It is sad to see the current state of affairs in this beautiful land of your birth, Kashmir. An entire generation is being lost, manipulated by devious people whose only interest is to benefit from chaos. And while your children are being lured into violence, theirs live safely outside of Kashmir. The sad fact is that you are being bamboozled into making sacrifices for a worthless cause and by worthless people whose only interest is power and enrichment. We’ve seen this game being played elsewhere, in the poor countries of Africa and Central America, where citizens are sacrificed so a few can enrich themselves. Tens of thousands lose their lives while the perpetrators live in luxury.
So let’s discuss this issue of the future of Kashmir and the 3 options available to you as a Kashmiri:
Option 1: You become a state of Pakistan
The possibility of this happening is remote but let’s discuss the merits. Most reasonable people will tell you that Pakistan is a failed state. The country is run for the benefit of entrenched business and political elites in Islamabad and large landlords in Panjab. For the rest of the people, living in Pakistan is a hell hole of bare existence, daily violence, terrorism, and a surreptitious Islamic law that helps solidify power for the entrenched. Pakistan produces very little of any value to the rest of the world and it is unlikely to get better. Its GDP is about that of the state of Maharashtra. Imagine that–the country you want to be a part of has an economy only as big as that of one state of the country you currently live in. Pakistan is so bankrupt and so deep in debt that about two-thirds of its budget revenue are allocated just to the repayment of its debt. Which means there is almost nothing left for development, infrastructure, healthcare, education and certainly not for all the subsidies you currently enjoy courtesy of the Indian taxpayer. By the end of this year, Pakistan will be required to pay back $ 10 billion to foreign banks and creditors and it may not have enough in foreign exchange to cover this. Fitch, one of the world’s leading credit rating agency, put the future of Pakistan as “ unclear”.
So how do Kashmiris fit into this unclear and violent future? How can being part of this poverty and violence be good for the future your children and grandchildren? The only attraction could be the illusory sense of security from a common religion. But radical Muslims are killing other Muslims all over the world today. Your biggest threat today is not Hindus but radical Muslims. History teaches us that our fate as humans is bound not by religion but by common goals. If you have a Hindu friend who wants to see you prosper, versus, a Muslim friend who wants to wipe you and your family, which one should you prefer being around?
Think hard my Kashmiri friends. The grass on the other side is not green but a hellish brown.
Option 2: Azadi–Kashmir becomes a separate nation
Some of your angry and disillusioned young people want Azadi. Clearly, they are driven by blind hope and the false rhetoric of power hungry people who want to control the resources of your land. Hope is a major motivator, but hope with ignorance often leads to disappointment. Let’s explore what an independent Kashmir would be like? Firstly, you need to understand that only 5 out of the 22 districts in J&K want ‘Azadi’. Carving out these 5 districts would make a small nation of about 4 million people. It would be a landlocked nation bordered by India and Pakistan. This Azad Kashmir will not have any ports, so everything will have to be either flown in or trucked by road through one of these two countries. So not only are you at the mercy of these nations to allow passage of essential supplies, the transportation cost, the tariffs, and bottlenecks, etc. will make everything scarce and expensive. Look at Nepal. It is an Azad country but is landlocked and depends on India and China for its survival. It suffers from extreme poverty. That will be the fate of an Azad Kashmir.
Then to run Azad Kashmir you will need money. Initially, you might get a few handouts from a bankrupt Pakistan or a crafty China, but eventually, you will be required to sustain yourself. J&K today gets a much higher proportional share of funding from the Center (meaning Indian taxpayers) than any other state. An average Kashmiri gets eight times more assistance than citizens of any other state. Eight times more. Over the last 16 years each Kashmiri has received about Rs.92,000 from the Central exchequer and this is 21 times the amount received by each person in U.P. So be thankful to the taxpayers of India and remember that when your fellow Kashmiris turn out in large numbers to vote in Indian elections, despite attempts by Pakistan to prevent them, it is because they are acutely aware of the economics and the benefits of being in India. They understand that despite all this talk about Azadi, Kashmir cannot sustain itself without the support of the Indian people.
What kind of a tax base will this Azad Kashmir have? After all, you need taxes to run a country. The large majority of your population is poorly educated and does not have the skills required to survive in a modern economy. Yes, you have skilled craftsmen but there are only so many painted paper mache boxes that the rest of the world will want. To survive and prosper in today’s world you need technical skills and an Azad Kashmir will not have any of these skills. The five districts that want Azadi will have no major University, Medical College or Technical Institution. And let’s face it; you are not going to run a country by taxing the ‘shikarewalla’ or the poor artisan. The rich traders of Kashmir are all already out of Kashmir and unlikely to come back. They know it is impossible to get rich on the backs of the poor.
Azad Kashmir will be an economic disaster and won’t work. A few people with vested interests will become wealthy by plundering resources, but the average Kashmiri will become miserably poor. Statehood sounds attractive but is not easy and it is tougher still if you don’t have resources. Economic prosperity does not happen in a vacuum. You need proper fiscal, financial, political and economic institutions to grow a nation. Ask those Eastern bloc nations and those that split off from the erstwhile Soviet Union. They got their Azadi but the citizens in many of those countries, especially those with poor natural and human resources and underdeveloped institutions, are miserably poor.
Option 3: Become a State of India
This third option is to become a fully integrated part of a modern democracy, India. The country is transforming at a rapid pace and making its presence felt on the international stage. The economy is booming, and new wealth is being created providing opportunities for everyone. India is also a country where everyone has a chance to succeed. Yes, it has its share of fringe loonies, but the large majority of Indians are fair-minded and secular. And they have been so for hundreds of years–that is the cultural ethos of this country. Economically, India is growing faster than any other country and this growth is only going to accelerate in the future. New infrastructure, roads, clean drinking water, electricity, sanitation, all of this is being developed at a rapid pace The wealth being created is bringing greater prosperity and a better quality of life for its citizens. Standards of living have gone up five-fold in just the last 25 years.
A rapidly growing economy like India offers you and your children the best opportunity for a better life. Your children will have access to good quality education and be able to join thousands of young enterprising Indians who are creating wealth from new ideas and enterprise. Success begets success and associating with people who are creating wealth brings economic success. An Indian citizenship also opens up global opportunities for your children whereas a Pakistani citizenship is scrutinized everywhere. A Pakistani passport gets a visa waiver from only 29 countries ( better only than an Iraqi and Afghani passport), and most of these are countries you have never even heard of like Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Palau etc.
And, if you really want to enjoy the fruits that come from full integration with India you must abrogate Article 370 which is an absolute economic disaster for Kashmiris. It keeps the free flow of goods, smart people, new ideas, and more importantly capital, from coming into Kashmir. Capital is the lifeblood of a modern economy, and without the investment of outside capital, Kashmir will never prosper.
So my fellow Kashmiri choose wisely. Use reason and not emotion. But in the meantime tell your kids not to throw projectiles at guys with guns. They don’t mean to hurt the kids; they are there to protect you from those who want to create chaos.