Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kashmir: Asia's Palestine

Kashmir has once again made the global media headlines as civil unrest has gained momentum and is now into its fourth month. Whilst demonstrations in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir are nothing new, the current unrest has been simmering ever since a student was hit with a gas canister on June 11th protest in Srinagar, resulting in his death from injuries sustained.


Ever since, protests have intensified and confrontations with the security forces have been occurring daily. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Srinagar airport was closed for the first 15 days of September.

Historically this region has always had protests. An insurgency organised by Pakistan and led by Jihadi groups was the norm in this territory. Such actions were driven by the need to remove Indian occupation. However these prolonged protests have seen civil unrest for the whole summer, it has also claimed the lives of over 80 people.

Kashmir: Past and Present

The British Empire divided the Indian Subcontinent's 565 provinces based upon the demographic make-up. Whilst Kashmir was inhabited by an over whelming majority of Muslims. The Hindu Maharaja joined India against the will of the Muslim population. Thereafter conflict began on the right over Kashmir.

A 1948 UN resolution enforced a ceasefire requiring the withdrawal of both Pakistani and Indian forces in preparation for a referendum, in which the people of Kashmir would decide their final future either with Pakistan or India. The resolution provided no basis for there to be a third choice on the ballot paper of an independent Kashmir.

Pakistan's policy on Kashmir was always that Kashmir was wrestled from them and the return of this land would be achieved in a referendum which would prove that Kashmir with 80% of its population being Muslim an inseparable part of Pakistan. This formed the basis of Pakistan's Kashmir policy. Pakistan accepted the 1948 resolution as inevitably the Muslims would want to be part of Pakistan.

Nehru's India rejected the plan and refused to withdraw its troops. Ever since, the Indian government has consistently distanced itself from a firm commitment to hold a referendum on the territory. The Indian policy has been one of working towards a bilateral solution to the problem of Kashmir and the negation of UN resolutions. The position of the past and present Indian governments has been of a bilateral solution under the Shimla Agreement of 1972 as well as the Lahore Declaration of 1999 and not according to the five decade old UN Security Council resolution. Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said about the UN resolution "The UN Security Council has dealt with this matter over five decades ago. Since then the political, economic, social and demographic realities have changed beyond recognition."

In 2003, General Musharraf began the abandonment of the right of Kashmir for a referendum and liberation from India. This development was significant because no ruler of Pakistan dared to speak directly with India over a resolution for Kashmir. In June 2003 visiting Camp David, Musharraf explicitly announced that his visit had approved a road map to solve the issue of Kashmir and added his readiness for concessions. In order to bolster the relationship with India and to facilitate Indian transition towards a regional bulwark, the US changed its policy towards Kashmir. This was to appease Indian demands to reject UN resolutions and to increase pressure on the Pakistani government to concede to a bilateral solution to Kashmir. The American shift in policy towards Kashmir was because of US desire to solve the issue of Kashmir by favouring India and sidestepping the UN. Pakistan was told to abandon the UN resolution once the war on terror began and the US increased its leverage over Pakistan. Ever since, the Pakistani government, fell obediently into line with the US.

Indian Atrocities
Successive Indian governments have used brutal methods and tactics to maintain their grip on occupied Kashmir. Due to the geography of the area India claims, it costs India much more than Pakistan to continue with the conflict. Maintaining supplies to the Indian troops stationed on the Siachen Glacier costs New Delhi $1 million a day. For these reasons India has historically taken a no-nonsense approach to dealing with indigenous attempts to undermine Indian writ.

In 1990 India implemented the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This was a special law that allowed Indian armed forces and security personnel to enter homes at will, detain individuals who are potential suspects, arrest without warrant and the use deadly force against suspects - in essence a permanent state of martial law. The law also gives Indian troops immunity in court. Indian forces have continued to randomly set curfews and used shoot-on-site orders.

This is why violent demonstrations alongside curfews take place on an almost daily basis. There is a constant sense of tension on the streets of Srinagar and other towns in Indian-administered Kashmir.

In India, both the ruling Congress Party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party issued statements calling for peace in the region. Manmohan Singh emphasized that the "only path for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir is that of dialogue and discussion." By emphasising India's willingness to peacefully resolve the situation, Singh is trying to undo damage to India's image by the near-daily reports of Indian soldiers injuring or killing Kashmiri protesters. An India that attracts global finance and investments looks bad when images of rioters whether in Kashmir or Hyderabad take to the streets.

Historically India's blamed militants for any attacks in India or Kashmir. It would use this to clamp down on the Muslims under its authority and to create opinion about Pakistan's apparent link to terrorism. However Pakistan under Musharraf under orders by the US abandoned the Kashmiri Jihadi groups and the Kashmiri cause.

What we are witnessing is civil unrest due to India's failure and inability to take care of those under its authority. This is a general problem India's has with all its minorities. This failure is what results in India's brutal methods.

Like Palestine, Kashmir has been neglected by the Muslim rulers. Even Pakistani rulers have attempted to abandon the Kashmiri cause. What Kashmir needs is another Muhammad ibn al-Qasim to liberate the oppressed Muslims of Kashmir.

No comments: