Kashmir is the valley of enormous beauty with beautiful and serene valleys, enclosed by the mighty Himalayas and lofty mountains, with the heart-enthralling scenes of beautiful meadows and low-lying areas, but the state has manifested into an intractable problem of the Asian sub-continent, posing challenges of a continuous struggle day in and day out. Although, it is known by the Switzerland of Asia through its beauty, yet, there is a different side of the story turning its glamour upside down. Kashmir is the burning issue of the subcontinent that continues to haunt relations between India and Pakistan. It is also one of the oldest issue in the UN history. Despite a series of UN resolutions, India and Pakistan have been unable to resolve this imbroglio.
Prior to accession with the Union of India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state. Through the historical chronicles, we come across the instances that the people of the state have been ruled by a different number of rulers over the period of time. The first Muslim ruler of Kashmir was Shah Mir who laid foundation of the Shah Mir dynasty. Kashmir was also part of the great Mughals empire from 1586 to 1751.Later on, until 1820,it was under the reigns of Afghan-Durrani empire.Ranjit Singh annexed Kashmir at that point of time. The treaty of Amritsar signed on 15 march 1846 was a grim chapter in the history of Kashmir under the provisions of which Raja Gulab Singh after the first Anglo-Sikh war purchased the vale from the British and became its ruler .The rule of his descendents continued under the paramountcy of the British till the partition of India in 1947, when the erstwhile princely state was claimed by the respective descendents of the partition. That issue at stake continues till today without a glimmer of hope between India and Pakistan, leaving the aspirations of the masses to fly in air with each passing day. The instrument of accession signed by the Maharaja with the Union of India was a turning point in the annals of history where the erstwhile state was acceded with India after the guerrilla attack.UN was invited at that time to mediate on the issue. In 1948, a ceasefire was agreed upon under the auspices of the UN.Unfortunately, the referendum was never conducted which heightened the state of hostility between India and Pakistan. The two nuclear states of India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir including the Kargil war. In 1987, insurgency erupted in the state of J&K. Dixon plan was a failed attempt from the UN to meditate on Kashmir. According to A.G.Noorani,the people of Kashmir are very much party to the problem.
In all these preceding years, Kashmir has been on a tumultuous journey of agonies and pain. The Amarnath land controversy over the transfer of land was an unfortunate episode in 2008 which consumed 40 people leaving behind a tale of pain and suffering for the respective families.2009 and 2010 also carried on the legacy of protests and killings. The year of 2016 was a historic and a turning point in the state which brought about a paradigm shift in the dynamics of the political thinking of the masses and affected a change of thinking, creating much more alienation of the people from mainstream India. This not only affected the life of the people, but also added a chapter of tragedy to the flashpoint of Kashmir.
Over the years of political churnings and establishment of new regimes after the conduction of the elections, the people have attained a political maturity .The double dose of autonomy and self rule proposed by NC and PDP have found very little take from the mainland of India.Although,the political establishment at New Delhi appointed three interlocutors in the past,but,what transpired after the provision of their reports is still shrouded in a political mystery. Since its inception, both India and Pakistan have tried to solve the issue of Kashmir. A number of bilateral negotiations have been initiated at different levels to settle the protracted issue. Kashmir problem dogged with near perpetual instability, posing a grave risk to the peace and stability of South Asia in particular and the whole continent in general. Time is testimony to the fact that an environment of peace and reconciliation has been a sine qua non for the redressel and resolution of the issues, be it local or universal. The parties to the problem at stake, that is India and Pakistan cannot remain mute spectators to this imbroglio. A sort of acknowledgement of the problem from a humanitarian perspective is need of the hour.Blame games, face-offs and broken promises are in no way remedies to the problem. What is actually a solution is to sit across the table to have a meaningful and a multi-pronged strategy of the dialogue to contain the problem and resolve it for once and all. The leadership of the separatist chamber has also to be invited, being a major party to the redressal. Also, the appointment of the interlocutor is a good step. But, the reports should be heed to and not be put into the backburner. For how long will the valley bleed? Time has to ripe to fructify the peace in the state. The loss of the youth is the loss of the humanity, for it alienates and creates a concurrent of nationalism .The alienation of the people has to do away with.
The Kashmir conflict assumes dynamic forms with each passing day. The recent recruitment of meritorious and dynamic qualified youth into militancy has set alarm bells not only in the local circles, but also at the national level triggering widespread debates, counter-debates and narratives, trying to uncover the root genesis of the problem at large. The Kashmir issue if analysed in its totality and put to the table of dissection and vivi-section,is the longest South Asian issue which refuses to calm down in the contemporary times and calls for a comprehensive analysis and a pragmatic approach for its resolution permanently once for all, sans lackadaisical heed and a no-point direction from the political and administrative quarters of both India and Pakistan.
Although, the side of Pakistan and the leadership of Hurriyat Conference have, time and again sought the world attention to play their part in the resolution of the Kashmir conflict, but, the leadership of India always reiterate their view of a no third party intervention .Over the years, Kashmir has become a symbol of agonies,pains,sufferings,tragedies and what not. The instability of the region ascribed to the political manipulations has added fuel to the fire over the course of these years.Today,when the world is enmeshed in its own state of conflict, the conflict of Kashmir cannot be put to backburner and draped by political manuevours.The vocal politics has to metamorphise into a politics of compassion on paper to give a touch of care for the sufferings of yore,to pledge an end to the vicious cycles of killings and to recognise this monster and have a bargain for peace with a vision for the prospective future of Kashmir,including its sister concerns of Jammu and Ladakh region.after all, peace comes from within, one need to explore it and not without.
To fructify the dream of a microcosm painted with the colours of peace and development within the macrocosm of grand nationalism, the confluence of one and all is the need of the hour, especially, with a bigger role over the horizon of the fourth pillar and third eye, that is, media within the pursuit of humanitarian horizon and aloof of we vs. they. Unfortunately, Media of the mainland India has played a very negative role in portraying the valley of Kashmir during all these years and added a current of hyper-sensationalism of the miniscule issues, leaving behind the real aspirations of the people aside. This has not only manifested in the negative image of the Kashmir valley, but added an element of otherwise image on the main spectrum of the collected psyche of the people of the rest of the country. This step-motherly treatment should subsume with an ethic of care and concern, lest, time takes the cogs out of wheels in a different way.
After the triumph of Imran Khan, to be Prime Minister of Pakistan, there is now a renowed focus on the Kashmir problem. Will he be able to solve the problem of Kashmir is a million dollar question to ponder upon. Both India and Pakistan have to come across a viable-cum-meaningful dialogue to resolve the pending issues, including the problem in Kashmir for the greater good of the people, particularly the masses of valley.
The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region
Addressing an event earlier this week at London’s Oxford University, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka. Whereas the Hambantota Port (in southern Sri Lanka) is a commercial joint venture between our Ports Authority and China Merchants – a company listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has denied US’ claims that China might build a “forward military base” at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which has been leased out to Beijing by Colombo. Sri Lanka failed to pay a Chinese loan of $1.4 billion and had to lease the China-developed port to Beijing for 99 years. Both New Delhi and Washington had in the past expressed concerns that Beijing could use the harbor for military purposes.
The USA, China, and India are the major powers playing their key role in the “Neo-Cold War” in Central Asian landmass and the strategic sea lanes of the world in the Indian Ocean where 90% of the world trade is being transported everyday including oil. It is this extension of the shadowy Cold War race that can be viewed as the reason for the recent comment made by the US Vice President Mike Pence that China is using “debt diplomacy” to expand its global footprint and Hambantota “may soon become a forward military base for China’s expanding navy”.
According to some analysts, the deep-water port, which is near a main shipping route between Asia and Europe, is likely to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
In his book “Monsoon” Robert D. Kaplan (2010), a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes the following:
[…] the Indian Ocean will turn into the heart of a new geopolitical map, shifting from a unilateral world power to multilateral power cooperation. This transition is caused by the changing economic and military conditions of the USA, China and India. The Indian Ocean will play a big role in the 21st century’s confrontation for geopolitical power. The greater Indian Ocean region covers an arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Its western reaches include Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking […]
Two third of the global maritime trade passes through a handful of relatively narrow shipping lanes, among which five geographic “chokepoints” or narrow channels that are gateway to and from Indian ocean: (1) Strait of Hormuz (2) Bab el-Mandab Passage (3) Palk Strait (4) Malacca and Singapore Straits and (5) Sunda Strait.
While Lutz Kleveman (2003), argues that the Central Asia is increasingly becoming the most important geostrategic region for the future commodities, Michael Richardson (2004) on the other hand explains that the global economy depends on the free flow of shipping through the strategic international straits, waterways, and canals in the Indian Ocean.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report published in 2017, “world chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About 63% of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. The Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are the world’s most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit” (p.1). These channels are critically important to the world trade because so much of it passes through them. For instance, half of the world’s oil production is moved by tankers through these maritime routes. The blockage of a chokepoint, even for a day, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and thus these chokepoints are critical part of global energy security. Hence, whoever control these checkpoints, waterways, and sea routes in the Indian Ocean maritime domain will reshape the region as an emerging global power.
In a recent analysis of globalization and its impact on Central Asia and Indian Ocean region, researcher Daniel Alphonsus (2015), notes that the twists and turns of political, economic and military turbulence were significant to all great players’ grand strategies:
(1) the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s anticipated strategy to increase connectivity and trade between Eurasian nations, a part of which is the future Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at furthering collaboration between south east Asia, Oceania and East Africa; (2) Project Mausam, India’s struggle to reconnect with its ancient trading partners along the Indian Ocean, broadly viewed as its answer to the MSR; and (3) the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, the USA’s effort to better connect south and south east Asian nations. (p.3)
India the superpower of the subcontinent, has long feared China’s role in building outposts around its periphery. In a recent essay, an Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote that the fusion of China’s economic and military interests “risk turning Sri Lanka into India’s Cuba” – a reference to how the Soviet Union courted Fidel Castro’s Cuba right on the United States’ doorstep. Located at the Indian Ocean’s crossroads gives Sri Lanka the strategic and economic weight in both MSR and Project Mausam plans. MSR highlights Sri Lanka’s position on the east-west sea route, while Project Mausam’s aim to create an “Indian Ocean World” places Sri Lanka at the center of the twenty-first century’s defining economic, strategic and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, alongside the MSR, China is building an energy pipeline through Pakistan to secure Arabian petroleum, which is a measure intended to bypass the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca altogether.
A recent study done by a panel of experts and reported by the New York Times reveal that how the power has increasingly shifted towards China from the traditional US led world order in the past five years among small nation states in the region. The critical role played by the strategic sea ports China has been building in the rims of Indian Ocean including Port of Gwadar in Pakistan, Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh clearly validates the argument that how these small states are being used as proxies in this power projection.
This ongoing political, economic and military rivalry between these global powers who are seeking sphere of influence in one of the world’s most important geostrategic regions is the beginning of a “Neo-Cold War” that Joseph Troupe refers as the post-Soviet era geopolitical conflict resulting from the multipolar New world order.
IMF bail-out Package and Pakistan
Pakistan may approach IMF to bail-out the current economic crisis. It is not the first time that Pakistan will knock the doors of IMF. Since 1965, Pakistan has been to IMF 17 times. Almost all of the governments has availed IMF packages. Usually, IMF is a temporary relief and provide oxygen for short time so that the patient may recover and try to be self-sustained. The major role of IMF is to improve the governance or reforms, how the ill-economy of a country may recover quickly and become self-sustained. After having oxygen cylinder for 17 times within 5 decades, Pakistan’s economy could not recover to a stage, where we can be self-sustained and no more looking for IMF again and again. This is a question asked by the common man in Pakistan to their leadership. People are worried that for how long do we have to run after IMF package? The nation has enjoyed 70 decades of independence and expects to be mature enough to survive under all circumstances without depending on a ventilator.
The immediate impact of decision to approach IMF, is the devaluation of Pakistani Rupees. By depreciating only one rupee to US dollar, our foreign debt increases 95 billion rupees. Today we witness a depreciation of rupee by 15 approximately (fluctuating), means the increase in foreign debt by 1425 billion rupees. Yet, we have not negotiated with IMF regarding depreciation of Rupees. Usually IMF demand major depreciation but all government understands the implications of sharp devaluation, always try to bargain with IMF to the best of their capacity. I am sure, Government of Pakistan will also negotiate and get the best bargain.
IMF always imposes conditions to generate more revenue and the easiest way to create more income is imposing tax on major commodities including Gas, Electricity and Fuel. Pakistan has already increased the prices of Gas, Electricity and Fuel. It has had direct impact on basic necessities and commodities of life. We can witness a price hike of basic food, consumer items and so on. Except salaries, everything has gone up. While negotiating with IMF formally, we do not know how much tax will be increased and how much burden will be put on the common man.
We believe, our rulers know our capacity and will keep in mind the life of a common man and may not exceed the limit of burden to common man beyond its capacity. We are optimistic that all decisions will be taken in the best interest of the nation.
It is true, that Pakistan has been to IMF so many times, so this might be a justification for the PTI Government to avail IMF package. But, there are people with different approach. They have voted for change and for “Naya” (new) Pakistan. They do not expect from PTI to behave like previous several governments. If PTI uses the logic of previous governments, may not satisfy many people in Pakistan.
Especially, when Pakistan was in a position to take-off economically, we surrendered half way, may not be accepted by many people in Pakistan.
The government has explained that other options like economic assistance from friendly countries was also very expensive, so that they have preferred IMF as more competitive package. I wish, Government may educate public on the comparison of available options, their terms and conditions, their interest rate, their political conditions, etc. There might be something confidential, Government may avoid or hide, one may not mind and understand the sensitivity of some of the issues. But all permissible information on the terms and conditions of all options in comparison, may be placed on Ministry of Finance’s website or any other mode of dissemination of knowledge to its public.
Against the tradition, people of Pakistan have voted Imran Khan, who so ever was given ticket of PTI, public has voted him or her blindly in trust to Imran Khan. A few of his candidates might not be having very high capabilities or very good reputation, but, public has trusted Imran Khan blindly. Imran Khan is the third most popular leader in Pakistan, after Jinnah the father of nation, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s.
People of Pakistan have blindly trusted in Imran Khan and possess very high expectations from him. I know, Imran Khan understands it very well. He is honest, brave and visionary leader and I believe he will not disappoint his voters.
Now India denies a friendly hand: Imran Khan debuts against arrogant neighbors
Imran Khan is facing the brunt for overly appeasing its arch rival-India. On September 22, Khan tweeted that he was disappointed over India’s arrogant reply to resume bilateral talks in the UNGA and that he had encountered many “small men” in big offices unable to perceive the larger picture.I am observing a south Asian order changing with Khan’s rise in Pakistani politics. We in Nepal need to grasp the possible reality before circumstances shall engulf our interests.
Narendra Modi was undoubtedly “The Prince”of South Asia from Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century classic political narrative. I sense the old prince acting in distress over the rise of a new one. Imran Khan’s invitation for a ministerial level meeting in New York; amidst the eyes of foreign diplomats could not have been a better approach by Pakistan in a long time. Instead, Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj dismissed the offer, blaming Pakistan’s double standard in killing Indian forces and releasing Burhan Wani’s (India’s terrorist and Pakistan’s martyr) postal stamps. Khan did not sanction the postal release, but as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he must be held accountable for failing to stop the killings,just when talks were supposed to happen. He should have addressed the highly sensitive Indian government. But, I do empathize with Khan’s statement, “small men in big offices”; as he clearly outlined the exact problem. He directly called upon the Indian government to think bigger and escape circumstances to solve historical problems. Narendra Modi has developed a new rhetoric these days; that India is not going to keep quiet over Pakistan’s actions. It fits the nature of Machiavelli’s Prince as an authority which can maintain national virtue. Unfortunately, I do not buy Modi’s rhetoric. The Prince has come a bit late in his tenure to act for Indian virtues. I am sure many at the UNGA would have noticed India’s apprehension in the same manner. I suspect that the ex-prince is facing insecurities over the fear of losing his charisma. Nepal, in particular was charmed by his personality when he first visited our capital, with promises that flooded our heart. And then, we faced his double standard; right after the massive earthquake in 2015. Nobody in Nepal will sympathize with Swaraj’s justification of cancelling the meeting.
Let me explain the source of insecurity. Modi has thrived by endorsing his personality. A tea man who worked for the railways under great financial hardships, became the poster man of India. He generated hope and trust that his counterparts had lost over the years. His eloquent stage performance can fool the harshest of critics into sympathizing his cause. People have only realized later; many macro economists in India now argue that demonetization was, perhaps, one of the worst decisions for India’s sake. Narendra Modi is India sounds truer than Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India.
Imran Khan, a former cricketer does not spring the same impression as Modi. Khan, a world champion in 1992, is known for his vision and leadership in Cricket. Comparatively, Khan does not need to sell his poster in South Asia. He does not cry over his speeches to garner mass euphoria. Ask anybody who’s into the sport and they will explain you the legend behind his name. I suspect that Modi has realized that he is going to lose the stardom in the face of Pakistan’s newly elected democratic leader. After all, the Indian PM cannot match Imran’s many achievements in both politics and cricket. I suspect that Modi has realized the fundamental difference in how his subjects inside India and beyond are going to perceive Imran’s personality. I expect more artificial discourses from India to tarnish Imran’s capabilities.
Nepal & Pakistan
You will not find Pakistan associated with Nepal so often than with India. Frankly, Nepal has never sympathized with Indian cause against Pakistan. We have developed a healthy and constructive foreign relations with the Islamic republic. However, there has always been a problem of one neighbor keeping eyes on our dealings with another. Indian interests have hindered proximity with past governments. Now, Imran Khan has facilitated the platform for deeper relations. He does not carry the baggage of his predecessors. He is a global icon, a cricket legend and a studious politician. He is not the result of mass hysteria. Imran Khan has pledged to improve Pakistan’s economy, reinstate foreign ties and boost regional trade. For me, he is South Asia’s new Machiavellian prince; one that can be at least trusted when he speaks.
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