The Power of Diplomatic Overtures Versus the Impotency of Political Rigidity

In the wake of the cancellation of the scheduled meeting between the foreign minister of India, Sushma Swaraj, and her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Quraishi, which was going to be held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Session in New York, here’s a particularly relevant excerpt from my book, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s Reflections on Kashmir (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018):

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s Speech at Mujahid Manzil, Srinagar in March 1968: “We are fully aware of the fact that the entire subcontinent has common problems, and the people are bound to each other by numerous ties, but partition has even resulted in the separation of families. There is, therefore, no doubt that the progress and future development of both these countries rests largely on the fact that they must proceed shoulder to shoulder with each other and cooperate in all joint ventures avoiding all wasteful expenditure incurred by them on their mutual confrontation, as that would spell their own doom, and pave the way for their domination by third parties.”

Lesson of West Germany

“Although West Germany suffered utter annihilation during the last war, they had, during the short span of a few years, been able to rehabilitate themselves and rise swiftly again to a position of viability.

If this is what West Germany could achieve, there is no reason why India and Pakistan cannot do the same. I am convinced that the people of the subcontinent fervently desire to come nearer to each other and live in peace and friendship with one another.”

Indian People Desire Peace with Pakistan

“I have no doubt in my mind that any discordant views expressed in Parliament do not correctly reflect the voice of the people; similar views expressed in newspapers also do not always represent the truth. So far as I know, the people of India desire that they should live in friendship and harmony with the people of Pakistan, and any views to the contrary expressed in some newspapers are, in my opinion, based on expediency.

I am happy to find that some newspapers do express correct feelings in this regard.”

Kashmir’s Welfare Dependent on Indo-Pak Amity

“So far as the people of Kashmir are concerned, their future happiness and welfare are linked with the people of India and Pakistan, but, unfortunately, those two countries are a loggerheads with each other, and we have become a pawn in their hands. So long as the two governments are not able to resolve their disputes, our own safety is in jeopardy. It is, therefore, in our vital interest that these two countries should be on the best of terms with each other. We are firmly of the opinion that friendship between India and Pakistan is very essential for the happiness, prosperity, and well-being of their peoples. While, therefore, struggling for our right of self-determination, it becomes essential for Kashmir that we should strive hard to secure friendship between India and Pakistan. The main hurdle in the achievement of friendship between the two is the Kashmir dispute, and until it is settled, friendship between them would not appear to be attainable.”

I have emphasized in my various publications in academic and popular forums that insisting on the rigidity of one’s stance which doesn’t allow political accommodation encourages the malignant uncertainty, which helps in the institutionalization of corruption, and opportunists make hay while the unpredictability remains unresolved. The increasing political paralysis helps the nation-states of India and Pakistan to maintain the status quo, which works in the interests of some of the actors, state as well as nonstate, on both sides of the LOC.

In trying to espouse anti-establishment positions, some of us tend to ignore the dangers of obscurantism and the growth of a conflict economy, in which some state and well as non-state actors are heavily invested. The espousal of violence as the means to redress political injustice and socioeconomic inequities will not bring the ship into harbor. Violence has always been a Frankenstein monster that ends up destroying those who rationalize and romanticize it. Our political predecessors in Kashmir, who carefully and deliberately separated politics and religion and whose ideology has been undermined by the powers-that-be, were wise.

The onus now lies on those who claim to lead the political movement for autonomy and self-determination in Kashmir to separate religion and politics and to present this movement in a more ecumenical form which world activists would like to take forward, without any allegation being leveled against them, because in this day and age fundamentalisms are rearing their ugly heads the world over. In the wake of 9/11, the world has become increasingly polarized, and there is a carefully constructed divide between “us” and “them,” between the “civilized world” and the “barbaric world.”

Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at