Should National Security Issues be decided by a Local Referendum?

Posted on January 06, 2014, No Comments admin

A senior leader of the Aam Aadmi Party has suggested that the issue of army presence in the Kashmir valley may be decided by a referendum of the people in the valley. The same leader had two years ago suggested a plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir where people must be free to decide whether they wish to stay with India or otherwise.

The integration of States was handled by Sardar Patel. There was, however, one exception. Issues relating to Jammu & Kashmir were substantially decided by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru. The effects of his mismanagement of Jammu & Kashmir continue to leave their impact even today. Besides the grant of separate status, the idea of the ‘wishes of the people’ being taken into consideration was a Nehruvian suggestion. The same formulation was not applicable to the other princely States which integrated into India. With great difficulty the issue of plebiscite which was internationalized by Pakistan was linked to the territory wrongfully occupied by Pakistan. Today the issue of plebiscite is no longer a part of either the international agenda, a United Nations process or even the Indo-Pak bilateral talks.

The defence of India is a subject exclusively in the Central Government’s domain. It is neither a State Subject nor a subject to be handled at the municipal level. Maintenance of India’s sovereignty is a prime responsibility of the Central Government. The prime concern of the Indian state is to protect its own sovereignty and integrity. Kashmir has been a part of unfinished agenda of Pakistan emanating from partition. Pakistan has never reconciled to Kashmir being a part of India. Its’ attempt at internationalization of the issue failed. Having been defeated in conventional wars, in the last two and a half decades it has attempted a proxy war through cross-border terrorism. This is supplemented by local terrorist modules of misguided youths.

The BJP is commited to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s declaration that all issues would be resolved within the framework of ‘Insaniyat’. It is this philosophy which entails elimination of terrorism, dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, comfort, peace and a high quality of life to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The de-militarisation of the valley can take place only after this object is achieved. The army presence till then is necessary to protect both the territory and the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

It is Pakistan which has been suggesting the de-militarisation of the valley. Some separatist groups have been echoing that demand. It is regrettable that for a party like the Aam Aadmi Party which nourishes national ambitions, should adopt a position hostile to India’s interests. The issues of national security cannot be decided by populism or referendum. They can only be decided on security considerations. Till such time the infrastructure of terror remains, the presence of the army in Jammu & Kashmir is essential.

This leaves me with a last thought – political parties which emerge as a transient reaction to a given situation can be non-ideological. They evolve their ideology as they grow. This can lead to both speculative and serious concerns. The ideological position of the Aam Aadmi Party on various issues is not known. It is only after the elections that initial indications coming from its leaders show that it stands for nationalization of airports and natural sources, for a soft and weak position on India’s security issues and for high subsidies which will lead to higher taxation. Symbolism rather than substance has been displayed in the last ten days. I hope sensible elements in the Party seek to reverse this position. Otherwise the slope downwards will be faster than the movement upwards.

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