Kashmir: From Melting Pot to Mosaic

IRSHAD SALIM — Since Monday’s Modi shock & awe (unprecedented lockdown) in occupied Kashmir following his nationalist government’s hush hush gobble it up, a bitter sense of betrayal threatens to fuel fresh conflict in the region weeks after many thought some kind of solution may be on burner.

Since 1948, the premodimantly Muslim-majority Himalayan valley occupied by India has been waiting for plebiscite, and the two nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have been articulating their narratives for outcome– three wars have been fought and scores of battle of wits at least two generations have seen– the Kashmir dispute’s lede now appears like an archipelago in a South China Sea.

The extended time of the territorial dispute and withering geopolitical space in the region had become a hot mix. India has been wittingly refusing to create conducive atmosphere for plebiscite, and therefore Pakistan continues to provide moral and political support to the populace: the ping pong is a common denominator in the equation.

Some observers say geopolitical space has been challenged by Modi’s move to the hilt– in a single day this week, Indian PM Narendra Modi undid nearly seven decades of history, according to The Washington Post.

So is the decades-long highway of Delhi’s refusal to hold plebiscite– keen observers say Kashmiris would predictably vote for siding with Muslim-majority Pakistan or chose independence– and that has been a no no with shades of grey for Hindu-majority India all along until lately: Modi’s ideological moorings are anchored on annexing Kashmir as part of Akhand Bharat fantasy espoused by his BJP party’s backstopper: the RSS.

Looking back, the 70 years of Delhi’s no no have been bloody and has brought new generation of young Kashmiri men and women out on on the streets– akin to Palestinian Intifada against Israeli occupation, settlements and annexations.

The space has been shrinking for Delhi over the years, and a huge BIG NO for the new US ally in the region when President Trump offered PM Khan to mediate as the ‘rockstar’s’ visit to Washington found huge traction in the international media.

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India reacted though, terming the Kashmir dispute bilateral between the two neighbors– but akin to holding a side bar discussion with Pakistan even though the UN (international forum) back in 1948 had penned down the roadmap: plebiscite. Both countries are signatory to the UN mandate– ironically it was India who who had gone to the UN seeking solution. Pakistan stands by its commitment sine then, but Delhi has been reneging, and its latest unilateral step says it could be posturing for the inevitable.

Conventional wisdom says if you want peace prepare for war. But one of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s quote says the best fighter is one who never gets angry.

Scenario: Modi’s Columbus move on Monday attempts to upend the UN decision for plebiscite. Delhi seems to hang its hat on 1972 Simla Accord, however, the overarching roadmap still remains the 1948 Security Council Resolution. Skipping out of the umbrella could soak India’s rain gear while trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

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The tap dance hasn’t been appreciated though, not just in occupied Kashmir but on international level also– many are waiting for white smoke out of the chimney in Afghanistan’s ‘Vatican talks to chose the new Pope’– President Trump wants US military out of the ‘graveyard of Empires’ before 2020 elections. Pakistan is supportive lock stock and barrel.

Reaction: Islamabad has given India another ‘surprise’— a new weapon in its arsenal– to Modi’s dodgem car style moves and brinkmanship: Islamabad does not seek military options but is ready to give another kinetic surprise more potent than post-Pulwama (false flag) attack, should Delhi seek to use adventurism to try creating a position of strength– just as on the eve of a ceasefire warring parties try to do.

Public views of thought-leaders and governments in the region have emerged as a mosaic having common tongue-and-groove joint though: something is happening.

At ground zero, an elderly member of a group of Kashmiris told BBC. “This is extreme thuggery on the (Indian) government’s part.”

“You lock us up during the day. You lock us up at night,” he said.

A young Kashmiri, carrying his toddler son in his arms, told BBC he is ready to pick up a gun to fight India.

“This is my only son. He’s too small now, but I will prepare him to pick up a gun too,” he says. He’s so angry that he didn’t even care that he’s saying all this within earshot of the policeman standing near the news agency reporter.

According to reports, across the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, men say they no longer want to live life in fear of India’s security forces.

They say Delhi’s ‘dictatorial order’ will have serious consequences for both Kashmir and India.

According to BBC, “This is very much the dominant sentiment everywhere – anger mixed with fear and worry, and a fierce determination to resist Modi’s move.”