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Volume 1, No. 3 - August 2001

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Treating The Symptom?
The failure of the Agra summit has nothing to do with a breakfast meeting or with an impromptu press conference, or even Pakistani belligerence. The real malaise is religious fundamentalism.

Subodh Atal, Ph.D., Lalit Koul, Sunil Fotedar

The Agra summit is now thankfully over and part of history. The Indian government's comments have been instructive: while some officials have described the summit as being a start of a process (and even the start of a "caravan of peace") that needs to be continued, other officials have made it clear to Pakistan that there are no threads to be picked up from the summit and future talks would need to revert to the Simla and Lahore agreements. The Indian media also has recognized the futility of the summit and has laid much of the blame on Pakistan's single-minded focus on Jammu and Kashmir.

One crucial aspect of the summit has, however, been missed by the Indian government, the opposition parties as well as the media. The summit did indeed succeed - in establishing the rough bottom lines for each government. For the Pakistani side, its vision was clear as it has always been - self determination in at least the valley in the hope that it will opt for Pakistan or independence.

For the Indian side, the bottom line seems to have been cross-border terrorism. It would like Pakistan to end support for infiltration of Islamic mercenaries and export of violence into Jammu and Kashmir.

At first glance, it would appear that ending of cross-border terrorism is indeed a valid posture for India. However, we believe that this is where the Indian government failed miserably in identifying the boundaries of the subcontinental dispute. Cross-border terrorism is after all only a symptom. 

The malaise is much deeper, and it is the same that forced the 1947 Partition, the persecution and hounding out of Pandits from the valley, the mistreatment of Hindus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the eternal fueds of the Muslim populations of Palestine, Chechnya etc. with non-Muslims of those regions, the Bin Laden phenomenon and many more.

This malaise is religious fundamentalism. It has already spread to other parts of India in the form of Islamic extremist forces such as SIMI and Deendar Anjuman. It is the same malaise that prompted Jinnah to declare that "We shall have India divided or we shall have India destroyed." It is the same malaise that prompts many Pakistanis to say that "Hans ke liya, Pakistan/  lad ke layenge Hindustan"

The Pakistan-sponsored fundamentalist violence that started in Kashmir valley in 1989 also appears to have set in motion a vicious cycle of Hindu and Muslim communal incidents across India including the mosque demolition, and the Bombay blasts and riots.

By negotiating on the symptom, not the malaise, the Indian government has missed a rare opportunity to paint Pakistan in its true colors while allowing Musharraf to gain legitimacy and stature the rest of the world denies to him. India could have focused on the malaise by pointing out the denial of rights to Pakistani Hindus, Christians and other non-Muslim minorities who have a separate electoral system, the hosting and sustenance of international jehadi forces, and Pakistan's support to the Taliban.

The government of India got knocked out by an opponent much more self-assured in the knowledge of what it was fighting for. The failure is of a far larger magnitude than recognized within India. It has nothing to do with a breakfast meeting or with an impromptu press conference, or even Pakistani belligerence. Such a tactical failure could have severe repercussions in the future of the integrity and security of the nation.

Kashmiri Pandits realize the depth of the problem having been the victim of 53 years (and several centuries) of Islamic fundamentalism, the rest of India may wake up when it gets balkanized between Islamic and Hindu extremists.

[The authors are expatriate Kashmiri Pandits located in the United States and head the executive board of Kashmir News Network, which manages many Kashmiri websites including: www.ikashmir.org, www.kashmiri-pandit.org, www.panunkashmir.org, www.kashmirherald.com, www.kashmirnews.org]

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