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The lie across the border

The lie across the border

Saeed Naqvi
The Indian Express
March 24, 2000
Title: The lie across the border
Author: Saeed Naqvi
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 24, 2000

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the massacres in Kashmir weredesigned to bring the Kashmir issue centrestage during President Clinton'svisit. I dare say he will hear a great deal of it during his brief halt inIslamabad. This, therefore, is a good occasion to cut through the fluff andstate the two respective cases on Kashmir as plainly as possible.

Pakistan's case is straightforward: we are an Islamic state; the majority inthe Kashmir valley are Muslims. Therefore, that piece of real estate shouldbe with us and not with India.

Well, this pan-Islamic link sounds wonderful but let us not forget thatBangladesh was once East Pakistan. The Pakistan army cracked down so hard ontheir fellow Muslims in the East that the hapless Bengali Muslims soughtIndian intervention to create the independent state of Bangladesh. Theatrocities committed by the Muslim Pakistan army on the Muslims of what isnow Bangladesh would compare more with Bosnia than what has been happeningin Kashmir this past decade. As an Indian Muslim journalist, I have coveredthe Bangladesh war, terrorism (and insurgency) in Kashmir and the conflictin former Yugoslavia. So I have a fair idea of what I am talking about.

No, no, no, the Pakistanis start sta-mping their feet. Pakistan came intobeing on the basis of the two-nation theory that is, Hindus and Muslimsconstitute two separate nations. Bangladesh was geographically distant fromPakistan, so we swallowed that bitter pill. But Kashmir is contiguous withus and until we have Kashmir, the conditions of the two-nation theory, onthe basis of which we exist, will not have been complied with. There willremain a question mark on the very basis on which we exist. It is importantthat President Clinton grasp this Pakistani logic. Otherwise hisprescriptions will not target the disease.

Surely, there is a flaw in this Muslim-plus-contiguous logic. Afghanistan iscontiguous with Pakistan and in Afgh-anistan one Muslim tribe has beenkilling another. Contiguous with Afgh-anistan is Tajikistan, another theatrefor bloodshed until the other day. Tajikistan is contiguous with theFarghana Valley where the three Central Asian Republics meet. In fact,beyond the Indo-Pak border right upto Morocco in the Maghreb is an unbrokenchain of Muslim states and an equally consistent chain of disputes. Againstthis backdrop, this business about Kashmir's contiguity with Pakistan is notclinching logic.

But you are being absurd, the Pakistanis will say. We talk of Kashmir'scontiguity with Pakistan in a certain context, in the context of thetwo-nation theory, that by the logic of this theory Kashmir should have beena part of Pakistan and since it is not, we consider the Kashmir issue theunfinished business of Partition.

But, supposing, by some miracle, Kashmir was to become a part of Pakistan,how would that complete the "unfinished business of Partition"? By Pakistanilogic, the two-nation theory (Pakistan's basis) implies that Hindus andMuslims form two nations. Even if Kashmir were part of Pakistan, there wouldstill be 140 million Muslims in India, 20 million more than the totalpopulation of Pakistan. For the two-nation theory to stand, the way Pakistanwould have it stand, these 140 million Indian Muslims, the world's secondlargest Muslim population after Indonesia, would have to disappear into thinair.

In other words, Pakistan's insecurities would not end even if Kashmir werehanded to it on a platter. Indeed, these insecurities would grow because,with Kashmir out of the way, Pakistan would have to invent another issue tokeep up the confrontation with India, to keep alive in perpetuity the ideathat Hindus and Muslims form two nations. Probe a little bit and you willfind that authors of the Pakistani state realise this fact.

This is why I have always maintained that Pa-kistan is not interested inKashmir, it is interested in the Kashmir issue. The issue comes in handy formany purposes. It keeps the army focussed. It enables politicians to makethe rhetoric on the issue in direct proportion to the difficulties they havewith their political opposition. It gives Pakistan the opportunity to raiseit (the issue) in the Organisation of Islamic Conference to reaffirm itscredentials as an Islamic country. The specific circumstances of its birthare an essential component of its national memory. They are essential forPakistan's self-definition.

The whole project runs into serious difficulties because there are on theother side, in India, those 140 million Muslims. These 140 million Muslimsare struggling, failing, succeeding, rioting, coping with prejudice,generating prejudice, just like everybody else in this gigantic socialexperiment, history's largest effort at welding a multilingual, multiethnic,multireligious nation.

Of course, there are all manners of difficulties. There was the horribleBa-bri Masjid episode. There remains the total political mismanagement ofKashmir leading to police excesses. But are we to discard the secular,democratic experiment to stabilise a theocracy?

Where else in the world do we have a billion people work out their salvationthrough a ballot box from day one of their independence and succeed? Justpull out from your pocket any Indian currency note. You will find thedenomination written in 17 different languages, many of these languageshaving literatures predating Christ by centuries. I have always found ourcurrency note the most tangible symbol of our complexity. President Clintonduring his statements in India and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright inher memorable address to Asia Society in Washington have demonstrated arefreshingly total comprehension of the Indian complexity.

This exquisite complexity would be derailed if Kashmir's status were to bealtered on the basis of the Pakistani thesis. If Kashmir were placed in thebalance of the two-nation theory, by what logic are we going to incorporateIndia's 140 million Muslims in our agenda for the future? One shudders atthe tho-ught of what might happen.

But must Kashmiri Muslims suffer indefinitely for the success of India'ssecular experiment? The answer is a resounding no. They must not suffer anylonger. The material and moral support that Pakistan gives to militancy inKashmir must stop. On our side the Prime Minister should have themagnanimity to be able to communicate to our people in Kashmir thegovernment's sense of shame at the excesses that have been committed by thesecurity force in the course of quelling militancy. The management ofKashmir must be placed in more humane and competent hands.

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