Kashmir turmoil: India and Pakistan can solve long-standing issues through a federation of states in South Asia

The two countries need to go for a Federation of India or Pakistan states taking other SAARC countries with them and building a coalition of economically viable and disaster-ready

As I see the increasingly sane and rational voices of Pakistan protest the murder of Qandeel Baloch in such a dishonourable way for not conforming to the patriarchal values and attitudes of the country, I am thrilled that Pakistan has become a reality and not just a state of mind that we across the border would most heartily like to think, considering the negative image it has on our minds.

India too developed its ''idea of India'' in a very painful, forceful and necessary way as the review of Sunil Khilnani's book The Idea of India by Farrar Straus Giroux in The New York Times reveals. Giroux writes:

''Contrary to India's nationalist myths, enamoured of immemorial 'village republics', pre-colonial history little prepared it for modern democracy. Nor was democracy a gift of the departing British. Democracy was established after a profound historical rupture -- the experience, at once humiliating and enabling, of colonialism, which made it impossible for Indians to regard their own past as a sufficient resource for facing the future and condemned them, in struggling against the subtle knots of the foreigner's Raj, to struggle also against themselves. But it also incited them to imagine new possibilities: of being a nation, of possessing their own state, and of doing so on their own terms in a world of other states. By gradually raising the edifice of a state whose sovereign powers stretched across the vast Indian landscape, the British made politics the unavoidable terrain on which Indians would have to learn to act.''

The unrest in Kashmir is what tests this 'strangest of all political anomalies', famously quoted by Lord Macaulay from time to time. India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru under whose aegis, Kashmir acceded to India in 1947 and was granted special status under Article 370, realized the accession of the Muslim-majority would not only strengthen India's secular credentials but also help in containing the ideological adversary internally, namely the Hindu nationalist faction represented by the Jan Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This was Nehru's larger political objective.

But surely Nehru's visionary stance and his political acumen could take a few Pakistani flags or anti-national slogans on India's soil? Surely the ''idea of India'' can and does encompass a few dissenting states who wish to create an independent governance of their own based either on religious or ethnic lines. The Founding Mothers of India (which by the way outnumber more than the Founding Fathers, but it was the 40s, so visibility would have been less, more of background activism and advice) would have immediately convened a national discourse with the architect of the Constitution of India Dr. B. R. Ambedkar at the helm and involved all stakeholders to reach a solution for this ''seditious'' redefining of the borders to adhere to the will of the people, of this I am sure.

But they would have been up against the basic military question of whether they should cater to the ''Left-liberalism'' or ''social justice warrior activism'' to respect the ''aspirations of the Kashmiris'' or whether they could afford to open up India to a future Balkanisation with a nuclear-armed neighbour by its side, who refuses to sign the NFU (No First Use) policy in the event of a strike or provocation. This military question is what has brought the Kashmir imbroglio at an ''impasse'' as Delhi-based journalist and novelist (The Hour Before Dawn) Ajaz Ashraf puts forth in his Scroll article

''The real tragedy: There will never be a solution to the Kashmir problem''.

He emphasises how the pathology of nation-states (like India) will not allow even a rethinking of its territorial integrity not to mention the huge regional ego involved in the ''conundrum''.

Ashraf's pertinent observation underlines this tussle with Pakistan clearly:

''But because the two-nation theory was proved wrong through the birth of Bangladesh, Pakistan wishes to midwife an independent Kashmir to undercut the idea of composite nationalism, which seems ragged and in tatters – in Kashmir anyway. Till such time as success is achieved, it would wish to tie-down India in Kashmir. Tit-for-tat is the cardinal principle of international relations.''

This observation of his is what has been our life since the Valley erupted in 1989 in what has been described time and again as Pakistan's ''proxy war'' with India; its ''Shadow War'' where the players are our own children but the hand is the military might of the ISI, ''internal meddling'' with the affairs of India; ''unfinished business of Partition'' which it keeps alive in the minds of the Kashmiris through petro-dollar funded Wahhabism; and so on and so forth.

Due to increased expansion of the world wide web, Pakistan's own ''azadi'' movement in Balochistan has been splashed across the screens of scores of people who for the first time realised that the largest province of Pakistan actually existed and was the ''crime scene'' of the same nature as Kashmir - ''enforced disappearances, torture, killings, gross human rights violations and of course, the usual diplomatic circus of denial. Which shoves this question on the faces of both the governments. Does the GOP and the GOI really want to continue killing their own people for not wanting to be a part of their respective ''ideas of ...''? How about moving on to an ''idea of South Asia'', knowing full well that the pressing matters that plague our respective countries are malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, poverty, modern-day slavery, misogyny and severe constructive long-term economic visions?

Both countries jointly have an opportunity to go beyond their respective egos and think of a loose federal structure which could enable them to solve a ''draining, bleeding'' Kashmir equation between them. This could require a rewriting of their respective Constitutions though I personally believe Pakistan will have a tougher fight than India in convincing large masses for this - given the history of military coups in the past every time an ''out of the box'' solution is presented. India of course, can brace itself for the ''nationalistic fervour civil war'' or mass rioting as we call it but it is not an impossibility given that its Left-leaning academia and intellectuals are already clamouring for a redefining of borders and questioning the ''sacrosanct'' nature of maps.

Subarayudu G. Kameshwara, in his piece, gives an elaborate outline of how this federal structure might work. It is far from perfect but it is a start unless the respective governments have no qualms in creating the next generation of alienated youth who are ready to die in the face of pellets or bullets.

In the age of mega earthquakes, global warming, biological/chemical warfare, future water wars, depleting food and mineral resources and pandemic scares of mutational  viruses with lethal strains, the two countries need to go for a Federation of India or Pakistan states taking other SAARC countries with them and building a coalition of economically viable and disaster-ready states who exist for the people and not the reverse.

Arshia Malik is a Srinagar-based writer and social commentator with focus on women issues and conflict in Kashmir. She makes her living as a school teacher and is an avid collector of literature. She is currently writing a book about her life as a female in Kashmiri Muslim society

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