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PM in J&K: Old wine in new bottles
A tale of dole & largesse devoid of political progress
Dr.Javid Iqbal
PM in Jammu and Kashmir in concluding week of June, 2013 carried the same tale-a tale of old wine in new bottles, a tale of dole and largesse devoid of political progress. Strategizing economic development, while overlooking the political developments looming large on subcontinental horizon and a shade beyond the subcontinent has been tried before and found wanting. GOI as well as JK has enough avenues where economic activity gets explored and any issues evened out, any overdrive in economic field without guarding political flanks may be a self defeating strategy. Economic development needs to be guarded by political action. Higher offices of the state, like the one of the chief political executive-the Prime Minister is meant to strategize higher issues of security, mostly dictated by political developments rather than get entangled in day to day governance issues. In Indian higher offices, a dichotomy of sorts exists, putting a question mark on whether these offices carry the letter and the spirit of constitution, especially that of the Prime Minister. Before assessing PM's role vis-à-vis JK, a general assessment of India's 'Man of the Moment' would be desirable.

Prime Minister Singh gets a high rating as an economist; he is credited with pulling India out of miserable growth rate of around 3%. In early 90's as Finance Minister in Narshima Rao government, Manmohan Singh did a reasonably good job, he turned the economy around, and eventually India touched on occasions around 8% growth, though there are cons. One, such a high growth could not be sustained-it fell to around 5%. Two, growth being lopsided, the very unevenness had its hazards. It did not transfer meaningfully to lower strata of society, thus leaving as high as 58% in lower class. Cons apart, the known and much respected economic know-how of Manmohan Singh did not translate into political art, and that is indeed a setback.

Manmohan Singh as PM is on a weak wicket. PMO has lost its sheen, and Prime Ministership, far from being an accolade is getting to be the burden, he could have done without. It is indeed a bitter to note, as is being widely narrated that Manmohan is Prime Minister, precisely because he is not a politician. And a country as massive as India could ill afford to have a Prime Minister, not well versed in political art, more so, given the diversity in her religious, social, cultural and economic profile. And more important the inherent contradictions in core states, geopolitical status of her peripheries demands a dexterous Prime Minister, not a mere manager of high office. Yet, it is mere day to day management that he is asked to handle, while as an extra-constitutional wields power without owning any responsibility.

Sonia Gandhi has not done India any favour for choosing not to be Prime Minister, the dichotomy it has resulted in has created a disorder in the political health of the country. She has been put on the defensive by being called a foreigner, that too in a land of immigrants. Apart from some groups living on Jamna river banks, some Advasi tribes, hardly anyone could be called an original Indian. Neither could the Aryans-dominant population group in north of India, or the Dravids-southern counterpart of northern Aryans make such a claim. Both are migrants, time span differs. This is a land where Lord Hume and Annie Besant of white race gave a kick start to freedom movement by pioneering Congress. The party is now led by Sonia with same racial feature as that of Hume and Besant. Had either of these pioneers developed cold feet, the freedom movement might not have taken off, as early as it did.

Sonia Gandhi eventually chose a Prime Minister, who migrated from a neighbouring country-Pakistan? His counterpart in Pakistan is a Lahorian Kashmiri-Nawaz Sharief. Leader of opposition, one of Sonia's principal opponents-Lal Kishan Advani is from Sind in Pakistan. There is a relevant question, if she could enter electoral fray, win an election, enter parliament, there could hardly be a constitutional bar to become Prime Minister. There isn't, yet she chose to create a parallel center of power to confuse her well wishers and confound her adversaries.

On PM Manmohan Singh's J&K sorties, Sonia is seen by his side. Keeping with Nehru-Gandhi tradition of considering Kashmir the home they love, a visit to valley is irresistible. Ever and always, developmental mantra is taken to be the healing element. Resistances forces call these damage control exercises-eyewash, indulged in time and again creating trust deficit. The deficit that has created alienation, Delhi is finding hard to bridge. Congressmen foreswearing faith in secularism and liberalism have become suspect. On a contrary note Atal Behari Vajpayee evokes admiration for at least seeming to be fair in his approach to 'K' issue, even with his refrain that dividing lines may remain but could be made irrelevant.

Given that Vajpayee led NDA, conceded that BJP was NDA's leading element, accepted that BJP is a part of ultra-conservative Sangh Parivar, still a secularist like Nitish Kumar, arguably India's best chief minister with seemingly genuine care for minority concerns could live with him. Vajpayee rose to heights much above the men, the parties or coalitions he led. He could play with words; he put his poetic talent to good use in honing his political instincts. He talked of 'Insaniyat' to overcome differences of opinion on parameters within which dialogue could be initiated with resistance forces in J&K. He could put up a face and talk to Pakistan inspite of Kargil, in spite of Brass-tacks following 2001 parliament episode. And stabilizing relations with Pakistan is viewed favourably in J&K, for the simple reason that people consider it as a pre-requisite for addressing 'K' issue. Vajpayee might not achieved the ultimate, but in his innings as Foreign Minister in Morarji led government [1977-79] and later as Prime Minister in NDA coalition, he did put his weighed around to stay and look positive. He provided hope, he looked promising, and he was inspiring. In spite of heavy odds, the very fact that there was visible movement on diplomatic front kept the hopes alive.

UPA-I and UPA-II in contrast is a despondent tale of managing JK without politically addressing issues. 'K' issue on backburner has been the major narrative, across the divide. Added to 'K' issue remains the gross variation in perceiving the situation in Afghanistan, particularly post 2014 scenario. Working at cross purposes in Afghanistan could complicate 'K' issue. These are issues which loom large on subcontinental horizon and shade beyond the subcontinent. Afghanistan is more central Asian than South Asian, however with strong links to South Asia, warranting its inclusion in SAARC as a full member. SAARC though is a weak association, one of the weakest global regional organization, which is a poor reflection on the regional countries that constitute it.

Instead of addressing larger issues, every time Nehru-Gandhi scions visit J&K, lately with a lame-duck Prime Minister in tow, there is talk of largesse, which adds to alienation. And lately, it is coming to notice that the largesse is meant to enhance defence preparedness and brighten energy prospects. Improved infrastructure does help civilian segment of population too, however large security establishment presence remains in need of improved communication network. J&K needs to be seen beyond its geopolitical space providing depth in defence, more so in nuclear epoch, where conventional security preparedness is yielding space to mutual assured destruction [MAD] scenarios. J&K emerges on energy map of India in a big way, meant to fill in partly the void left by considerable shrinkage in domestic fossil fuel resources.

Energy is emerging as the major issue across Indo-Pak divide, J&K could be the bridge to address it. Doles, the largesse---minor elements in emerging scenario hardly befit an emerging global player, India proposes to be-but then is anyone listening?

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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News Updated at : Monday, July 1, 2013
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