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.
The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now?
Politics in Pakistan is unfortunately leaving scars that will fade away not that easily. Islamabad today is wrapped in thick political clouds since past few weeks. These last few weeks have altered all assumptions and calculations in the national political matrix. While the political landscape today is sizzling with intensity, aggression and strain the economy is shattering every day. Who is to blame for? What will happen now? And will sanity prevail?
The entire edifice of the “conspiracy mantra” which even made PTI commit violation of the constitution stands demolished today. It was one of the worst advices Imran khan could ever get from his party among the list of many others. Sadly he made his entire politics captive to this conspiracy myth. But today no one questions them on the impact it had on our foreign policy. US today feels betrayed, Saudis not ready to give aid, Chinese worried about their stakes and it continues. So diplomatically this conspiracy mantra has damaged Pakistan like anything.
Imran Khan’s followers see nothing wrong in what he says and what he does. They absolutely reject all the facts, all the logics and embrace the rhetoric which is fuelling more today with a greater intensity. Imran khan is leading this campaign more aggressively. Khan very well knows that bringing large crowds to Islamabad will have an impact only if there is some kind of aggression. The leaders on different occasions already hinted towards an aggressive March. He very well realizes that the figure of 2.5 Million is unrealistic but keeping in view the size of Islamabad, 0.1 Million crowd will even be perceived as a bigger crowd. So can he force the early elections at this stage? How will the government react to it? For instance let’s accept this narrative that the pressure of crowd aids PTI in getting an early election call and PTI wins it. So now what next? How will you deal with the mighty US? The economy is already sinking. You need aid to feed it but no one is providing you that. Then how will you stop dollar from going above 200? How will you provide relief from the soaring fuel prices when you won’t have money for a subsidy even? Forget about one lakh jobs and 50 lakh houses.
From the past few weeks we haven’t heard any PTI leader telling any economic plan or any diplomatic plan to revive relations. How will you deal with the IFI’s, World Bank & IMF when they’re all US controlled and as per your narrative you won’t accept “Amreeka ki Ghulami” or USA’s dictatorship.
So now what options the present regime has? The government would of course like to stop this building dangerous momentum of “Azadi March”. They would not like any big clash in Islamabad which results in bigger mess and chaos. The PDM government also has a much bigger fish to deal with, the same sinking economy. They came into power with this narrative to fix economy as former Premiere was unable to do it. The key cabinet members made more than two different official visits. The instructions are coming from London today as a decisive power so who will run the government? Who will run the system? Will the IMF aid? What will be the upcoming budget about? This upcoming budget is a bigger risk for this government along with an already announced to Long march call. Khan has already played a dangerous narrative especially with the blame of another conspiracy being made about his Life.
The stakes, the narrative and the politics of every party is at risk today. But above that, Pakistan is at risk. The dread is in the air. The end of May will be heated ferociously in Islamabad, whether politically or meteorologically.
Sri Lankan economic crisis and the China factor
After the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is the sole member of the United National Party (UNP), was sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Wickremesinghe will be holding the position of Sri Lankan PM for the sixth time. While the new Sri Lankan PM is a seasoned administrator, the task of restoring even a modicum of normalcy to the island nation’s economy, which is currently facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 seems to be a Herculean task (Wickremesinghe has clearly indicated, that his first task will be ensuring the supply of electricity, diesel and petrol to the people).
The grave economic crisis, which has resulted in acute shortage of food and essential commodities have brought ordinary people on the roads and demonstrations have resulted in violence and loss of lives (the Sri Lankan President had to declare a state of emergency twice first last month and then earlier this month). There had been a growing clamor for the resignation by President Gottabaya Rajapaksa but Wickremesinghe was sworn in after the exit of Mahinda Rajapaksa (protests have been carrying on even after the swearing in of Wickremesinghe)
During his previous tenure, Wickremesinghe had tried to reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence upon China, and in his current tenure he will be compelled to do the same. He had also been critical of the previous government for not approaching the IMF for assistance (Wickremesinghe has been repeatedly accused of being pro-west and having neoliberal leanings by many of his political opponents).
It would be pertinent to point out, that the PM had also batted for a coordinated regional response, by SAARC vis-à-vis the covid19 pandemic. The new Sri Lankan PM has also been an ardent advocate of improving ties with India.
While it is true, that Sri Lanka finds itself in the current situation due to economic mismanagement and excessive dependence upon the tourism sector (which faced a severe setback as a result of covid 19), it is tough to overlook the level of debts piled vis-à-vis China, and the fact that the Island nation was following China’s model of economic growth with a focus on big ticket infrastructure projects.
Another South Asian nation — Pakistan which witnessed a change last month where Shehbaz Sharif took over as Prime Minister, replacing Imran Khan, also faces daunting economic challenges. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be a little over $ 10 billion on May 6, 2022 and the Pakistani Rupee fell to its all time low versus the US Dollar on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Shehbaz Sharif ever since taking over as PM has repeatedly reiterated the importance of Pakistan’s ties with China and the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto in a conversation with his Chinese counterpart alluded to the same, with Pakistan’s Foreign office in a statement released after the conversation between Bhutto and Wang Yi said:
“underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum in the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation”.
Yet, China has categorically said that it will not provide any financial assistance until Pakistan resumes the IMF aid program. Pakistan has been compelled to look at other alternatives such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, which have also said that without the revival of the IMF program aid will not be possible. Only recently, Chinese power companies functioning under the umbrella of the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) have threatened to shut down their operations if their dues (to the tune of 1.59 billion USD) are not cleared. China had also reacted very strongly to the terror attack on Karachi University in which three Chinese teachers lost their lives, this is the second such attack after 2021. China in recent years had also indicated to Pakistan, that it was not happy with the progress of the China Pakistan Economic (CPEC) project. The current government in Pakistan has repeatedly pointed to this fact.
One point which is abundantly clear from the economic crisis in Sri Lanka as well as the challenges which Pakistan is facing is that excessive dependence upon China has disastrous consequences in the long run. If one were to look at the case of South Asia, Bangladesh has been astute by not being excessively dependent upon China – it has maintained robust economic relations with India and Japan. Given the changing economic situation it is becoming increasingly important for developing countries, especially in South Asia, to join hands to confront the mounting challenges posed by excessive dependency upon China. US, Japan and western multilateral bodies and financial institutions need to find common ground and provide developing countries with an alternative economic narrative. It is also time for India along with other countries in the South Asian region to find common ground and focus on robust economic cooperation.
Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and Taliban’s obsession with women’s rights
The Taliban’s latest move to restrict the rights of women points to an obsession with women’s rights. This is in stark contrast to the neglect the regime is showing in addressing an ever worsening economic and humanitarian crisis. With Afghan’s facing poverty and starvation, the Taliban needs to focus on rebuilding the country, and this can only be achieved by respecting the rights of women.
This comes after the Taliban ordered all women to cover their faces in public, making it the latest restriction on the rights of women by the oppressive regime. The Taliban has previously forbidden women from travelling long distances unsupervised or working outside of the healthcare sector. The Taliban also faced international outcry earlier this year when they backflipped on a decision to allow women and girls to attend secondary school and university, making it impossible for women to receive an education.
The Taliban’s treatment of women is not a new development. During the regimes previous reign, between 1996 and 2001, it was described as the least feminist movement in the world. The Taliban forbade education, employment and access to healthcare delivered by men, while also making the veil mandatory and forbidding women to leave the home unless accompanied by a male family member. This was seen as the strictest interpretation of Sharia Law.
Contrary to claims made by the Taliban, the latest iteration of the movement is now attempting to do the same by systematically removing women from public life.
The difference this time is that, since the US withdrawal, the country has experienced an economic and humanitarian crisis. This is largely due to poor governance, the freezing of central bank assets by the US and the withdrawal of foreign aid in response to the Taliban takeover.
The situation is dire. Half the population, approximately 20 million people, are facing acute food insecurity, malnutrition, and hunger. Healthcare is notoriously difficult to access, and poverty is widespread, with women, persecuted minority groups and former government employees refused work and unable to provide for their families. The crisis is so critical that families are resorting to selling their children to delay starvation.
This raises the question of why the Taliban is so obsessed with restricting the rights of women when Afghanistan is falling apart around them. Strict adherence to Sharia Law aside, this attack of women’s rights is clearly to the Taliban’s detriment and the detriment of the people of Afghanistan. This position must change for the country to rebuild.
First and foremost, the actions of the Taliban and the humanitarian crisis is making the situation of women much worse, as women are one of Afghanistan’s the most vulnerable groups. The restriction of their rights has resulted in a lack of income and education, making women reliant on their families for food, water and sanitation products. This is meant that women are not only facing poverty and starvation, but they are also increasingly at risk of exploitation by family members and their communities.
Second, the removal of women from the workplace also affects Afghanistan as a whole. While the Taliban has allowed women to work in the health sector, many have not returned to work, dramatically reducing the number of doctors and nurses able to treat other women, particularly in rural areas. On top of this, women that have returned have not been paid, and are reliant on aid agencies to feed their families.
Outside of healthcare, women have been completely removed from the workplace, including in government, the judicial system, charities and aid agencies. Under the Karzai and Ghani governments the wages of women played an important role in providing for families through their increased workplace representation. With their right to employment suddenly removed, this has played a fundamental role in the causing poverty levels to rise throughout the country.
Third, the Taliban is desperate for international recognition, and that recognition and the aid that comes with it is tied to respecting human rights. The Taliban’s abhorrent treatment of women means that the frozen assets held by the US, and aid from the international community, will continue to be out of arms reach. This will leave the country short of much needed funds to avert the current crisis, leaving those most vulnerable, particularly women, at risk of starvation.
While the international community shares some blame for the humanitarian crisis by withholding assets and restricting the flow of aid, it is also the Taliban’s responsibility, under international law, to treat its citizens as per their human rights.
For this reason, if the Taliban is interested in allowing Afghanistan to rebuild, then it must realise that economic relief is directly tied to the human rights of women.
Allowing women to participate in society, through attending school and participating in the workforce, will have a net benefit for Afghan society by increasing education levels, workforce participation and, in the short term, reduce poverty levels.
Respecting the rights of women will also allow aid to flow into the country, helping alleviate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the country and will allow aid agencies to monitor human rights throughout Afghanistan.
This creates an opportunity for the international community to pressure the regime into respecting the rights of women. This will help to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and will go a long way to improving the lives of women and girls by giving them an opportunity to get an education, enter the workforce and participate in society.
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