Kashmir linked to Pakistan’s national identity issue
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The Kashmir issue cannot be resolved satisfactorily without addressing the issue of Pakistan’s national identity of which Kashmir is a part, according to a US academic.
Dr Stanley Kober of the Cato Institute, asked by Daily Times to comment on the outcome of President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to India and its implications for Kashmir, said the major outcome of the recent meeting was the focus on confidence-building measures (CBMs). It should be recalled that CBMs were also used during the Cold War, he said. Ideally, he pointed out, they worked in two ways. First, and most immediately, they could allow the parties to move away from “hair-trigger” military postures, he added. Over the long term, growing confidence could help ameliorate perceptions that impelled countries to view each other as adversaries, he said. A good example of this was the Rush-Bagot agreement in 1817, which set limits on armaments along the US-Canadian border, Dr Kober said. The agreement was concluded shortly after the war of 1812, but was the first step that ultimately led to the establishment of the longest undefended border in the world, he added.
Dr Kober went on to argue, “Can something like that happen with Kashmir? Possibly, but it will be more difficult. Many issues are involved, but the one that seems most important to me is the centrality of Kashmir in the definition of national identity, especially for Pakistan – for example, the widely quoted statement by Muhammad Ali Jinnah that the ‘K’ in Pakistan is for Kashmir. There was no such dispute of territorially defined identity between the US and Canada, or between the US and Soviet Union. I don’t see how the issue of Kashmir can be resolved satisfactorily without addressing this issue of national identity, which means, in turn, that we must examine the purpose of the state.”
Dr Kober said there were, broadly speaking, two views on the matter. The first, expressed by Adam Smith, was that the three functions of government were: protection against foreign invasion or attack, establishing an exact administration of justice and providing public goods, such as roads, that could not profitably be provided by individuals or small groups The other view was expressed by Johann Fichte who wrote that the state must have “a higher object than the usual one of maintaining internal peace, property, personal freedom, and the life and well-being of all”. It is for this higher object that “the noble-minded man joyfully sacrifices himself, and the ignoble man must likewise sacrifice himself”. The US, he pointed out, had been an adherent of Smith while Germany had followed Fichte’s path, with tragic results for itself and the world.
According to the Cato Institute expert, “That is the choice confronting South Asia. Pakistan has been sacrificing itself for Kashmir. Will it continue along this path? Or will it try an alternative approach, more along the lines of Smith, in which its national identity will not be so focused on Kashmir, but in enhancing the prosperity of its people? Will such a change have a reciprocal effect on India, which is also wrestling with these issues? And this is where some of the specific CBMs can prove helpful by reducing the influence of the military on government. Two of America’s most successful generals who went on to become presidents – George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower – both warned the American people about the dangers the military, if its influence grew too large, could pose to democratic government. By reducing the military presence in Kashmir, these CBMs could begin reshaping the military’s influence on government, and might also lead to the redistribution of resources to other vital needs.”