Kashmir in Game Theory
Stop talking. Stop all development aid. Walk away. See what happens.
The Kashmir problem has been with us for 60 years. It consists, at the core, of the unshakeable belief amongst around 1 per cent of Muslims in the Valley of Kashmir — not the entire state — that they are not Indians but Kashmiris.
The total number of Kashmiri Muslims is around 3.8 million. One per cent of that is around 38,000. India has a population of 1.1 billion. The size of the Valley is 4,550 square kilometres. India is 29,73,990 square kilometres. Never, as Winston Churchill would have said, have so many been held to so much ransom by so few.
All the usual reasons for this extraordinary phenomenon are known, as are the putative solutions. But when everything else fails, it is useful, finally, to apply game theory because it helps us analyse the strategies of different players and to perhaps arrive at a different, if radical, solution.
There is of course some risk. But then nothing ventured, nothing gained. Based on that perception, this article offers a solution.
The first point about the Kashmir “problem” is that it is wrong to see it as a 3-person game, comprising India, Pakistan, and the 38,000-odd Kashmiri Muslims who hold a different view. Nor is it an n-person game in which the Hurriyat, the JKLF, and what-have-you are independent players. It is, instead, actually a 2-person game comprising Indians (including the non-angst ridden Kashmiri Muslims) and the others.
Indians benefit if the Kashmir problem goes away. The rest benefit if it doesn’t. That is how the game has been set up in the last 60 years.
The gains to India are clearly defined. Politically, these consist of being able to say that the two-nation theory was nonsense. It is important to be able to say this because India has around 150 million Muslim citizens, not because it de-legitimises Pakistan. The strategic gains are that India can deny access of the Pakistan army and, therefore, China, to the Indian plains. There are some social gains — for example the Sufi outlook on Islam — but they are too nebulous to be factored in systematically. There are no great economic gains. In fact, there are only losses.
The gains to the 38,000 on the other side have to be divided into two parts, namely, to the apparatchiks and the party workers. The apparatchiks are the leaders of the two Valley-based political parties, namely, the National Conference and the Peoples’ Democratic Party. The workers are what they are everywhere — the suckers. The gains to the apparatchiks are far larger in terms of money and power than to the workers, who have to make do with a warm glow in the heart (and sometimes a bullet in the body).
The second point is that given the way the game has been set up over the last 60 years it has become a non-zero sum game. This means that there is no universally accepted solution because there is no single optimal strategy and no predictable outcome. For every solution, there is also a problem, which is the essence of the Nash Equilibrium.
Also, non-zero-sum games are not competitive. So there exist both competitive and cooperative elements in it. We can see this all the time in Kashmir. In plain English, it is called running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. This means that both sides have some common interests but that, at the same time, some interests that are completely opposed.
This also means that if the game is played repeatedly (as indeed it has been in Kashmir) instead of just once, both sides must fear retaliation. Both have experienced it.
Those familiar with game theory will recognise in this the famous Battle of the Sexes in which a married couple wants to go out for the evening, but the husband wants to go to a cricket match and the wife to the bhajan sammelan. But they can only go to one of these as both also desperately want to be together.
This is precisely true of Kashmir as well. The matrix representing the game is given alongside and figures in the boxes give the respective numerical utility for each outcome.
Cricket Match bhajan
Wife Cricket Match 2, 3 1, 1
bhajan 1, 1 3, 2
There are two strategies open to each player: communicate with each other or don’t communicate. It is commonly believed that some communication is better than no communication. That is why we have the constant demands for “talks” about Kashmir. In fact, however, there are situations where zero communication is a better strategy than some communication because threats can’t be made if you don’t, or can’t, communicate. China follows this strategy with its dissidents very successfully, as do the US and the UK with the terrorists. Believe me, it works.
A 1, 2 3, 1
B 0, -200 2, -300
Matrix 2 shows what can happen when there is no communication between husband and wife. In its absence the wife has to follow strategy A, and the husband has to follow strategy a. She gains 1 and the husband gains 2.
However, when communication is allowed, she can threaten him by saying that she will go for B unless he agrees to play b. This is exactly the problem in Kashmir. If India submits, the opponents gain 2 and it loses 1 (as opposed to what would happen if there was no communication).
For India, therefore, the superior strategy, regardless of what the liberal bleeding hearts say, is to cut off all communication with the apparatchiks of Kashmir. As a follow-up, it must also cut off all development aid to the Valley because it is that which provides the financial resources (via corruption enabled by the contractors) for the apparatchiks to continue with the game. The aid has become the incentive to continue with the game.
But if one side walks away from the game, as the USSR did in 1990, the villains of the other side will invariably lose. Even when children play, when one child who owns the ball walks away with it because the others won’t let it bat, in the end everyone gains because a bargaining solution with a finite outcome is found. This is what must be done in Kashmir.
Stupid idea? OK, but has anything else worked? If not, why not try this, Mr Vohra? As I said, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
6 months ago