Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saving Kashmir

The visit of the all-party delegation to Jammu & Kashmir has generated hope and the expectation that it may still be possible to redeem the situation. The immediate task is now for New Delhi to move from the symbolic to the substantive, utilising the opportunity provided by the delegation’s visit. And as the central government reaches out to build trust and confidence, it is essential that this is matched by the people and their leaders in the state, in word and deed.

Even cynics will admit that the all-party delegation’s visit demonstrated the human and, arguably, the best face of Indian democracy. Nearly 40 seasoned leaders, representing virtually every ideological hue, stepped out from their routine programme to try and reach out to even those demonised by the Indian establishment.

In an ideal world, the exercise would have been more laissez-faire, but given the situation in the Valley, the political establishment performed, minor hiccups notwithstanding, with grace and imagination. Images of Sushma Swaraj praying at the Hazratbal shrine; Sitaram Yechury’s surprisingly chaste Hyderabadi Urdu chat with Ali Shah Geelani; P Chidambaram engaging the victims of the Tangmarg fire; Ram Vilas Paswan breaking down – all this represented a collage we should have witnessed at least two months ago, but it still made a difference! The visit has opened a window – albeit slightly – which was on the verge of being closed and bolted. Only an immediate initiative by New Delhi can ensure that goodwill generated by the visit will translate into real change on the ground. Acting now will not be seen as capitulating to street protests, but as demonstrating sensitivity and statesmanship.

Remember the one ordinary Kashmiri who confronted the home minister with a simple question: “If we are citizens of India, why are you spraying bullets on us?” And another who asked: “If you say Kashmir is atoot ang of India, then why are
you putting your own ang into the frying pan?”

The prime minister must, having obtained feedback from members of the delegation, act on a variety of fronts, including the humanitarian, the political and the social. As a humanitarian gesture, all those jailed over the last three months for stone-pelting must be released, as must political detainees against whom there is no charge of committing any heinous crime. It is critical, hence forth, that no civilian is killed by the police and the curfew is lifted. It is also critical to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the stakeholders (especially the youth) in each district of the Valley. Based on this, confidence- and trustbuilding measures that will have maximum impact must be implemented unilaterally.

The prime minister must also announce the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Several commissions like this have been formed throughout the world; the best and most successful was established under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmund Tutu in South Africa. A commission like this is not about fixing blame, but about accepting the tragic events of the past, bringing the past to a closure and moving together into a better future. It is about recognising the tragedy of two decades, of those who disappeared or who were killed, or the tragic displacement of Kashmiri Pandits. A commission like this can also be mandated to bring about a reconciliation between communities and regions; an accommodation between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims as well as between the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.

The prime minister must draw upon the delegation and create a team of political interlocutors. They will represent, symbolically, the collective voice of the nation. It is only the collective political leadership of the country that can genuinely reach out, engage and resolve the problems of Jammu & Kashmir. Restoration of peace in J&K and a roadmap should not be influenced by national vote-bank politics and the rest of India must be educated about the importance of building peace in Kashmir.

And if New Delhi continues to act in good faith, it is incumbent on the part of the people of the state, and especially the Valley, to respond meaningfully. While peaceful protests are part of the space that any democracy should offer its people, there is no scope for violence. The people of Kashmir have suffered and been traumatised over the lost decades and lived in uncertainty for the last six decades. Clarity of thinking is not easy in these times, but it is critical to move forward. It is time that the people and the leaders stop living under the illusion of a utopian dream. The reality is that the people must look for pragmatic ways to ensure the honour, dignity and the empowerment of the people in this globalised world. Running after the mirage of a distant paradise will only create conditions for greater suffering. And they must give dialogue and peace a chance.

There is an India beyond bunkers, security forces and corrupt politics; it is the vibrant India of entrepreneurs, professionals, civil society activists, the robust and free media, and the political delegation that visited the Valley. More and more Kashmiris must discover this India and build a coalition with it. That is the best guarantee against the other India which they witness in the Valley.

(Source: The Times of India)

Friday, September 17, 2010

This is not a lost cause. For those with the inclination, here is a plan for Kashmir

a way out of the anarchy in Kashmir? Is it possible to create an opportunity out of this grave crisis? Can the conditions for sustainable peace still be created? What can New Delhi, the state government and the people of Kashmir do, unilaterally or collectively, to build a ‘Naya’ Jammu & Kashmir symbolised by peace, prosperity and people’s power? Here are 10 Commandments to save Jammu & Kashmir.


1} Do not live in denial: accept that there is an uprising, and admit your mistakes

One of the biggest hurdles in the way of any meaningful initiative is that New Delhi often becomes a prisoner of its own rhetoric. Let’s face it: there is a virtual revolt on the streets of the Kashmir Valley. Enraged young men and increasingly women are leading an uprising against the State and the central government and we just hope and (often believe) that it is all a Pakistani plot.

This is a generation born in conflict which has only seen the ugly face of India. This is a politically conscious generation that may not be able to take a long-term view of issues, but is hardly enamoured by Pakistan, nor can it easily be manipulated by the ISI. Understanding the anatomy of this new ‘movement’ alone will help to craft policies that can really deliver results on the ground.

This reality must be accepted as must be the admission of mistakes. This is the first step towards restoring trust between New Delhi and the people of Kashmir. Over the years, the Centre has made a number of appalling mistakes in Kashmir. Promises of dialogue have not been kept, several elections have been rigged, genuinely elected governments dismissed, puppet leaders installed — and, in the last two decades, the ordinary Kashmiri has faced harassment from security forces.

Some of these mistakes were avoidable; others inevitable given the complex situation on the ground, and others have been corrected. Facing up to this reality is essential. Admission of these mistakes will not be construed as an expression of guilt, but will signal recognition that fresh initiatives towards Kashmir will be based on an awareness of past mistakes and a genuine desire not to see them repeated. Sonia Gandhi, in her speech to the all-party meeting, came closest to accepting this reality.

2} Understand what the youth want: conduct a stakeholder analysis and build trust

It will be impossible to reach out to these young men and women unless there is a clear understanding of what they want. While the uprising may have a single anti- India focus, a variety of factors have coalesced to generate these protests. The all-party delegation that visits the Valley must be tasked to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the stakeholders (especially the youth) in each district of the Valley. Based on this, implement unilaterally confidence and trust-building measures that will have maximum impact, including release of young men in jails and political detainees immediately.

3} Create the conditions for an ‘uninterrupted’ sustained dialogue

Once the CBMs are in place, it is essential to appoint a team of political interlocutors who will carry credibility. Make the dialogue unconditional and as inclusive as possible. The dialogue must be based on a two-year time-table and weekly meetings. While there may be few takers in the beginning, once it is recognised that New Delhi is acting in good faith, Kashmiris themselves will force their leaders to join the negotiating table. All those part of the dialogue must be exposed to the lessons from peace processes across the world by experts in conflict resolution.

4} Recognise that autonomy or self-governance in J&K will not balkanise India

Separatism grows when people feel disconnected from the structures of power and the process of policy formulation; in contrast, devolution ensures popular participation in the running of the polity. Bluntly put, autonomy and self-governance is the only recipe for the 21st century. If autonomy weakened states, the United States of America would have disintegrated many decades ago. If this balance is struck, Jammu and Kashmir could become a model of ‘cooperative federalism’, a special model that could be gradually applied to other states in the union.

Autonomy and self-rule are about empowering people, making them feel that they belong, and about increasing the accountability of public institutions and services. It is synonymous with decentralisation and devolution of power, phrases that have been on the charter of virtually every political party in India. In Jammu and Kashmir, autonomy carries tremendous resonance with the people because puppet leaders from the state colluded with the central leadership and gradually eroded the autonomy promised by the Constitution. There is no contradiction between wanting Kashmir to be part of the national mainstream and the state’s desire for autonomous self-governance.

5} Create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

A commission like this is not about fixing blame, but about accepting the tragic events of the past and moving together into a better future. It is about recognising the tragedy of two decades, of those who disappeared or were killed, or the tragic displacement of Kashmiri Pandits. Such a Commission would be best served by respected jurists who carry credibility with Indian civil society as well as the people of the state.


6} Create the conditions for an internal reconciliation

Today, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are polarised, with their differences being exploited by sectarian groups. There are powerful forces demanding a trifurcation of the main regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – into separate administrative units.

Posing as an imaginative solution, this demand, if conceded, could lead to violent social disruptions in the state and create a communal polarisation that would not just irretrievably destroy the cultural and social fabric of the state, but have perilous consequences for communal relations in the rest of India. In addition, trifurcation would forever end the possibilities of reviving the plural traditions of communal harmony in the state that had once made it a symbol of the very idea of India: unity in diversity. It is important that the state government work, along with civil society, to create the conditions for reconciliation amongst the three regions and the different ethnic groups, that will also make it possible for Kashmir’s Hindus to honourably return to the valley.

7} Reach out to the Opposition and the young

It is important for Omar Abdullah reach out to everyone. A politician is one who only thinks of the next election; a statesman is one who thinks of the next generation. Bury the past, forget the bitterness of yesterday, and try and create a new way in politics. Meet young people, as many as you can, every day. And call on your political opponents (drop by at Fairview to see the Muftis, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at Nageen and even Syed Ali Shah Geelani at Hyderpora) and seek their support in the crisis. Generosity in politics will never be seen as a weakness. Political leaders who demonstrate humility in crisis always emerge stronger.

8} Recognise your failures, don’t always blame Delhi

The state government has found it easy to blame the central government for all the problems of the state. It is time that it accepted that the administration had virtually collapsed in the last three months. Most deaths on the streets were during firing — not by the Indian army, but by the J&K police or the CRPF aiding the state police. J&K is believed to be the second most corrupt state in India with good reason. Delivery of public services is abysmal, and there is no scheme for generating employment other than as white collar workers in the government. This needs to change. The youth of Kashmir have to be given hope for the future and this can only happen if the local government delivers on multiple fronts.


9} Recognise the limits of the possible

The people of Kashmir have suffered and been traumatised over the lost decades and lived in uncertainty for the last six decades. Clarity of thinking is not easy in these times, but it is critical to move forward. It is time that the people and the leaders stop living under the illusion of a utopian dream. The reality is that the people must look for pragmatic ways to ensure the honour, dignity and the empowerment of the people in this globalised world. Running after the mirage of a distant paradise will only create the conditions for greater suffering.

10} Discover the other India and utilise its opportunity

There is an India beyond bunkers, security forces and corrupt and corrupted politicians. It is the vibrant India of entrepreneurs, professionals, activists, civil society activists and the robust and free media, among others. More and more Kashmiris must discover this India and build a coalition with it. That is the best guarantee against the other India which we witness in the Valley.

(Source: Tehelka)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kashmir Crisis: What is the state of affairs in the valley?

As the crisis in Kashmir starts to create a sense of panic in the capital, the Centre is looking at all possible options to restore law and order in an already torn land. Facing the ire from opposition parties for its handling of the current crisis in in the valley, the Prime Minister has again requested the people to return to the negotiating table and begin dialogues to end the crisis and restore peace.

Prof. Amitabh Mattoo, the Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah; the Vice Chancellor of Islamic University of Kashmir, Siddiq Wahid and the Author of the well-known book Curfewed Night, Basharat Peer were interviewed by CNBC-TV18's KaraN Thapar who asked them what is it that governments in Srinagar and Delhi must do to calm the situation and regain control.

Click on the link to watch this India Tonight episode...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Now or Never

The grave crisis in Jammu and Kashmir demands a collective national response, and the all-party meeting today is a forum that must help devise a comprehensive consensual strategy for the state, even if anarchy seems to be the defining feature of the Valley’s polity at the moment. This can happen only if there is a minimum agreement on at least three issues.

First, it must be recognised that today almost the entire Valley has been overwhelmed by a collective expression of rage, led by the youth who were born or grew up during the years of militancy and who are driven by a sense of hopelessness. This is a product largely of our own follies, and our inability to translate the gains of the election in 2008, the most inclusive in J&K’s history, into long-term dividends, and these mistakes have been compounded over the past few months. Consider this: nearly 90 civilians have been killed since June and not one national leader — outside Prakash Karat of the CPI (M) — has thought it fit to visit the state. Under these circumstances, it would be too much to expect Pakistan, and other anti-India forces not to fish in these troubled waters.

But it’s equally important to realise that the pro-Pakistan constituency in the Valley, before the present troubles, had shrunk dramatically. After all, the political and social conditions in Pakistan had not gone unnoticed in the Valley. Second, the ‘fire’ in Kashmir can only be doused by a multi-track approach that targets and addresses the people of the state, not individual leaders or parties (separatist or mainstream). This approach should have only one goal: the political, social and cultural empowerment of the people and a real abiding assurance of security for every citizen. This can be achieved by a systematic, imaginative and continuously monitored plan of action devised in close coordination with the government by the leaders of the major political parties.

Third, it is essential that we accept that J&K is unique and must be dealt with specially. Its uniqueness is obvious for a variety of historical reasons recognised even by the Supreme Court. In 1984, in Khazan Chand vs the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the court unambiguously held that the state holds “a special place in the constitutional set up of the country”. Earlier, the 1983 Srinagar Declaration adopted by the Opposition conclave that included Jyoti Basu, I.K. Gujral, Chandra Shekhar and Parkash Singh Badal, stated that “the special constitutional status of J&K should be preserved and protected in letter and spirit”. More important, however, is Kashmir’s singular importance to the very idea of India, which is often forgotten. A Muslim majority state that voluntarily acceded to India in 1947 lent tremendous strength to the construction of India as a vibrant, secular and pluralistic State.

The battle, therefore, to win back the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris is critical not just for the strengthening of the ideals that inspired Indian nationhood, but is also central to the war against obscurantism and extremism. In other words, J&K must no longer be dealt with the kind of political ineptitude and bureaucratic inertia that has often characterised the Centre’s policies towards many other states. This requires the necessity of rising above partisan considerations. This fact is clearly understood by the UPA and the NDA leaderships.

If there is acceptance of the above, the all-party meeting must consider the following three-point plan of action. First, an all-party parliamentary delegation must visit the state at the earliest to carry an on-spot assessment of the situation and meet with as many ‘ordinary’ Kashmiris as possible as well as political leaders, in Srinagar and the countryside. Political leaders have an intuitive ability to a do a quick stakeholder analysis and they must be tasked with working out confidence- and trust-building measures that must be unilaterally implemented by New Delhi.

Second, a special task force must be immediately constituted by the prime minister and dedicated full-time to J&K (headed by a Cabinet minister or by the PM himself). It must be made responsible for monitoring, on a daily basis, the situation in the state, and assisting in governance and developmental activities and other pressing problems in the state and to reduce the ‘trust’ and ‘governance’ deficits.

Third, the all-party meeting must demand that UPA leadership and the government appoint a credible team of negotiators to conduct a political dialogue between the Centre and the people of the state. The dialogue should be as inclusive as possible, and no group or individual must be considered untouchable. No conditions must be attached at the beginning of a dialogue. It is quite obvious that any negotiations the Centre conducts can, in no way, compromise the unity and integrity of India. Even separatists realise this. But any explicit conditionalities make it difficult for many to take the initial leap from the streets to the negotiating table. The people of the state must be made to see that the genius of the Constitution is such that it can be made to accommodate the most robust aspirations of even the most disempowered or marginal group.

When the rest of the nation demonstrates its good faith towards the people of J&K, it should be possible to redeem the situation. The people of J&K, even at the worst of times, have almost always demonstrated reasonableness. They are naturally inclined to travel along the path that leads to peace, prosperity and people’s power. The time has come for our political representatives to remove all the hurdles on this path. Collectively, the Indian nation is indeed capable of achieving what might today seem an impossible task.

(Source: Hindustan Times)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An insider’s take on the mystery of Kashmir’s conflict.

Kashmir has been fought over by India, Pakistan, and to a lesser known extent, China, since the partition of 1947 that divided the subcontinent. Since then innumerable splinter groups, often backed by outside parties, have negotiated ceasefires, broken then, come to the peace table or stalked off. The majority of Kashmiris call for independence, but it’s clear that neither India nor Pakistan are ready to make any big concessions.

After a couple of years of seeming normalcy, trouble flared up again this summer. Young protestors have taken to the streets, often throwing stones at the large numbers of security forces deployed around the valley. The police and army have declared curfews that have all but shut down the region, crippling local businesses but having little effect in stopping the protests.

Dheera Sujan of South Asia Wired interviewed Prof. Mattoo for an insider’s take on the underlying causes of the current violence that’s taking such a deadly toll in Kashmir.

Click on the following link to listen to the podcast of his interview on Radio Netherlands.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Prof. Amitabh Mattoo at the India-Pakistan Chaophraya Dialogue


28-30 August 2010

Leading opinion makers from India and Pakistan met at Bangkok for the 5th round of the Chaophraya Dialogue from 28-30 August 2010. They began their deliberations by observing a minute of silence to commiserate with the victims of the recent floods in Pakistan that have caused a grave humanitarian crisis in the country. The Indian participants collectively voiced their support for and solidarity with the people of Pakistan at this challenging time. The Pakistani participants welcomed the offer of Indian humanitarian aid. All the participants hoped that this crisis will lead to greater cooperation between the two countries.


1. The participants emphasized the need for continued bilateral engagement especially at official and functional levels. They hoped that the dialogue can be sustained until there is a satisfactory resolution of all outstanding issues.

2. They welcomed the forthcoming meeting of the foreign ministers and expressed the hope that this would take the dialogue process forward.

3. The participants felt that the two sides need to agree upon the form and structure of the dialogue.

4. They noted that decisions already taken in earlier rounds of talks needed to be implemented fully. Other issues on which there is convergence must be brought to an early conclusion.

5. To facilitate people-to-people exchanges, the participants felt that there was a need to relax visa restrictions particularly for artistes, media, academics, business persons, students and civil society organizations.

6. To build trust and confidence, they recommended exchanges of visits by military delegations especially at the level of service chiefs, and similar exchanges between intelligence agencies.

7. The two governments should urgently take up the humanitarian issue of fishermen and other prisoners languishing in each others’ jails and find workable compassionate solutions.


1. The participants strongly supported a comprehensive process to build sustained peace and reconciliation between India and Pakistan.

2. They believed that a sustained dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad, including on Jammu and Kashmir, was required to ensure lasting peace.

3. They recommended that New Delhi and Islamabad should facilitate a dialogue between representatives from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, reflecting all shades of political opinion.

4. The participants suggested that to complement the bilateral dialogue, inter and intra-Jammu and Kashmir dialogue, New Delhi and Islamabad should consider activating the back-channel on Jammu and Kashmir.

5. They called upon New Delhi and Islamabad to implement, in letter and spirit, the series of existing CBMs, particularly those relating to easing travel and trade between the two sides of the Line of Control.

6. They also appealed to New Delhi and Islamabad to urgently initiate measures to build trust and confidence amongst the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

7. The participants believed that progress made on various tracks of the dialogue must be shared with the principal stakeholders within India and Pakistan, including the major political parties.


1. The participants recognized that instability in Afghanistan would have serious implications for both Pakistan and India. Hence it was important for both countries to support reconciliation in Afghanistan which was essential for stability in the country and the region.

2. They agreed that the future of Afghanistan should be the exclusive domain of the people of Afghanistan. It was recommended that all other countries refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

3. It was agreed that the only solution to the Afghan problem is a political one. There can be no military solution.

4. The participants felt that the aspirations of the Afghan people for stability and sovereignty should be fulfilled as early as possible within an Afghan-owned multi-ethnic and broad-based framework.

5. It was also agreed that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan has the potential of leading to greater cooperation between India and Pakistan. The absence of cooperation between the two countries carries the danger of aggravating bilateral tensions.

6. The participants further suggested that India and Pakistan should look for specific avenues of cooperation. It was noted that cooperation among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan has great potential. All three countries are members of SAARC, and should, therefore, be encouraged to consult one another on issues of mutual concern and economic development. The three countries should explore potential areas of cooperation which could include joint investment, energy cooperation, infrastructure development and trade, among others.


1. Participants agreed that terrorism was a common enemy and the comprehensive defeat of terrorism should guide the policies of the governments of India and Pakistan. Pakistan, today, faces, an existential threat from terrorist organizations, while the memory of various terrorist attacks still affects public opinion in India.

2. They recognized that terrorism was a common threat to both countries and must be dealt with vigorously in all its aspects.

3. They felt there was a need for institutionalized and regular interaction between the heads of the intelligence agencies outside public glare.

4. They recommended that those involved in prosecution of terrorist cases common to both countries should meet often to expedite disposal of cases.

5. Both sides must actively collaborate to facilitate the prosecution of terrorists being tried for acts of terrorism.

6. It was suggested that civil society organizations should build public awareness of their respective national commitments to combat terrorism under the relevant United Nations conventions and binding resolutions.

7. The participants also proposed that both countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and refrain from interference in each other’s internal affairs.



Sherry Rehman (President, Jinnah Institute, member of the National Security Committee of the National Assembly of Pakistan), Ejaz Haider (contributing editor, Friday Times, and former executive editor, Daily Times), Aziz Ahmad Khan (former High Commissioner to India), Najmuddin Shaikh (former Foreign Secretary), Ahmer Bilal Soofi (President, Research Society of International Law), Talat Masood (Lt Gen, former Secretary, Ministry of Defence), Humayun Khan (former Foreign Secretary), Syed Rifaat Hussain (Professor and Chair, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University), Shahzad Chaudhry (former DG, Air Force Strategic Command), Nasim Zehra (Director, Current Affairs, Dunya Television), Sehar Tariq (Program Manager, Jinnah Institute)


Amitabh Mattoo (Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University), Lalit Mansingh (former Foreign Secretary), Raja Menon (Rear Admiral, Chairman, Net Assessment and Simulation, National Security Council), Happymon Jacob (Assistant Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University), G Parthasarathy (former High Commissioner to Pakistan), Dipankar Banerjee (Maj. Gen., Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies), Siddharth Varadarajan (Strategic Affairs Editor, The Hindu), Praveen Swami (Associate Editor, The Hindu), AS Dulat (former Director, Research and Analysis Wing), Barkha Dutt (Group Editor, NDTV), Indrani Bagchi (Senior Editor, The Times of India), Mallika Joseph (Deputy Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies)