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Kashmir’s New Uprising-An Insider’s perspective

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India’s Kashmir valley is once again witnessing the bloody uprising against the state for over fifty seven civilian killings. The number of injured civilian protesters is around four thousand. Crisis mishandling is at its worst as use of pellets and bullets by security forces using lethal weapons against the protesting masses has led to mass anger.

This unrest is believed to be the worst uprising ever since the onset of the armed conflict in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is said to be of a different pattern than the previous infamous and bloody uprisings of 2008 and 2010. The reason of the current ongoing social unrest is the killing of a militant and Hizbul Mujahidin Commander BurhanWani-a local boy of 22 years age ,who took arms for he was thrashed, abused and insulted by forces when he was a young boy. The militant rebel was killed on July 8 in an encounter and the news spread like wild fire and engulfed the whole valley where people came out in open to shout slogans against the state and demanded Azadi (Freedom) from India. Till date the unrest is not dying down and whole valley is under curfew by the state and bandh (shut down) called by the separatist leaders of the valley whom masses follow religiously.

For the majority of native Kashmiris’ Burhan was an icon of youth demanding justice and adherence to freedom sentiment. Kashmir has been fighting what they call Indian occupation since the Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on 27 October 1947.Though the moderate dissent against India continued in the past as well but from 1989 the armed uprising started demanding right to self determination which India believes is Pakistan sponsored and is treated merely as a proxy war. The fallout of such a bloody conflict has been enormous in terms of loss of human lives. About one hundred thousand killings and loss of property worth billions and unaccounted human rights abuse continues. As collateral damage the conflict has left behind helpless widows, poor orphans, army of half widows, fake encounters, torture and sexual and physical abuse besides the continuing draconian law called AFSPA.

The local militancy as dissent against India still continues even after Burhan’s death given the popular support and continuing social unrest, civilian’s killings by forces, atrocities on people and obviously reacting violently to the rebel’s death! So far a month has passed, protests and dissent against the state hardly dies down.

The situation on the ground is mostly described as war like today. The prevailing uncertainty and highest state of mass alienation is alarming for the valley is completely observing shut down since July 9. Routine killings, youth defiance, deep anger and pessimism against the system and hopelessness with the government and political institution have become a reality. People are on the streets in defiance demanding Azadi (freedom) from India which they feel is their basic right. The Indian approach so far has been reactionary and efforts are still on to contain the uprising with the use of force, treating the whole uprising as Pakistan fuelled and a mere law and order issue. The fact remains that Pakistan this time has openly supported the ongoing protests and even PM Nawaz Shrief has been continuously speaking on the issue. At the mass level, the legitimising of the all-pervasive culture of violence is becoming a dangerous trend as people especially the younger generation have lost the fear of death and come out in open against the forces to express their anger and dissent.

Now majority believes that only open defiance against the state can solve their issues especially the political problem of Kashmir that has been lingering since decades despite many UN Resolutions. People perceive so because they have been witnessing only violence since the onset of the armed conflict in 1989 that has really proved costly in every way and alienated a major chunk of the society. A culture of violence has inadvertently shaped up to the core and is being legitimised even by everybody now. There are appeals of calm and peace by authorities today but falling on deaf ears.

Youths’ undying commitment to resist the power and protest the killings is reflected by the total lockdown in the valley since July 9. The rampant killing spree by forces and oft repeated crisis mishandling and failure of crowed control management has added fuel to the fire. The separatist leadership keeps extending the shut down duration and people keep following with all vigour. Militants keep dying and people gather in thousands for their funerals treating them as their heroes. The State keeps reacting but agitations never stop. The situation is totally fragile and uncertainty is the established norm. The valley is back to the situation that prevailed in 1990’s.

People are forced to starve inside their homes due to prolonged curfew, communication blockade continues without any break and pellets and bullets have wreaked havoc everywhere making this 2016 uprising the most brutal so far. New Delhi cannot and should not brush aside every such situation as merely a law and order problem and as a solution announce economic packages or treat unemployment or lack of development responsible for the mess but approach youth with a political discourse. Where will it lead us to and where will it end, nobody knows! The situation that prevails is the writing on the wall and must be taken seriously by the government. The government primarily needs to engage with the agitating people with all empathy in spite of using pellet guns and bullets against its own people every day. It remains a fact that issue of Kashmir can neither be solved by development talk or by military might.

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South Asia

Is Indian Democracy Dying?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The prominent journalist and editor, Shujaat Bukhari was leaving work when he and his two bodyguards were shot and killed.  Suffice to say newspapers are the lifeblood of democracy and Indian administered Kashmir under the decades-long grip of a half-million strong security force has a questionable claim.  Yet brave journalists, unafraid, write and sometimes pay the consequences.

Following Mr. Bukhari’s murder and the thousands attending his funeral, the security services have raided presses shutting down newspapers.  The internet is not quite as easily controlled, so some have been busy updating their sites.

Since Gauari Lankesh was brutally murdered at her doorstep in September 2017, another four journalists have lost their lives.  She, too, espoused views contrary to the ruling party’s current philosophy of an India aligned only with the mores of upper-caste Hindus.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi, the principal Indian leaders who fought many decades for independence would have been appalled.  Gandhi protected low caste untouchables referring to them as the ‘children of god’; they are now known as Dalits.  Nehru, a Brahmin by birth, was a socialist in belief.  His dream was of a secular, socialist India.  The latter is long over, the former under vicious attack as Muslim and Christian minorities are marginalized.  In addition to journalists, three heavyweight intellectuals have been killed.  All were rationalists, the Indian word for atheists.

Gandhi was assassinated less than six months after independence by a right-wing Hindu nationalist who was angry at Gandhi’s moderate attitude toward Muslims.  The assassin Nathuram Godse was a member of the extreme-right Hindu Mahasabha political party, and had his roots in the paramilitary, Hindutva-promoting Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).  Its militancy has led to its being banned three times:  after the Gandhi assassination, during the Indira Gandhi emergency rule in the mid-1970s, and for its role in the Babri Mosque demolition.  The British also found its beliefs beyond the pale and banned it during their rule.

Not only is the RSS flourishing now but it serves openly as the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  Together they continue to push their agenda for a Hindu India tolerating only Hindu culture or beliefs, in other words, Hindutva or Hindu hegemony.

Hindutva scholar Shridhar D. Damle confirms what is quite well known, that the RSS is now exerting its influence in academia, government and cultural organizations.  The laws restricting cow slaughter are not a Narendra Modi whim.  Mr. Modi joined the RSS at the age of eight, was nurtured and nourished by it, the philosophy seeping into his bones like mother’s milk; any moderation necessitated only by political considerations.

The RSS infiltration of academia is pervasive.  Last year, its think tank, Prajnah Pravah, summoned 700 academics including 51 university vice-chancellors (presidents) to Delhi to attend a workshop on the importance of a Hindu narrative in higher education; just one example of influencing what can be taught.  A gradual loss of academic freedom has been the frightening consequence of constant interference backed up by its militancy — frightening because dying with intellectual freedom, journalists, writers and thinkers is also Indian democracy … slowly but surely, unless the voters stand up to the RSS sharkhas (volunteers) at the next election.

Nobody knows who killed Mr. Bukhari.  But when the standards have been set and a certain climate prevails, does it mean much?

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US- North Korea talks: A role model for Pakistan and India?

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Shahbaz Sharif — Former PM Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, current PML-N President, Former CM of Punjab (Pakistan) and the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the general election — while reacting to the meeting between US President, Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, stated that India and Pakistan should seek to emulate both countries, and explore the possibility of resuming dialogue.

Tweeted Shahbaz Sharif: ‘The US and North Korea talks should be a role model for Pakistan and Indian. If they can return from their previous hostile positions of attacking each other, Pakistan and India can also resume composite dialogue,’

Shahbaz, an astute politician and a capable administrator has generally refrained from commenting on India. More so, after his elder brother, had got into trouble after his remarks on the Mumbai attacks In an interview to Dawn, the former PM had said:

‘Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai”.. Why can’t we complete the trial?’

Nawaz Sharif drew flak not just from the National Security Committee (which includes top civil servants and defense officials). NSC issued a statement, saying:

‘The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions.

Some parliamentarians of the PML-N, also said that Sharif’s remarks were ‘inappropriate’. They had to be assuaged by Shahbaz

What are the precise implications of Shahbaz’s statements at this time?

Shahbaz Sharif’s statement is significant because the Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has sought to extend an olive branch to India via his statements — though the ground situation across the LoC has not witnessed a significant change .

Shahbaz Sharif on his part is seeking to send the signal, that he is all for a better relationship with India, and this will go down well with large sections of the population in Punjab (this includes not just members of Civil Society, but the business community as well). As Chief Minister of Punjab (Pakistan), he had visited India (December 2013), and met with then PM, Dr Manmohan Singh, while also visiting his ancestral village Jatti Umrah in (Punjab, India). Shahbaz had also attended the inauguration of the Integrated Check Post at Attari in April 2012. Shahbaz has sought to strengthen people to people as well as economic ties with Indian Punjab.

In 2017, when both Punjab’s and North India was engulfed in smog, Shahbaz had also written to his counterpart in Indian Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh,  seeking a mechanism to tackle the issue of smog, as well as environmental pollution.  Said Sharif, ‘..Let us join hands for securing a prosperous future for the people of our two provinces,”

At the same time, in his recent tweet, Shahbaz also raised the Kashmir issue, and does not want to appear excessively soft or a ‘sell-out’. Especially, vis-à-vis the hardliners and the military. Shahbaz Sharif had tweeted:

‘If the United States and North Korea can return from the brink of a nuclear flashpoint, there is no reason why Pakistan and India cannot do the same, beginning with a dialogue on Kashmir whose heroic people have resisted and rejected Indian occupation.

In April 2018, at a rally Shahbaz had raised the Kashmir issue, saying ‘..we will make Kashmir part of Pakistan,”

Fourth, Shahbaz wants to ensure, that the PML-N sets the agenda of the election campaign with this statement he has also ensured, that PTI will need to make its stance on ties with India clear

Mixed signals from Imran Khan

Imran Khan has so far given mixed signals, on many issues including ties with India. Khan has attacked Sharif’s for being soft on the Kashmir issue, and stated that he will be far more vocal and raise the issue on International Forums. At a rally in 2016, the  Pakistan-Tehreek-E-Insaaf PTI Chief and former cricketer stated:

“Human rights are being trampled in Kashmir…And no matter what, we will support Kashmiris morally and politically.

Imran Khan also accused Sharif of having a close rapport with Modi and bartering away Pakistan’s interests in the process. The PTI Chief has also sought an enquiry into Nawaz Sharif’s ‘business interests’ in India on more than one occasion.

On the other hand on occasions, Khan has spoken about the need for improving India-Pakistan ties. Interestingly, during a visit to India in December 2015, Imran had called on Modi, and claimed to have had a constructive conversation on bilateral issues.

Conclusion

What is clearly evident is that Shahbaz, a consummate politician, will essentially follow his brother’s approach of wanting to improve ties with India, while not ruffling feathers with the Pakistan army. Shahbaz, also wants to send a message to both the opposition (especially the PTI) and the establishment (Pakistan military and ISI). While the message to the PTI, is that he will not allow it to set the agenda for the election.  To the establishment, Shahbaz Sharif’s message is that he is ready to work with them, but will not play second fiddle.

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South Asia

Pakistan & India’s NSG membership: Challenges and prospects

Uzge A. Saleem

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Both the front runners of South Asia have found a new interest in becoming a part of the international non-proliferation regime. This desire was made public when both the states applied for membership in May 2016. So far both have faced disappointment and as the NSG 28th plenary meeting approaches the debate of whether there will be one winner, two winners or no winner at all, rekindles. The decision is crucial for both because they have their own set of concerns riding on this membership. Indian Prime Minister Modi has made the NSG membership the single most important foreign policy agenda for his regime while Pakistan does not want to be blocked out of the trade group by India if it becomes a member.

With the waiver India gained from NSG somehow got stuck in an illusion that this special treatment will apply to all the aspects of Indo-NSG understanding. The hope was killed when no decision was made in the 2016 plenary meeting. However India being India, did not register this clear signal. Part of its lobbying tactics was to become a part of MTCR. The agenda here was two fold: a)it wanted the support of the 34 MTCR members in NSG and; b). it wanted to help China become a part of MTCR (which it was previously rejected) so that China softens its stance on India’s NSG membership. The latter goal has not been met yet. The real problem is not India’s membership into NSG but its vision of itself as the driving force for the region, and as soon as it is able to get  NSG membership, this agenda will be on top of its ‘to do list’ to block Pakistan out. If India was to play on fair lines it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. Its desire of blocking Pakistan out is clear by its insistence on a merit based approach through which it assumes Pakistan will be left out for not fulfilling the merit. What it doesn’t realize is that even to set a merit there needs to be a certain criteria for that.

Coming towards the second candidate for the membership i.e. Pakistan, it has maintained a principle stance over the membership of the trade group. If Pakistan cannot become a part of the NSG because the state is not party to NPT then the same applies to India as well and any special treatment would be nothing more than discrimination. What the international community needs to be communicated is that they it cannot have a biased approach for the state of Pakistan solely for the US and India’s strategic interests. The membership needs to be granted to both the South Asian states otherwise the asymmetry will further increase which will destabilize the peace and security of the South Asian region. Furthermore it needs to be brought into consideration that by granting membership to Pakistan, its nuclear program can be streamlined along with the rest of the recognized nuclear weapon states which will bring it under the rules and regulations of NSG. This is something the international community would want for Pakistan because apparently it has reservations regarding the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear program so why not bring it at par with the rest of the programs where the skepticism regarding illegal proliferation can be eradicated once and for all?

Considering the case of both the states the only rational solution which China advocates in the NSG openly is that first of all the factor of states being NPT members must not be ignored since it is an important cornerstone for NSG however if it is to be overlooked then it must be overlooked for all aspirants alike and country specific approach should not be an option. Joining NSG can solve many issues for Pakistan including its problem of energy shortage as well as financial backwardness. Such an opportunity can prove to be beneficial for Pakistan as well as to the other states of NSG because the forum can also be used for confidence building and mutual understanding of each other’s circumstances. However India would not like this to happen so easily because that means compromising the leverage it gets by becoming the front runner in South Asian politics.

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