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September 2, 1999


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The Rediff Interview/ Dr Farooq Abdullah

'How are you going to survive if you become independent?'

Varsha Bhosle

Raising Cain

In July, you said, "I would recommend India to open a full scale war against Pakistan."

Farooq Abdullah Kargil was already there! We were already fighting a war. People call it a proxy war; I call it a full-blooded war. They [Pakistan] are pushing people in with sophisticated weapons. They are now attacking army camps directly. What does this signify?

Do you want India to declare war?

I would want India and Pakistan to sit down and finally make up their mind as far as the Line of Control is concerned. The Line of Control must be the factor to decide on.

But if we cede a part of India, then balkanisation could well begin.

But is it part of India today? As far as Pakistan is concerned, in their books, Kashmir is a part of Pakistan! But is it so? On the ground, reality is what you can see. How is it possible for me to say, I'm in possession of the Pakistani territory of Kashmir? I'm not in possession of that territory! We've had three wars, and the Line of Control is still there.

Post-Kargil, one thing which is very good is, the world has accepted the sanctity of LoC. And that is why Pakistan was made to quit. If the world accepts the sanctity of LoC, it means LoC is the border between the two countries. So why don't we formalise the situation?

How many more men are we going to lose? By the small war which they launched here, look at the people we have lost -- young people. They must have lost four times the number.

It was reported that you went to Delhi and asked for air strikes in Kargil.

Rubbish. No such thing. The prime minister makes his own decision. Under the President, he's the supreme commander. And obviously, from the army and the defence minister, whatever he must have heard, he realised that it was required. The very man who took the bus across the border for friendship had the guts to say "no" and opened the air-attack.

What do you think of the shooting down of the Atlantique?

As far as the details are concerned, there is some confusion. But one thing is absolutely clear: if the pilot was warned to come down, then he should have -- if he had nothing to hide. He should have landed in Indian space, and in negotiations between the two countries, they would have been freed. But when the plane didn't heed, we had NO other alternative but to shoot it down.

What is the percentage of local Kashmiris among the militants?

I would say 70 to 80 per cent are their people. 20 to 30 per cent are ours.

Even that's too much.

It is because they've been there [in Pakistan] for such a long time. They've been there since 10 years. Destruction is costing us. This very money that we're spending on security-related expenditure could have been spent on improving people's lives.

How would you wean them away from militancy?

I think you can wean them away ONLY by economic development of the place.

Pro-Pakistan elements have infiltrated government...

Farooq Abdullah Have you got an X-ray machine that can show who is or isn't pro-Pakistan? When people appear for exams for government service, after that we get them vetted by Intelligence agencies. It is only after this clearance that they are able to get a government job. But what has happened in these 10 years of militancy, I do not know! Because it was not my government.

There are people who belong to Jamaat, Hurriyat Conference, and some of their [Pakistani] people maybe. You see, once what happened, Jamaat schools were all closed by the then governor of the state. And these were schools run on Islamic theory and were actually propagating for the other [Pakistani] side. When the governor abolished those schools, we had to take those teachers into government service. What can Farooq Abdullah do about it?

Government employees once refused to do any work connected with the Amarnath Yatra.

That was because of the fear of the gun; because militants threatened them with death. It was not a Hindu-Muslim problem. Otherwise today who's helping? There are Muslims who are running the Amarnath Yatra, and in 1996 when tragedy struck Amarnath [400 pilgrims were buried alive in unseasonal snowfall], the people of Pahalgam opened their homes to them! We're not a communal people. We are a different type -- we believe in Sufi culture. We have progressive Islam.

What about Ladakh? The Autonomous Hill...

You see, as far as the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, it's all right, it's doing all right. And we hope, Inshallah, soon to have Panchayati raj. And Panchayati raj will give further powers down to the people. They will choose their own. We've already passed the Bill in the House.

But there's a strong anti-Valley sentiment in that region.

If so, then how did we have a member in Parliament?

Ladakhis feel the ruling elite of the Valley opposes the Council because it would hurt the Kashmiri psyche.

Not at all. It has already been given by the Centre and it had to be ratified by the assembly. We've already ratified it.

So you believe the Ladakh problem...

I think we have to be clear about one thing: We are a mini-India. We have separate sentiments in Jammu, in the Valley, in Ladakh. We have to balance these sentiments. You cannot ignore the people's sentiments -- we have to respect them.

But if the people of Kashmir want independence....

There is a section of people who want independence. But when you put facts before them, that how are you going to survive if you become independent? How are you going to survive with a neighbour like China on one hand, Pakistan on this side, India on the third side -- three large armies surrounding us? Where are your resources which will give you enough to keep your independence?

Today, the entire burden of nearly Rs 7,000 crores is taken by the central government. And that doesn't include the army, air force, para-military forces, which must be another 10,000 crores on top of it. I want to know where is that going to come from? The total revenue of the entire state is Rs 600 crores!

It's very easy to talk of Shangri-La, but is that possible? I think our best hope is to be part of India. There is NO other hope.

Can you imagine, India is one billion people, and we're a tourist state. Out of that billion, even if one million people come a year, many of our problems will be over. At least, children will not have to find government jobs. They will run small dhaabas, taxis, tea-shops, small hotels. That's good enough for me.

'Islamabad will come to the negotiating table, you wait and see'

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