Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prof Mattoo in conversation with Greater Kashmir

Your predictions about the forthcoming elections to the Jammu and Kashmir assembly on your Facebook page, have attracted huge attention for your analysis as well as your understanding of history. How do you manage to do this micro analysis sitting in Melbourne?
Kashmir is my home, will always be part of my being, no matter where I am physically located. Kashmir’s history, its politics, its social trends are my passion. Each time I visit Kashmir there is a mystical thrill that I experience, which can only be reflective of a deep atavistic connection. I probably have one of the largest private collections of books on Kashmir. But, more important, in today’s digital age it is possible to conduct real time rigorous analysis sitting anywhere on the globe. The forthcoming elections are probably the most important since 1987 and every resident of the state must take them seriously. They could seriously impact on the future of the state for the next generation. I think a communally polarized state would be the very antithesis of the idea of Jammu and Kashmir, which has always celebrated diversity and valued plurality.

Recently, the former media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, disclosed in his book, The Accidental Prime Minister, that you were a key advisor to PM on Kashmir and Indo-Pakistan issues and drafted his speeches on Kashmir. Is this true?
It is true that I did informally advise PM Manmohan Singh, and Dr Manmohan Singh was someone who was personally committed to establishing peace in the sub-continent through a process of grand reconciliation. As Dr Baru points out in his book, I drafted PM Manmohan Singh’s first speech on Kashmir where he stated that his vision was to build a Naya Jammu and Kashmir which would be symbolized by peace, prosperity and people’s power. I have to admit that I helped to conceive the idea of Round Tables and creating working groups on various dimensions of the conflict. Unfortunately, while Dr Manmohan Singh had the vision, he lacked the authority to translate his vision into reality. For instance, in 2005 Dr Singh wanted Mufti Sahib to continue as Chief Minister because he saw how well both the peace and development processes were going on. Although Azad Sahib did a great a job at putting a real development agenda for the state, I believe it was a historic mistake asking Mufti Sahib to step down.

What about Prime Minister Vajpayee?
I believe that Prime Minister Vajpayee was the only visionary statesman we have had since Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as far as India Pakistan relations and Jammu and Kashmir are concerned. Both Nehru and Vajpayee were visionaries, but also had unfettered political authority. We have to return to the vision of Vajpayee of solving the state’s problems within the framework of : Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat. Prime Minister Modi echoed this in one of his first speeches: the challenge now is to carry forward Vajpayee’s unfinished tasks. Prime Minister Modi’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval (who is former chief of IB) understands Kashmir very well!

There has been a move to rehabilitate Kashmir Pandits in the valley? Will these policies work?
The tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits is huge, but it is not a mere economic problem. The challenge is of creating trust and reconciliation between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims. For this to happen each Kashmiri Muslim has to learn to empathise with the Kashmir Pandit who lives in sub-human conditions in the sweltering heat of the camps of Jammu yearning to return to the valley. And the Kashmiri Pandits must learn to empathise with the pain and suffering that the Kashmiri Muslims have experienced during the years of violent conflict. We have to move beyond blaming each other, and learn to place ourselves in each other’s shoes. Only then can Kashmir return to being the jannat that it once was: the Kashmir of my childhood.

What is the future of India-Pakistan relations and Track II?
Prime Minster Vajpayee once said that you can choose your friends but you can never choose your neighbours. Today Pakistan is deeply fractured, but this is by no means in our interest. Only the short-sighted can believe that a nuclear-armed , unstable Pakistan is in India’s interests. A Pakistan at peace with itself and at peace with India is in the best interests of the region. The only objective of Track II is to help create the environment for peace and real reconciliation.

What personal role do you see for yourself in the years to come?
I have no personal material ambition any more. I have been Professor, Vice Chancellor, Advisor, and Director at a relatively young age. When I refused to take up the VCship of Central University, Jammu, Prime Minister Mammohan Singh offered me any Vice Chancellorship of choice. But I said I wanted to now see if I have the skills to build an institution overseas. I have helped to build the Australia India Institute into a centre of excellence; we are completely autonomous and do not get a penny from the Government of India. My only real goal is to work in the field of school education after seeing the quality of schools in Australia. In the next five years, I want to set up 2-3 world class boarding and day schools in Kashmir, which will serve as models not just for the state but also the rest of India. Build strong institutions, outside the government, is the biggest service that we can perform as residents of this state.

(Source: Greater Kashmir)

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