Kashmiri people from the last seventy years since 1947 have been abandoned by the two rivals, now nuclear states – India and Pakistan. Indo-Pak rivalry is one of the main reasons that Kashmir remained unresolved since long time after the partition of India into two dominions – independent India and independent Pakistan.
The two newly independent states within short span of time got indulged in territorial clashes particular on Kashmir. Currently, there is hardly any day, where a civilian, security man and militant are not assassinated in Kashmir.
When we scroll the dusty pages of reminiscent history of Kashmir, we come to know how hard it is for Kashmiris to live in a valley where there is no guarantee of life. Historically, Kashmir is a law and order problem for India while for Pakistan, it is a disputed territory, an unfinished business. For international community, it is one of the most dangerous area where chances of nuclear exchange are high between the two belligerent and trust deficit states.
Among the Kashmiris, there is a diversion of opinions, for some, it is just a futile and never-ending battle between India and Pakistan for rich resources available in the valley especially water. While some argued that Kashmiris should be given the ‘right to self-determination’ to choose either to accede with India or Pakistan as per the UN resolution. Interestingly, majority of people wants complete freedom from two states. Others demand restoration of state autonomy, and Ladakh division, where majority of people are Buddhists demand union territory status. In Jammu, Hindus determinately want to accede with India completely by abrogating Article 370 which provide special rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
At the academic level, the countless study has been published across the globe for the settlement of unresolved Kashmir dispute. Most of pundit’s favour plebiscite to settle the dispute ones for all. Some academic think tanks argued that a meaningful and peaceful dialogue should be initiated between India and Pakistan as an immediate step to bring order and normalcy back in the valley and the ultimate solution is of course the referendum. However, some Indian analysts argued that Kashmir is just a law and order problem by which resistance movement should be dealt ruthlessly, that is why the large concentration of Indian security forces with special powers are visible in the valley to crush any resistance movement whether armed or civilian. While for some, it is just a redundancy problem in the valley, Indian government should provide maximum opportunities to the Kashmiris to thwart the resistance movement peacefully.
At the political level, Kashmir remained just a tool to win the confidence of the people for strengthen the domestic politics in both states – India and Pakistan. Both states with the help of the confidence building measures (Lahore Summit and Agra Declaration) tried their best to settle the unresolved Kashmir dispute but completely failed to settle it peacefully. The track II diplomacy also failed to settle the unresolved issue. Obviously, when two states failed to settle the Kashmir issue, Kashmiris left with one option to start resisting against Indian rule.
There is no doubt that India violated the state autonomy through 48 presidential orders that culminated into anger and anger changed into resistance movement in Kashmir against the foreign rule. Apart from the direct wars, during the Kashmir intifada in 1989, Pakistan supported Kashmir materially and diplomatically to resist against Indian rule. Several academic thinks tanks like Summit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur admitted that it is because of misrule by India in Kashmir that provided impetus to Pakistan to support Kashmir. Since 1989, Kashmir remained under severe turmoil where innocent lives have been crushed harshly.
There are different stories regarding the genocide of Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus inside the valley. The Kashmiri pandits migration after Kashmir uprisings in 1989 is another important episode of the complicated Kashmir dispute. And, human rights violations inside the valley by Indian security forces is at its peak. There are many shameful and fatal episodes inside the valley where innocent Kashmiri women became victims of mass rape in the hands of Indian security forces. For instance, more than thirty innocent Kashmiri Muslim women were mercilessly raped in twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in 1991 during the cordon and search operation by Indian security forces. The Indian security forces enjoy impunity inside the valley due to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
After Kashmir uprisings, India tried to settle the unresolved Kashmir issue with nukes. Despite India possess nuclear warheads, it failed to deter Pakistan for escalating sub-conventional conflict in the region. The reason put forth is simple, Pakistan’s asymmetric escalation posture (first-use policy of nukes) against Indian conventional attack to Pakistan. I assume that India mistakenly provide opportunity to Pakistan to become more aggressive towards it by overtly detonating five nuclear devices in May 1998. Reciprocally, Pakistan tested six nuclear devices in the same month in retaliation. Subsequently, the Kargil skirmish of 1999 happened under the nuclear umbrella and experts argued that it is because of this instrumentality of wreaking havoc that Pakistan behaved more aggressively than before towards India.
Currently, Kashmir is again boiling since Hizbul Mujahidin Commander, Burhan Wani was killed by the Indian security forces in summer 2016. Kashmiri youth wittingly joined the militancy to resist Indian rule with the tacit support from the general public inside the valley. Several times, Kashmiri people (men and women) without fearing about their life and career, rush towards the encounter areas to help the militants to escape. Along with the armed resistance, a new form of civil resistance movement is visible inside the valley.
The resistance movements in Kashmir have now shifted to more civilian resistance in the form of stone pelting, protests, write-ups, facebook posts, graffiti and songs. Those who did not participate in direct resistance movements in Kashmir do not mean that they are outside of movements. These people believe in praying, crying, cursing and wailing plaintively particularly Kashmiri women who are beating their chest and singing songs to show their resistance and express their anger towards a foreign rule. These types of resistance (civil) are more powerful than armed resistance to pressure civil society and international community to intervene.
Indian government states that the resistance movement especially those who pelt stones on Indian security forces were funded by Pakistan in Kashmir. The demonetization was implemented to stop stone pelting in Kashmir and Indian Prime Minister Office states that with the help of demonetization, “Stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir came down by 75% from the previous year”. It is interesting to note that the college boys and girls, school going kids joined the resistance movement in Kashmir this year and previous year to express their anger towards the foreign rule.
How it is justifiable for parents to allow their school going children to risk their lives for money to join the resistance movement in Kashmir. With the help of the UN banned pellet guns, hundreds got killed, thousand injured and hundreds blinded in the hands of Indian security forces with the tacit support of state police. The civil resistance movement is the result of the broken promises by Indian government towards the helpless and hapless Kashmiri people.
Finally, Indian government selected ex Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor and special representative to restore peace in the valley. Sharma was given task by Indian government to talk with all the stockholders including Hurriyat Conference in the valley as a dialogue process. After his visit, he argued that his trip to Kashmir was successful. However, without a meaningful dialogue process with Pakistan, all the peace initiatives from Indian side will be fruitless. Interestingly, Pakistan is party to the dispute is admitted by India itself.
India is reluctant to talk with Pakistan on Kashmir issue because of an issue of infiltration. India blamed Pakistan for spreading terror in the region by backing and funding the militants in Kashmir against Indian rule. On the other side, Pakistan loudly responded that until India will not offer a meaningful dialogue on Kashmir issue to Pakistan to settle it forever, sub-conventional conflicts and funding to militants in Kashmir will continue. Pakistan wants UN resolution through plebiscite to settle the dispute, however, India is worried about the majority of Muslim population in Jammu and Kashmir state, that is why India has rejected the UN resolution on Kashmir by claiming that India and Pakistan in historical Shimla agreement after 1971 war have affirmed to settle the Kashmir issue bilaterally.
All the talks between India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir issue was not initiated on the humanitarian grounds. Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has rejected the option of independence of Kashmir. Similarly, Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir argued that independent Kashmir is not an option, “internal autonomy is our right”. Vehemently, Farooq rejected the option to accede with Pakistan, however, argued that the other part of Kashmir clearly belongs to Pakistan. India should restore autonomy of the state, only then peace will return to the valley.
It is all about national interest, both states want to utilize the resources of the valley for future requirements and mainstream political parties in the valley have remained puppet in the hands of Indian government. It is over all centre (New Delhi) that is responsible for the turmoil in the valley due to poor governance, broken promises and violation of the state autonomy. Kashmiri people have been completely abandoned since 1947. One can easily imagine why confidence building measures have failed to settle the Kashmir issue. Also, the religious groups of both states have wittingly made this issue more complex by spewing venom in their speeches against each other. Kashmir should be separated from India-Pakistan rivalry and religious card has not ability to settle the dispute.
This is not mere hyperbole. Rather, this is a fact that both the states have indulged in attitudinarianism, egoism, and the Hindu-Muslim mentality. There is no case of religious rivalry inside the valley, all the sections of people live peacefully, the religious card is triggered by India and Pakistan to win the emotions of the people for their own interests. Experts explicitly argued that there are multiple agencies working inside the valley that thwarted the peaceful resolution of Kashmir.
The dispute over Kashmir is not just a matter of India-Pakistan; it is first about Kashmiri people. Both nuclear states should come forward in terms of peace rather than strategic terms to settle the Kashmir issue ones for all on humanitarian basis. There are thousands of unidentified graves in Kashmir and parents are desperately waiting for their sons who got missing since 1989 in Kashmir.
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party.
The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream.
Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200 million Muslims.
The distinction failed to impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics charged that the framing of the conference demonstrated a pervasiveness of groupthink in academia and an unwillingness to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.
The campaign against the conference appeared to have been organized predominantly by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, including some with a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against conference speakers and their families, prompting some participants to withdraw from the event.
Opponents of political Islam noted that Western academia has not organized a similar conference about the politicization of the faith even though powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have lobbied Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari supporters with notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Britain.
Academia was likely to have been hesitant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is far more prevalent than Hinduphobia.
Moreover, perceptions of political Islam, are far more complex and convoluted. Islam is frequently conflated with political expressions and interpretations of the faith run a gamut from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also lump together groups that adhere and respect the election process and ones that advocate violent jihad.
Scholars and analysts declared an end to political Islam’s heyday with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother, who was elected president in Egypt’s first and only free and fair poll. Political Islam’s alleged swansong loomed even larger with this year’s setbacks for two of the most moderate Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Morocco as well as hints that Turkey may restrict activities of Islamists operating in exile from Istanbul.
A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its failure to put Hindutava in a broader context.
That context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of collections of diverse ethnic and religious communities since Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the worlds of other major religions.
These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized Evangelism and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized Evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.
The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.
Scholar Cynthia Miller-Idriss’s assessment of the impact of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States is equally true for India or Europe.
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped American politics in ways that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism, and Christian nationalism: as dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, Al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have stepped out of a far-right fever dream,” Ms. Miller-Idriss said.
“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries abounded with precisely the fears that the far-right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.
The comparison of politically charged militant nationalist and ultra-conservative expressions of diverse religions takes on added significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.
Scholar Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church.
Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India fits a global trend that conflates a dominant religious identity with national identity.
Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares militant white nationalists to militant Islamists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and militant Islamists.
Militant Islamists’ “sense of victimhood […] is similar to that of their White nationalist counterparts in that [it] is constructed and exploited to justify their violence… Both mutually – and exclusively – target America for the purpose of claiming the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a White ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate,” Ms. Kamali writes.
Similarly, the Taliban defeat of a superpower energized militant Islamists, as well as proponents of Hindutava, with Islamophobic narratives spun by Mr. Modi’s followers gaining new fodder with the assertion that India was being encircled by Muslim states hosting religious extremists.
“Modi is essentially helping the recruitment of…jihadist groups by taking such a hard, repressive line against the Islamic community in India, who are now being forced to see themselves being repressed,” said Douglas London, the CIA’s counter-terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia until 2019.
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s rapid advance in Afghanistan has briefly stalled only in the face of strong resistance mounted by the people of the country’s recalcitrant mountainous province of Panjshir. Whoever controls the region’s passes controls the routes leading to China and Tajikistan, but to seize this mountain valley and, most importantly, to keep it permanently under control has always been a problem for all invaders. Eager to let the international community see for the first time in 40 years a united Afghanistan as a sign of their final victory, the radical Islamists were prepared to make any sacrifices, including filling the approaches to the Panjshir Valley up with dead bodies. Moreover, the Taliban’s longtime ally Pakistan, which, regardless of its status of an ally of the United States, has provided them with direct military support. In fact, Islamabad admitted its less than successful role when it proposed signing a truce to find and take out the bodies of its special Ops forces who had died during the attack on the valley. However, drones flown by Pakistani operators, professional commandos (possibly once trained by the Americans), air support and other pleasant gifts from the allies eventually bore fruit letting the Taliban be photographed in front of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., the famous “Lion of Panjshir,” who controlled the valley from 1996 to 2001. The Islamists also took control of the province’s central city of Bazarak.
Having deprived the province much of its Internet access, the radicals, who control most of the Afghan territory, found it easier to wage an information war. Their claims of victories were now more difficult to contest, even though information about their retreat did reach the outside world. Reflective of the heavy losses suffered for the first time by the Taliban and their allies – the Haqqani Network and other remnants of al-Qaeda, as well as by the regular Pakistani army is the brief truce arranged by Islamabad. Looks like the mountain passes leading to Panjshir were literally filled up with corpses…
As for Massoud Jr., the young lion of Panjshir, and his supporters, they retreated to the mountains. In fact, they had nowhere to fall back to. The problem of Afghanistan is its ethnic diversity. Thus, the country is home to 23 percent of ethnic Tajiks, most of whom live in the Panjshir Valley. However, the Taliban rely mainly on the Pashtuns, who account for over 50 percent of the country’s population. As for the new masters of Afghanistan, they are ready to carry out ethnic cleansings and even commit outright genocide in order to bring the valley into submission. To make this happen they are going to resettle there their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Local men aged between 12 and 50 are already being taken away and, according to the National Resistance Front, no one has seen them again. However, due to the information blockade, the Taliban will not hesitate to refute such facts. One thing is clear: Massoud’s Tajik fighters and the government troops that joined them are fighting for their lives, and there will be no honorable surrender!
The main question now is whether the young lion of Panjshir will receive the same support as his father once did, or will find himself without ammunition and food. After all, the Taliban leaders have reached certain agreements with the United States. Suffice it to mention the numerous remarks made, among others, by President Biden himself about the Taliban now being different from what they were 20 years ago.
But no, the Taliban`s remain the same – they have only hired new PR people. Meanwhile, hating to admit their defeat, Brussels and Washington will have to engage in a dialogue with those who are responsible for the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and for the numerous terrorist attacks in Europe. The Taliban are pretending to make minor cosmetic concessions. Minor indeed, since they are still depriving women of the opportunity to work and study, destroying higher and secondary education and brutally clamping down on people who simply do not want to live according to religious norms.
The United States is actually helping the “new-look” Taliban. Their potential opponents, including the famous Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, left the country under various guarantees, and Washington is trying to keep them from any further participation in the conflict. Democratic politicians naively believe that by creating an Islamic state and ending the protracted civil war in Afghanistan the Taliban will ensure stability in the region and will not move any further. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan do not think so and are strengthening their borders and preparing to protect their Afghan compatriots, because they know full well that the Taliban`s are not a national political party; they are a radical Islamist ideology.
It knows no borders and spreads like a cancerous tumor, destroying all pockets of Western culture. It can only be stopped by force. However, the two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan showed that Washington, which quickly took control of the country in 2001, simply had no strategy to keep it. The Afghans were given nothing that would appear to them more attractive than the ideas of radical Islam. As a result, the few Afghans who embrace European values are fleeing the country, and those who, like Massoud Jr., decided to fight for their freedom, now risk being left to face their enemy all by themselves.
Misjudgements in India’s Afghan policy
India’s Afghan policy has always been obsessed with the desire to deny Pakistan the “strategic depth” that Pakistan, according to India’s perception, yearns. If India had a pragmatic policy, it would not have found itself whimpering and whining like a rueful baby over spilt milk.
India supported the invasion of Afghanistan by both the former Soviet Union and the USA, both losers. President Trump mocked Modi for having built a library for the Afghan people. Trump expected India to contribute foot soldiers, and by corollary, body packs to the Afghan crisis. India played all the tricks up its sleeves to convince the USA to make India a party to the US-Taliban talks. But the USA ditched not only Modi but also Ashraf Ghani to sign the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.
India’s external affairs minister still calls the Taliban government “a dispensation”. Interestingly, the USA has reluctantly accepted that the Taliban government is a de facto government.
The United Nations’ Development Programme has portrayed a bleak situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is faced with multifarious challenges. These include prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, and rising poverty.
About 47 per cent of its people live below the dollar-a-day poverty line. If the poverty line is pushed to $2 a day, 90 per cent of Afghans would be poor. About 55 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.
Ninety seven percent of the population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line, As such, Afghanistan teeters on the brink of universal poverty. Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. The UNDP has proposed to access the most vulnerable nine million people by focusing on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure.
Currently, the gross national product of Afghanistan is around $190 billion, just a little more than the $160 billion economy of Dhaka city. The country’s legal exports of goods and services every year account for $1 billion. It imports$6 billion worth of goods and services every year.
About 80 per cent of world production of opium comes from Afghanistan. Every year, Afghanistan produces nearly 10,000 tons of opium and the revenue generated from it amounts to $7 billion approximately. About 87 per cent of the income of opium producing farmers comes exclusively from this single product. The illicit opium export by Afghanistan is worth $2 billion every year. The role of opium is significant.
About 80 per cent of public expenditure in this country is funded by grants. Since 2002, the World Bank has provided Afghanistan with a total of $5.3 billion as development and emergency relief assistance. The IMF earmarked for Afghanistan $400 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The United States has frozen about $10 billion worth of Afghan assets held at various banks in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withdrawn the $400 million worth of SDRs allocated earlier to Afghanistan for addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The World Bank has not said anything as of yet, but it may also put restrictions on its funding to Afghanistan.
India’s lip service to Afghanistan
India provided around $3 billion in aid to fallen U.S.-backed Afghan government. It trained the Afghan army and police. But now it is not willing to pay or pledge a penny to the Taliban government. Look at the following Times of India report:
“India did not pledge any money to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan probably for the first time in 20 years. That it has not done so as Jaishanker declared … (At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but does not pledge money. The Times of India September 14, 2021).–The Hindu, September 11, 2021
India’s tirade against Afghanistan
Indian policymakers and experts say they see no guarantees that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for militants. “Afghanistan may be poised to become a bottomless hole for all shades of radical, extremist and jihadi outfits somewhat similar to Iraq and Syria, only closer to India,” said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who was India’s ambassador in Kabul between 2010 to 2013. He added that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational effect” not only for Kashmir’s rebels but wherever religiously-driven groups operate in the broader region… Lt. Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan (With Taliban’s rise, India sees renewed threat in Kashmir, Star Tribune September 14, 2021). “Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh conveyed to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the rise of the Taliban raises serious security concerns for India and the region. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an injection of cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would spark a “catastrophic” situation for the Afghan people and be a “gift for terrorist groups.”). Afghan economic meltdown would be ‘gift for terrorists,’ says U.N. chief” (The Hindu, September 11, 2021)
India’s former envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay is skeptical of the conciliatory statements by the taliban government. He advises: “We should welcome recent statements by Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani that suggest some independence from the ISI. But we should also ask some hard questions and judge them by their actions and words, and not let down our guard, both with regard to our multiple security concerns such as whether they can protect us from the Ias and ISI, sever ties with other terror groups, especially those supported by the ISI against India, deny Pakistan strategic depth, and preserve and build on our historic P2P and trade ties; and a genuinely inclusive govt in Afghanistan that accommodates the majority of Afghans who want the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2004 Afghan Constitution or at least acceptable to the Afghan people.” (Taliban move to form govt, Naya Afghanistan brings new challenge for India, September 2, 2021).
India wants a “central role’ to be given to the UN in Afghanistan. India’s mumbo jumbo implies that Afghanistan should be made a UN protectorate. Indian media is never tired of calling the Afghan government a bunch of terrorists. They have even launched video games about it.
India needs to rethink how it can mend fences with Afghanistan that it regards a hothouse of terrorists.
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