By Francois Gautier
As symbolised by the Amarnath issue and the polarisation between the Muslims of the Kashmir Valley and Hindu-dominated Jammu, there seems to be no solution to the Jammu & Kashmir problem. It also incarnates the enmity between India and Pakistan: India will not surrender Kashmir because it rightly considers that this has been part of its territory for 5,000 years. Pakistan will not give up its claim because it believes that under the (mad) logic of partition, Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley should have been its territory. And since these two positions are irreconciliable, neither India nor Pakistan can be expected to stand back. If there were to be an all-out war, everyone will be the loser: Who will have Kashmir then if there is nothing left of India and Pakistan?
All politicians have tried their hand at solving this problem and all have failed, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, who seem clueless about the extraordinary intricacy of the Kashmir problem.
Yet there is one politician in India who not only understands these intricacies but who might be acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir: He is Mr Karan Singh. Mr Singh is a much-misunderstood personality and it may be worthwhile to look at his life.
The birth of Mr Singh, son of the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir Hari Singh, was celebrated by the people, both Muslims and Hindus. He became the regent in 1949 under difficult circumstances: His father, after disagreeing with Jawaharlal Nehru, had left the State which had by then acceded to India. Mr Singh was later appointed Sadar-i-Riyasat and finally as Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. His father's shadow was not there anymore, but Nehru had replaced him and was sometimes an overbearing presence on the young man. In 1967 he joined Mrs Indira Gandhi and later became the youngest Union Minister ever in her Cabinet. He was re-elected four times as an MP from Udhampur.
When ones asks Mr Singh if he has accepted partition, he replies: "No, but today there is certain logic to the split of Kashmir. Two portions -- Muzaffarabad and Gilgit -- are with Pakistan and three parts -- Jammu, which is Hindu-dominated, Ladhakh, which has a 55 per cent Buddhist population, and the Kashmir Valley, which is Muslim-dominated -- are with India."
What, then, is the solution to the Jammu & Kashmir issue? "Since 1947, Pakistan has fought four wars to regain Indian Kashmir. In my opinion, I don't think they will ever succeed. The only solution is a European type of Union in the sub-continent. Look at France and Germany: They fought three wars over two centuries; France even fought a hundred-year war with England and they are still bickering over the European Union and the Euro! We have been at it only for 60 years. We could have a single currency in South Asia, no borders, free trade... And a united Jammu & Kashmir."
Is it true that Muslim and Hindu leaders respect him? "Jammu & Kashmir has always been inclusive of all religions," answers the son of Kashmir. "Vaishnaism was born there, Sufism flourished there. The hard-line Sunnis of Pakistan have tried to change all this, but I don't think they have succeeded. Even today the Kahmiri Muslim is more tolerant than his Saudi or Pakistani brothers. Yes, I still feel deeply for Jammu & Kashmir. I am an elder statesman, and have been in politics for nearly 60 years," Mr Singh says.
So could Mr Karan Singh be the man of the moment for Jammu & Kashmir, and solve a problem which others have failed to tackle? Will destiny at last beckon this man, who was never really been entrusted with responsibilities corresponding to his qualities and abilities? He started with Jammu & Kashmir and maybe he will finish his career with Jammu & Kashmir, provided India has a Government which is visionary and bold enough to entrust him with this task.
Source: The Pioneer, New Delhi