by Waheed Ur Rehman
The Government of India has always maintained its position and stand on Kashmir as an “Integral Part”. The term “Integral part” was originally coined in response to international clamor on the issue of Kashmir as a bone of contention between India & Pakistan, by the Parliament of India, to announce to the international community that Kashmir was an integral part of the country. Thus making it an internal issue instead of an international one and any kind of interference therein would be seen as a breach of the sovereignty of India.
However, today, the term and its use has been mutated so that it is used domestically itself as a claim to the land of Kashmir, thus creating a phrase that the view of Kashmiris’ is a challenge to their rights upon their own lands.
Today, every leader talking about Kashmir begins with the pronouncement that Kashmir is an Integral part of India. A Kashmiri might ask, or indeed any Indian might wonder, why is it necessary to make such a redundant proclamation? The term is never used for the other 28 presumably equally integral states of the country. Laying claim in such a fashion only reveals the exacerbating and strained relations that the nation already has with Kashmir. Not only does this indiscriminate use of the term fail to heal the wounds and to rebuild the trust deficit, it in-fact acts as an ever-expanding divider between Kashmir and New Delhi. As soon as leaders in Delhi say that Kashmir is an ‘integral part’ of India, they reveal the doubts that shroud their relationship with Delhi. As soon as they use this phrase which is never used for other regions of the country, they expose the complicated and confused domestic issues that Delhi is unable to resolve.
‘Integral Part’, Explained: It is a geography-specific term and does not take into account the human aspect, the emotions of those living in the region. The moment someone uses the term for Kashmir, he pushes Kashmiris’ against a wall, thus aggravating the already aggravated situation. Even separatists use the term to illustrate it as indicative of India’s greed towards land, and the people in valley are left in limbo.
History, as seen through news and the media, is a witness to the negative consequences of this phrase. The day the term ‘integral part’ is used within the country about Kashmir, invariably next day, reactionary statements from separatists appear to counter it and provoke people. The question to ponder here is whether it is the term ‘integral part’ itself or the unnecessary use of the term that provides the springboard for the separatists to launch off from. Could the term, if used for the purpose it was originally intended to serve, be redeemed and thus retained in our national vocabulary?
Since its coinage, even before it could be marketed by politicians for its international use, the term was co-opted by separatists and used as a platform. This fact, added to what the term has now become in its domestic avatar, makes it nothing but salt to the wounds of Kashmir. We should blame the users of this term for its complete corruption. However, rather than leave it by the wayside as nothing but an obsolete by product of the Indian political game, it should be used where in fact needed, in international dialogue.
The tragedy is that term ‘integral part’ refers to the principal stand of GOI on Kashmir and also non-intervention to the sovereignty of the country, and yet rarely appears in international conversations. I recently heard a conversation involving the Foreign Minister & Foreign Secretary of India, ready to discuss every issue with Pakistan including Kashmir, but they had completely left out any mention of the position of ‘integral part’. In another separate statement, the foreign officers said that India was ready to talk with China about Kashmir visa row and other issues but again the term ‘integral part’ did not make even a guest appearance. How unfortunate is this that the place where this word should actually be used, is slipping into oblivion; it is like diluting the country’s principal stand on the Kashmir Issue. In spite of this, the term continues to be used today to talk to our own people at domestic and intra-state levels, either by those who are oblivious to its negative impact, or by those who use it to manipulate and the dialogue, and favor vested interests, in the guise of national interests. It seems that our Prime Minister and other so-called leaders are as eager to begin speeches at home with the grand statement that Kashmir is an ‘integral part’ of India, as they are quick to forget it when they reach the United Nations General Assembly or any such international forum.
Pakistan and Integral Part: Countering India’s position on Integral part, Pakistan has floated the theory of ‘jugular vein’ on Kashmir. The term is evocative and emotional rather than being about anything material such as land, thus appealing to the sentiments of the people in Kashmir. It is in fact the same phrase that Muslims believe is used in the Quran where Allah says to man that “He is closer to him than his own jugular vein.” It is a phrase that signifies that there is a real bond, an inseparable connection, a loving relationship, and not just a greed for land or resources. The moment any leader in Pakistan proclaims, “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan”, he gets an over whelming welcome from the people in the region. Even the separatists have marketed the term baseless about land and more caring about the people living on the land. Diplomatically, this approach is much smarter, and hence has yielded better results for Pakistan.
What needs to be done in the future to prevent further damage, while maintaining the prestige of India’s stand on Kashmir, is following:
– To ensure that the term is marketed and used at the right forum i.e., to communicate to the international community and not the intra-national community.
– To stand up and say that Kashmir is as good and as much a part of the country as the other 28 states of India.
– To avoid inter-party allegations within the country around the use of the phrase ‘Integral Part’
– To believe in practical actions rather in statements.
– To address the people and avoid addressing land, thus recognizing that the people of Kashmir are integral to India, not simply the land.
– To nurture people of Kashmir and finally yield a truly ‘integral part’ by this cultivation.
Whenever we talk about Kashmir, we should make sure to address the people of Kashmir and not make it a geography–specific. We should make them believe that India is a country where Kashmiris’ are a part of India. They add to the wonderful diversity of India, and the constitution itself guarantees unity in the diversity of this country. One can easily Google this term “Kashmir as an Integral Part of India” and find out how people from separatist to so-called activist enjoyed this term and gained unnecessary importance.
Waheed Ur Rehman has studied International Peace & Conflict Studies and investigative reporting from Boston University.