The Auld Enemy

It is a uniquely Indian dish. Border troubles across the LoC and communal riots in Jammu and Kashmir. All the unsolvable issues arising from Independence and Partition come together on a platter just in time for the 66th anniversary. If only we could renegotiate a new settlement under British referees!

But no such luck. India has its perennial twin problems—Pakistan and J&K. They are intertwined. One cannot be solved without the other. Neither can be solved without undoing the Partition. The Partition cannot be undone by invading Pakistan and taking it over even if that was easy, which it never was. It can be done only by reconciliation and talking to each other. That however is impossible given the pressures of politics in both countries. Each nation lives, indeed thrives on its hatred of the other.

A sagacious philosopher friend—of Indian origin, which is why I will not reveal his name—suggested that India should give Kashmir to Pakistan. His logic was that since Pakistan was united as a nation only due to its sense of loss of Kashmir (to which I can attest), getting Kashmir will make Pakistan fall apart. Maybe. But what if Pakistan did the same with Azad Kashmir? How would India handle that? Where would be the need to plank a large Army, shut off mobile and Internet frequently and, arbitrarily, enforce the AFSPA and feel virtuous vis-a-vis Pakistan about our secularism? The united two halves of Kashmir may even become stronger in their demand for azadi and insist on a genuine plebiscite as was promised. India may then have to invade Kashmir and occupy it all over again.

Every prime minister of India, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, has aspired to be the statesman who settles the dispute with Pakistan. Future prime ministers may join the queue. Three prime ministers—Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee—have had to battle Pakistan and win, though without teaching Pakistan any lesson about not repeating the mistake. So neither jaw-jaw nor war-war has been a solution to this perennial problem.

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