Kashmir conflict is more about perception management, there is no war like situation in Kashmir
Editor Kashmir Central Bashir Assad is currently in London, and is speaking on Kashmir at various events. One of his addresses was at the conference organized by the South and Central Asia Academic Forum, London. Here is the text of his address
The Kashmir conflict is essentially a perception management challenge. The outside world has absolutely no idea about the happenings in Kashmir.
Times have changed – so have the dynamics of the Kashmir conflict. The stakeholders are more into the business of sustaining the conflict rather than working towards its resolution.
The fact of the matter is that the Kashmir conflict is used by both India and Pakistan for achieving strategic and diplomatic goals. Pakistan particularly has built its whole foreign policy around the Kashmir conflict to achieve strategic goals.
Unlike Pakistan, Kashmir is not the fulcrum of India’s foreign policy. India occasionally raises the Kashmir imbroglio for diplomatic advantage.
The conflict in Kashmir is beyond the rhetoric of right to self determination, independence or integration with India. The intrusion of extremist thought processes has changed the dimensions irrevocably. There is steep ideological indoctrination, which the international community is yet to acknowledge.
India Could Not Manage Or Change Perceptions Of Kashmiris
Amidst these dynamics, India could not manage or change the perception of Kashmiris. India remained focused on terrorists and infrastructure while as Pakistan worked on managing the perceptions of Kashmir. Pakistan made the Kashmiri Muslims believe that they are under the “illegal occupation” of India. Pakistan communicated with the people of Kashmir by the means of religion and language.
India, on the other hand, did everything possible to change the socio-economic scenario in Kashmir. It invested hugely to ensure that Kashmir progresses. However, it could not change the perception of Kashmiris despite the fact Kashmir is doing much better than many other states of the country on physical and social infrastructure development index.
It must be clearly understood that Kashmir is not a war-torn region. In a particular district of UP, there are 600 designated hardcore criminals. In the whole of Kashmir, the number of active militants has remained between 250 and 300 over the last ten years.
Need to Change Mindset, Illusions, Delusions
By no means is it a war-like situation. It is actually the mindset, the illusions and delusions created by Pakistan in Kashmir that give us the sense of conflict.
The dynamics of Kashmir conflict have changed. But the international community is still entrenched in the notional narratives fed to it by the two nation-states of India and Pakistan. The fact remains that the problem in Kashmir is beyond the narratives propagated by India and Pakistan. The hostile Pakistan is particularly on a mission of misleading the international community on Kashmir.
The local stakeholders have transformed Kashmir into a flourishing conflict entrepreneurship. They thrive on the conflict at the cost of the local population.
Kashmir conflict should not be equated with the deadly conflicts elsewhere. He said that there are many truths about Kashmir and the world is conveniently misled by the single story syndrome. He said that every stakeholder has Kashmiri’s blood on his hands.
The so-called stakeholders knew from the very beginning that any alteration in borders was out of question. The solution should have been arrived at long ago without compromising on the existing geographical realities. But the parties concerned only wanted to fetch golden eggs out of the conflict.
As a result, there was no clarity from either side, and the international community was fed with notional narratives.
Heavy Consequences Of Ambiguity On Kashmir
India, of late, has realized the consequences of ambiguity on Kashmir. But Pakistan, because of its compulsions, has laid the foundations of its existence on the Kashmir premise.
Some members of the Kashmiri diaspora continue to sell globally the rhetoric of right to self determination or independence for personal benefits. They play victimhood and mint money from the international community. It is a flourishing business for them, and Pakistan is fully backing them in this business.
Kashmir’s indoctrinated youth are made fodder for the conflict by the diaspora in order to build their edifices.
Local politicians sustained the violent conflict for decades and the Indian state could do nothing to change the discourse on Kashmir. It reached its climax when people started blaming the Indian state for every wrong done by the local administration. Rather than holding the local politicians accountable for their corrupt practices, People started blaming the Indian state.
Meanwhile, the extremist religious groups spread their tentacles under the auspices of the local politicians. New Delhi remained unmoved even as these maneuvers flourished, and the result is before us.
How Radicalization Holds Us Back
Now, radicalization poses a severe challenge to the security of the Indian state. The alienation is not physical – it is in the minds. Kashmiris are a aspirational and ambitious race. They look for avenues and opportunities everywhere. Bt the sense of alienation does not fade away.
Pakistan has consistently worked on deepening these negative perceptions. India remained occupied with other priorities while as Pakistan’s construct remained only Kashmir. Whatever is fed to the international community about Kashmir is from those driving the Pakistan narrative. Pakistan has successfully constructed the notional narrative of “occupied Kashmir” before the world. The disinformation campaign unleashed by Pakistan with the involvement of members of Kashmiri diaspora has greatly helped that country in mobilizing the opinion in its favour.
The statistics in my third book, ‘Kashmir: The War of Narratives’ highlight how Pakistan has managed a disinformation campaign against India and how the western media is becoming an important instrument for Pakistan to spread lies about Kashmir. Grave human rights abuses perpetrated by the militants are deliberately whitewashed from public memory, and Indian security agencies are held responsible for every wrong in Kashmir.