Strategic Scholar

Strategy always fascinated a Sopore born scholar who rose to become Kashmir’s first doctorate in Strategic Studies. But the sad truth remains that in conflict region, there are no takers of this conflict specialist, reports Saima Rashid

Dr Shaheen Showkat
Dr Shaheen Showkat

In 2006, a young scholar from Sopore visited neighbouring Baramulla with a motive to teach Military Studies in Degree College there. But the scholar who later became Kashmir’s only doctorate in Strategic Studies shortly had a rendezvous with the reality: The course was banned in the campus after militancy broke out in Punjab. And why it happened, is still beguiling his brains.

The ban was imposed in early eighties, but Dr Shaheen Showkat, who was eager to impart Strategic tutoring at the college, never knew it. With the result, he started focussing on research than chasing job. Nine years later, intriguingly, this post-doctorate fellow is still jobless.

Over the years, his acumen for research established him one of the finest brains of Kashmir trained in Strategic Studies. But before rising in research ranks, the young Showkat from Zainagiree Sopore was a “curious” student of Government Higher Secondary School Sopore, fascinated by strategy. Once done with schooling, he went for Humanities from Government Degree College Sopore, where his passion for Strategic Studies heaved. “During graduation,” he said, “people would ask me about my subjects. ‘I have opted for military sciences, medical sciences, and stone sciences,’ I would reply to thwart all attempts of poking fun of Arts students.”

By the time he was out of college, his passion for Strategic studies had skyrocketed. He shortly joined Pune University in 2003 for pursuing Masters in the subject. Two years later, he joined Pune’s Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication to teach Journalism, particularly International Relations. A year later, he left the Institute and visited valley.

Back home with nothing significant to do, he returned Pune to pursue his PhD. That was the toughest and testing time for him “because I had to prove myself”. It was 2006 and by spring that year, Showkat started his PhD program. “Hailing from conflict mired state, I chose to do my doctorate in conflict management,” he said. “I was pretty well aware of the fact that conflicts never end, so all we have to do is, to learn managing that conflict.” One of the stark points in his doctorate thesis is: “any misunderstanding in a conflict region can be resolved only through negotiations”.

Once he began working on his PhD, he joined many institutes, either for research or teaching graduate courses. And shortly he realised, strategic studies has least scope in Asia due to “absence of war” in the continent. “But in countries like America with war history,” he said, “The subject is in great demand.” America and West always think on strategic lines, be it in war, or in peace, he said, “Basically war and peace are illness and wellness of a body. If you cannot diagnose the root cause of illness, you can’t sustain wellness.” So, he said, strategic studies—known as Security Studies in America, Military Studies in Australia and Strategic Studies in Asia—is relevant in all terms.

He termed America the “highly cultured strategic thinker”. To thrust on his point, he said, “When war was going on between Russia and Afghanistan, America intervened and pumped up Afghans in the name of Jihad. They knew Muslim countries will send huge monetary aid to Afghan warlords in the name of holy war, who would cash it to avail arms and ammunitions from America. The trick worked and thus boosted American economy thriving on war.”

Showkat said one component of Strategy Studies is “Advance Thinking”. It is a kind of pure analytical mentality asking where you will be tomorrow? What are your short term, mid term and long term plans? How you will achieve those goals which you have been assigned without referring your past or looking towards your past, he said, “the second component of the subject is Extra Mileage, stressing on the fact that you are not sleeping, lazy, luxurious, and a Profilist.”

Presently pursuing his Post Doctoral Fellowship awarded by Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi (ICSSR) at University of Kashmir, Showkat has many national and international publications and few books to his name. “The decision of pursuing Strategic Studies was partly a risk and mainly adventurous for me,” he said. “But till I am not accommodated in government sector, I will do more research, as research opens our mind while money closes it.”

Strategy was always in the “blood” of this Sopore scholar, who is cutting a curious figure for himself. Simply because in the world’s oldest conflict registered with United Nations, this conflict expert has no takers.

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