Have you ever watched a camel take time for an energy boost? If food is scarce a camel will simply dine on bones, fish, leather, or even the owner’s tent. It can consume thorns and twigs. The camel’s oral cavity lining is tough enough that almost anything can be eaten without injury to the mouth. Camels are not picky. But we should be glad they cannot talk. If they talked like they eat it would be out of both sides of their mouths. The disarticulated jaw with the big teeth are quite a sight to behold. It would be absolutely mesmerizing to watch a camel speak.
Camels are ships of the desert. As a species, they are known by fancier names. But when considering how they were created, camels should be known by a more simple designation. They are politicians in disguise. For nearly seven decades, caravans of camels have been trekking through Jammu and Kashmir. These camels are laden with cargo of sentiment and are mesmerizing to watch as they sway across the region. But they have proven to be thoroughly worthless beasts of burden. More than a few camels who begin the trek always manage to break off from the caravan prior to arrival at the final destination point. Naturally, the Indian and Pakistani camel herders like it that way.
The story is well-worn. But in brief: *On August 15, 1947 Pakistan (western and eastern horns) came into existence *The “Princely States” opted out of the deal brokered by the British Parliament and chose to become autonomous *Pakistan, a political nettle from birth, organized a false flag operation. A large contingency of several thousand men crossed the border into Kashmir as agitation propagandists disguised as local malcontents bent on looting and criminal activity. *The State of Jammu and Kashmir turned to India for help and an “Instrument of Accession” brought Indian troops to the region to restore order. Naturally, they never left the space. *Three notable India v Pakistan military operations ensued over the years. The last one was mounted by General Musharraf in 1999 and is known as the Kargil war. The region remains a stewpot of contention, whether speaking of Jammu and Kashmir (J/K) or Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The LOC (Simla Agreement, 3 July 1972) is the razor strop between two nations with nuclear capabilities. Both sides, polish their blades from day to day. And while each one can probably shave the whiskers off a cat in three seconds flat, neither possesses the political will to put up the razor strop and back off from military showmanship.
What about the people of Kashmir? What is the desired outcome and the collective cry of those who live on the land and claim it as their own? And why do the camels keep moving along between the Line of Control freighted with cheap wares which nary a soul intends to purchase?
As a journalist I am reticent regarding anything that smacks of a freedom movement. The players on the field remain largely unknown. The pitches sent my way in the last week (regarding current events/flooding in Kashmir) are all curve balls. So perhaps it is unwise to address issues beyond my scope of practice. But then again, I do love camels. So let me bring a fresh set of eyes to the stagnant, yet politically-charged issue of an independent Kashmir.
More than one correspondent coming into my e mail has suggested a democratic method for a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations. Cease and desist with this thought! Does anyone really want the nose of the U.N. camel under this tent? The United Nations is an organization with a history of duplicity and political intrigue. Attempting to beat this obstinate camel into submission for a profitable caravan journey is a lost cause. Cut her loose and let her roam in the desert.
Now when considering a democratic vote, an impartial plebiscite, people of average intelligence can surmise that such recourse is a virtual impossibility. Voter fraud will be the order of the day. Cut the nose and ears off that camel and send up a cry of alarm.
Others have suggested the United States have a part in this process. Cut our camel loose too and let her roam with the U.N camel. We deserve the cohabitation because we lack the will to beat her and we continue to feed the beast. It is time to negotiate through your regional conflicts-of-interest in a solo flight manner. Learn, by doing. And learn to do it right the first time.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us at Versailles, of course. I am not directing your attention to the Treaty of Versailles, which brought World War I to a close. Rather, direct your attention toward the Palace of Versailles which includes the “salon de la guerre” and the “salon de la paix” as well as the more well known Galerie des Glaces, or Hall of Mirrors. This great hall has seventeen mirror-clad arches. They provide the reflection for the seventeen arcaded windows which give view of the gardens. Within this architecture lies the emotional symbolism which embodies the future aspirations of the Kashmiri population.
Come back to the negotiation table one last time. But let it be within a hall of mirrors. It is time for reflective negotiation. India and Pakistan need to sit down and take a hard look at the reflection in the Kashmiri mirror. What is reflected in the eyes of the people? What is the reflection seen in their faces? What is the reflection seen in their smiles? Capture the sentiment. Harness the energy. Give birth to hope. This can be done. It starts as a reflective negotiation process and proceeds as a gentlemen’s agreement. It then finds legal standing with a final step of crafting a document which meets legal standards embraced by the international community. But do leave the camels at home this time.
The writer is a freelance journalist
and author of the novel Arsenal. She
can be reached at