Friday, 4 July 2014

Kashmiris Should Beware The Exasperation Of The Liberal Indian

"Beware the fury of the patient man", said John Dryden a long time ago.

I'm one of the most liberal-humanist specimens one could find, subscribing as I do to a near-libertarian philosophy (I only draw the line at gun rights) and a deep and abiding suspicion of governments, corporations and society itself as forces inimical to the individual.

Still, Kashmir vexes me. If I can blurt my feelings out in one short sentence, it is that Kashmiris should stop being so precious.

The fuss they make about an Indian prime minister visiting the state! Shutting down an entire state in protest?

Kashmiris (and by that I mean the Muslim separatist agitators) need to take a long hard look at themselves, their environment, and their choices.

An independent Kashmir is not what Pakistan has been fighting for, and the people of Kashmir will experience a frying-pan-to-fire situation if they ever find themselves out of the Indian union. True independence is easier dreamt about than achieved.

Kashmir as an independent state is unlikely to be viable, in either an economic or social sense. Kashmir is a landlocked state that will depend on the goodwill of its neighbours to survive economically, and that goodwill is going to prove a scarce commodity since both India and Pakistan will be put offside by Kashmiri independence. Socially too, as Mirwaiz Umar Farooq himself admitted, the Kashmiri Muslim populace is itself divided into Wahabi, Salafi, Barelvi and Deobandi sects, not to mention the Shias of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Not to put too fine a point on it, Muslim sects have shown time and again that they will turn on one another with murderous ferocity the moment they are left alone with no external enemy to unify them. Iraq and Syria are the latest tragic examples. Kashmiris should be careful what they wish for. The killings will not stop after independence. Only their ability to blame the Indian army will.

Who is it in Kashmir who wants independence anyway? Only Muslims in the Kashmir valley. The Buddhists of Ladakh and the Hindus of Jammu know better than to trust their fate to the tender mercies of a Muslim majority, and would opt to stay with India. The examples of Pakistan and Bangladesh serve as a reminder, if one is required, of what happens to religious minorities in Muslim states. If it comes to a plebiscite, India will play its cards so that Kashmir is splintered even further. After all, the will of the people is the will of the people, and if the Ladakh and Jammu regions vote for India, who can deny them their choice?

Lastly, as economies go, India is ramping up while Pakistan is winding down (although the terrorist state may take another decade to finally sputter and die). If Kashmiris are smart, they will try and latch on to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, because that is what India is projected to be.

India has had enough of the Kashmiri stalemate, and it's not just Hindu right-wingers who want to see an end to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as codified in Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The move to repeal Article 370 has broad support across all Indians, and it will happen sooner or later. Pakistan is not in a position to stop any Indian moves within its own territory, and the world (i.e., the West, Russia and China) has no more sympathy for Muslim separatist movements. It's only the Muslim world that could back Kashmiri separatism, but even this support is hardly likely to be unanimous or whole-hearted. Middle Eastern regimes are wary of extremist monsters like the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), so the Indian government could receive covert support even from many nominally Muslim countries in its face-off with Kashmiri separatists.

All in all, the Kashmir issue has festered for too long. Pakistan needs to disappear (which it will) and the Kashmiris need to set aside their juvenile ideas of independence and come to the party. The Indian juggernaut cannot be stopped, because things have reached a stage when even liberals have had enough.

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