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History’s faux pas and Kashmir

Maria Ajmal

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One of the greatest blunders of history is the Kashmir issue perpetrated by the British Empire and its price is being paid by its inhabitants with their blood. Three wars have been fought on that issue between two countries, India and Pakistan, but still ill-will and confrontation exist in its place. Its strategic importance, by having a common border to China, India and Pakistan, has led the Kashmir to an unresolvable dispute and no attention is being paid to the hues and cries of the Kashmiri people.

People who are raising their voices for their democratic rights are becoming the victim of state- sponsored violence and terrorism. Freedom-fighters are declared international terrorists; Syed Salahuddin was declared a global terrorist by the State Department of the United States in 2017.The Unites States screams blue murder and raises her voice for any incident of mass killing when it suits to her strategic interests. On Kashmir issue she keeps herself aloof to the entire situation, and seems now to walk in India’s shoes.

Indian troops deployed in Kashmir are given special immunity to any human rights violation as the Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA), 1990 grants Indian troops inordinate rights. AFSPA has stymied the legal rights of Kashmiri people. First ever United Nations Human Rights report on Kashmir, published in June 2018, has divulged the atrocities and human rights violation committed in the Indian-administrated Kashmir (IAK) and Pakistan Administrated Kashmir (PAK).

This report is an indictment to India for deliberate use of pellet guns, human rights violation, and immunity to the armed forces for their acts; and to Pakistan it laid emphasis on the freedom of expression and beliefs and no act of mass killing by Pakistan government has been reported. The report has demanded the independent investigations to probe of civilian killings, human rights violation and respect of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris which is continuously denied by the Indian government.

The struggle for the rights of self-determination has been undeterred despite all atrocities by the Indian forces. India refers their struggle tantamount to terrorism. How the right of self-determination can be compared to terrorism when people are struggling for their independence from foreign occupation?

It was India that took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on January 1, 1948. The United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan proposed the plebiscite to decide the fate of Kashmir to India or Pakistan, but it couldn’t become a reality.  Although, UNSC resolution on East Timor was enforced and she gained independence from Indonesia in 1999 when a plebiscite was conducted under the United Nations commission.

During General Musharraf era, four point formula was also devised which included; free movement of masses on both sides of the Indian Administrated  Kashmir and Pakistan Administrated Kashmir, autonomous status  to both states, withdrawal of troops, and a joint supervising mechanism for implementation of all the process. But it also couldn’t become a reality. Before any plan would be implemented, skirmishes on the sides accentuated and extremist groups are also a reason of increasing the conflict.

On November 28, 2018 Pakistan laid the foundation stone for the construction of Kartapur Corridor as a gesture of good-will. This corridor would allow Sikhs to visit the revered place of Guru Nanak located in gurdwara. Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Suraj, responding to all that process said, “The initiative doesn’t mean bilateral initiative would start.” Elections are going to happen this year in India and during the election campaign, in both India and Pakistan, hard-line stance are adopted in public which is not favorable for both countries. Initiative on any peace process always stumbled and lurched.

It can be aptly said on Kashmir issue that “we can ignore the reality, but we cannot ignore the consequence of ignoring reality.” Right for freedom can be suppressed, but it can’t be scuttled for an infinite time. In the past, wars have been fought on that issue, but peace can’t be obtained. Both sides couldn’t reach to any conclusion if they pass the buck to each other. The only solution to proceed further is a tripartite dialogue involving Pakistan, India and Kashmiri leaders to resolve the dispute with an eclectic approach in equitable manners.

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South Asia

India’s Modi: Messiah or Menace

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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When the Hindu sages developed their way of life, they divided people into four castes:  Brahmins, the thinkers, scholars and priests at the top for they were the guides; Kshatriyas, the soldiers including the king second for they protected and governed society; Vaishyas the merchants third with their commerce facilitating daily living; and Shudras who were the laborers and service workers at the bottom.

Well, the world has changed as it should but perhaps they had a point as there is a Vaish — not one at the top of the class but a tea-seller from a shop that would be at the other end of the spectrum from those charming English tea shops in Devon — now running the country.  Of dubious education that has been challenged and a beginning in the ultra-nationalist RSS (once outlawed by India’s founding prime minister and known also for producing Gandhi’s assassin) Narendra Modi is at India’s helm.  His BJP party’s rise is linked to stoking up tensions between Hindus and minority Muslims, whose suffering has been well documented.  Police powers have been increased and Muslim Kashmir is now under direct rule from Delhi, while new laws are disqualifying Muslims from citizenship.  So reports The Economist in its special issue, The State of the World in 2020 (p. 53).

Better known is the pogrom of Muslims in Modi’s Gujarat when he headed the provincial government there, and his party’s role in the destruction of a 500-year old mosque built by Babur so that the fictitious birthplace of Ram would be holy to both religions.  Having overthrown the Muslim Lodi dynasty and with a tenuous hold, Babur was seeking friends among Hindu Rajas who generally owed fealty to the Delhi sultans.  The Mughal Emperors also started the custom of marrying Hindu royalty to cement relationships and ensure loyalty.  And this Mughal openness to other religions reached its apex under Emperor Akbar who founded a new religion, Din-i-Ilahi, attempting to incorporate the best from all faiths but which, lacking roots, died with him.

After the Indian rebellion against British rule, the British saw advantage in fostering division among communities in the infamous divide-and-rule maxim, now changed by Modi into suppress-and-rule, as the left-over Muslim community is poor and weak after the emigration of many to Pakistan following partition and independence in 1947.

Gandhi and founding prime minister Nehru’s vision of a secular India is enshrined in its constitution, which Modi and the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda subverts.  Its Hindutva, a Nazi-like ideology holding Hinduism supreme, wants India to be an exclusively Hindu nation noting that Hindu and Muslim cultures are different, without regard to the similarities.  As a video demonstrating the new ideology in practice points out, it is safer to be a cow than a Muslim in Modi’s India.

It is what one can expect when an ill-educated, charismatic tea-seller takes over the world’s largest democracy offering cultural superiority and its false pride, hare brained schemes like a deadline  declaring old high denomination banknotes illegal causing chaos at banks.  Poorly managed plans like toilets and gas cookers for the poor are touted as successes.  But the toilets are not used because the plans did not include maintenance, and gas cooker distribution is riddled with corruption.  Meanwhile, the economy suffers and the country ranks 102 out 117 on the Global Hunger Index (between Sierra Leone and Niger) and far behind Bangladesh.  So much for the hype.

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Pakistan Facing New Type of Hybrid War

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Since the Pak-US relations faced tough time almost a decade ago, not only the US has written off Pakistan, but also launched a Hybrid War. Media campaign launched to defame Pakistan, International Financial Institutions like World Bank, IMF, ADB, FATF, etc., were used as a tool to coerce Pakistan. On every platform, Pakistan was countered or pressurized. Fake News, misinformation spread about Pakistan. Not only influenced its Western Allies against Pakistan but also influence close allies of Pakistan in the Muslim World to create and keep distances.  India was supported out of the way, “Major Defense Partner” agreement was signed with India, Civil Nuclear deal was signed, Transfer of technology, especially high-tech and sensitive technologies were transferred to India. Illogical Political support was extended to India, like membership efforts in UNSC as a permanent member, NSG, etc. Modern, advanced, and lethal weapons were supplied to India. Military cooperation deepened with India. All of this huge generosity was extended to counter Pakistan and China.

It is worth mentioning that Pakistan was a close ally with the US for 7 decades and ensured that the US achieve its strategic goals in this part of the world. Pakistan is a comparatively small and rather economically poor state. But its strategic location makes its role as pivotal in the geopolitics. Pakistan connects Middle-East, Eurasia, China, Central Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Pakistan’s potential is well understood and acknowledged among the power circles in the US.

The worrisome is that the US wanted to use Pakistan to counter Russia and contain China. Which is not possible. This was very much visible during the recent visit of Alice Wells to Pakistan on 19-22 January 2020. She was on her South Asian trip and visited Sri Lanka and India before reaching Pakistan. Shed repeated her old criticism on CPEC and lobbied for her views. She has served in Pakistan as head of Political Section the US Embassy Islamabad. She has many good friends and deep penetration into Pakistani society. She utilized her old contacts in Pakistan and tried to promote her anti-China, Anti-CPEC sentiments.

Another dangerous aspect of Anti-China efforts in Pakistan is in the form of a pro-US Diplomatic community in Islamabad. Many pro-American countries have posted Chinese speaking diplomats to Pakistan – strange! If they depute Urdu (National Language of Pakistan), speaking diplomats, it might make sense but an increasing number of Chinese speaking diplomats in Pakistan smell some fishy fishy.

Another strange phenomenon is also point of concern that Chinese Origin, America or European Scholars are visiting Pakistani Universities, Think Tanks, Intellectuals and youths and interacting with masses. They are promoting Western points of view and ideology in Pakistan. China-Pakistan’s friendship is ideal and the Chinese enjoy a lot of respect in Pakistani Society. That is why the US and Europe are sending Chinese origin scholars and experts to Pakistan to make their job more easy and effective.

The friendship bond between China and Pakistan is deep-rooted and we understand each other very well. We are time-tested, All-weather and all dimension friends. Our friendship is higher than the Himalayas, Deeper than Ocean, Sweeter than Honey and stronger than Steel. I am sure no one will succeed in creating any misunderstanding or confusion between the two “Iron Brothers” – A unique term used only for Pakistan-China friendship.

CPEC was signed under the circumstance when the Western world has totally ignored Pakistan -no investment, no transfer of technology, no military assistance, no favorite trade opportunities, even irrational sanctions imposed on Pakistan – almost West has written-off Pakistan totally.  CPEC is our mutual initiative based on mutual consultation and understanding. It is the need of our nation and as important as our nuclear program. It is oxygen to our ailing economy. It guarantees the economic take-off of Pakistan. It is the decision of 220 Million people of Pakistan, whichever political party comes to power, irrespective of their leadership, CPEC will remain unchanged and will execute smoothly. CPEC is backed by Pakistan’s brave Army and all security and enabling environments are provided by Pakistan Army.

Prime Minister of Pakistan has expressed his vision that Pakistan loves peace and wanted to be a partner in Peace only. Pakistan has suffered a lot during the Afghan War, we cannot afford any other like-wise situation. Pakistan is willing to play any role to diffuse tension and avert conflict.

Pakistan warmly welcomes the US and wanted to collaborate on our common agenda of Peace in Afghanistan, and region. President Trump has repeatedly offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, it is time for actions, and verbal statements may not resolve the issues in the actual life. Pakistan helped the US in the peace process in Afghanistan unconditionally. Pakistan expects reciprocity too. Alice Walls’s visit was awaited anxiously for good news, she might have brought from New Delhi, but she focused on Anti-China and Anti-CPEC. Disappointed! Her sentiments have hurt many patriot Pakistanis.

We wanted to restore our traditional friendship with the US bilaterally, while keeping out national inters at prime and strategic interests with Russia and China. CPEC is the lifeline for Pakistan.

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Bangladesh’s Fantasy of a Developing Country Status in Perplexity

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Shaikh Hasina, the premier of Bangladesh, has long been accused of sacrificing her country’s interests and selling out to India by her political critics. This narrative intensified when the videos of Abrar Farhad, a student at the elite Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, went viral which showed how Farhad was tortured and finally killed by student wing of the ruling party after he wrote a Facebook post questioning the deals with India in October 2019.

Though most Bangladeshis love the Bollywood and like to travel to India for different purposes but somehow an anti-India sentiments run deep within a sizeable portion of the country’s population. And Farhad’s death, which triggered countrywide protests by students, academics and ordinary people alike, has intensified these sentiments and fuelled questions about Hasina’s alliance with India.

The matter has gotten worse for Hasina now after Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been espoused by India. There is considerable discord across the country over whether Hasina got well along CAA. The political leadership is now concerned that India may push Muslim immigrants deemed illegal under CAA across the border inside Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government had been worried of such nuisance since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise was carried out in Assam (India).

At that time also, the Bangladeshi government made a demand to its Indian counterpart to give surety that NRC will not in any away push Muslim migrants into Bangladesh. At that moment, India had given a verbal assurance. However, it had refused to give it in writing, stating that the exercise was carried out as per directions of the Supreme Court. The Indian side referred to NRC exercise in Assam as an ‘internal’ matter saying the government was not in a position to give a formal assurance of anything. Just a day after, the Border Security Force pushed back at least 32 ‘Bangladeshis’ into no man’s land in Jessore, which the Karnataka police had nabbed a month earlier.

It was just 4 years back when on 6 June 2015, Bangladesh and India agreed for the historic swapping of enclaves between the two nations. Prime Minister Modi ratified the agreement during his visit to the Bangladesh capital Dhaka. In the presence of Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister, the foreign secretaries of the two countries signed the instruments of the exchange of enclaves and land parcels in adverse possession thus resolving the decades old border issues. The enclaves were exchanged at midnight on 31 July 2015 and the boundary demarcation was completed by 30 June 2016 by Survey Departments of the respective countries.

At the end of the exercise it was concluded that around14,215 people (mostly Muslims) living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India will become Indians. Similarly, some 37,334 people living in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh will become citizens of that nation. Now some really intriguing questions arise after the CAA. India has already given a good share of people (37,334 to be exact) to Bangladesh already in the swap. Now after CAA what will be the fate of Muslims who were handed over to India as new entrants among those 14,215 people?

In India people fear that CAA will be used in conjunction with the NRC to deem minorities as “illegal immigrants”. Especially after many top BJP leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah have proposed that the NRC should be implemented across India after a successful pilot test in Assam where over 1.9 million applicants failed to make it to the NRC list. The NRC very clearly states that people, to remain an Indian citizen, have to produce a documentary proof that their ancestors were residing in India before March 24, 1971 – like the 1951 NRC or electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971.The next step is to produce documents for oneself to establish relationship with those ancestors. That is a tough ask in a country with a poor documentation culture and millions of people with meagre financial resources. And finally the left outs from the final NRC list will approach the Foreigners’ Tribunals and deemed as illegal immigrants will be ultimately send to detention camps or beyond borders as a worst case.

These enclave dwellers who have been living there for decades had one recurrent problem: that of identity crisis, says Brendan R. Whyte in his detail research on the issue. This, in turn, resulted in illegal migration where the dearth of reliable data has added to the complexity of the problem. Since Census had never been conducted in these areas, many created fake voter ID cards to work and more to avoid becoming an illegal migrant. This is all a result of India’s inability to implement the 1958 treaty with Pakistan, and her continued delay in ratifying a subsequent 1974 treaty with Bangladesh to exchange the enclaves. That the delays have been rooted in Indian internal politics is demonstrated, he underscores.

Source: Report on the Indo–Bangladesh Enclaves (Chhitmahals), Office of the District Magistrate, Cooch Behar, N.D.

Bygone the past, now this non-seriousness on India’s part has become a matter of serious concern for Bangladesh. With a population of above 163 million (eighth most populous country in the world), Bangladesh has achieved 7-8 percent growth in recent times(partly thanks to the dire business conditions in Pakistan which led industrialist to shift their industries to Bangladesh). If remained as envisioned, the country will also be eligible to graduate to developing status from its Least Developed Country status by 2024.Amidst all going well, a wave of people being sent back from across the border after being branded ‘illegal migrants’ would be Bangladesh’s worst nightmare. That too at a time when Wajid has been compelled to accept nearly one million Rohingyas migrants from Myanmar.

Though Bangladesh has played well so far by balancing Chinese interests to progress and India’s desire to protect its influence in the region, but the uncertainty about the consequence of NRC in Assam and fear of forced pushbacks of Muslim migrants can harm Indo-Bangla ties irreparably. In Bangladesh concerns have grown in recent times over Modi policies in India, many of which not only destabilized the internal situation at home but also give rise to multiple regional problems and crisis. Sheikh Hasina is all troubled by having to explain to her people what Bangladesh has gained for the long list of favours she has done to India. Adding salt to the injuries is the no Indian support on the Rohingya issue, persecution of Muslims in India and oppression of Kashmiri Muslims at the hands of Hindu Rulers.

Regardless of its phenomenal economic growth, Bangladesh is an overpopulated country. If India continues with its NRC-linked pushbacks, it would certainly affect New Delhi’s bilateral ties with Dhaka. Worse, it would weaken Wajid’s grip on the country while spurring anti-India sentiments among its residents. Also, China might take advantage of this situation. And this certainly does not augur well for India at a time when other neighbours are already turning towards China.

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