Some China travellers might have already made the experience that Chinese costums confiscated their “Lonely Planet” travel guide. Reason: on the map of the People’s Republic of China and its neighbouring countries including the South China Sea, Taiwan is drawn in a different colour than the PRC. This could be interpreted, of course, as indicating that Taiwan is independent although it is, always has been, always will be, obviously, without doubts, afterthoughts and conditions or reserve, part of China…Now, it seems that not only vilain autocratic states like China are still itchy about the way borders are drawn in publications…the biggest democracy of the world, India, is so too. As Philippe Rekacewicz reports on his blog for Le Monde Diplomatique, India has blocked last May the delivery of 28000 copies of the Economist which contained an article and a map on the Kashmir conflict. So far for the freedom of information in India.
What is interesting in Rekacewicz’ report on the ensuing debate between the Economist and Indian journalists, is that the latter justify the censoring with the “sensitive” nature of the Kashmir issue and the emotional attachment Indians had to this part of the subcontinent. This is not without recalling Chinese rhethorics on Tibet and Taiwan. It seems that in times where geostrategic justifications just don’t sound good, where claims of sovereignty are not fought over borders but “responsibility”, contested territorial claims have to be defended emotionally rather than rationally. On can literally see the military and political powerholders at the top of the state in Delhi theatrically throwing the Economist on their desk and exclaiming with tears in their eyes “This is such a mean thing to do!”. As all things emotional, it leaves very little room to the other to say or do something that is not inappropriate and wrong in this very situation. Emotionalizing issues is always an excellent strategy to silence topics without having to debate them but also without having to answer to the real issues at stake. “Let me first calm down after this terrible shock, later we can talk… maybe”, is the message of emotional outcries; the hope that “later” will simply never come.
However effective emotionalization is for the protagonist in the short term, it is, in the end, complicating conflict resolution in the long term as it renders those issue indivisible. If the conflicts over Kashmir or Tibet were over natural resources, over land rights, over countable and taxable populations — all things divisible — deals could be found that allow every side to gain from resolving the issue. Emotionalizing is therefore an essential ingredient of escalating conflicts to the point of no-solution and of keeping them exactly there. India’s reaction to the Economist article is therefore not only an indicator for the miserable state of civil rights in the world’s largest democracy, it also clearly shows that the Indian ruling class is far, far, far from wanting a solution for the Kashmir conflict.