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Is Pakistan the target of big powers?

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Though minor in strength and economy, Pakistan is among very important Muslim nations and hence enemies of Islam have destabilized it. Having maintained good relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan has played important roles in Islamic world but, unfortunately, also has been aiding the anti-Islamic nations as well. That is source s and cause of tragedy of Pakistan.

Pakistan played mediatory role between USA and China and brought them together in many ways and today, while USA has destabilized Pakistan, Beijing is seen subsidizing the American economy and capitalism, thereby boosting the imperialist tentacles of all anti-Islamic nations, globally.

Islamabad has not been able to identify or choose its allies. By helping USA and NATO in invading, terrorizing and destabilizing Afghanistan, Pakistan has committed a big sin, willingly or otherwise.

Friendly destabilization

It indeed unfortunate that right from its inception as a new soverign nation in Asia to look after the legitimate concerns of Muslims who hitherto had suffered heavily as a minority in united India under British rule, Pakistan has suffered mainly due to Indian ill-focus seeking make it a weak and destabilized nation. New Delhi has used all techniques to achieve its objective in Pakistan which now stands destabilized and economically weak.

Today Pakistan is being contained not just by India but by both USA and its new strategic partner India which has made efforts to shift its allegiance from Moscow to Washington to retain Jammu Kashmir’s occupational status. Pakistan while the sport Islamabad receives from china is unable to force the Indo-US duo moving about with Asia pivot to stay away from destabilizing Pakistan any further.

It appears, India also achieved to split US-Pakistan relations to some extent. A weak and destabilized Pakistan is the target of US led capitalist-imperialist nations which it has served so long for obtaining mere service charges. With US kicking its major non-NATO ally Pakistan in order to make India happy, Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated.

Pakistan finds itself in isolation. Possibly Islamabad had never expected its NATO boss insult and abandon Pakistan once its objective of destabilization of Islamic Afghanistan.

Pakistan has never been a strong nation in any respect: in economy, politics technology, territory – not even promotion of Islamic faith as a Muslim nation in South Asia. As for sports and technology Pakistan is a failed state, unable to secure a firm policy for sports and technology except missiles and nukes, thanks to China. Today, Pakistan is big zero in intentional sports arena even in a fake sport called cricket which the Pakistani government promoted as the only “useful” sport for its 100s and 50s making Pakistani batboys the “proud sportsmen”.

In fact, in order to make Pakistan look a big zero even in false sport Cricket, jointly schemed against Pakistani bowlers and got them out of international cricket and Pakistan has to suffer because its American masters ask them to do more on genocides of Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan and earn the ”needy” service charges from USA and EU. Pakistan should also know part of money it receives from USA belongs to India which regularly pays huge sums for the continued support its Kashmir claim and for containing Pakistan.

Pathetically, Pakistan is not at all bothered about its weaknesses in every field as it makes its plans only to suit Indian strategic cases. This method caused Pakistan heavily for when India is moving fast in economy and technology, Pakistan is stand still, hoping the USA or China to help and do the thinking as well as for Islamabad. This has been the outcome of a dependent policy Pakistan has pursued so long and deliberate attempt to block non-rich and non-aristocratic families from ruling Pakistan.

Interestingly, all efforts by Pakistan to forge ties with Russia could not take off as both India and USA applied pressure on Moscow not to promote and help stabilize Islamic Pakistan. Russian President Putin was supposed to visit Pakistan on an official agreement but he abruptly cancelled the trip without even specifying the reasons for his harsh action. Obviously, Putin’s behavior belittling Islamabad made New Delhi happy and contented. China put India, seeking big status as being a strategic partner in its place by refusing to let it enter the NSG.

USA is well versed in all tricks of bullying Pakistan to coerce it do exactly what CIA wants. Recently, a former top American diplomat has said the USA should adopt a policy of “total isolation” against Pakistan to send a signal that it faces the prospect of becoming a “second North Korea” if it continues destabilising Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban and Haqqani network.

Such a policy would send a signal to Pakistan that it faces the prospect of becoming a “second North Korea” unless it changes its course on Afghanistan. Khalilzad was the highest ranking Muslim American in the history of the United States. He was the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W Bush. He also served as the US ambassador to Afghanistan and headed the country s diplomatic mission in Iraq. “If Pakistan truly changes course, then the US should be willing to be supportive in a significant way. But we have to substantially escalate the cost of Pakistan’s hostile policy in Afghanistan,” he said.

Big exploitation

Obviously, USA exploited vulnerable Pakistan for its domestic and foreign needs as its alliance added credence to US lies. Following the Sept-11hoax, Washington easily bullied Islamabad to support the US cause by letting NTO use Pakistani territories for its anti-Islamic terror operations first targeting Islamizing Afghanistan and gradually killing Pakistanis themselves and its military personnel. Pakistan willingly supported all nefarious operations because of India factor.

Over decades of joint operations by USA-Israel on the one hand and USA-Pakistan-Turkey on the other made Pakistan a weak nation depending on foreign aid to sustain its military spending to catch up with fast rising Indian military. Not just a weak nation, but Pakistan is also rendered a slave nation now, unable to decide its requirements as USA refuses aid to Islamabad.

Had Pakistan not joined Indian agenda for invading Jammu Kashmir by annexing parts of Kashmir, perhaps, Pakistan as newly born soverign nation would have freely devised its plans and programs for the better designing of a strong Islamic state!

USA did not let Pakistan to become a strong Islamic nation to advance the Islamic curse along with other Muslim nations, especially Arab nations and Iran and Turkey, for instance. Later, USA made Pakistan a Muslim nation supporting led terror operation as Islam.

Today, Pakistan is a major pauper puppet regime of USA seeking for a comity of puppet nations in Islamic world.

Earlier, as Pakistan was all out supporting the NATO terror operations in Afghanistan, Washington had given Islamabad to understand that whenever, if at all, NATO leaves Afghanistan the USA would make Pakistan the controlling nation of Afghanistan plus all terror goods left behind in Afghanistan after the “war” would belling to Pakistani military. It was just a hard mischief played out on Pakistan to encourage the regime to actively participate in the genocides of Afghans which Pakistani military did in perfection. . .

In order to make things easy, USA has used India to upset Pakistan’s plan for future Afghanistan. “In the aftermath of the US drone attack killing Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, increase the pressure by suspending all assistance to Pakistan — military and civilian — and move towards isolating Pakistan internationally, including not supporting IMF renewal of financial support,” Zalmay Khalilzad, a former top American diplomat in the Bush Administration, said. Khalilzad, who played a key role America’s policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq after 9/11 terror attack, said the US should adopt a policy of “total isolation” against Pakistan.

India fails Pakistan

Right from the day one as a soverign nation Pakistan always has to be on the heels preparing for dealing with any deadly eventuality with India. Then onwards, Islamabad spent all its resources and entire attention on making WMD to take the nuclear challenge from New Delhi very seriously. And Pakistan also became a nuclear power. Like India, Pakistan also refused to sign the NPT after getting nukes arsenals.

Constantly ill-focused by its Hindu neighbor India from which it ceded to form a soverign nation meant for protection of Muslims and promotion of their genuine interests, Pakistan sought to protect its interests by aiding a capitalist-imperialist USA. USA also brought anti-Islamic Israel to be friends with Islamic Pakistan while Israel began selling terror goods to Hindutva India.

And, how far Pakistani military is strong or modern enough to face the new threats from all sources around is not clear as yet. Pakistani regime failed to protect its citizens, protect the interests of Islam because it (Musharraf) attacked the mosques, killing the Imams in order to protect the interests of foreign nations that are deadly anti-Islamic. Pakistan began thinking in US mode and refused to protect the Islamic faith and Muslim interests.

When India, with help from Soviet Russia, blasted it first bomb against all nuclear regulations of UN and IAEA, Pakistan became too scary and worried about its exultance as a weak nation vulnerable to Indian provocations.

The point is Pakistan’s energies were wasted on dealing with challenges of Hindu India as both share parts of neighboring Jammu Kashmir. In order to retain the parts of Jammu Kashmir they occupy in their own ways, both India and Pakistan used the nukes as deterrence.

As India got all sorts of help from Moscow, Pakistan leaned towards the USA for help, but the US help does not come free. As Pakistan moved to get aid cum military assistance from Washington as return favors for helping the anti-Islam8c forces in killing Muslims, Pakistani planning has fallen apart.

Pakistan has taken US help for granted and needs to understand the complexity of post Cold War and relations with Pakistan’s two neighboring states. Pakistan has absolutely failed to maintain robust relations with its all neighbors. Over years of over dependence on US money and terror goods for its existence has brought Pakistan to become a destabilized and confused state.

Surveying all its immediately neighboring countries except China, Pakistan has maintained ties with Nepal and Sri Lanka but failed to sustain good relations with Afghanistan, China, India and Iran. This indicates a failure of Pakistani foreign policy in a region that gave rise to its isolation, which will have serious existential repercussions in the long run.

Pakistan’s obsession with India has strained its western border, affecting its own Pashtun population on its side of the Durand Line, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. Movement across the Afghan-Pakistani border generates revenue for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two countries exchange goods and services worth some 2.7 billion Euros ($3 billion) annually across the Durand Line. Despite the illegal trade and smuggling, both countries benefit a great deal from cross-border movement.

China factor

Even though a wrong notion was spread in the media about USA supporting and helping Pakistan, the fact is that it is China that has been helping Pakistan even with nuclear development. Both are not one of the fastest relationships developing in the world.

The idea of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor might work for its eastern border but not for its western border with Afghanistan, whose own dynamics must be recognized. The Durand Line as a border is much less relevant to ordinary citizens than to the state. Poverty, poor infrastructure, healthcare and other important state functions tend to be precarious on both sides, and the weak presence of the state has left locals on both sides to provide for their own needs. Pakistan needs to realize that hostile relations with Afghanistan are unsustainable in the light of its growing regional isolation.

Logic fails while Indian economy is steadily rising; Pakistan is getting weakened day by day. As India’s power in Afghanistan expands, especially its soft power, Pakistan is losing its position of economic and strategic privilege. Since India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, he has paid two visits to Afghanistan. On his first visit, he inaugurated the new Afghan parliament building that was built with the support of Indian government, while on his second visit on June 4, to the heart of Asia, he inaugurated the $290 million Indian-funded Salma Dam, one of the country’s biggest hydroelectric projects. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been dealing with the awkwardness of either stating its reputation or support for the Haqqani group or the Taliban insurgent leader Mullah Mansour, killed in a drone attack on its soil.

In fact, America’s Asia pivot targeting Russia and China has brought China still closer to Pakistan as India crawls faster toward USA and Israel- the nations that hate Islam and promote fascism and imperialism.

Weak Islamic faith and crisis

In fact, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia gave credence to American claims of Islamic terrorism and USA used both to propagate anti-Islamic themes, including Islamophobia. But o when it achieved the goal of killing millions of Muslims in what looks like a permanent war on Islam and making Islam look like terror religion, USA dropped Pakistan and adopted India as a strategic partner.

Pakistan has absolutely failed to maintain robust relations with its all neighbors. Surveying all its immediately neighboring countries except China, Pakistan has failed to sustain good relations with Afghanistan, China, India and Iran. This indicates a failure of Pakistani foreign policy in a region that gave rise to its isolation, which will have serious existential repercussions in the long run.

USA and its western allies have isolated Pakistan and Pakistani puppet regime is at fault for its facing isolation now. Pakistan is Islamic only in name sake and the fervor it had when the Islamic nation came into being in 1947 is no more in the vogue. US led war on terror or Islam has made Pakistan look like an anti-Islamic nation, helping all anti-Islamic nations on payment basis. Pakistan does not openly help India because of the Kashmir issue.

The post-9/11 involvement of the international community in Afghanistan and its commitment to quelling the Taliban-led insurgency have, however, left Pakistan regionally and internationally isolated, despite its involvement as a key ally in the War on Terror.

Pakistan readily agreed to US demand for Pakistani lands for the NATO troops to pass through to attack Afghanistan. Possibly Pakistan regime thought if it did not agree that would give opportunity to India on a platter and USA and India would jointly attack Pakistan on the lie that Osama has sneaked into Pakistani tribal areas.

Any way USA did attack Pakistan as well after the fall of Afghanistan even while Pakistan was helping the NATO, killing many civilians and military personnel.

Regionally, the leaders of Iran, India and Afghanistan have signed a historic deal to develop the strategic port of Chabahar in Iran, and agreed on a three-nation pact to build a transport-and-trade corridor through Afghanistan, which could not only help strengthen regional connectivity by boosting economic growth in the region, but by the same token reduce the time and cost of doing business with both Central Asia and Europe. Pakistan’s suspicion of India threatens to entrench relations of conflict and competition at the expense of cooperation and stability with all its neighbors. The knee-jerk reaction of Pakistan’s foreign policy to the Chabahar port was to close down the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan and enforce visa restrictions for both sides of the Durand Line, leaving those on both sides in the lurch.

Many speculate that the tightening security at the Torkham border is a political move rather than a curb on militant activities

Sure of getting the left over arms of NATO forces in Afghanistan as well as the nation of Afghans for control after the NATO leaves it, Pakistan has failed to utilize the shared cultural, linguistic, economic and ethnic realities of its western borders, while India has moved in to execute huge economic development, both real and symbolic, of the Afghan state. Despite having a Pashtun president in power in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani establishment’s claim of having forged closer ties with Afghanistan’s Pashtun population, ties could not move beyond the historic burden of Pakistan’s deep involvement in Afghanistan.

India’s containment mechanism

The post-9/11 involvement of the international community in Afghanistan and its commitment to quelling the Taliban-led insurgency have, however, left Pakistan regionally and internationally isolated, despite its involvement as a key ally in the War on Terror.

Following the Kargil War in 1999 with India, Pakistan faced international isolation, and national anxieties shifted to its western border, in order to stave off the very real risk of nuclear escalation with India and continue with its proxy war in Afghanistan. Pakistani foreign-policy makers and mostly military elites thought that acquiring the upper hand in Afghanistan and containing the warring tribesmen next door would be a much easier task.

India has been exploiting the isolationist and weakened position of Pakistan to its own advantage.

Regionally, the leaders of Iran, India and Afghanistan have signed a historic deal to develop the strategic port of Chabahar in Iran, and agreed on a three-nation pact to build a transport-and-trade corridor through Afghanistan, which could not only help strengthen regional connectivity by boosting economic growth in the region, but by the same token reduce the time and cost of doing business with both Central Asia and Europe.

Pakistan’s suspicion of India threatens to entrench relations of conflict and competition at the expense of cooperation and stability with all its neighbors. The knee-jerk reaction of Pakistan’s foreign policy to the Chabahar port was to close down the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan and enforce visa restrictions for both sides of the Durand Line, leaving those on both sides in the lurch.

The anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistan spirit that Indians and their teams display in tournaments is missing among Pakistani team and players. One gets the impression they don’t want India is defeated and they have to help India save its bi brotherly prestige as the deadly faces of a defeated Indian team would be horrible to watch. Or, maybe Pakistanis are really weak. Not very sure

Lessons

International relations are governed by two basic facts, rather plain truths: there is no free lunch and there are no permanent enemies and friendships in international politics. USA helped Pakistan for its own causes in South Asia and Mideast

Depending too much first on USA and now on China for their economic assistance and defending itself from possible Indian maneuvering and attacks, Pakistan does not seem to have any clear cut polices of their own but only follows what the USA and Saudi dictates, supported USA on its own to keep India out of US reach, but the US ally Saudi role in pressuring Islamabad to make Pakistan a safe place for the NATO terror gangs with its target on Islam and Muslims, their resources.

Pakistani policymakers regard the instability of the western border and its Pashtun population’s sacrifices rendered easier to deal with and placate than any disturbance on its eastern border of Punjab, in the context of Pakistan-India relations and engagement with Afghanistan.

Foreign-policy makers interpret the shift in border hostilities from east to west as being in the broader national interest of Pakistan, and they consider tragedies like the Peshawar Army Public School attack, where 140 children were mercilessly killed, or the young lives lost at Bacha Khan University, as collateral damage in the pursuit of Pakistan’s core national interests and territory, particularly Punjab.

Because of USA, Pakistan has failed to utilize the shared cultural, linguistic, economic and ethnic realities of its western borders, while India has moved in to execute huge economic development, both real and symbolic, of the Afghan state. Despite having a Pashtun president in power in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani establishment’s claim of having forged closer ties with Afghanistan’s Pashtun population, ties could not move beyond the historic burden of Pakistan’s deep involvement in Afghanistan.

USA knows too well that there are potential risks in isolating Pakistan, with continuing the current course in Afghanistan and Pakistan and therefore has called for having a contingency plan to deal with the nuclear scenario risks.

Indians say the role that Pakistan has played is that of a double game. It has signaled that it wants to be helpful to the USA in fighting terrorism and stabilizing Afghanistan. But in reality, it has been energetically supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network to achieve the very opposite. “That has been the essence of the Pakistan policy on Afghanistan,” they said.

A sovereign state’s foreign policy changes with the times, and according to its domestic needs and external changes in global politics. Nations have national interests, and there are no permanent enemies and friendships in international politics. Neighboring states can be a boon or a bane, depending on the ability to recognize one’s long-term interests of sustainable peace on its borders.

Pakistan currently has strained and difficult relations with all its neighbors except China which is helping with military and technological briefs.

While India has moved beyond the Cold war mindset, seeking profitable links with various countries of the ideological divide, Pakistan has been unable to define its foreign policy and national interests beyond a Cold War paradigm. An India-centric foreign policy, focusing on Kashmir as being a part of the country, has stalled Pakistan’s natural foreign-policy evolution and tainted its worldview of international politics. However, even though Pakistan is eager to make fronds with Russia, USA and India do not let Moscow pursue it sown foreign policy.

Even while Pakistan would try to formulate its foreign policy at macro and micro levels, it would still expect change of mind in Washington for easy money. That is the problem which Islamabad must confront and over come.

Time is overdue for Pakistani government to search for alternatives in politics, economics, foreign policy and international relations. It is quite likely Pakistan incapable of changes, and so it may not change at all. But for other Muslim countries seeking “ties” with enemies of Islam like USA, Israel and India have a fundamental lesson to learn from Pakistan’s bitter experience. .

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Curfewed Night- Book Review

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Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer, Vintage by Random House India, 2009

Kashmir – A Paradise Lost?

In ‘Curfewed Night’, Basharat Peer, launches his core narrative, with the remark, that it was from a very early age that he had a “sense of the alienation and resentment that most Kashmiri Muslims felt and had against Indian rule” (p.11). It is from this vantage point that the reader is catapulted in to an evocative account of a Kashmir he knows (so intimately), in a style which seamlessly switches between nostalgic reminiscing and straightforward reportage. As he tells us, it was the absence of “books about the Kashmiri experience” (p.95) which invoked in him the desire to “write about the people and places that had haunted him for years” (p.96). Basharat spent his formative years under the watchful eyes of his grandfather enjoying the company of books introduced to him by his father. It was January 1990, when he was 13 years of age that his war of adolescence began and events were set in motion which were to change Kashmir forever.  

In this intensely personal account of Kashmir, Basharat, goes on to describe the transformation of Kashmir from a land of immense natural beauty, into one where “armoured cars and soldiers” (p.229) were now casting an ominous shadow on the once idyllic landscape. According to him, the night of January 20,1990 marked a watershed in the Kashmiri demand for freedom, from an oppressive central government. On that night the paramilitary  had come down heavily to crush what was seen to be an “incipient rebellion” (p.14) and the infamous Gawkadal Bridge massacre was to follow just a day later(Haq, 2019).  Starting with the consequent spurt in growth of home grown militancy under the aegis of the pro-independence JKLF, he in the course of the book then traces the changing complexion and complexity of militancy as it moved to one which endorsed a pro-Pakistan stand as advocated by Hizbul Mujahideen and later the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. As a concomitant we are exposed to his references to the growing presence of the Indian Armed Forces and the consequent, at times unspeakable atrocities.    

While still in school, Basharat Peer, could have said to have been lucky when he heeds the words of his grandfather, who tells him that “you don’t live long, in a war son”(p.28). This takes place when he aspires to join the militants in a moment of boyish hero worship, only to be thwarted in his attempt through active intervention by his family. The irony lies in the fact that in the same time frame, Tariq, his cousin meets a violent end after having embraced militancy. This inevitability of a violent end, in case of militancy, is later underlined by Basharat when he mentions that, “even Yusuf had not gotten out alive” (p.221). Yusuf was his childhood acquaintance who had various dalliances with the law, militancy and politics before being gunned down. It is indeed thought provoking and sad to find that the graves of those killed in the conflict were mostly those of the young, really young.

With this early brush with militancy, it is not long before, Basharat is sent away to study at the Aligarh Muslim University followed by enrolment at a university in Delhi. This leads him to a job as a reporter and a mellowing phase in his personal development when he discovers, the “various Indias that existed” (p. 69). All along visiting and keeping in touch with the valley it is a militant attack on his parents which unnerves him and prompts his return to the valley after having resigned from his job as a reporter. Wanting to write an intimate account of Kashmir, he now spends his time tracking down events and people with “militants and soldiers” becoming “ghost like presences”(p.206). This marks an extremely traumatic, tumultuous phase of intensely felt emotions, just as we are witness to the paralytic pain that engulfs him in his failed attempt to visit Kunanposhpora where twenty women were raped by armed forces.  

There is also a sense of the tragic especially in the latter half of the narrative, when Basharat poignantly reminds us (repeatedly)of the tremendous human cost brought upon his beloved valley which gradually became a conflict zone before his very own eyes. Whether it is the reference to the ‘Association of the Parents of the Disappeared’ (p.132) or his schoolmate Mubashir’s falling victim to a grenade attack as an innocent bystander, the pain is searing. Even his own grandfather’s brother Nabi suffers from “fear and paranoia” (p.77) after his brush with militants and is resigned to taking anti-depressants in order to cope with the trauma. This psychological distress does not take sides and even an army officer is quoted to say, “I was a different man before I joined the force and came to Kashmir” (p.232). It is no wonder that Basharat writes sub consciously or otherwise about the “violence of a shoe brush” and his aeroplane is seen to execute a “violent sprint on the runway” (p. 235).  

All said and done, whatever one’s political orientation, ‘Curfewed Night’, is undeniably a rich tapestry of reportage, personal experiences, reminiscences while at the same time it works as a social commentary on the Kashmir of our times. Basharat Peer does not always shy away from the unpleasant, though his narrative does shy away from digging deeper in to some uncomfortable truths like the forced migration of 100,000 or more Kashmiri Pandits following the events of the night of January 19,1990 (India Today , 2016). Also brushed aside is the role played by Pakistan when it meddles in matters of the sovereign state of India through its active and complicit involvement in an ongoing state sponsored proxy war(Towle, 1981).

To end on a more positive note, looking to “return, leave, return, leave, and return again” (p.234), an emotional Basharat looks for erasure of the “lines of control” (p.239) and a return to a world where individuals are not just suspects or military targets. He does indeed sum it up so well with his heart rending expression of the hope that the war in his valley “would disappear like footsteps on winter snow”! (p.223)

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Proxy War and the Line of Control in Kashmir

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Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere, with its roses the brightest that earth ever gave.Thomas Moore

The Backdrop

Kashmir has a way of arousing strong emotions, even among those like the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who never set foot on its soil. At the time of partition of British India, Kashmir was one of the largest princely states and like the rest of the princely states, it had the option of joining either of the two dominions of India and Pakistan or else declare independence. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir had a similar choice to make but unable to take a stand he chose to sign a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan in order to buy time. India delayed signing such an agreement. It was following this agreement, that Pakistan with an eye on taking over Kashmir, started to act up and enforced a virtual economic blockade of this landlocked state, in a bid to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan (Singh, 1989).

The Maharaja desperate for supplies turned to India for help and matters soon took a turn for the worse, when Pashtun Tribals funded and equipped by Pakistan, invaded Kashmir, in October 1947(Haque, 2010). Facing imminent takeover of his state, Hari Singh again turned to India for help, but the Indian Government expressed its inability to intervene militarily in the absence of an Instrument of Accession. The Maharaja had dithered for too long to his detriment, he then signed the agreement and Indian troops were airlifted to the valley, immediately. The Indian Army successfully routed the tribal force,code named ‘Operation Gulmarg’,and it was the Pakistani Army which now took up the slack and stepped in continue the battle. 

With winter creeping in, fighting was resumed only in the spring of 1948. It was to be almost a year before a UN sponsored cease fire took effect in January 1949, and the cease fire line became the de facto border pending resolution of the dispute. In retrospect, the Pashtun invasion was in effect the first proxy war waged by Pakistan and the resulting cease fire line was to become the Line of Control in a later ‘avatar’. It is in the context of Kashmir that we shall examine the coming in to being of these twin concepts of ‘Line of Control’ and ‘Proxy War’ and see how they created and shaped the flow of events as they un folded, in the intervening decades. Also examined, will be the role of the two state actors in a bid to identify likely outcomes and possible course corrections.

Proxy War and Kashmir

Proxy wars cannot be understood, unless they are placed in the context of their existence and usage. For Pakistan, the benefit in this manner of engagement, lies not only in its deniability (for political reasons) but also because it minimises the chances that such a conflict could escalate into a full blown act of war (Byman, 2018).

 As an added corollary, there is the added incentive of reduced financial and human costs. Contextually, of even more significance, is the fact that India has military superiority which Pakistan would find hard to counter, if it were to engage in direct combat in a bid to annex Kashmir. Moreover, from a strategic point of view, when Pakistan plays the religion card for motivation, the results exceed expectations as it radicalises Islam in a Kashmir which originally subscribed to Sufi Islam. The incentive of ‘Azaadi’ is just a metaphor for annexation.

In Kashmir, there is a chain of causality, that began when, Major General Akbar Khan, a serving Pakistani Army officer, used Pashtun Tribals to stage an armed insurrection in Kashmir in October 1947 (Haque, THE KASHMIR CONFLICT: WHY IT DEFIES SOLUTION, 2010). The tribals in this operation were the first in a long list of non -state actors used by Pakistan in the relentless proxy war being waged, across the line of control, till today. Praveen Swami chooses to call this an “informal war” and rightfully says it has had a greater impact than both the 1947 and 1965 wars, as it set the stage for a seemingly endless engagement (Talbot, 2007).

Line of Control and Kashmir

In international parlance there was no such term like the line of control, until it was coined in 1972, when the Simla Accord was signed between India and Pakistan, after the post war (1971) negotiations between the two countries. The physical origins of the line of control, date back to the first Indo-Pak war in 1947, an invasion, gone wrong. Pakistan had committed this act of aggression, covert and overt, in spite of having signed a standstill agreement with the Maharaja of Kashmir, and for no identifiable reason except to further Jinnah’s interpretation of the Two Nation Theory. In spite of speculation about the exact timing of the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja, the fact remains that Indian troops intervened with this accession instrument in place and the UN mediated a cease fire between the two countries and the cease fire line was formalised in a Karachi agreement signed in July 1949. Approximately one third of Kashmir was now with Pakistan and India had the balance two thirds. In the following years, there were three major wars with Pakistan and out of them it was the 1971 war which metamorphosed the cease fire line in to the Line of Control (LOC), as part of a larger political settlement. This line of control was in effect ‘cordon sanitaire’ based on military realities and political exigencies. Virtually unaffected by the wars of 1965 and 1999, the 742 km LOC still traverses majorly mountainous terrain with the Siachen Glacier as its end point. It has now been fenced over much of its length to discourage infiltration from Pakistan.

Proxy War and Line of Control

 In Juxtaposition

Regardless of nomenclature, with the war of 1947, the matters of proxy war and the line of control, became inextricably linked to the very existence of the countries of India and Pakistan. Just like the first war of 1947, Pakistan, unsuccessfully tried the proxy route again in 1965, with ‘Operation Gibraltar’ but the infiltrators could not garner local support and ‘conventional’ war broke out. The UN then negotiated a cease fire, and the Tashkent Agreement restored the sanctity of the 1949 cease fire line. In subsequent years, the 1971 war mutated the cease fire line, in to the LOC, and this war was more to do with the liberation of East Pakistan, anyway. Finally, it was Zia, who ultimately formalised this bid to “bleed India with a thousand cuts”(Katoch, 2013). The juggernaut he set rolling in 1988, never quite stopped and the Kargil war of 1999, was to see the pattern repeated, in terms of the use of non-state actors.

In the intervening years, since, only the ‘face’ of proxy war has changed and evolved, the heavily militarized LOC is a constant. To start with, in the eighties, it was the pro-independence JKLF with indigenous recruits, which held sway, only to be replaced by a pro-Pakistan, Hizbul-Mujahideen and later the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-Mohammed. Even now, the youth of Kashmir, is being radicalised and trained in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, for ‘Jihad’, but ‘terrorism fatigue’ is setting in. Militants are losing support of the local population, more and more, just as Pakistan uses its Afghan experience to use different nationalities as cannon fodder. Peace talks make no headway in this paradigm and there are no winners in this war, social and economic development is the casualty, damaged goods abound amongst the public and the security forces, alike.   

 In Search of a Settlement

Taking the time of partition as a point of reference, Pakistan was convinced in its mind that given geographical contiguity, and the fact that the state was predominantly Muslim, Kashmir should be its own. Clearly this was a political issue which Pakistan turned in to a military conflict. From thereon, Pakistan’s strategies ensured that the situation was turned in to a regional conflict with international dimensions. So much so Clinton referred to the LOC as the “most dangerous place in the world”(Popham, 2000). Playing its cards well, Pakistan turned a political stalemate in to a militaristic, socio-religious and political quagmire. With no noteworthy democratic institutions to speak of, Pakistan wants to liberate Kashmir, choosing to forget that accession was the instrument of choice when the princely states decided their fate at the time of partition. How was Kashmir’s choice being invalidated if this was so.

Today, the Kashmir Valley is a land transformed. From a paradise of untold natural beauty, it is a landscape of concertina wire fences and concrete bunkers. Its residents are in a state of siege, emotionally scarred, unable to cast off the twin yokes of militancy and counter-insurgency, with the military and militants lurking at every corner (literally). Brutality abounds. Opportunistic politicians, flawed elections, corrupt bureaucrats, a protecting force which behaves like an occupation force, are faces of this brutality that have been  unleashed on the people of Kashmir. This was not always so.

Clearly, somewhere along the way India lost her bearings. It failed to take in to account the aspirations of the people. Kashmirayat, was secular, but it was not taken seriously and it did not take much to ignite the flames of ‘Azaadi’ which almost engulfed the valley. The secular bond was broken with the forced migration of the Kashmiri Pundits out of the valley. Regardless of the prevailing political dispensation, over time, with the growth of militancy, repression was the dominant reaction and the ‘mailed fist’ gained precedence. Radicalised Islam began to replace Sufi Islam((RETD), 2018).  Fear and suspicion ruled the psyche of the people. The youth felt disenfranchised. India had fallen in to the trap of enforcing a siege instigated by Pakistan. Kashmiris felt betrayed. Article 370 which granted unprecedented autonomy, had been diluted until it was just symbolic, when it was abrogated in 2019, by a fiercely nationalistic government which had only just snapped ties with an electoral partner perceived as soft on separatists.

Coming back to the time of independence, Dionisio Anzilotti, former President of the Permanent Court of International Justice, says that Pakistan’s invasion in 1947 was “against all canons of international law” and “a clear violation of the Charter, the Security Council’s resolution of 17 January, 1948” (Pan, 1998).Just as interesting is the fact that, the accession document is deemed to be legal under international law even if it is signed under duress(Ayoob, 1967). As for the oft touted failure to institute a plebiscite, the UNSC resolution signed by both countries, clearly calls for first off withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kashmir, with India keeping its forces at a minimum. Pakistan will never pull back and the stalemate therefore continues.

Clearly, there is an impasse and an impossibility for either side to blink. In Pakistan, the army cannot possibly abandon a conflict through which it exercises control over the body politic that sustains its economic, political and economic interests. It is almost as if, Kashmir is the very reason for the existence of the army and for the public of Pakistan, Kashmir’s liberation and annihilation of its bête noire, India, is the only national priority. Muhammad Shaffi Qureshi, a Kashmiri politician put it well when he said, that the Pakistan Army has “been feeding the tiger for a long time” for it to just walk away(Kifner, 2001). The danger in proxy warfare being that after a time proxies begin to “act according to their own interest and impulses”(Byman, ORDER FROM CHAOS Why engage in proxy war? A state’s perspective, 2018)(ibid).Pervez Musharraf and others have realized this truth much to their chagrin.

 India, too is riding its own tiger, as it is caught in a ‘low-level equilibrium trap ‘in terms of being, in a state of no war accompanied by no peace(Carciumaru, 2015). The fear being that any let up in military presence will escalate militancy. The abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in to centrally administered divisions, has destabilized already vulnerable democratic processes, turning Kashmir in to a simmering cauldron. The current political dispensation at the centre is still going ahead andrapidly making changes in domicile laws, in a bid to alter the demographics of the region. Previous state governments had done this for different reasons when they allowed the settling of Rohingya refugees in Jammu and thereabouts, for obvious reasons. Admittedly, matters can take a serious turn from hereon, with resentment boiling over among the populace at large.

Attempting to deal with the abrogation of Article 370, Pakistan is consequently changing its strategy. A leaked policy document from the ‘Green Book 2020’,indicates that the proxy war will now move towards, a‘non kinetic domain’(Osborne, 2020).Cyber warfare and psychological warfare being  used to aid and abet a native uprising, so as to be able to defend Pakistan’s position on international forums. With a defensive and weakened Pakistan,   India, too must move differently and realize that it cannot have a decisive win against militancy, using brute force. With militancy, currently at an ebb, the time is in fact opportune to move towards a ‘negotiated settlement’ as the militants are politically discredited in a scenario where India has the moral high ground as it does not believe in building terror launch pads on its soil.  Its people of Kashmir are decidedly at an advantage economically, when compared to their ‘compatriots’ across the LOC and they have a ‘voice’, in a country where rule of law still prevails. Aberrations like the AFSPA, can surface in any dispensation, you don’t throw the baby with the bath water.

In Conclusion

Bashir Manzar wrote on twitter, “From Geelani to Farooq Abdullah, we have a luxury to say anything and everything against India, ridiculing it for rejecting our right of self-determination,independent Kashmir, autonomy, self-rule etc. But when Pakistan rejects all these things, we turn into non-speaking species. Are we more scared of Pakistan than India?”

Seven decades later, peace is still intractable in the Kashmir Valley.Violations across the line of control continue, by both sides and the proxy war initiated and sustained by Pakistan, has been a constant for long.Kashmir  is ina ‘mutually hurting-stalemate’(Carciumaru, Beyond the ‘Low-Level Equilibrium Trap’: Getting to a ‘Principled Negotiation’ of the Kashmir Conflict, 2015) (ibid).Perhaps, the most elegant solution to this imbroglio would be acceptance of the line of control as an international border with greater autonomy for Kashmir (as suggested by Farooq Abdullah)so that the people of Kashmir couldthen move on with their lives, which in a paradoxical manner seem to be in a state of suspended animation, as long as the conflict continues to play itself out. This is not utopian, all it needs is political will and some give and take(Sharma, 2017).

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South Asia

Increasing Need for Global Cooperation and Solidarity- Interview with Dr. Tandi Dorji

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Covid-19 has invoked challenges worldwide that require us to formulate innovative solutions. Dr.Tandi Dorji , the foreign minister of Bhutan talks about the need to foster and increase transnational cooperation during these trying times.

Dr. Tandi Dorji has played a significant role in fostering Indo-Bhutan relations, and in the interview, he discussed future areas of collaboration, cultural understanding, and international engagement among the youth of the two countries. Having been a public health researcher before, Dr. Dorji reflects that the pandemic has rendered the population of Bhutan really vulnerable, and thinks that a challenge of such nature and scale can be surmounted only with global solidarity, cooperation and diligent efforts.

Some nations have a lot of financial, technical and human resources to tackle the pandemic, but others with weak public health systems and constrained by lack of resources cannot be sustained by sole efforts. There is a need to recognize this disparity and acknowledge that a weak link could jeopardize efforts aimed at global collaboration. Governments, health organizations, private sectors, scientists and researchers need to work with a common aim.

Countries that have research and financial capabilities need to come forward and support organizations like WHO that are responding to the current crisis through vaccine research. The collaborations in vaccine research need to be speeded up, and in order to make them more accessible and affordable for all countries, there needs to be a proper regulatory framework put in place.

This calls for a renewal in diplomatic efforts and increased funding programs by nations that already possess resources to tackle the crisis.

As someone who studied and lived in India for more than 15 years of his life, Dr. Dorji really appreciates the cultural richness and diversity present across states in India. He says that cultural understanding can play a very vital part in creating empathy within a population for the other side’s paradigm and mindsets. Being informed of a person’s or a culture’s peculiarities enables us to comprehend them better.

Cultural differences, according to him, have not prevented people from working together. Rather, the fact that different countries in the past have come together under the purview of common international frameworks has provided opportunities to different cultures to reach out to one another, and to understand as well as accept the differences among them.

Dr. Dorji also believes that the principles and values that construct out society play a crucial role in informing our education system, so the need of the hour is to collectively create an environment that would make the youth feel more involved and develop the ability in them to engage in constructive discussion and exercise other forms of proactive citizenship, including in the areas of foreign affairs and international relations.

From politics to economics to health, the world has become a lot more interconnected than before, and to succeed in this global age it is very important to instil in students the ability to think globally, communicate across cultures, and act on issues of global significance; and while school education could play a role by incorporating foreign affairs and international relations in the curriculum, to foster greater awareness and intercultural empathy among nations we would also need to enable young minds to understand how the foreign policy objectives constructed by a nation affects their daily lives and the society at large.

More exchange programs between the schools and colleges of India and Bhutan in the fields of sports, culture and science and more youth-focused programs is one way to enhance the probability of intercultural understanding.

Dr. Dorji also says that India being one of the largest economies of the world, and predicted to become the second largest by 2050, there is much scope for collaboration between India and Bhutan within sectors such as Science, technology, tourism, Information technology, space and satellites, and pharmaceuticals. Indian investments in such sectors could be explored in the near future.

His Majesty the King of Bhutan (Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk) has particularly stressed the importance of STEM in harnessing technological advances, which can only happen by investing in these subjects. Economies are progressing and the world is gradually becoming more digital, so the national labour market is also going to require skills with an added emphasis on technical abilities, and it is highly important that our children are prepared to participate in discoveries and technologies that would unfold in future. One of them is space, and although Bhutan lacks resources and is a small country, it is important for more Bhutanese young people to realise the value of, and take up space studies.

The government, as per Dr. Dorji, shall be ready to encourage and promote the same.

Dr. Tandi Dorji concluded by saying that he appreciates the strong cultural heritage of India and how the country has managed to preserve and promote it.

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