29 November, 2010 16:58


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Home Articles Intifada in Jammu & Kashmir?
Intifada in Jammu & Kashmir? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Asad Sufi
Monday, 29 November 2010 16:37
The wave of resistance in Kashmir led by young people armed with nothing more than stones has number similarities with intifada in Palestine. Intifada has political objectives which it is seeking to achieve by non-violent political means. That it has not attracted world attention like the siege of Gaza, it is primarily because the world does not know the situation in Kashmir and that it is also under siege much tighter than the West Bank.

It is for the Kashmiris to highlight the siege aspect of the Indian occupation and they could also draw high profile large scale humanitarian aid for Kashmir. It is often assumed that India which does not permit foreign journalists until they are security cleared by the Indian intelligence would permit aid convoys entering Kashmir from Pakistan. But crossing points on the Line of Control have already been agreed between India and Pakistan and they can be used by international aid convoys. Besides, Indian goods during transit through Pakistan are vulnerable. India, the newly elected temporary member of the UN Security Council would not like to start its tern with violating all the international conventions it has signed. India of today is much more confidant. The next move for the Intifada in Kashmir must be to appeal to other countries for help.

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The invitation by Syed Ali Geelani to President Obama to visit Kashmir during his visit to India and his acceptance is related to the intifada in Kashmir. That he would come on 4 November just two days after the mid term elections shows that Kashmir may well be on his agenda in the next two years even though he dropped it ostensibly under the influence of powerful lobbies. If President Obama was to secure the resolution of the Kashmir dispute peacefully and in accordance the UN Security Council Resolution he would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize that he already been given.

He would restore the authority of the UN which has been ignored by the USA and its closest allies – India and Israel more than any other country. Getting Israel to obey all the UNSC resolutions may be a tall order but getting India to obey just one that it has defied since 1949 is less difficult. In any case, the world has changed. With countries as powerful as the USA and erstwhile Soviet Union having to vacate the occupation of Afghanistan, no country can now rule another people even when collaborators are plentiful. Surely, wise ones in India already realise that with the voice for ‘Azaadi’ strong and the resolve of Kashmiris for ‘Freedom’ so obvious it would be costly for India to ignore the Intifada.

Early resolution of the imbroglio over in Kashmir is important for another reason. Kashmir is now recognised as a flash point for a deadly nuclear war. America and the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear tipped missiles ready to defend their sphere of influence. But they had no territorial dispute between themselves. More important, the people of both countries knew that both of them are a part of Western Christian World. There was never a likelihood of nuclear war between them because that would be suicide or fratricide. But India and Pakistan are different. They were a single country for thousand years under Muslim and British rule but never one nation.

Every major political party has a distinct polity and a core constituency. For all practical purposes India is three nations – the Congress, BJP and parties of the Left – unable to evolve a single polity for the whole country. Besides India has thousands of castes who practise untouchability between themselves and with Muslims and Christians. The Kashmiris, majority of who are Muslims, have been saying loud clear we are nor a part of India which is not a nation itself. There are another 150 million Muslims in India who do not constitute a majority anywhere. Until now the Kashmiris have been told they should stay a part of India so that it stays secular and 150 million Muslims remain safe. It appears what holds India together is ‘blackmail’ by the caste Hindus of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, low castes and the outcastes.

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India wants the Line of Control to be recognised as an international frontier between India and Pakistan. It realises that it cannot achieve that objective and continues to hold for maximalist position that all of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India. This cannot be achieved without war. Both India and Pakistan have deployed regular troops on both sides of the Line of Control in readiness for war. There is no frontier in the world more tense than this Line in Kashmir. Both have already gone to war over Kashmir several times. The difference this time is that they this war may be started by India under public pressure just as previous wars had been started by Pakistan also under public. That is a big change.

The other big change is in the strategic environment around Kashmir which is bordered by China. Just as India could depend on Soviet diplomacy to save itself from adverse reaction by the UNSC, Pakistan can now depend on support from China in the event of wider conflict over Kashmir, The Kashmiris are maintaining a low political profile and high strategic profile. From the outset it is being said that the objective of the intifada is ‘Azaadi’ which has only one meaning – Union with Pakistan – and one condition – the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This is also the position of the UN and of China and Pakistan, With such a formidable politico-diplomatic line up there is no need for the intifada to be overly anxious.

There has been a big change in strategic environment of the region with the emergence of non state players. These players have resisted America in Afghanistan for nine years. America is wisely negotiating with the Resistance in Afghanistan because there are not their enemies but their erstwhile and future friends. American cannot remain blind to that reality. Syed Ali Geeali having invited President Obama to visit Kashmir has underlined that point. That the President has accepted the invitation and is visiting is a proof that peaceful protests – even though ruthlessly crushed by the Indian state – have achieved something substantial. This needs to be built upon.

The Cold War era US view that Israel is the unsinkable ‘US aircraft in the Eastern Mediterranean’ and that Kashmir should stay in friendly hands because it was a neighbour of China, are both untenable. The ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier propelled the USA into the War in Iraq which America has lost. However, there is still hope on the ‘roof of the world’. Pakistan has been a friend and ally of China as well as America because of its ‘national interests’.

It is likely to continue that role. Any effort to make it drift or deviate would cause a regional calamity. Those who consider themselves victorious in Afghanistan have observed how asymmetrical war has evolved. There are three models which are discernible. In the Hezbollah model the target is an enemy force and/or its principal weapon. In Lebanon, the target of Hezbollah was the Mekerva tank seventeen of which were destroyed on the first night of the operation. The advantage of the Hezbollah model is that war is fought more or less like on a conventional battlefield – one that can be isolated.

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The second model is that of North Afghanistan. In that region, the forces of the Afghan Government, the Resistance and of NATO are deployed but very thinly. They depend on each other for safe passage of troops and logistics. They observe who is the stronger force and all sides attempt to restore the status quo when that is disturbed. In fact, in North Afghanistan there is already and uneasy peace which is not very dissimilar to what peace might look like after the Americans leave. In Kashmir, there are huge areas devoid of population and communication. If intifada at some stage extended to those areas it would be a huge step forward. It will take a big leap of faith for the Indian police to start extending support to intifada in Kashmir. But the objective is there and it is worthwhile.

The third model of asymmetrical war evolved in Iraq, Here the American switched sides. Some wise old Americans who are sill around who kept advising in Pentagon to save the US from a disaster like in Viet Name. They said,” although it was Saddam Hussain who was their declared enemy, it had always been the Shia who had been seen as the enemy in the past. American victory gave the Shia the rule of Iraq which they had never enjoyed except after brief periods of rebellion, Iraq under Shia rule would be unstable. If the Americans left the shia in control in Iraq, their exit would be followed by a worse catastrophe than the one they came in to prevent by their invasion. It was indeed a stroke of genius by General Patreus to make a deal with the Sunnis of Iraq to fight Al-Qaida. Switching sides must be classed as separate type of asymmetrical war at which the Afghans are very adept.

The only person who has that option to change sides open is Omar Abdullah. He surely sees the mood of the people and as a politician there is course safer than to stay on the side of the people. And politics is all about timing. Syed Ali Geelani has set the trend already. Although America is not a party to the dispute in Kashmir, there is no doubt about his political orientation. In a sense he switched sides and did that at a time that would be of huge benefit to his people. He created a huge amount of warmth and goodwill for the US not just in Kashmir but all over the world which would have long term effects.

If things develop along these lines a time would come when a blanket amnesty to all those who once supported the National Conference and denied Kashmir its freedom for six decades would become possible, even necessary. The National Conference policies and legislation have denied unfettered access to property, land, and right of abode to people of Indian origin. The official language of Kashmir is Urdu – the same as in Pakistan. Their national poet is Allama Iqbal the same as in Pakistan. All that was important to keep the Kashmiri entity – not as just another state of the India Union but as a Muslim State. That has now made Kashmir staying inside that union increasingly unlikely.

Intifada is not war. But it can provide space to asymmetrical effort by others elsewhere. India is eight times bigger than Pakistan; India has deployed 650,000 troops in Kashmir – the same number as is the total strength of the Pakistan Army. The military superiority of India counts foe nothing when it comes to the threat of asymmetrical war. Ironically that is not in the control of Pakistan. Warning Pakistan to ask it to stop ‘cross-border terrorism’ would not work. These forces look at Pakistan as hostile as America has reluctantly conceded after put so much wasteful pressure on Pakistan.

After much effort, America has come to see that its strategic interests and that of Pakistan are in line. Both countries want Central Asia to be stable and peaceful. When that does come about one hopes that America would remember that it was the sagacity of Syed Ali Geelani that paved the way. The stone throwers of Srinagar would not let them forget. India has dealt itself out of the game?

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