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Confusion on Kashmir

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22 April 2010 08:46

Some surprises in Indian media coverage of Australia this week, one welcome, one anything but – and both by the same journalist. 

Dileep Padgaonkar, a veteran writer with the Times of India, seems to have been on a visit down under recently. He produced this extraordinary piece offering a different angle on the attacks on Indian students. There is some blunt talk here, of the kind Australian voices would be reluctant to express publicly. I cannot vouch for its accuracy in all respects, but the piece as a whole serves as useful balance to much of the reportage claiming racism to be behind the violence.

Yet within days the same author followed up with a column alleging that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has some secret agenda of independence for Kashmir, which somehow explains such decisions as withholding uranium exports to India. Absolutely no evidence or source is offered. I have no idea which confused soul in the Australian or Indian foreign policy commentariat might have put this idea into the good Mr Padgaonkar's head.

But the idea is not just downright weird; it is groundless.

Indian readers of this blog can be assured that no such agenda exists among serious Australian policymakers. As the only Australian to have been involved in informal election monitoring in Kashmir (in 2002), I offer, for what it is worth, my personal view. 

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is for all intents and purposes a part of the Republic of India and will remain that way. At the same time, the situation in Kashmir has often been mismanaged by Indian central and state governments, fuelling understandable resentment on the part of many Kashmiris, and a tragic cycle of violence which has been exploited by elements in Pakistan, including jihadists. 

As we have noted before on The Interpreter, it has been disappointing and frustrating that Indian and J&K authorities have not done enough to cement the legitimacy gained through such achievements as the generally free and fair 2002 state election.

Most Kashmiris today want peace, respect, greater autonomy and the opportunities that a rising and secular India owes to all its citizens. They deserve nothing less. The chief question that remains is: how committed are the governments in New Delhi and Srinagar to achieving those outcomes?

Photo by Flickr user NotMicroButSoft, used under a Creative Commons license.