K-policy in the noughties – a successful strategy or wasted opportunity?

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Places, Politics
Tags: , ,

<random thoughts to be ignored>

The world went from a decade when Muslims taking up arms got a largely sympathetic ear and a default label of ‘defenders against oppression‘ (Bosnia and Kosovo), to a decade (the noughties) when Muslims taking up arms got the most suspicious eye and default labels of ‘Islamic terrorists’ and ‘extremists‘.

Over a similar period, our neighbourhood troublemakers (NT) went from being a long-term strategic ally of the only super power, to having openly hostile relations with it. As a sign of their sinking economy, their GDP/capita went from ~50% higher than ours ($412 vs $218 in 19921) to 32% lower ($1007 vs $1476 in 2010).

Further, the neighbourhood troublemakers saw another democratic government thrown out and military take the reigns yet again, while J&K saw (relatively) successful elections and successive elected governments (something the NT rarely sees)

To repeat, over a period of 2 decades the instigators behind the troubles in J&K went from being a position of geo-political and economic strength to (almost) international outcasts and economic ruin. Their agents in the valley went from being considered defenders against oppression to extremist terrorists, and got banned in most countries. The valley itself went from being a violent hotspot ruled by a governor appointed by the centre running a largely police state, to a mostly peaceful state with successive democratic governments.

Seems to me like it was a damn good time2 to force negotiations, from a position of strength, and get the other parties to agree to a long term solution. Unfortunately, nothing like that seems to be happening, unless we agree that the best case long term solution for India is to freeze the conflict while establishing LoC as the accepted border.

Should the government have tried for more than just peace in the valley and banning of the terrorist groups? I believe yes. I would have sure liked to have them push for more, quite a bit more. I’m sure a lot of people, on both sides of the border would’ve like them to have tried a bit more and settled the issue once and for all.

Could the government have gotten more? Unlikely. The same factors that have lead the our NT from a position of strength in early 90s to such a position of weakness today – core interests of the populace, the military, and (lately) the Islamists running counter to each other – are also the ones that prevent them from behaving like rational, reliable actors on a negotiating table. That India’s domestic opposition, while largely agreeing on outline of final desired outcome, is always looking to score political points on any moves towards settlement, rather than support the government in achieving it, acts as a dampener as well.

Should this be considered a failing of the Indian government – for not pushing through a long term resolution – or a success – for pacifying a violent valley and establishing a stable democratic process in the state as a prelude to complete peace and normalcy? I can’t answer that, I don’t have all the facts and the insider info. May be the super powers of hindsight will help us answer this question in a decade or few.

</random thoughts to be ignored>

1. Got that data from the excellent Google Public Data website here.

2. Another good time, in my opinion, was right after the Kargil conflict – India had the moral and military high ground, and international support. The military coup in NT could’ve been a dampener but, again in my opinion, it also provided an excellent opportunity to finalise terms of settlement with the real antagonists in the NT.

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