Month: August 2016

Kashmir crippled by lazy politics, needs greater outreach

Aug 12, 2016,  Analysis,  Hindustan Times,Aug 12, 2016

Original link is here


As prime minister, it is incumbent upon Narendra Modi to expand those options and enhance that outreach. The instruments, dialogue channels and specificities are for him to choose (AFP)

Each time Kashmir erupts, as it has over the past month, a familiar set of opinions and debates comes to the fore, especially on social media and in prime time studios. The discourse is trapped between an overdone nationalism, a hyperbolic romanticism and a mutual denialism. It is important to identify the limits of what can and cannot, and what should and must be achieved in the Valley, keeping five realistic parameters in mind.

First, international appetite for experiments with self-determination is at its lowest since World War I. In recent times, interventions by global powers in Syria, Libya, Iraq and several locations in Africa have — whether militarily or politically — carved new territories and regimes. Moral and strategic arguments for and against these have been made, but there is near unanimity that such interventions have led to instability and created hotspots for radicalism, terrorism and human misery.

Why is this relevant to an understanding of Kashmir? It tells us the desire of the global community for a quasi-independent or unshackled Kashmir, as a manifestation of some libertarian notion of popular aspiration, is near zero. The opening of spaces for potentially Islamist regimes is a non-starter. This explains why, despite the ongoing turbulence, world pressure on India has been minimal. While not sacrificing cherished positions, stakeholders in the Valley have to factor this in.

The idealism of Kashmiriyat, first discredited with the cleansing of Pandits in the early 1990s and then through repeated violence against minorities in the state, is now viewed largely through the prism of “Islamiyat”. Cruel as this sounds, images of stone-pelting protestors being tear-gassed and shot today evoke less horror in the rest of India and the planet than do visuals of masked young men, dressed in black, carrying AK-47s and promoting a mix of religion and armed rebellion. In a post-9/11, post-Islamic State world, the proposition that Islamists are fighting for freedom is neither sellable nor credible.

Second, related to the first point, the backlash against unbridled self-determination is occurring just as the Westphalian system and nation-state territoriality are making a ferocious comeback across the United States, Europe and Asia. There is no patience for redrawing borders. Violence and protests in Kashmir, police action, curfew and suspension of civil liberties, constitute bad politics and poor democracy. Even so, these are seen as sovereign actions the world has left India to take, deal with and live with.

Ironically, this is a consequence of some in Kashmir wanting to “internationalise” their cause. As it happens they have done so by hitching their grievance to global jihad and locating it within an Islamist agenda. This has singularly allowed huge sovereign space for India to act against what is seen as a systemic non-negotiable.

Third, while the Westphalian comeback secures India’s autonomy in Kashmir, it also accentuates the Indian government’s obligations and responsiveness to its citizenry, disaffected or otherwise. Anti-terror crackdowns and operations in Kashmir and the decidedly imperfect democracy in the Valley are not incompatible with the idea of an efficient development state with the rule of law. China, South Korea and others have demonstrated that less-than-optimal political structures do not preclude efficient social and economic development and governance.

Without doubt India has failed in being an efficient development state in Kashmir. Exaggerated talk of the Kashmir valley being among the country’s highest per capita income regions has skewed ambition and design of projects and of human development. Poor integration of the region with key economic centres is a case in point and has allowed a de facto seclusion of the Kashmiri people and their prospects. Article 370 is not the roadblock for this; fundamentally, it is a failure of imagination. Episodically enlightened civil servants and even army commanders do display such imagination, but there is little to institutionalise their initiatives.

Fourth, this poor governance is best (or worst) manifested in the incompetence in managing protests and uprisings. Better riot-police training, more efficient crowd-control methods and upgraded gear and hardware would have resulted in lower casualties. Information management and developing counter-narratives need to be best-in-class as blanket bans on people (curfews) and conversations (media and telecom prohibitions) have deleterious consequences. On social media, separatist propaganda is sophisticated; the Indian State’s information warfare is prehistoric or at least pre-millennial.

To be fair, such renewal is necessary across India and not just in Jammu and Kashmir. It is part of a policing protocol and culture invented by the colonial state after 1857 and suitable for an “occupying” power and “subject” people, not for a government dealing with citizens. This is a challenge India faces in several states, but Kashmir is as good a place as any to invest in 21st century methods, machines and mechanisms.

Fifth, since 1947 the Indian State’s approach to its “frontiers” — whether in the Northeast or Kashmir — has similarly borrowed from the limiting and self-defeating “pacification” tactics of the Raj: bolstering and incentivising local elites and adopting select families for whom networks in Delhi matter more than popular legitimacy or a commitment to widen the sphere of formal politics. Dynasties are frowned upon nationally but over-relied on in these regions. In Kashmir, the Instrument of Accession has been replaced by the Inevitability of Succession.

This is lazy politics. After 70 years of blood and tears, sacrifice and investment, surely India needed to show more options and a greater outreach than just the Abdullahs and Sayeeds? As prime minister, it is incumbent upon Narendra Modi to expand those options and enhance that outreach. The instruments, dialogue channels and specificities are for him to choose.

Ashok Malik is distinguished fellow and Samir Saran is vice-president, Observer Research Foundation

The views expressed are personal


New Norms for a Digital Society


While the state continues to exercise its regulatory capacity over digital spaces — a task it will likely keep in the coming years — the internet has magnified the rights and responsibilities of the private sector and end users across the world.

The interaction between states, non-state actors and transnational corporations necessitates the creation of a regime complex that clearly outlines their respective roles. This paper is a first step in that direction, articulating norms that may serve as the baseline for legal and political agreements on cyberspace. Inter-governmental gatherings like the UN Group of Government Experts have largely focused their efforts on the security of networks and ICTs. Multistakeholder organisations and platforms like the Internet Governance Forum, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the Internet Engineering Task Force, have begun to re-orient their mandate, with a view to make their governance more inclusive and accountable.

The set of seven norms and their corollaries identified in this paper may inform the functioning of both intergovernmental and multistakeholder processes. This document also attempts to chart the role of the private sector in digital governance. The end user today is valuable to internet companies, since the data collected from consumers directly contributes to the creation of revenues. If user data is the basis of wealth generation, internet giants have a responsibility to invest in the user by offering local content and innovative technologies that are contextual. This is particularly true in the case of emerging economies and developing countries, where internet businesses should tailor to the unique needs of the next billion users.

This paper argues that effective internet governance requires shifting the locus of digital debates from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific and bringing in new voices and views of a new constituency of stakeholders. Similarly, all stakeholders must work towards building the capacity of growing digital economies and first-generation internet users. Efforts to fragment digital spaces by creating alternative “internets” must be avoided. Just as regimes that curtail the freedoms of internet users are undesirable, actions that raise the cost of local innovation and increase barriers to the unrestricted flow of technology, and thereby quality of access, should also be discouraged. These norms are a work in progress, and the author reserves the right to refine them through continued consultations with stakeholders across the spectrum.

1. Online = Offline + more

The protection of rights over the internet requires mechanisms that are unique, contextual and transformative. Rights on the internet should not be limited to those offline, and must build on the edifice of free speech and expression that already exists. Similarly, current regulatory frameworks must evolve in response to the digital medium. Just as traditional broadcasting regulations have become inadequate to regulate online speech, outmoded censorship laws often constrain free expression and impose a chilling effect. Contemporary conversations on privacy must reflect the need to protect sensitive data, while acknowledging its importance for technological innovations that benefit local communities.

NORM: Realising the transformative potential of the internet requires progressive online freedoms that move beyond rights granted offline.

COROLLARY: Real-world regulations must not constrain the advancement of technology; rather, they must evolve in response.

2. Let data flow

Affordable, universal and high-quality access to the internet is among the top policy prerogatives of governments today. Access will require substantial investments in the form of local data centres, internet exchanges and last-mile connectivity. As net exporters of data, developing countries represent a robust market for internet companies. For their digital economies to expand — thereby increasing the share of the global pie — the free flow of trans-boundary data must be coupled with the unrestricted flow of technology. Custodians of data should orient their research and development towards local solutions, and foster domestic entrepreneurship. Data flows, however, should respect the sovereign imperative of law enforcement and security.

NORM: The global free flow of information must necessarily lead to universal access to the internet in emerging economies that is affordable and qualitatively rich.

COROLLARY: Free flow of data must be complemented by free flow of technology that is tailored for local innovative solutions.


3. Living in an encrypted world

Governments around the world are locked in debate with industry bodies and civil society for the right to access encrypted communications. Backdoors and forced localisation of data, however, can decrease the overall standard of security in the market, curtail free speech, and violate the integrity of data. Governments should welcome technological developments that incorporate security by design, with a view to preserve the integrity and stability of digital networks.

NORM: Encryption must be the norm.

COROLLARY: Decryption of data must be subject to rigorous standards of judicial review.


4. The responsibility to inspect?

States are faced with increasingly dangerous and sophisticated threats from state and non-state actors in cyberspace. The technological and legal capacity for dealing with these threats is often disparate, caused in part by lack of access to proper forensic, investigative and prosecutorial tools. It is the sovereign function of a state to protect its own citizens and infrastructure from such threats, without undue interference or intervention in its affairs. The interconnected nature of the internet demands that governments and businesses across geographies cooperate towards norms of cooperation that mitigate the risk of conflict.

NORM: The responsibility of states to protect cyberspace is a sovereign function, commensurate to their capacity.

COROLLARY: The collective responsibility for protecting cyberspace requires global investments for building capacity in developing countries.

5. Strengthening the base

The ubiquity of low-end smartphones, the growth of affordable data networks in emerging economies, and the relative lack of awareness of cyber vulnerabilities among users leave networks and individuals vulnerable to exploitative practices. Enhancing cyber hygiene among internet users in emerging economies can help substantially decrease the vulnerability of the global digital space as a whole.

NORM: Cyber security must account for, and address technology limitations of the end user at the bottom of the pyramid.

COROLLARY: Local communities must be at the forefront of articulating policy solutions for cyber security.


6. Three rules for internet governance

Despite attempts to decentralise and diffuse the management of global internet governance institutions, there are inadequacies in revised accountability mechanisms. The locus of internet governance must shift from big transnational corporations to start-ups, medium and small local enterprises, from governments to multistakeholder communities, and from trans-Atlantic conversations to Asia-centric debates.

NORM: Multistakeholderism should be institutionalised by accounting for diversity in gender, geography and sectors.

COROLLARY: International internet governance must undertake three transitions and accommodate new stakeholders:

  • States → Communities.
  • Trans-national corporations → Small & Medium Enterprises and Startups.
  • Atlantic → Asia and Africa

7. Against the Splinternet

The Domain Name System (DNS) represents a stable and contiguous platform of unique identifiers, comprising numbers and names. Attempts to fragment the internet by creating an “alternative” system or through interference in the functioning of the “root” should weigh its potential impact on internet users, businesses and governments. Just as technical efforts to create a parallel DNS should be discouraged, trade regimes around the digital economy should consider the effect of fragmenting the internet into differential pricing regimes. Affordable and universal internet access can be realised by removing policy barriers to the creation and strengthening of ICT infrastructure.

NORM: The internet should remain unfragmented.

COROLLARY: Differential trade regimes should not raise the cost of doing business in the digital economy nor impede low-cost connectivity to users in Asia and Africa.


  1. “Digital globalization: The new era of global flows” McKinsey Global Institute, February 2016,