About Sumantra Bose
Sumantra Bose is professor of international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His books include Bosnia after Dayton: Nationalist Partition and International Intervention (Oxford University Press, 2002), Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace (Harvard University Press, 2003) and Contested Lands: Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia, Cyprus, and Sri Lanka (Harvard University Press, 2007). The last of these works was also published in a subsidiary edition for south Asia by HarperCollins India, Delhi, in November 2007, and in Arabic translation by Arab Scientific Publishers, Beirut, in early 2008
Articles by Sumantra Bose
India's politics is an alphabet-soup that is certain to bewilder the uninitiated.
Consider this sequence of events. The central government of a country removes the political leadership of an autonomous province of the country in a purge-like act. It then sets about revoking the self-rule powers of the province, which has a different ethno-religious majority from the population of the country as a whole. Public protests in the province are met with heavy-handed police tactics. A repressive regime is instituted in the province, with both democratic institutions and the civil rights of citizens effectively suspended.Sumantra Bose is professor of international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). His books include Bosnia after Dayton: Nationalist Partition and International Intervention (Oxford University Press, 2002), Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace (Harvard University Press, 2003) and Contested Lands: Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia, Cyprus, and Sri Lanka (Harvard University Press, 2007)
Also by Sumantra Bose in openDemocracy:
"Contested lands: paths to progress" (14 May 2007)
"Uttar Pradesh: India's democratic landslip" (29 May 2007)
"Sri Lanka's stalemated conflict" (12 June 2007)
"The partition evasion" (23 August 2007)
Eventually, political radicalisation sets in and some among the misruled province's younger generation pick up the gun to fight for "liberation". The nascent insurgency draws a fierce response from the state's military and police organs. The security forces crack down hard, and in so doing victimise the civilian population. Massacres of civilians and other serious abuses occur. The militants are not stamped out; instead, their struggle evokes large-scale popular support. A major crisis has developed.
This may read like a potted history of Kosovo between 1989 and 1999. It is, however, a potted history of Indian policy towards Kashmir, and its consequences, between 1953 and 1990. So do the United States and its allies in Europe support self-determination for Kashmir, and threaten multilateral intervention to that end?
Of course not. The oft-stated American position on Kashmir is that India and Pakistan should negotiate a bilateral solution to the Kashmir dispute while taking into account the wishes of "the Kashmiri people" (a description that itself grossly over-simplifies the society and politics of Kashmir, which contains a diversity of regions, religions, ethnicities and languages, and whose citizens are split into pro-independence, pro-Pakistan and pro-India segments).
Nonetheless, the caution and circumspection that define the stance of the United States and major European Union countries towards the Kashmir dispute are typical of the attitude of the "international community" and its dominant players towards claims to self-determination. The record of the international order since 1945 is that self-determination movements tend to receive a sceptical hearing at best, and no hearing at all in many cases. The vague and somewhat outdated principles of international law relevant to the issue of secession are broadly supportive of the territorial integrity of states, and recognise the legitimacy of self-determination only in situations of colonialism. Between 1945 and 1990 the only fully realised case of national self-determination outside the decolonisation framework was Bangladesh in the early 1970s, facilitated by an Indian military intervention that resulted in the total defeat of Pakistani forces in the former East Pakistan. During those decades, dozens of other self-determination movements struggled in vain.
I grew up, in India, regarding the partition of 1947 as an abomination. This was due to reasons more complex, and powerful, than any reflexive Indian nationalism. My father's family, prominent activists in India's long march to freedom, struggled and sacrificed much for the cause of an united, undivided India. My paternal grandfather, Sarat Chandra Bose (1889-1950), a Congress leader of undivided Bengal and India for more than two decades, was among very few major figures of the time to oppose the partition, on grounds of political morality as well as practicality, until the bitter end.
I remember Kittu well. Kittu - full name Sathasivam Krishnakumar - was the second-in-command of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE) during the first decade of Sri Lanka's civil war. As LTTE commander from 1985-87 on the Jaffna peninsula - the Tamil heartland in the island's far north - Kittu, born in 1960 in Velvettithurai, a coastal town devoted to fishing and smuggling on the peninsula, led the Tigers' meteoric rise as the civil war intensified. When he stepped down from his command, after losing a leg to an assassination attempt in 1987, he had already achieved mythic stature as a guerrilla leader.