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   I have often felt that the best way of dealing with Kashmir is letting it go. And I think a number of people in the government and outside agree with this though they may not say so. (October 5, 1995)

For all intents and purposes, Kashmir is already not with us. As a holiday destination, it is out. No Indian can visit it or does. Even if he wants to there is no tourism infrastructure left. Not just that, no Hindu Kashmiri is staying in Kashmir any more. He has been driven out, his house is lost, his family scattered.

It is a totally Islamic state at the moment. And its Muslims are not like our Muslims in Bombay and the South and other parts of the country. They are a different lot, gaunt, hook-nosed, fiercely possessive about their race and religion. They are like those we see on international news networks, those battling in Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in the old Soviet Union. Forget Indians, even if an Indian Muslim were to enter Kashmir just now, he would not be welcome.

There is also this talk of commitment. That Nehru had committed himself to the people of Kashmir to protect them. Much water has flown down the Jhelum since then. What was this commitment and to whom was it made? Sheikh Abdullah is dead. And Farooq Abdullah is no Dalai Lama in quiet exile in Dharamshala, his people gathered around him, a great symbol of human rights for the people of Tibet.

In spite of all the money poured into Kashmir, in spite of various experiments in democracy, such as the holding of elections, the government of India has failed to win over the Kashmiris. And in spite of it best intentions, it has earned for itself a reputation abroad as a despot, a militarist, a non-respecter of human rights. It is Kashmir that has brought down India's position in the Human Rights Commission's list. Consider where India would be otherwise with its fine record of changes in governments with elections, an impartial judiciary, a totally free press, respect for rule of law, its commitments to literacy, the poor.

For India, Kashmir has been a burden, not an asset. It has sucked in the army, demoralised semi-military forces such as the BSF, taken money that could have been used for development works in other parts of the country, and is, in fact, responsible for our over-large investment in defence to arm and protect ourselves from likely intervention by Pakistan. Above all, in the consciousness of the world, it has given an upper hand to Pakistan. Ask any average foreigner, he will tell you: Pakistan is the liberator of Kashmir, we are the occupiers.

I think, the correct thing to do would be for all politicians to be mature enough, put the country's good above that of their respective parties and their personal interests, and let Kashmir go.

The important thing is to give Kashmir to the Kashmiris. Then let us see if the Kashmiris would be happy about the Pakistanis coming into their territory and occupying it. The ball, as they say, would suddenly be in Pakistan's court.

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