreaming of a post freedom Father of Kashmir title.

The Kashmir society is very intricately divided, amongst religious, economical and identity issues

See....the point I want to make is India's identity is Diversity
It is not like Pakistan...a state whose identity is religion
What will happen to this? lol. Paki Insti of Tech? Chi chi chi...

Kashmir deserves better.

Kashmiri children deserve to integrate into a country whose identity is Diversity and not a country whose identity is Religion.

atwice said...

Its refreshing to see that someone is actually willing to say it out loud.. To win the hearts of the future citizens of Kashmir,and to ensure lasting peace in the area, I think its vital that we let them go the way they choose to. Their freedom is not something we should argue with them about.

Ajay B Harish said...

But do you really think there shall be a satisfaction if just that piece of land is given away and what is the guarentee that it shall not become just another breeding ground to send in terrorists into the country.

Its not like the either the common population nor the soldiers at out borders want war. Nor is it like I have a open answer to this problem.

There should be some intervention from bodies like UN or so to keep Kashmir valley as a separate entity till everything cools down. It would just be a disadvantage to India itself to have it as another lawless neighbor. I believe we already have enough!!

Psmith said...

@Niket : we should let kashmiri youth decide what they deserve, and if they think they deserve an islamic state, let them have it !

@Aarthy : good to hear from you !
I want to emphasize, we should base out decisions on careful strategic and economic calculations and not on idealism of any sort.

@Ajay BH : you have a point, and I tried to address it in the post, we have to arrange for the security of our future borders and supply lined BEFORE we grant them independence, and only when we are sure that the strategic and military impact will be minimal should we allow it.

Besides, all our neighbors are troublesome and hostile, one more will make no difference.

Pranay said...


Nice post. The solution you suggested seems perfectly alright when considered as an isolated situation. However, India being the land of many diversities(and differences) with a freedom of expressing the same, will suffer hugely if such tendencies are allowed to win. This I say because then we will have a Gorkhaland, a Cooch Behar, a Kamtapur- all fighting for a separate nation instead of a separate state. In these cases also, will we do the same? Will we say that most of the people in Gorkhaland are of Nepalese origin, we have invested billions and billions in the tea growing areas of the region but are unable to turn some peoples' heart our way, so let them go away too?!!
Lets not consider Kashmir as some separate part to which India has adopted, is "sautela" and hence can be done away with. It is an integral part of India and most of our problem lies with the fact that we have given special status to it through article 370.

Giving Kashmir away will only hamper our secular credentials as a nation, will be an immense security issue with three nations, instead of two gaping at the northern plains, there might be a resurgence of Khalistan movement - or another Kanishka bombing for all we know. Moreover, our link to Central Asia which is abound with energy resources will decline.

Anonymous said...

kashmir should be independent..
As one of the freedom countries..give opprtunity to them to manage their own country..
Fu*kers!! Kashmir can stand by itself!!

cry freedom said...

it's a little harsh to say that kashmir is a disgrace to india. it's just as much a part of the state as maharashtra or madhya pradesh. there are just many issues in the region which have not been solved and in turn led to other issues. starting with nehru uttering the word "plebiscite" on radio back then. and no plebiscite happened, only assumptions made. and it all comes down to the british unwittingly butchering the nation to get rid of the matter of india.

all in all, the reverberations of whatever's happening in kashmir are heard all over the country - communalism, religious bias, terrorim, militancy - but seen subtly.

@ niket: just because pakistan has a state religion doesn't mean it has only one facet to its identity. theoretically, it means that the state will support and aid the state religion. and i'm not defending pakistan. it has its own problems, and too many are unfortunately to do with india. but just thought i'd say my bit about the one-facet identity.

@pranay: i totally agree. we can't be giving away portions of our territory just because secession is demanded. that was the reason america had its civil war. just imagine, had they been a divided power, would they have been a superpower at all today??

@ whoever anonymous is: let's see you do that. you will die importing goods. and left a pauper, by the way.

Psmith said...

@ Pranay : I agree, the precedent set will not be good and the danger that this will cause a domino effect and threaten the existence of our nation cannot be ruled out, so you're right, maybe it will be too expensive to let kashmir go free.

@ Cry Freedom : When I said kashmir is a disgrace to india, I meant that the violence there causes us international embarrassment. Apart from that, I agree with you, it is indeed an extremely amplified case of many problems that exist in the rest of our country.

@ all : the most important thing I wanted to point out (and that still holds, though I renege on my conclusions about azadi in my next post) is that we ought to think about kashmir in terms of geopolitics and economics, and NOT in terms of values and ideals. So, maybe giving kashmir azadi does not make sense in geopolitical and economic terms, fair enough, but the issue is certainly not beyond debate. We certainly should not cling on and invest money and lives for any flimsy reasons of sentiment, pride or idealism. The only criteria should be the rational pursuit of national interest, thats the message :)

sumegha.aqua said...

very well written own experience in Kashmir makes me believe that Azadi is a legitimate demand of azadi...a beautiful piece indeed....