Kashmir – Anti-rational not Anti-national problem

Kashmir remains and will continue to remain as one of the most volatile regions on the planet. It has been a blackhole for men, resources and even peace itself. Kashmir is designed to be the hill the best of ideas, the noblest of intentions and the bravest of men die. Why? Because it’s the clash of men who know what they fight for but not how to fight pitted against men who do not know what they fight for but know why they fight.

Kashmir was, for a very brief period, a fight of nationality and occupation and hence resolvable. The inept central leadership coupled with the myopic and opportunistic state leadership led the state inexorably towards a religious conflict. The exodus of the Kashmiri pandits (~15% of the native population) made this into a fight of religion and not occupation. If the Kashmiri Pandits had stayed and sided with the Centre, it would have enervated the legitimacy of the claims by other inhabitants of being forcefully occupied. This shift is religion agnostic, it would be just as true if the religions were reversed, with a Muslim majority India and Hindu majority Kashmir. Religions by design make people behave anti-rationally, only the degree differs. Humans will give up their constitutional freedoms but not religious freedoms. The British knew this all too well, hence during the initial period of occupation prohibited any Christian missionaries to India. Even when they were allowed, they had very little state support.

Most Indians and sadly even the leadership wrongly believe that Kashmir is a political and military problem. Political or even military options are for rational players, people who know what they want, how to achieve what they want and know when they have lost. If it were a political issue, we would have the Abdulla’s and the Mufti’s either sympathizing or attending funerals of the militant separatists or have divisive polemics from the Faesal’s. We have learnt to co-exist with the communists and over time have both got them to the verge of extinction and have converted the remaining handful to some version of capitalism. If land and resources were the sore points, article 370 should have been the panacea. If freedom from India is their aim, then there would be no unrest in PoK.

If land and resources were an issue, there would be no conflict between Israel-Palestine or USA-all the militants on the planet. The Israelis have been the past masters in understanding this type of conflict. It is never about the land or the resource. It is a fight for the sake of a fight. It serves no economic benefit to Israel to maintain their enclaves in Gaza or West Bank. If anything, it is a drain on their For the Palestinians partnering with Israel, will bring economic prosperity while bringing peace to Israel. Yet, both players are involved in an irrational strategy – the militants want the destruction of Israel at any cost, and Israel, because it understands the irrationality of its opponent sends out a message of its own irrationality by occupying Palestine.

In Kashmir, Pakistan fights for its relevance, militant fights for his deliverance and the ordinary Kashmiri fights in ignorance. While the militants, like all their brethren suffer from an extreme bout of Kruger-Dunning, the local Kashmiri while having rational aspirations such as job, education, peace and a future, behaves irrationally by pelting stones, attending funeral of militants and overall thumbing his nose at India. The actions of people in Kashmir is anti-rational rather than anti-national as there is no tangible aim or desirable outcome. Unless India can get the ordinary Kashmiri to act in her own  self-interest (read rationally), this is one hole it will never be able to square.

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