I was forwarded a comment from, what I believe, is the ‘LinkedIn’ page of Dr. Raghuram Rajan. I am not sure if it is authentic. I am assuming that it is.
He had written,
I am worried about what the events in Kashmir mean for the future of India. Since I am not a political expert, let me refer readers to perhaps the most thoughtful political analyst in India today, Pratap Mehta. You may not agree with everything he says, but you should certainly be alarmed. I am!
I went through the Pratap Bhanu Mehta (PBM) piece.
If I were PBM, I would have argued differently to put some substance to his fears and concerns.
- I would start with recapping how the Union government has re-interpreted a few things to make this a reality:
(a) Changing the reference to the ‘Constituent Assembly’ to ‘Legislative Assembly’.
(b) The absence of the ‘Legislative Assembly’ being re-interpreted to mean only the Government of J&K
(c) The absence of a Government being ignored and replaced by reference to the Governor
Clearly, all these are ‘questionable’ means even if the ‘end’ is a good one.
- Then, I would discuss whether the ‘end’ was a good one. There, one can have different views. This is where a bit of history as to the original rationale for the ‘special status’ accorded J&K and an honest discussion on whether such rationale was observed over the years would have been enlightening and useful to readers. PBM does nothing of that.
If these discussions lead to the conclusion that the original purpose and its actual record were both spotty or decidedly counterproductive, then the decision to reverse this bit of history is a reasonable one, even if the methods were ‘questionable’.
- Then, as it is the usual thing with op-eds., PBM simply mentions his key hypothesis in the end without substantiating them, simply because he thinks that the government’s record speaks for itself. It is self-evident to him that the BJP would end up ‘Kashmirising’ India rather than ‘Indianising’ Kashmir.
Unfortunately for him, it is not self-evident to the rest of us for the following reasons:
Notwithstanding all the concerns about the ‘murder of democracy’, many commentators, including PBM and, to a limited extent, Dr. Rajan have been critical of many actions of the NDA government II and now III. Some of the criticisms were well-founded and correct and some not. But, the point is that the critics are still around to keep penning their criticisms.
Further, notwithstanding some genuine and some exaggerated concerns over lynching and murders in the last several years, the fact is that there has been communal peace in the country, raising valid questions and concerns in many neutral minds as to whether most of these social concerns were manufactured and orchestrated to turn them into truths and/or self-fulfilling prophecies.
- The article would have been credible had PBM ended with what would it take to make BJP’s avowed aim of ‘Indianising’ Kashmir a reality. In the process, he could have also articulated as to why he thinks ‘Kashmirising India’ more likely.
In other words, why his odds on the latter are much shorter than it is for the former is quite a legitimate argument to make. But, he does not make it. For the many ordinary Indians, it looks like that a move to integrate the state of J&K with the rest of India is not a divisive or exclusionary move but an inclusive one.
(1) Recap the original rationale and the empirical utility of the special status over the years
(2) If they were valid and served a purpose (notwithstanding the substantial costs), then removing the special status is wrong.
(3) Even if (2) were not true and that the special status deserved to go, he could still argue that the means adopted were questionable and may not (or may) stand judicial scrutiny
(4) Then, spell out what would it take for the NDA government to make it a case of ‘ends justifying means’
(5) Argue (and substantiate) why he is sceptical if (4) would happen
(6) In the end, in the spirit of humility and honesty (lack of certitude is always endearing), leave open the possibility that he could be wrong.
Instead, of what we have got from PBM is a song (nay, rant) from the choir for the choir.
I don’t want this post to be about PBM’s commentary on the Government of India’s decision to integrate Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of India. The development is of far greater import than his commentary.
I came across Ashok Malik’s piece at the Observer Research Foundation. He makes two important points. They are worth noting:
The explosion of terror in Kashmir in the early 1990s had followed the withdrawal from Afghanistan by another superpower, the Soviet Union. It had made Kashmir the next “cause” of an international jihadist coalition and attracted not just Pakistani Punjabis but even Afghans and other Central Asian nationals. A tangential and yet direct correlation between Taliban ascendancy in Kabul and terrorism in Kashmir clearly existed. Having defeated the Russians and out-survived the Americans, the “liberation” of Kashmir would be a tempting prize for a supra-national army of the ummah.
Through 2019, as the US engaged the Taliban with Pakistani facilitation, Indian apprehensions grew. During Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington, DC, in July, President Trump’s throwaway line, offering to “mediate” between India and Pakistan, was over-the-top but did indicate that such thinking had re-entered the ether in Washington, DC. At the very least, it confirmed that the US saw it necessary to offer a carrot to Pakistan.
As soon as Imran Khan returned from his America visit, officials in New Delhi say, the top brass in Rawalpindi began to celebrate. Jihadists who had pulled back from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir started to return and temperatures at the LoC rose. The opening lines of a familiar Pakistani ransom note to the West were being written – tell India to behave on the Kashmir front, or the effort in Afghanistan will suffer. The Modi government responded by writing an even larger ransom note of its own; it changed the script on Kashmir.
Finally, while I was searching for the transcript of the speech made by Mr. Uday Kotak at the Lalith Doshi Memorial Lecture on the 5th of August, I came across the speech delivered by Dr. S. Jaishankar, India’s Minister for External Affairs last year, when he was the international advisor to Tata Sons. You can find the full speech here.
Few key sentences from that speech are a fitting finale to this post:
“A sharper willingness to articulate our interests and be resolute in its pursuit is also necessary….. An old civilisation that is that is hesitant to project its culture is also unlikely to evoke respect.”
Talking of Indo-China relations, he noted,
we cannot afford the complacency of the past that oversaw the Hambantota project or ballooning trade deficits.
It should also be recognised, especially in West Asia, that Indian strategic interests are no longer being sacrificed on the altar of ostensible political correctness.