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Force no solution

Published : Sep 10, 2010 00:00 IST

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The book is indispensable to serious students of Kashmir affairs even if they disagree with the author's analyses and conclusions.

THIS book, by an articulate and sensitive Pakistani writer, narrates, with remarkable research, the perils that Pakistan's covert operation in Kashmir poses not only for Kashmir but, most of all, for Pakistan. The spread of jehadi influence is a menace to peace. It is, of course, not jehad as the concept is understood in Islam. It is the use of force for political ends under the garb of religion. It is a fight for power.

The narrative begins with the tribal raid from Pakistan into Kashmir in 1947. This book is woven around hundreds of small episodes that have been narrated to me by Kashmiri militants over hundreds of hours of interviews during the last eleven years. I have tried to check each and every detail using at least two sources who were directly involved in the particular event under discussion. In writing the book, I have also relied on a wealth of secondary sources in confirming my information. I have used news articles and secondary sources to continue the story uninterrupted or where first person accounts are not available, and I took great pains in selecting the secondary sources as well.

Militants active in Kashmir talk with great candour, though their information is sometimes of questionable value. I have been amazed to confirm that most militants I spoke with have told the truth, knowing full well it could do them harm. Having compared numerous accounts of the various incidents under discussion, I believe that what is written here is accurate.

It is this material alone that makes the book indispensable to serious students of Kashmir affairs even if they disagree with the author's analyses and conclusions, some of which are far-fetched.

Some of the candid accounts must be received with caution, especially those by former militants. The author's references to India-controlled and Pakistan-controlled Jammu and Kashmir will jar on the nerves of some. No one was willing to reveal the structure of the militancy. He could not visit Srinagar because he was denied a visa, foolishly, I might add. His scathing critique of Pakistan's adventure in Kargil reveals his fairness and objectivity.

It was Zia-ul-Haq's idea to mount a covert armed operation to force India to negotiate on Kashmir. It was the use of force in aid of diplomacy rather like India's aid to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other militant groups to force Sri Lanka to concede to the Tamils their legitimate demands. It proved ruinous. Far more than Pakistanis realise, their operation in Kashmir has harmed their country at least as much as it has harmed India, if not more. In neither case did the target yield terms to the liking of the attackers.

But with one difference, which must frankly be acknowledged. A dormant to some Indians, a dead issue became alive. Atal Bihari Vajpayee's famous emissary R.K. Mishra frankly told this writer that were it not for the militancy India would not be talking to the Kashmiris or to Pakistan. But force brings its own ruinous consequences in its train. It is the Kashmiris who have suffered them. They are now restive and assertive. The Kashmir problem cannot be put on the back burner, let alone treated as resolved by time, as it was from 1954 to 2004.

In this, Pakistan cannot assume the posture of a wronged party. In 1947, 1965 and from 1987 onwards, it has perpetrated its own wrongs. This book exposes them in grim detail, not excluding the internal wranglings and intrigues of the militant outfits.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Sep 10, 2010.)

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