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Tag Archives | Kashmir

All I want for Christmas is Kashmir

Solving a 63 year old problem to solve an 8 year old problem is no solution

‘Tis the season of giving and Jeffrey Stern wants India and Pakistan to “give peace a chance” in Kashmir.  Jeffrey is the international engagement manager at the National Constitution Center and has apparently spent much of the last two years traveling around South Asia.

But his sojourn to South Asia has left him none the wiser on matters relating to the Kashmir issue.  Jeffrey presents the same tired, blitheringly idiotic arguments on Kashmir that many before him have presented.  There are two main themes in his article — first, he highlights what he calls “Wahhabism…sweeping through the valley..” and second, draws attention to the need to “resolve” Kashmir so that Pakistan can begin to be the “partner the US needs to confront al Qaeda and its allies..”

During his field trip to Kashmir, Jeffrey based his understanding of the conflict and of the people’s aspirations by speaking with “former militants” and separatists, most prominently Maulala Shaukat Shah of the Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadees. Most in India will remember Shah as central to the uproar on the Amarnath Shrine Board last year.  By any measure, the Jamiat plays a prominent role in Kashmir, which has a support base of 1.5 million followers and is patron to 600 mosques and 150 schools.

But by focusing almost entirely on the Jamiat, Jeffrey has either intentionally excluded other actors in what is a complex and sensitive issue, or has been entirely blindsided by them. Although the situation in J&K remains fluid, developments are afoot outside the realm of the Jamiat that could fundamentally alter the dynamics of the issue.

Quietly, Manmohan Singh’s government has proceeded with back-channel talks with moderate members of the Hurriyat, with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq clearly emerging as the international face of the Hurriyat contingent for talks.

These talks come at an advantageous time  for India.  Despite an increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan, terrorism in J&K is at a five year low.  The insurgency is not what it once was. The people of Kashmir defied separatists’ calls and militants’ threats to vote in the state elections in December 2008 (Voter turnout was 62%, with 55% in Kashmir Valley. Contrast this against the 42% voter turnout in Mumbai, in the country’s first general elections post-26/11).  India today, is able to dedicate political and economic bandwidth on the Kashmir issue.

Manmohan Singh’s government is in the process of implementing a series of confidence building measures to signal its intent at quiet diplomacy. Chief among these include amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSP) and withdrawal of some para-military forces from the state, with gradual transfer of responsibilities to state police.

But importantly, significant progress on talks with separatists and consequent reorganization of Centre-J&K relations are happening at a time when Pakistan is mired in conflict and is unable to dedicate sufficient bandwidth to stall or retard such progress.  If and when the time does come for an Indo-Pak “settlement” on the Kashmir issue, Pakistan may not find itself in a very advantageous bargaining position.

There is clearly more at work in Kashmir than Jeffrey knows about or wants you to believe.  His second issue dealt with resolving Kashmir to allow Pakistan to focus on al Qaeda. Readers of The Filter Coffee will know how poorly conceived this idea is. Kashmir is only a symptom of the myriad complexes the Pakistani state suffers from vis-a-vis India, which kinder folks attribute to the postpartum trauma of Partition.

Jeffrey writes:

Broadening [the definition of mutual US-Pak trust] will mean a holistic approach to Pakistan, acknowledging that Taliban militancy on the border with Afghanistan is not Pakistan’s most pressing concern even if it is the United States’. It will mean acknowledging Pakistan’s grievances with India.

Redefining the relationship will mean moving towards a workable resolution to Kashmir. Only then can Pakistan begin to be the partner the U.S. needs to confront al Qaeda and its allies, buttress Western efforts in Afghanistan, and to keep Kashmir itself from exploding.

In other words, Jeffrey wants Obama to solve a 63 year old problem as quickly as possible so that he can spend  the next two years trying to solve an 8 year old problem. Jeffrey’s ideas on resolving Kashmir confront the same cul-de-sac as other such prescriptions — there is no mention of just how Obama or anyone else can go about “resolving” Kashmir.

Mercifully, for every Jeffrey Stern there are the Lisa Curtises and Stephen Cohens who try to keep insanity at bay. The United States would do well not to muck around in Kashmir. Despite being impoverished and politically and economically stunted for decades after independence, India managed to stave off international pressure on entering into disadvantageous compromises on Kashmir or readjusting its borders along the LoC with Pakistan.

Today, given its economic and political leverage in the world, India acquiescing to such a compromise is even more unlikely. The United States will need to very carefully consider the negative repercussions of  any overt involvement in the dispute on the future of the Indo-US strategic partnership.

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Manmohan's US trip

India must aggressively pursue to protect interests and stake in Afghanistan’s future

Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US coincides with Thanksgiving week and the first anniversary of 26/11.  During the Prime Minister’s visit, the debilitating security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be on the agenda.  It is on this issue that some incredibly silly, wantonly naive advice is being shoved the US President’s way.

Two broad themes on India’s place in the regional security discourse seem to periodically appear, which can be summarized thus.  Firstly,  Pakistan feels threatened by the presence of a larger adversary at its eastern border. The main thorn in Indo-Pak relations is Kashmir. Therefore, solve Kashmir and receive a grateful Pakistan’s full commitment on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Second, Pakistan feels “strategically encircled” by India’s presence in Afghanistan.  An increase in Indian involvement would inflame Pakistan’s apprehensions vis-a-vis India. Therefore, in the interest of Pakistan’s sensitivities, an expansion of Indian involvement in Afghanistan must not be encouraged (or must at least be brushed aside).

Both these themes do an excellent job in confusing symptom (the “Kashmir” issue, and “strategic depth”) with root cause (Pakistan’s pathological neuralgia with India).  It is another issue of course that those advocating the “resolve Kashmir” approach haven’t ever come close to articulating how this feat is to be accomplished by Washington.

It is no secret that there is disconnect between the UPA and the Obama administration on the way forward in Afghanistan.  There are two aspects to this disconnect — one, th UPA administration has been blind to US’s plans in the region (and consequences to India’s interests), and two, the Obama Administration has been unable to present a coherent, consistent vision for Afghanistan, mired as it is with internal squabbling.

But Obama, who ran on a canvas promising to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is under pressure to act, if only to placate his fellow Democrats and voters.  The Obama administration sees greater regional involvement as a solution that would allow for a phased US withdrawal.   Hence Richard Holbrooke’s  recent diplomatic sojourns to China and Russia.

The role that India will play in this “regional approach” will perhaps become more apparent after the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington. Rightly, as the preeminent power in the region, India’s involvement is not only “beneficial”, but imperative.

But the status of “regional power” is not achieved through birth-right.  It must be  earned, and if India believes itself to be the preeminent regional power, it must start acting like one. Unquestionably, this involves taking tough decisions not only on what India would “prefer to do” in Afghanistan, but what it must do to safeguard its interests.

Thus far, India has stayed away from overt involvement in shaping the politics in Afghanistan, choosing instead engage in the (noble) pursuits of building schools and roads and training the Afghan police force.  “Soft power”, Shashi Tharoor calls it.  But soft power is credible only as long as someone else is willing and able to do the dirty yard work.

What if that “someone else” leaves? Who will step in?

A power vacuum in Afghanistan with a weak, de-legitimized government in Kabul constantly being undermined by a reinforced and invigorated Taliban and affiliated networks presents a scenario for India where its overall influence in the country will diminish, relative to that of China and Pakistan.

Economic investments in Afghanistan (totaling over $1 billion), development of ties with the country’s civilian polity and strategic importance of Afghanistan to an energy-starved nation, make such a scenario unacceptable to India.

There is simply too much at stake for India not to be meaningfully involved in a regional approach to the Afghanistan problem.  Indeed, India’s contribution to such a regional solution must span across all realms, including security/law enforcement, political reconciliation and delivery of social services.  In this regard, offering a larger Indian contingent to train Afghanistan’s security forces, can be a small, but important first step.

US administrations will always have India doubters, just as they will their  share of Indophiles.  India’s goal within the construct of the “regional approach”  must be to aggressively defend its interests in the country, while playing a meaningful role in addressing the current crisis and defining the future of Afghanistan.

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The blind men of Pakistan

From madrasa to media, the Pakistani awam is being disserved

As the Pakistani army prepared for battle in South Waziristan, a spate of articles appeared in the Urdu press, which while recognizing the combatants as “extremists”, ascribed to the notion that these were merely people who had been led astray by the conjuring of an evil power. This is a theme that has resonated well with the media since major operations commenced against the Taliban. Hence Operation Rah-e-Rast — Operation Right Track — in Swat.

With regard to the operations in South Waziristan, the October 19, 2009 editorial of the Urdu newspaper, the Daily Ausaaf typifies the kind of mindless harangue dished out by Pakistan’s vernacular media on the subject.  Replying to it would be futile and unnecessary to the readers of this blog.

That Pakistan can do no wrong is a foregone conclusion and cannot be debated. Therefore, if things are going wrong, it is most likely the work of Pakistan’s enemies.  The same indoctrination follows the people, from madrasa to media.  The shackles of indoctrination cannot be broken until Pakistan’s terror consortium of the maulvis, ISI and army comes to terms with the rapidity of diminishing returns in such mindless propaganda.

Today those groups that waged jihad in Kashmir have turned their guns on their masters on the streets of Rawalpindi and Lahore.  The army is in an all out war against the very Taliban it nurtured.  Baluchistan is in the middle of a secessionist uprising. Anti-Shia groups that surfaced as a result of oil money from Saudi Arabia have complicated Pakistan’s relations with Iran.

Who is bleeding by a thousand cuts?

An excerpt of the October 19, 2009 editorial of the Daily Ausaaf is enclosed below.  The entire original editorial in Urdu can be read here:

October 19, 2009

The Daily Ausaaf

The South Waziristan Operation: The Real Enemy also needs to be dealt with decisively

The main cause of this war is the perpetuation of the policies of the former dictator, Pervez Musharraf, as a result of which the real enemy remains hidden. This enemy doesn’t openly confront us, but does so through its agents, who are unfortunately tied to our own existence.

These agents promote the interests of the real enemy by attacking the nation. In actuality, the real force behind this war is the United States, which is being aided by India and Israel in order to destabilize Pakistan.

The roles that the United States has assigned India in Afghanistan are quickly becoming clear. From Afghanistan, India, with the assistance of the United States and Israel, attacks Pakistan at every possible level.

The several Indian missions spread across the length and breadth of Afghanistan have been established for this very purpose. These counsels are a threat to our nation, and it is through them that India provides financial and military support to extremists and terrorists.

It is a wonder that these activities are being conducted under the very nose of the United States, which claims that is it fighting a war against terrorism. However, under the US’s protection, India provides financial support and weapons to terrorists who attack Pakistan.

There is consensus among America, India and Israel to destabilize Pakistan. There is also information that the US and NATO have closed some of their checkpoints near the border, due to which terrorists from Afghanistan are able to enter into Pakistan freely.

It is clear therefore, that the US also wants Pakistani armed forces’ operation in South Waziristan to fail. But this is wishful thinking. It is not easy to defeat the Pakistani Army. The army enjoys the support of the entire nation.

It is amply clear that the US, India and Israel want to weaken Pakistan economically, politically and militarily in order to alienate its people and denuclearize the nation.

Pakistan needs to appreciate the fact that in its war in South Waziristan, it is confronting not only the terrorists, but also the big powers that are their backers. We will not be able to win this war without understanding who the real enemy is and neutralizing their designs against Pakistan.

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"People give the Indian army a lot of leeway…"

More pearls of wisdom from the Writer Formerly Known As Sane, Arundhati Roy.  She recently hopped across the border to Pakistan to really sink her fangs into the country she calls home.  Speaking at the Karachi Press Club, she talks about the Taliban, the ongoing operation in Swat, Siachen, Indian elections, and the RSS, among other things.  True to her form, Arundhati talks at a tangent, jumping from one unrelated topic to the next.

What makes people like her and Praful Bidwai particularly dangerous isn’t the fact that they speak out against the institution.  It’s that they speak out by distorting facts and drawing parallels between issues that have no logical correlation to support their agendas.  Don’t let them tell you they don’t have an agenda. They do. Everyone does.  Here’s Arundhati at her prattling best:

Each day (Siachen glacier)  is being filled with ice axes, old boots, tents and so on. Meanwhile, that battlefield is melting. Siachen glacier is about half its size now. It’s not melting because the Indian and Pakistani soldiers are on it. But it’s because people somewhere on the other side of the world are leading a good life….in countries that call themselves democracies that believe in human rights and free speech. Their economies depend on selling weapons to both of us.

Each day, apparently, the glacier is being filled with “old boots”; I’m not even sure what she’s talking about here. Her concern clearly couldn’t be environmental, since the “substance” behind the drivel appears to be to apportion blame to the US (aka “democracies that believe in human rights and free speech”) for selling weapons to “both of us” with which the two above-fault former colonial nations fight wars they are conned into waging by the conniving West.  Only problem here is that India didn’t really receive any weapons from the US that it used to fight Pakistan in Siachen.  A convenient falsehood to support her anti-US agenda, certainly, and no different from the mindset of the Pakistani establishment that affixes blame on everyone but itself for the situation it finds itself in.  But wait, there’s more:

The RSS has infiltrated everything to a great extent..The RSS has infiltrated the (Indian) army as much as various kinds of Wahhabism or other kinds of religious ideology have infiltrated the ISI or the armed forces in Pakistan.

Clearly, she’s taking issue with Lt. Col. Purohit and his ilk in re the Malegaon attacks.  But the act of one man, as deplorable as it was, can hardly be equated to the fundamentalist indoctrination of an entire army over the course of 62 years that led it to slaughter 3 million civilians because they belonged to different ethnic and religious persuasions.  Apart from Purohit, what other examples does Arundhati Roy have of an RSS “infiltration” into the army? To be clear, the Indian army is battling infiltration.  But it isn’t from the RSS.  An inconvenient truth that Roy chooses to ignore.

Arundhati continues:

The Indian army is quite a sacred cow especially on TV and Bollywood.I think it is a sacred cow. People are willing to give them a lot of leeway.

Forgive me, but the armed forces of a developing nation that chooses to mind its own business and not stick its nose into political affairs deserves all the credit it gets.  The Indian army isn’t perfect. No army is.  Sure, the media chooses to turn a blind eye to the army’s conduct in Kashmir and Sri Lanka.  But the fact that India has had a virtually unblemished record in democracy since independence (a singular rarity in the developing world) is enough proof that this is an army unlike any other, and if it does get any leeway, it is well deserved.

Arundhati Roy is successful in the sense that her utter ignorance compels people like me to respond and set right the things that this malingering cretin masks with her eloquence.  The fact that she can string a couple of sentences together in English is often mistaken by India’s elite and the Western media as indicative of her mastery over subjects she has no experience in.  I’ve taken issue with Roy before as I take issue with her today.  Abinav Kumar, in his response to Roy’s much published diatribe right after the 26/11 terrorist attacks, said that Arundhati Roy suffered from a failure of the imagination.  I beg to differ.  Arundhati Roy suffers from a failure of the mind.

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