Parrikar’s Pentagon Address Is A Brazen Attempt To Obscure And Obfuscate

Manohar Parrikar, the Defense Minister of India has , in an interaction with Pentagon reporters and with his American counterpart Ashton Carter made some startling statements. In a reference to Pakistan, Parrikar has alleged that “forces across the border are fomenting trouble in violence-hit Kashmir". Echoing Mehbooba Mufti, Parrikar has also stated that “a small percentage of people in the Valley are holding the majority to ransom”. Lauding the government, Parrikar has stated that “ the government is working "proactively" in handling the violence in the state”. And asked about the current situation in Kashmir, he said curfew has already been lifted and an all-party delegation is also heading to the Valley. Parrikar making a reference to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has added, “Kashmir is actually having a government which is a democratically elected. And the chief minister belongs to the Valley”.

Brutally put, all this amounts to eyewash.

However, significant and cross cutting themes emerge from Parrikar’s themes-local, regional and global.

Consider the local first. It is interesting to note that Parrikar has echoed and iterated what Mehbooba Mufti has been consistently stating in every public forum since the past few days: 5% are holding 95% hostage in Kashmir. From the vantage point of Kashmir, this is sheer balderdash but what is remarkable that Parrikar parroted this. What can be culled from this? That somebody is being somebody’s echo chamber here. If we may surmise given our understanding of Centre State relations vis-à-vis Kashmir, it can’t be Mehbooba; it is in all likelihood the work of the Centre. In this sense there appears to be a wink wink , nod nod relationship between Mehbooba and powers that be at the Centre to align statements with respect to Kashmir. Here Parrikar’s statement that Kashmir has an elected government and Mehbooba Mufti’s Kashmiri origins assume salience. Parrikar by suggesting this is authenticating the 5% versus 95% theme ( a joke in Kashmir now). He is also alluding to the “legitimacy” of the PDP led government in Kashmir. Among other things, this also lends itself to the inference that Mehbooba Mufti has abdicated before the Centre; her  party’s Agenda of Alliance is in shambles and that it is the Centre that is essentially running the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

 Now consider the regional and international connotations. By blaming Pakistan for the current uprising , which it needs to be stated, is purely indigenous and accrues from the historical grievances and aspirations overlain by Kashmiris’ angst over the JKPDP- the party led by Mehbooba Mufti-giving the far right party, the BJP a foothold in Kashmir- Parrikar is attempting to obscure the nature of the uprising. He is harking back to a theme that has been consistently employed by India against Pakistan. While, historically, Pakistan has not been blemishless vis a vis Kashmir, but it can be safely stated that the current uprising in Kashmir is local and indigenous.

All these are, to repeat, attempts to obscure and shift the focus on the nature and denouement of the Kashmir uprisings. However, what is bizarre is the comment by Parrikar according to which the GoI is “pro-actively” handling the violence in Kashmir. If “pro-actively” means employing disproportionate force against protestors which have led to around 74 killings till now and maiming, and injuring of thousands, then we have no quibble with this. But if “pro-actively” means in Parrikar’s schema, prudent measures to deal with the protests and find a lasting solution to the conflict in and over Kashmir, then we find no evidence towards this end.

All in all Parrikar’s statements are an exercise in diplomatic obfuscation suggesting and lending credence to the GoI’s approach towards Kashmir- that of containment and management of the conflict and then dealing with the diplomatic fallout in dubious terms. While this may be understandable from the perspective of the Indian state, the approach smacking of short termism merely prolongs the conflict; it deals with the conflict in Kashmir by containment and attempts to freeze the status quo internationally. How long will this approach last and not yield diminishing returns? History – both retrospective and prospective- will surely have answers to this.

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