New Delhi: Although it is not going to happen anytime soon, Kashmir mediation seems the flavour of the season. Not a day passes without some newsbreak about the imminence of foreign mediation on Kashmir. China has long sought the role of mediator between India and Pakistan ignoring its occupations of portions of Ladakh and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. With Pakistan and India both having joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China could use its overlordship of the group to attempt to broker peace between the warring countries and rival nuclear powers.

China is not alone to stake a role in Kashmir and mediate between India and Pakistan. The Donald Trump administration is as keen on it and its keenness was expressed by the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Nikki Hailey is from Punjab. Ideally, this should give solace. But in the world of immigrants, attachment to the mother country is often perceived to impair political ambitions in the adopted nation if one should have them. India has snubbed Nikki Haley. It has not gone down well. Donald Trump prides himself as a deal-maker. Since he is also a political novice, he thinks he can settle India-Pakistan disputes notwithstanding the failure of more capable American statesmen prior. If and when Trump gets the opportunity, he will seek to insert himself into the Kashmir dispute. And Russia, pushed by China, will also, in due course, pitch for mediation in the interest of world peace.

Why has Great Power opinion suddenly veered to mediation on Kashmir? Does India seem somehow strategically weaker than before? Is there an objective change in the situation on the ground? Or has the Narendra Modi government caused this disconcerting and bewildering transformation of circumstances by its misconceived policies on Kashmir? The answer is all the above but the last reason has especial salience.

The Narendra Modi government is obsessed with being different from previous governments at the Centre. This obsession is highly selective. Modi has no qualms accepting policies of former governments when it suits his interests. He has made GST his own although it was ideated and planned by the earlier Manmohan Singh government. Unsurprisingly in making it his own, Modi has botched GST, with the top rate of 28 per cent being easily the highest in the world. In some categories of imports, it gets even higher at 43 per cent. Modi’s GST will kill what little animation remains in the Indian economy. And it is not GST alone he has filched from the previous government. Every policy with promise has the signature of a Prime Minister who preceded him. Modi’s own project of demonetization has boomeranged on the economy, shaving off at least 2.5 percent from the GDP growth rate.

As with demonetization, Narendra Modi’s obsessive quest to be different on the Kashmir issue has exploded in the nation’s face. Abandoning political leadership in Kashmir, he is fixated on a military solution which has returned unprecedented violence to the Valley. Kashmiri society has turned against the state with an intensity not seen in the last twenty years. Wise army leadership of the past had envisaged a limited role for force with politics taking over with the immediate reduction of violence. It is this strategy that permitted elections to be conducted in Jammu and Kashmir which saw a steady rise in the turnout of voters. This wise army leadership of previous years has been put to shame and ignominy by the conduct of the current army chief who is frankly a disgrace to the institution of the military and to his rank and uniform. This writer will not dignify his recent comments by repeating them except to say that he has added to the ferment in Kashmir. By his statements, he has virtually disenfranchised Kashmiris and gravely impaired Kashmir’s future with India. It would require political overtime to repair the situation, and the Narendra Modi government seems entirely uninterested in making that effort.

The situation has been worst confounded by the government’s jingoistic publicity to routine and standard frontier military operations in the west from the Indian side and by its growing penchant to subject Indo-Pak disputes to international adjudication. Estimating a happy confluence of nationalism and vengeful public opinion in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, it took his matter to the International Court of Justice where it won temporary reprieve. Partial success in one will tempt the government to other such ventures, and its side effect is already being felt by growing Great Power anxieties about Kashmir. If India is going to mount legal challenges to Pakistan in international forums on a regular basis, the day is not far when the Great Powers will get together to trash India’s petty legalisms and impose their own solution on Kashmir. That will constitute Pakistan’s victory. The Narendra Modi government is so bereft of intellectual talent and geopolitical expertise that it entirely fails to visualize the dangers ahead. It is a fitting case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

When Narendra Modi is periodically defeated in his ill-conceived schemes against China, he admits to the general peace that prevails on the India-Tibet border, and incredibly takes some credit for this. The credit indeed wholly belongs to China because its ambitions against India are long-term, strategic and planned to the last detail. It is not ad hoc like this government. The true measure of a Great Power is that it seeks to settle its strategic threats through its own devices and rarely takes in allies. It never internationalizes its threats nor seeks third party consolation. China is a very good example of such a Great Power.

From at least the late 1950s, Western leaders like Konrad Adenauer were aware of the growing rift between the Soviet Union and China rooted in the half-hearted post-Stalinist reforms of Nikita Khrushchev. When this was brought to the attention of the US government, no advantage was taken because of the deep-seated American distrust of China after the 1949 revolution and the Korean War. China, on the other hand, was keen for a rapprochement with the United States but continued to publicly oppose “American imperialism” with revolutionary stridency. Curiously, it was the Soviets who brought the Ussuri River clashes of the late-1960s to the notice of the Richard Nixon administration, insinuated Chinese provocations, and sought to give the Americans a role in containing China. The opposite of what the Soviets desired took place, bringing China and the US close on mostly Chinese terms. China did not internationalize its problems with the Soviet Union and its patient calculations and resolute self-belief finally paid off.

These fundamental lessons of China’s rise have been lost on India for quite some time; and indeed the Narendra Modi government is making new errors of internationalizing bilateral disputes with Pakistan as if global history is obscured to it. Kashmir is India’s internal problem. It will become an international issue if India cannot resolve it peacefully in good time. The border tensions with Pakistan are best kept away from the public gaze with the army doing what it is mandated to do without hyper-nationalistic crowing by the army chief. And, finally, international judicial proceedings will not contain Pakistani terrorism. If India persists in this course, it could have the contrary effect of strengthening Pakistan’s hands.

Narendra Modi’s obsession with Pakistan is tiring the world. The world may get together and settle the Kashmir dispute disfavouring India. India must immediately switch-off the anti-Pakistan rhetoric abroad, quietly pursue bilateral mechanisms in Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case, and deal with Kashmir’s internal and Pakistan dimensions sensibly and without attendant publicity and jingoism. Narendra Modi has failed in Kashmir. The sooner he accepts that, the more speedily he will understand and appreciate the dilemmas of his predecessors. The institutional memory of the Indian state aids the process of continued learning and innovation. Breaking from the past will not always lead forward. It has landed India in the current mess in Kashmir.