Saturday, April 09, 2005

Because Kashmir Is Not Khan El Khalili

Just the other day, a bomb exploded at Cairo's famed Khan el Khalili bazaar. Three people were killed.

To most people, this explosion was merely one more firecracker in our era of terror. Because, this writer has bargained for trinkets in Khan el Khalili, this felt personal. We had the same feeling on 9/11, when we eye-witnessed the towers being slammed and snuffed out. Again, because the towers were our friends where other friends worked, this was personal.

By personal, we mean it felt like someone had tried to kill us. It's difficult to forget the personal.

That which is not personal, is abstract. When we see on TV Beslan's dead children, or Bali's dead tourists, or Beirut's dead politicians, or bombs in Madrid's Atocha station and Tel Aviv's Mike's Place, the killing is a senseless abstraction to all of us who've never been in these places. When the TV cameras are gone, so is our concern.

Isn't the same dynamic playing out on Kashmir? Most Indians haven't been there, haven't lived the same terror and, dare we say it, are even tired of Kashmir. They want to move on to bigger and better things -- to power, prosperity, and "peace".

Because, notwithstanding all our boastful jingoism, Kashmir is an abstraction for most Indians, most don't care how it's settled, as long as it's settled. So, we have the astonishing spectacle of Tom Friedman arguing that the 2002 near-war was averted not by General Powell, but by (the uber-outsourcer) General Electric (presumably via Bangalore), we have Indian liberals talking up realpolitik (which, if memory serves right, was liberal bĂȘte noir Henry Kissinger's technique), and we have Muslim conservatives, using arguments typical of liberals who they otherwise despise, asking their nation to wage "peace" with the tyrants of Pakistan.

For us, the minority Indians not drunk on this cool-aid of faux "peace", these are terrifying times. We are witnessing the full frontal emasculation of our national character. We are hearing the surrender song from our million hypocrisies now. India is, alas, showing the world that, with trinkets of outsourcing and trade, it will run even from its moral battles.

It's like Lord Krishna's advice to a cowering Arjun -- to not fare well, but fare forward -- has gone to waste.

Tom Friedman is regretfully right. Indians are happily being bribed by the likes of General Electric to abandon the memory of dead compatriots and dying principles, to wage "peace" with an unreformed dictator of an illegitimate government of a near-failed narco-nuclear-terror state. In return for this abject surrender, we will receive, what our friend Amit calls, free movement of goods and people, normalcy, and compromise.

We're economic libertarians ourselves but, Amit, free trade is surely not about trading death for dollars. This is exactly what India is now on course to doing.

Congratulations, India. Because Kashmir is not personal to most of you as Khan el Khalili is to us, you're free to play poker with your abstract dead, and call it realpolitik. Don't pay us few "useless" spoilsports much attention -- we'll stay back to mop up the blood on the floor that you'd prefer not to acknowledge as you swipe your fancy new credit cards at the mall.


Ashish Gupta said...

Very aptly said. This is unfortunately but true. Most of people have developed as apathy to Kashmir as they have to corruption! Number of people killed in Kashmir EVERY YEAR equals more than twice total killed in Kargil War, but, alas, deaths of our brethren not longer evoke even a tear in our eyes.

The short-term "peace" activists completely neglect long term consequence of such stand. Food (economy) is first priority but not before survival (security/defence). I cry for you India.

amit varma said...

We're economic libertarians ourselves but, Amit, free trade is surely not about trading death for dollars. This is exactly what India is now on course to doing.

Who's trading deaths for dollars? Moving towards peace - and the free movement of goods and people can only accelerate that process - will actually help prevent more deaths in the future. If you really care about Kashmir, you'd want India and Pakistan to move forward on other fronts. I am baffled at what other solution you propose to stop the bloodshed in Kashmir. Not war, surely?

MAJ C said...

I am sure this will set some people's blood pressure off the scale but, from my perspective as an outsider who has degrees in history and political science and has lived in India, I think that if India and Pakistan have not peacefully reunified into a single country within the borders that existed pre-Partition by 2050, it will a political and economic tragedy.

The only thing stopping that from happening is our generation having a massive failure of imagination and political will as we start to assume political and economic power across the globe.

OK, fire away...


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