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Yasin Malik meeting Hafiz Saeed: 'Soft' India must blame itself

The outrage over JKLF leader Yasin Malik’s sharing a dais with Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the November 2008 terrorist attacks, at a demonstration in Islamabad to condemn the execution of Afzal Guru is directed at entirely the wrong quarters.

Yasin Malik’s views espousing ‘mulq-hood’ for Kashmir (broadly interpreted as nationhood) and his seeking out Pakistani support for the Kashmir azaadi cause – such as it is – are a matter of public record. He has always been a separatist, and in a long-ago time, he even took up arms in the cause of Kashmiri azaadi. Although he subsequently renounced militancy, he has never given up on his articulation of the azaadi dream, and has never missed a chance to channel anti-India sentiments on his occasional visits to Pakistan, undertaken on an Indian passport and with the tacit consent of the Indian government.

Hafiz Saeed with Yasin Malik. PTI.

Hafiz Saeed with Yasin Malik. PTI.

This time, too, he was ostensibly in Pakistan on a “private visit”, when he lt persuaded by the turn of events over the past weekend (when Afzal Guru was executed) to go on a hunger strike. It was at that event that Hafiz Saeed, who is drawn like a dung-beetle to any organized attempt to stage anti-India demonstrations, sauntered in and shared the dais.

The ‘reformed’ Yasin Malik’s invocation of “non-violence” as a weapon of ‘war’ against Indian security forces - and, in a broader sense, for Kashmiri azaadi - and his resort to ‘Gandhian’ modes of protest (by going on fasts) have led the media in India to label him a “moderate” separatist, and occasionally, even a “Gandhian”. In fact, there is nothing ‘moderate’ or ‘Gandhian’about Malik.

Yasin Malik is, if anything, walking, talking proof of India’s reduction, under the weight of pusillanimous governments, to a soft state that is losing the narrative in Kashmir.

Consider this: if Hafiz Saeed is walking freely in Pakistan, and staging anti-Indian demonstrations, even though there is a US bounty for his arrest, it is because he enjoys the tacit support of the Pakistani government and the security establishment. And yet, despite the Pakistani government’s repeated rejection of India’s case that Saeed is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks – which action is not exactly calculated to generate goodwill in India - it is the Indian government that has been peddling aman ki asha pablum and extending the hand of friendship across the border.

The 26/11 attacks on Mumbai were the nearest thing to a proxy war on India. And through word and deed, the Pakistani government has signalled that it is not earnest about bringing the culprits in Pakistan to justice. If, under such circumstances, the Indian soft state won’t stand up to secure retributive justice for the victims of the 26/11 attacks and instead conveys that it is eager to establish sporting and cultural links with Pakistan at the earliest, who will respect its authority – such as it is?

The Indian soft state’s wholesale capitulation also finds echo in the manner in which former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the architect of the Kargil war who has been exiled from his own country, is embraced by the media and the aman ki asha brigade in India. While on Indian soil, Musharraf has repeatedly abused his hospitality to slander India and to valorise separatists – and finds a ready and uncritical audience.

Likewise, the Indian soft state and its media have perfected self-loathing to a fine art by inviting trolls like Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan to come and abuse or vilify India and offer alibis for jihadism.

So, there is nothing surprising about Malik’s sharing a dais with Hafiz Saeed. The man is feted in India even though his views on Kashmiri separatism are well known, he is allowed to travel to Pakistan, whose lust for Kashmir is a historical fact, and he has been known to channel anti-Indian sentiments repeatedly from Pakistan. On that slippery slope of anti-India activism, it is inevitable that you will find yourself alongside Hafiz Saeed at some point.

It’s been known to happen to leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, who too are considered “moderate” in the twisted context of Kashmir. Intelligence reports have it that a Hurriyat delegation led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq , which travelled to Pakistan in December, also met Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin, leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, which has staged terrorist attacks against India.

Contrast this feting of ‘VIP separatists’ with the very real challenges faced by hundreds of ordinary Indians looking to secure visas for their relatives in Pakistan, and the twisted priorities of the Indian government are laid bare.

Even today, what does the Indian soft state plan to do to Malik? For all the paroxysms of despair that it has given voice to, its intended actions are frivolous in the extreme: it plans to impound his passport and detain him – for perhaps the 201st time.

After years of relative outward calm in Kashmir (despite the undercurrent of jihadi-indoctrinated alienation), there was a very real chance to change the narrative in Kashmir, largely because Pakistan’s perfidy in sponsoring jihadi terror (not just against India but around the world) had been exposed before the world.

But through its ineffectual response to the separatist challenge over the years, and by its failure to channel the voice of moderation in Kashmir today (instead of imposing an Internet and news blackout), the Indian soft state has scored a spectacular self-goal.