In 1950, Chinese troops, despite assurances given and promises made invaded and annexed Tibet. This was naked aggression – breaking all norms of international protocol, civility and morality. Tibetans, a harmless, mountainous people were colonized. The Chinese annexation of Tibet was illegal, immoral, predatory and plain wrong. But was it in the interest of the Chinese State? Absolutely.
With the annexation of Tibet, the Chinese gained a large Himalayan plateau, new land borders with India, fostered a new feeling of nationalism throughout the than anarchic China and sent a clear message to Nehru and the international community that when it comes to national interest, the Chinese couldn’t care less for things like human rights and morality. My point is that national interest is best taken care of by good old imperialism, the kind China employs from time to time. Every great power from United States to France has a dark past which they often like to conveniently forget while lecturing on human rights. The world’s greatest power, United States was founded on genocide of Red Indians, hardly moral right? France massacred millions of Algerians, Italy, and Britain and of course Germany have similar pasts. Had the European settlers in North America listened to the human rights wallahs of that time, there would be no United States today. Had the British Colonizers taken a moralistic approach towards India than that little island would have not enjoyed two centuries of super power status? Let’s take the most recent case of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan army defeated the LTTE in a very controversial manner, leading to large scale human rights abuse and even genocide but was the victory good for the Sri Lankan state? It undoubtedly was, today Sri Lanka is free from the menace of terrorism, the tourists are back and Sri Lanka by all predictions will have a booming economy.
Where does Kashmir come in? Well to begin with let’s be honest, Kashmiris are ethnically, religiously and culturally a different people who were coaxed into joining in the Indian Union. To put it plainly they are a colonized people. Therefore a logical moralistic next step forward will be to grant them a referendum as promised by Nehru. Rest assured, they will decide to leave India.
Should India take a moralistic and liberal approach towards Kashmir? Absolutely not. Kashmir is of much greater strategic importance to India than Tibet is to China or Texas was to the United States. Then there is the larger question of Indian secularism (whatever that means?) that India could not even keep its only Muslim majority state, and if Kashmir is allowed to go than what about the Nagas and Mizos? On what legal or moral basis do we not grant them independence also?
I believe India should throw the human rights and moralistic options out of the window. National interest and power has never been moralistic and never will be. Power in itself is an amoral concept. Just as today no one asks the Americans about the human rights abuses against Red Indians or the French about genocide in Algeria, I believe in 60 years from now, no one will ask the Chinese about Tibet. Similarly, if India continues to rise as an economic power, the international community will quietly forget Kashmir and come to Delhi to make trade deals. Legitimacy always comes with power. So let’s let take a good old imperialist position on Kashmir. Our control over Kashmir will never be moral but with time and money, we can buy legitimacy.