Bad for Business: India’s White Elephant Kashmir

                                                                                        (Part I)indian army in Kashmir

By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

It is nothing less than astounding that intelligent men who are charged with the responsibility of leading a country cannot comprehend that spending billions of dollars to maintain possession of a very small disputed territory to its north with millions of troops at the expense of their own national quality of life makes any sense at all. While millions of Indians don’t even have a toilet (As Prime Minister Modi said, “My real thought is to first have toilets and then temples”) and live in squalor in cardboard shelters, the government feeds off their meager incomes in order to possess and control a nation that itself is kept in a dire state economically and cannot possibly pay any return on such an investment.

Moody’s has a Baa3 rating on India, the lowest investment-grade rating assigned by the company. India’s government debt to GDP ratio is the highest among BRICS nations and major developing countries at 67.9 in 2013, compared with 60.3 for Brazil, 42.9 for the Philippines, 24.5 for Indonesia and 34.4 for Turkey. The Indian financial system’s ability to absorb rising government debt has been diminished significantly as a result of low economic growth and high inflation.

Primarily due to energy needs, India is running an overall trade deficit of 7%, Yet, at $8.2 billion expenditures annually, India insists upon being the world’s largest importer of arms, while 205 of its 640 Districts are afflicted by political violence and unrest. This has been going on for years, and military solutions obviously offer no solutions. This, supposedly the world’s largest democracy, does not have its own house in order.

“Indeed,” the South Asia Terrorism Portal, in its 2014 report on India, says,  “the lackadaisical, often corruption-led approach to India’s security is everywhere in evidence, with crucial projects, acquisitions and plans delayed beyond measure, or implemented in a fitful manner that destroys the very possibility of their efficacy in securing intended ends…..More than five years after the debacle in Mumbai, and the many political declarations of determination and intent, capacity augmentation has been no more than marginal, and most state agencies continue to struggle with manpower, technology and resource deficits that are little different from the situation in 2008.”

Common corporate strategy is to cut production and services that are not profitable and maintain those that are, so that the company maintains its own health and vitality and has no red ink. The bottom line for India is that it needs to shrink rather than expand, if it is going to be a profitable business.

Releasing the chains of bondage it holds on Kashmir would be a first logical step in that direction. It’s first priority should be to develop quality of life for the people now within its borders, so that they can become productive citizens and add to the wealth of the nation. Not only does it keep its own people barely hanging on to survival, it ravages Kashmir with destructive measures and policies that serve no one. The desire to possess Kashmir is nothing but a fantasy, an extremely poor business decision, and an outrageous ego trip.

This not only humanitarian but sound business objective would involve nothing more than to allow Kashmir to hold the long-overdue referendum it was promised 67 years ago to decide whether it prefers sovereignty over India’s dominance.  The persistent resistance of Kashmiris is demonstrated by the fact that 20 of its 22 districts suffered some form of political unrest in the past year. That’s an expense that India cannot afford, obviously cannot manage, and needs to shed as quickly as possible.

The example of how to do that has just been shown. The peaceful referendum held September 18, 2104 in Scotland was a great inspiration to Kashmiris.  Reuters reported that Syed Ali Geelani praised the United Kingdom for giving Scotland the vote, adding that “India should learn lessons from U.K. and honor its commitment of granting right to self-determination to people of Kashmir.” Yasin Malik echoed those sentiments by saying that the Scottish referendum is an eye opener for India. India should allow the people of Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq agreed when he said “We hope India will also change its approach and realize the fact that people’s rights can’t be trampled upon.”   Shabir Ahmed Shah added what happened in Scotland should happen in Kashmir too, i.e., a free and transparent referendum to allow the people to choose.

After expressing horror at the prospect of Britain’s breakup, it is ironic that even Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj corrected herself by saying “It is up to the people of Scotland to decide.” Really? No mention of Kashmir, of course. Good for the goose but not for the gander.

Were India to allow a referendum in Kashmir, it would prove to the world that it too is a great democratic country, and not the persistent and militaristic oppressor that it has become.

And while there are many and profound differences between Scotland and Kashmir, Kashmiri leaders, who are often told that their region is too small for independence, will point out that Scotland’s population of 5.3 million is almost exactly the same as that of the Valley of Kashmir, while the total population of the State of Jammu & Kashmir including Azad Kashmir and Gilgat Baltistan is 18 million.

Deborah Orr wrote in Daily Guardian on October 25, 2014, “As a Scot, I’ve found it hard not to compare the yearning for independence in Kashmir to the yearning for independence in Scotland.”

With 47.3% YES votes, and 55.3% NO votes the referendum did not pass, but it laid down some basic principles for the freedom of expression, assembly and voting. The beauty of Scottish referendum was not that it was defeated but that the people were given the choice to have a referendum.

The Scottish referendum was a transparent, free and fair one. The army was not involved. No shots were fired. No blood was shed. No arrests were made. No ban was imposed on election campaign. And there was no condition to take the oath on British constitution as is required in Kashmir.

To be continued…


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