A couple of nights ago, at a gathering of friends, I did what most tree-hugging hippies do: imagine. I said, wouldn’t it have been nice, if after Afghanistan instead of invading Iraq, The Chosen One had made a grand gesture and said, “Here is 5 billion dollars on the table. I will fund a school and a library in all major cities of the Gulf where anyone can have a free English medium education. And here is 1 billion to aid translation of texts [literature, history, art etc.] from Arabic to English and back*” Wouldn’t that have taken the wind out the sails of those insisting that America is the imperial Satan? Sure, the jihadis will be opposed but the middle classes and the intellengentsia would have jumped at such a gesture. Just to break the status quo, the endless blame game, to start a new discussion, I said.
The next day, I read that such a gesture has indeed been made. By Manmohan Singh in Kashmir. He announced that he is going to reduce troops in Kashmir. Then, he recognized that the J&K civilians have suffered in the 15 years of turmoil and asked the troops to maintain ideal conduct. Then, he announced that the ban on hiring from J&K will be lifted and jobs will be provided for the youths. And then, he offered a $5.3 billion economic revival plan for the people of Kashmir. He said, “The time has come to put forward a new blueprint, a fresh vision for Kashmir… free from the fear of war, want and exploitation”.
Of course, the jihadis ain’t buying it. Big surprise. Manmohan Singh just upped the ante for the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. A brilliant and timely move by someone I am really beginning to like. Who you gonna call, General Ji?
* Translation updated