Kashmir northern most geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Snow-capped mountains, mountain lakes, and fields of flowers–Kashmir is known far and wide as the “Heaven on Earth”. Kashmir was an independent country till 1947. But today, India and Pakistan occupy Kashmir in two parts. While Kashmir remains a bone of contention to both countries for decades, Pakistan and India, to the people of Kashmir both countries are illegal occupants of their land. Known to the world, the people of Kashmir introduce themselves as Kashmiri, not as Indian nor Pakistani. This sense of nationalism is gradually looming in the public affairs of Kashmir ever since it lost its independence. Neither India, nor Pakistan could assimilate Kashmir into their greater social and political dominance. This staggering fact is resulted from the experience that Pakistan did with the Bangladesh before 1971 and the oppression India is imposing on the people of Kashmir ever since it occupied the land. While the country is already a burnt place with hundreds of thousands of death tolls fighting for its independence and a multiplied number injured or displaced, India has recently waged the fire by revoking Article 35-A and 370 of its Constitution–a constitutional provision granting the region a special status in their administered territory. This led Kashmir to a proxy battlefield between India and Pakistan and, as many believe, Kashmir is the next nuclear battlefield. The story goes deeper–in order to increase the influence of India, India is pushing in a considerable number of its Hindu population to the region so that Hindu becomes the majority in Kashmir. This strategic push in may bring some drastic never-ending consequences in the region.
How Kashmir lost its independence?
Kashmir dispute dates back to 1947 during the partition of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines that led to the formation of India and Pakistan. However, there remained the problem of over 650 states, run by princes, existed within the two newly independent countries. In theory, these princely states had the option of decide which country to join, or of remaining independent. At that time, three of these states did not want any country India nor Pakistan. They wanted to live independently. One of which is Jammu and Kashmir. The other two were Hyderabad and Junagadh. Junagadh quickly joined India in Under pressure. Hyderabad was a very wealthy state. Most of the people of this state were of Hindu religion, but its king Nizam was Muslim. Nizam wanted to merge with Pakistan. But the people wanted to join India. At that moment, India made Hyderabad a part of itself. The Jammu and Kashmir was remained. The situation there is just the opposite of Hyderabad, the ruler was Hindu but the majority of the people are Muslims. However, this Hindu king Hari Singh wanted to remain independent from the beginning, neither Pakistan nor India wanted to merge with themselves. But as the force started by Pakistan, they began to infiltrate a large number of people as well as the army into Kashmir. Maharaj Hari Singh saw that even though he did not want, the state was gradually becoming part of Pakistan. Then he sought India’s help. He had an agreement with India then. It’s about October 26 in 1947. This contract is known in history as the ‘instrument of accession’. The first war between India-Pakistan because of Kashmir. This matter goes to the United nation. The UN Security Council says that the people of Jammu and Kashmir will decide whether they merge or they get remain independent. There will be a referendum, it will be determined the fate of Kashmiri people.
However, The UN gave a condition, two countries will have to withdraw their forces. But they never withdrew their army. So the referendum did not occur. As a result, India occupies 45 percent of the valley which name is Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Siachen Glacier. Pakistan occupies 35 percent which name is Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. The remaining 20 percent was Aksai China, which is now occupied by China. Thus, Kashmir valley divided three parts.
In fact, India has given the state some special advantages in keeping Kashmir with itself. The issues have been included in the Constitution since the Constitution of India was introduced in 1950. Then, in 1954 dr. Rajendra Prasad issued it as a presidential order.
What is Article 370?
Article 370 was the basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian union at a time when erstwhile princely states had the choice to join either India or Pakistan after their independence from the British rule in 1947. The article, which came into effect in 1949, exempts Jammu and Kashmir state from the Indian constitution. It allows the Indian-administered region jurisdiction to make its own laws in all matters except finance, defense, foreign affairs and communications. It established a separate constitution and a separate flag and denied property rights in the region to the outsiders. That means the residents of the state live under different laws from the rest of the country in matters such as property ownership and citizenship.
What is Article 35A?
Article 35A was introduced through a presidential order in 1954 to continue the old provisions of the territory regulations under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The article permits the local legislature in Indian-administered Kashmir to define permanent residents of the region. It forbids outsiders from permanently settling, buying lands, holding local government offices or winning education scholarships in the region. The article, referred to as the Permanent Residents Law, also bars female residents of Jammu and Kashmir from property rights in the event that they marry a person from outside the state. The provision also extends to such women’s children. While Article 35A has remained unchanged, some aspects of Article 370 have been diluted over the decades. Critics of Article 35A say the provision did not have any parliamentary sanction, and that it discriminates against women.
The Masterplan of Hindu Settlement and its impact:
While Article 370 and Article 35A were in action, it was literally impossible to penetrate the barrier of outside settlement in the region. But the discreet masterplan of the current ruling BJP, which is no longer discreet its drastically biased activity, is to raise the Hindu nationalism throughout the country. That includes the settlement of Hindu population in Hindu minority regions. As Kashmir remains a crucial region where the national inclusion policy fails over decades, this prompted the BJP government to initiate a discreet settlement program in the region. When Article 370 and Article 35A are no longer in place that means no more barrier to implement the plan. As a result, Hindu population from other states can buy lands and settle their businesses in Kashmir. Settlement is the first footstep to occupy Kashmir and it’s an achievable target for India within less than a decade provided the geographical and geopolitical nature of the region. Like all other settlers around the world in the Americas, Africa, Australia, if you need to occupy any nation you need to puss-in people there, rape, marriage and finally occupy the lands. India took this policy to extend its full control over the Muslim populated Kashmir. Nearly 7 million people live in the Kashmir Valley, 97% of them Muslim, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Indian troops and armed police deployed to quell an uprising against New Delhi’s rule.
Geographically, Kashmir is a highly fertile land with abundant natural resources, and rich terrain and hilly landscape–one of the most lucrative tourist destinations in South Asia. Overnight, outside investments will flow in its tourism and resource incursion sectors. Industries will settle in abundant cheaply priced lands. The prospect of new employments will bring millions of mainstream Hindu population to permanently settle in the region. Of course, Hindus will be preferred in granting in an outside-controlled job, not local people. The region is also lucrative for industrial settlement for its closest route to many regions of China and Pakistan. Geopolitically, the region is a center of three conflicting countries, India, Pakistan and China. More control over the region means a strategic win in the geopolitics.
This resettlement policy is very similar to the Chinese government’s policy with the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the Philistine Muslims by Israel. But the BJP also knows that India is not a one-party governing country that must depend on its almost 21 percent non-Hindu votes. It is interesting that, reportedly, many local Hindus in Kashmir are also fighting for independence along with Muslims.
The ghost of British bipartisan theory still remains. Kashmir is now called Palestine in South Asia. Both territories are dominated in the same year in 1947. The main ringleader was the British and India is going to run a robust settlement program in Kashmir that the people of Palestine has been facing since 1947.
Revoking Article 35-A and 370 has fulfilled the long aspirations of Hindu nationalists. They have been wanting this change since the 1950. However, the situation can be dire in the region and for the whole country as a consequence. Revoking article 370 is a red alert in India. There has been increasing concern in the northeastern states of the country since the central government of India lifted up Article 370 of the Constitution. They are worried about Article 371 of the Constitution. Several states have been given special protection in different paragraphs of Article 371 of the Constitution. According to the central government’s announcement on August 5, these states are in fear of losing that special protection. The provisions contained in those paragraphs, in most of the northeastern region, speak of protecting tribal communities and their culture. It has decentralized administration and a certain level of administrative autonomy in those states. In addition, local laws have the advantage of settling cases. Some of these laws prohibit the transfer of land to a non-state citizen. These rules are applicable in Mizoram, Nagaland and parts of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya. Likewise, Kashmir, over times northeastern region are also bumped with the rise of separate nationalism other than Indian.
India’s next target will be the occupation of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Recently, a minister of the country Jitendra Singh said this in Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament). The Indians think Kashmir is their own land, while Pakistan thinks the Muslim majority valley is part of their country. By this conflict a major war will began between the two countries, Analysts predict. The fear of this conflict is even greater as both countries are nuclear-powered countries.
Instability and oppression will raise terrorism in Kashmir valley. No one Pakistan nor India can stop terrorism in this territory. Al-Qaeda’s South Asia branch and the Middle East IS have already increased their operations in the Indian subcontinent. They made their presence through the attacks in Sri Lankan churches by killing of 25p innocent people On 21 April 2019. But Now naturally Kashmir will focus.
Afghanistan: the US and NATO withdrawal and future prospects
On April 14, the United States of America announced that it would withdraw all its troops stationed in Afghanistan from May 1 to September 11, 2021. On the same day, NATO also said it would coordinate with the White House military to initiate the withdrawal.
The year 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of war in Afghanistan, a conflict that has actually been going on since the Soviet invasion of that unfortunate country on December 24, 1979.
What are the plans of NATO and the United States? How will the situation in Afghanistan change in the future?
Regarding the US announcement of the deadline for troop withdrawal, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that the Afghan government respects the US government’s decision to withdraw its troops by the agreed date.
According to the Associated Press, there were 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan before May 1, far below the peak of over 110,000 in 2011.
According to the websites of the Financial Times and theDeutsche Welle, some ten thousand soldiers from the 36 NATO Member States and other US allies are currently stationed in Afghanistan, including as many as 895 Italian soldiers, as well as 1,300 Germans, 750 Brits, 619 Romanians, 600 Turks, etc.
President Trump’s previous Administration signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan in February 2020, setting May 1, 2021 as the deadline for NATO to begin withdrawing from that country. The Washington Post reported that after the current US government issued the withdrawal statement, the Taliban immediately said that if the United States violated the peace agreement and did not withdraw its troops in Afghanistan, the situation would get worse and one of the parties to the agreement would take responsibility for it.
This year is the twentieth since the United States started the war in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The war in Afghanistan is the United States’ longest overseas war, and has killed over 2,300 US soldiers and wounded some 20,000 people, at a cost of over 1 trillion US dollars.
Although the United States and its allies attacked the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the situation in Afghanistan has been turbulent for a long time, with over a hundred thousand Afghan civilian casualties in the fighting.
According to The New York Times, both Parties’ members of the US Congress have differing views on the consequences of withdrawal. According to the newspaper, Republicans and some Democrats believe that the troop withdrawal will encourage the Taliban insurgency, while others believe it is necessary to put an end to this indefinite war.
But what considerations can be made for the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan?
It is well known that the purpose of the United States in taking the war to Afghanistan was a very heavy measure of retaliation against al-Qaeda, which had organised the terrorist attacks of September 11, and against the Taliban regime that protected the top leaders of that terrorist organisation. Although al-Qaeda has not been destroyed, it is unlikely to create similar problems. The United States has achieved its strategic goals and is no longer involved in East Asia’s tactics and strategy.
The interests of NATO (considering its individual Member States) in Afghanistan are fewer than those of the United States. As a military alliance with the United States, the achievement of US strategic goals means that NATO’s equal strategic goals have also been achieved. Hence, rather than continuing to run the risk of confronting the Taliban and al-Qaeda after US military withdrawals, NATO is more willing to remove the “political burden” as soon as possible.
While announcing the terms of the withdrawal, the White House has stated that the threat of extremist organisations such as Somalia’s al-Shabaab and ISIS is spreading globally and it is therefore meaningless to concentrate forces in Afghanistan, with a steady expansion of its military cycle. At the same time, however, the White House has stated that after withdrawal, diplomatic and counter-terrorism mechanisms will be reorganised in Afghanistan to face security challenges. Hence, from the US perspective, there is currently a greater terrorist threat than al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The prospectsfor advancing the Indo-Pacific regional strategy to oppose China also means that it would be counterproductive for the United States to remain in Afghanistan any longer. Even after the troop withdrawal, there will be insecurity in Afghanistan. That being the case, however, the United States will still find ways and means to support the Afghan regime and the armed forces of the Kabul government.
The Washington Post has also reported statements by a Pentagon official who has stressed that Afghanistan is a landlocked country: consequently, once US and NATO forces withdraw, one of the biggest challenges will be how to effectively monitor and combat extremist organisations and resist threats to US security: at that distance it will be even more difficult without sea landings.
According to Reuters, the CIA predicts that the possibility of a further US-Afghan peace deal is little and has warned that once the United States and its allies withdraw, it will be difficult to stop the Taliban.
The Afghan government forces currently control Kabul and other large cities, but the Taliban are present in more than half of the country’s territory and rural areas. In the future, the possibility of a Taliban counter-offensive cannot be ruled out.
Great Britain’s The Guardian has commented that the years of war have generally made Afghans feel a strong sense of insecurity and the withdrawal of troops will not bring much comfort to the local population. According to the London-based newspaper, for the United States this is yet another war that cannot be won.
According to experts, there are two extreme possibilities in the future situation in Afghanistan. The excellent situation is the one in which the less extremist wing of the Taliban mediates so that, once the United States withdraws, the Taliban can gradually move from being an extremist organisation to being an internal administrative one and then negotiate with the legitimate government supported by the United Nations: this would mean a long-term peace after forty-two years of war.
Under extremely unfavourable circumstances, instead, the Afghan government forces would overestimate their military strength and intend to continue the war alone against their traditional opponents, at which point peace negotiations between the two sides would break down.
This would mean falling again into a prolonged civil war and into eternal war.
Bhashan Char Relocation: Bangladesh’s Effort Appreciated by UN
Bhashan Char, situated in the district of Noakhali, is one of the 75 islands of Bangladesh. To ease the pressure on the digested camps in Cox’s Bazar and to maintain law and order, Bangladesh has relocated about 18,500 Rohingya refugees from the overcrowded camps to the island since December last year. The Rohingya relocation plan to Bhashan Char aligns with the Bangladesh government’s all-encompassing efforts towards repatriation. The initial plan was to relocate 100,000 of the more than a million refugees from the clogged camps to the island. From the onset of the relocation process, the UN and some other human rights organizations criticized the decision pointing to remoteness and sustainability. UNHCR showed their concern over the island’s susceptibility to seasonal storm and flood. They proposed for a “technical assessment” of the Bhashan Char facilities.
An 18-member UN delegation visited Bhashan Char Island on March 17 this year to have a first-hand assessment of the housing facility for the Rohingya forcibly displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs). Shortly after the UN’s visit, a team with 10 diplomats including heads of missions of embassies and delegations from Turkey, the EU, US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands also went to the island on April 3 to appraise the facilities. All the members of the technical team opined that they are ‘satisfied’ with the facilities in Bhashan Char. The experts of the UN told, they will hand over a 10-page report of their annotations and they have already submitted a two-page abridgment. On April 16, they released the two-page synopsis after a month of the visit. After the three-day study of Bhashan Char by the UN delegates, they recommended the Bangladesh government to continue the relocation process to the island in a ‘phased manner’. The team twigged three points – education for Rohingya children, increasing heights of the embankments and better communication system. The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh A. K. Abdul Momen concerted to take the necessary measures to create a safe and secure environment for the Rohingya refugees until the repatriation takes place. The relocation is not the solution of the Rohingya crisis rather the over emphasis of the relocation and facilities inside Bangladesh is protracting the crisis and distracting the attention from the broader emphasis on the repatriation to Myanmar.
The UNHCR and other concerned parties should plan for a long run repatriation process. Repatriation is the only durable solution, not the relocation of the Rohingya refugees. For the time being, resettlement under the Asrayan-3 project is an ease for the FDMNs but in the long run the Rohingya crisis is going to turn as a tremendous threat for regional peace and stability. Besides, resentment in the host community in Bangladesh due to the scarce resources may emerge as a critical security and socio-economic concern for Bangladesh. It is not new that the Rohingyas are repatriated in Myanmar during the Military rule. Around 20,000 Rohingya refugees were repatriated to Myanmar in the 2000s. The focus of the world community should be creating favourable conditions for the Rohingyas to return safely regardless who is in the power seat of Myanmar-civilian or military government. The UN should largely focus on repatriating the Rohingya refugees in a “phased manner”, let alone deciding their concern in the camps and the Bhashan Char. After the praiseworthy relocation plan, they should now concentrate on implementing speedy and durable repatriation. Proactive initiatives are essential from all walks for a safe and dignified return of the FDMNs. To be specific, the relocation is a part of the repatriation, not the solution of the problem.
Afghan peace options
President Biden’s decision to withdraw unconditionally all foreign forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021 will leave behind an uncertain and genuine security concerns that ramifications will be born by Afghanistan as well as the region.
The Taliban seems least interested in peace talks with the Afghan government and appear determined to take control of the entire afghan government territory by force during post-withdrawal of American forces. Short of the total surrender, Afghan government has no possible influence to force the Taliban to prefer talks over violence. Resultantly, the apprehensions that Afghanistan could plunge into another civil war runs very high.
The consequences of yet another civil war will be deadly for Afghanistan and the whole region as well. Among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan will bear the severe burnt of an escalation of violence in particular. A civil war or possible Taliban takeover will surely upsurge and reinvigorate the Islamic militancy in Pakistan, thus threatening to lose the hard won gains made against militancy over the past decade.
The afghan and Pakistani Taliban, nevertheless, are the two sides of the same coin. Coming back to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan is surely emboldened and revives Pakistani Taliban and other militant outfits. Moreover, spread of violence not only reduce all chances of repatriation of refugees but possibly increase the inflow of refugees from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Furthermore, worsening of the security situation in Afghanistan will jeopardize the prospects of trade, foreign investment and economic development initiatives such as china-Pakistan economic corridor. The chances of Gawadar and Karachi port to become a transit trade route for the region and link the energy rich region of central asia will become bleak until a sustainable peace and stability is achieved in Afghanistan.
It is against this background that the successful end of the intra-afghan talk is highly required for Pakistan, for its own sake. Officially, Islamabad stated policy is to ensure the afghan-led and afghan-owned peace solution of the afghan conflict. It helped in bringing the Taliban on the negotiation table, which finally resulted in the signing of the Doha deal between US and Taliban. Further, Pakistan has time and again pressurized the Taliban to resume the dialogue. Moreover, Islamabad holds that, unlike in the past when it wanted a friendly regime in Kabul, it aims to develop a friendly and diplomatic relation whoever is on the power in Kabul.
Notwithstanding the stated policy and position of the Islamabad, the afghan government and the many in the US remains dubious of Pakistan’s commitment. Against these concerns, Islamabad categorically stated that it does not have complete control over the Taliban.
The success of the peace process will require coordination and cooperation among the all regional actors and the US and afghan government. Pakistan’s role is of an immense significance because of its past relation with the Taliban. There is no denying of the fact that Pakistan has not complete control over the Taliban. Despite, it has more leverage than the other actors in the region.
The Islamabad’s willingness to use its influence over the Taliban is her real test in the achievement of peace process. However, Pakistan has successfully used its leverage and brought the Taliban on negotiations table. Although, history is the testimony of the fact that mere cajoling won’t dissuade the Taliban from unleashing violence.
The prospects of intra-afghan talks will develop in success when the cajoling strategy is backed up by with credible threats of crackdown which may involve denial of safe heaven to militant leaders and their families, stopping medical treatment, and disruption of finance etc. on the other hand, strong arm tactics fail to bring the Taliban to the table, then Pakistan should make sure that its territory is not used to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.
The afghan peace process has an opportunity for Pakistan to bury its hatchets with Afghanistan and start its diplomatic journey with a new vigor. While Kabul every time attach its failure with the Pakistan and shun away from its responsibility of providing peace to people of Afghanistan, it has a fair point about our pro Taliban afghan policy. Now that the US is leaving Afghanistan, it is high time that Pakistan bring forth a shift in its Afghanistan policy. Sustainable peace in Pakistan, especially Balochistan and ex-fata region is unlikely to achieve without Pakistan contributing to peace in Afghanistan.
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