Watching the Scottish referendum unfold I was reminded of a comment a colleague had made when the Indian cricket team visited for Sachin’s last Test series in England. He said that he wanted to see a close Test match in which Sachin would get his 100th century and England would win.  This was exactly what I wanted to see in the Scottish referendum i.e. I wanted to see a close election in which all the issues were brought to the surface and finally the union holds together after a close vote. That is exactly what I got !

As a keen observer of politics, the referendum was fascinating in so many different ways – the turnout was at an all time high and it even beat the turnouts in some of the newer democracies , the highest polling rates were among the new voters in the 16-18 age group so maybe now the older generation would stop moaning how things were better when they were young , the arguments put together by all the sides (Yes, No and Netural) were put out with a lot of passion even if the logic of them didn’t make sense and finally the campaigns were run by armies of volunteers who probably took time off from their work or studies to participate in their political movements. It is like watching the replay of a match where my favourite team has won but the losing side beat all the odds to come really close and even taught a few political lessons to the winning side.

But this referendum has also taught me a few things. This is probably the first time in my living memory I have seen a referendum conducted in a democratic manner for a country to secede from a political union. I have only seen referendums conducted to join unions (EU) or for other purposes. Even though there are quite a few regions around the world agitating for secession fro the main country I haven’t seen any given and I didn’t think that I would ever see one too.

The fact that Westminster decided to give a referendum to the Scottish people is probably a reflection of the fact that they were quite confident of winning (previous opinion polls have never crossed the 30% mark for the Yes vote), or they were confident that even if the Scots break away the remaining UK would survive as a confident political unit as it indeed has with the Empire having gone away or maybe a mixture of both. But whatever the reason for giving the referendum, it represents the political maturity of the leaders to let people have their say.

The other referendum that I don’t think will ever happen is on Kashmir. Again my thoughts on this question are similar to the cricket point where I want it be a clean and well fought election in which the Kashmiris decide to stay with India. This to me is probably the only way of deciding the Kashmir question once and for all and for India to get back the whole of J&K that we see in Indian maps.  The only other way is to out gun and outgrow Pakistan, hope that country either implodes or loses interest and rule Kashmir better. If 70 years of our independent history is any guide for the future I don’t see this happening in my lifetime.

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