Dhaka Courier

Kashmir: Elite conflict in a majoritarian state


The Kashmir takeover/ status quo cancellation/ending terrorist attacks move etc. was largely inevitable at this point of time as two Indian elite class battle it out within. One is trying to regain supremacy, the other to consolidate. The colonial elite led by Indian National Congress (INC) has been largely routed and the pre-colonial/indigenous elite led by the BJP is close to home after two consecutive electoral victories. BJP is much more popular than all others and even the traditional zones have fallen to the BJP chariot’s charge.

Historical relations with 1947

The INC accepts the construction of 1947 with qualifications though while the BJP rejects it, both using it for their own political benefit. The INC was party to making the 1947 so it can’t be denied by them but it fought hard to prevent the birth of Pakistan. Congress was also a party to the partition of Bengal to suit its “one India” ideology. It prevented the success of the “United Bengal Movement” jointly led by both Bengal Congress and Bengal Muslim League. However, under colonial rule, this was the limit of their resistance and India under Congress had to wait after 1947 before the “Kashmir” issue could become a sustainable hostility product. The consequent wars that began in 1947-48 continues even today.

India’s political identity is linked to this “One India” = dismantle 1947 syndrome which under Congress reached its peak in 1971. Its critical support to the Bangladesh movement in 1971, led to the end of the “Pakistan” of 1947. In effect, the current “Pakistan” was born the day Bangladesh celebrates Victory, 16th December 1971.

But the Congress also was unable to deal with the rising aspiration of the middle and lower classes within India which led to its own loss of power and the rise of BJP. Today this party is on the chase to end the leftovers of 1947 as far as possible.

The war that colonialism bred

India under Congress became a nuclear power but so did Pakistan making a conclusive conventional war between the two a remote possibility. The fact was a deterrent to large scale wars which allowed Pakistan to invest more in insurgency emanating from the Kashmir zone. Pakistan has taken advantage of the situation. The area is a clustering of not so happy people which is indicated by the special status it enjoyed till ended recently.

However, the insurgency is seen as a weakness in India by many including those who support BJP. Given the limited options available, India has made incursions, strikes, forays etc. and sold it as “punishment’ to Pakistan to the domestic scene. It has worked but as India grows more confident, election votes become larger and economy grows, more is needed to satisfy that hunger. The withdrawal of the constitutional arrangement for Kashmir within the Indian Union was inevitable as the 1947 dismantling project needs new actions.  India’s colonial past is roughly heading towards an ending.

End of rule of law?

Colonialism’s great contribution to feudal India is governance by the rule of law.  Colonialism also wasn’t majoritarian as the colonizer’s were themselves a minority hence the rule of law. Choosing to be with one side was not possible as they themselves were the third side, not part of either. They patronized one or the other to suit its need. So it was even handed as far as the colonized people were concerned.  This changed once the colonizers left and the conflicts that was already impacting on Indian politics as evidenced by 1947 continued.

It was most pronounced in Pakistan where the “majority” became an “idea’ rather than demographic concept which made the “Centre” – Islamabad /Karachi- the core of a nation/country. The Kashmir wars reaffirmed that status and gave the military of Pakistan the protector’s role of that concept. It made Bangladesh genocide of 1971 possible to protect Kashmir, the military’s control and ultimately Pakistan.

India had played a better game on this side of the border and allowed the military led governance model of Pakistan to collapse which did in 1971.  Its half the job was done. The rest now was the ending of the “real’ Pakistan. However, the nuclear arming has weakened that possibility but the aspiration and political potential of using that sentiment to gain politically remains. Hence the cancellation of status and what happens now till something better turns up.

Is China the guarantor of Pakistan now?

India’s worry is not Pakistan but China who control’s many of the fringes of India including the territory over which both fought a war in 1962. Whether India did a deal with China on Aksai Chin before the Kashmir status cancellation – as reported by media- is not certain but Pakistan certainly doesn’t matter in the issue much. China is Pakistan’s guarantor now not its army and 20% of Kashmir is claimed by them so the limits of India’s objective setting are also set.

Till date no credible facts or analysis has been made as to why the step India took was so necessary. After all, no threat existed in India which needed immediate attention of distraction. It has no contest with a political group either. And to make a volatile zone more angry and requiring more investment in its security future will be a costly in resource and energy terms.

India has also threatened to abandon its nuclear “no- firs-t strike” policy which is aimed against Pakistan. This shows that the only country against which it can be used is suffocating its options. However, it will be globally unpopular and Pakistan may also be ready to strike back. Right now unlike 1971, India has no protector or patron like Russia was either.  It has to foot history alone.

And this is where China comes in even more.  It won’t like its protégé nuclear bomb and China matters globally. It’s the only global power that has ever challenged US in every sphere of life including economics. And China as report says is worried that the conflict may not be fully be under either side’s control. China is thinking only of its own problems.

Has India lost the region?

India’s actions have made everyone become suspicious of India’s future intentions. This is a great opportunity for China, hurting a bit from its “dept trap” criticism. It will find a better environ for selling BRI better in the region. China’s supremacy is probably far easier now and India will have contributed.

China may now assure an anxious Pakistan militarily more robustly and given its investment and stake its given. This may force India to be more cautious and that may impact on its domestic audience. Finally, insurgency actions may increase if the belligerence grows. Global interest in Indo-Pak relations is low and that means it’s a local affair. Who cares therefore about Kashmir? None in general but...

Unfortunately for India, a global power is directly involved in the issue who has become a player. China now cares.  And China is next door.

Elites in power switch and India has seen a series. Pre-colonials were of one kind – Turko -Afghans/Muslims - followed by the colonials whose descendant the Congress was. Now a more indigenous pre-colonial Hindu variety is in power.  How this elite functions in a multi-cultural majoritarian faith dominated state in which a world power like China has become linked to is not easy to predict.

  • Kashmir: Elite conflict in a majoritarian state
  • Issue 7
  • Vol 36
  • Afsan Chowdhury
  • DhakaCourier

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