Archive - September 2016

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Carvan-e-Aman or Carvan-e-Terror ……why are we still running the India-Pakistan “peace” bus service?
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Kashmir through the lens of time……..

Carvan-e-Aman or Carvan-e-Terror ……why are we still running the India-Pakistan “peace” bus service?

On 18th September, Pakistan trained militants entered an Indian military camp in Uri and left 18 soldiers dead and 23 wounded. 24 hours later the “peace-bus”, Carvan-e-Aman resumed its service as if it was just another ordinary day. The situation is anything but ordinary and peaceful. Labelled as one of the worst attacks on Indian army in more than a decade, the Uri assault has awakened New Delhi from its slumber. The situation in Kashmir, for months had been indicative of troubled times ahead. Ever since Burhan Wani, commander of the Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in a confrontation with Indian security forces in July this year, the Valley has been paralysed by curfews, clashes and angry demonstrations by stone-pelting youth shouting anti-India slogans. Pellet gun casualties have further worsened the situation.
What will it take for the Government of India to realize that no amount of goodwill is going to put a hiatus to Pakistan’s agenda of spreading terror in the Valley? Why, after facing defeat in three wars (1965, 1971 and Kargil 1999) Pakistan is still a thorn badly stuck in the heel? Why is Pakistan so obsessed with Kashmir and why has India still not crushed the very source of terror?
Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir
Pakistan’s rivers flow through India first and then enter Pakistan, leaving the latter in constant fear of having its water supply interrupted, especially in times of war. Hence, in 1960 the World Bank brokered the Indus Waters Treaty to grant access of water to Pakistan, limiting India’s usage of Indus water to 20% for irrigation, transport and power generation.
Through Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK, lies Pakistan’s connect with China – the Karakoram highway. Pakistan views the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic corridor) as a game-changer, as it will give Pakistan access to immense economic opportunities. FDI in Pakistan will increase and more than 7 lakh jobs will be created, uplifting its flailing economy. But these are not the only reasons for Pakistan’s evil eye for Kashmir. Since the time of its accession to India, Kashmir has been a sore point between India and Pakistan with the latter claiming that Maharaja Hari Singh used force the suppress the will of Kashmiris, who wanted to merge with Pakistan and not India. And it has been stoking the fire ever since.
Terror from across the LoC
The terror in Kashmir has Pakistan’s stamp all over it. There is no doubting Pakistan’s role from the beginning. The militants are armed with the latest weapons and have months and years of training. Their network is spread all across the globe. The Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is one among many who are being questioned for amassing crores of rupees in the name of azadi fund to fuel the unrest in the Valley. According to recent findings by intelligence agencies, funds from Pakistan are reaching the agitators in Kashmir through hawala accounts run by bogus trading companies in Delhi. Investigation in the Uri attack is indicating the role of Pakistan based terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed. The depth of infiltration can be judged from the on-going investigation of the Uri attack which points to an inside hand. Pakistan has been continuously violating the 740 km long LoC, 550 km of which is fenced. Despite motion sensors, thermal imaging devices, lighting systems and alarms along the fencing, Pakistan violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement with India on 44 occasions in 2010. The number rose to 51 in 2011 and 93 in 2012. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar puts the figure at 583 in 2014 and 199 till June this year. Despite Indian army’s tireless efforts, arms are being smuggled and infiltrators are crossing over from Pakistan by huge numbers. It’s anyone’s guess how many are entering India riding the “peace bus”.
China’s shrewd game plan
Other than Pakistan, the country which stands to gain most out of the Indo-Pak struggle over Kashmir is China.
The CPEC frees China from its geographical handicap – no access to Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond. 80% of China’s oil travels a distance of almost 16,000 km and takes 2-3 months to reach its mainland. With the CPEC connecting it directly to Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Bay of Bengal, this distance would reduce to less than 5,000 km. The corridor will physically connect China to markets in Asia and give it locational advantage to compete with major Middle-Eastern ports. Chinese products which are now reaching Europe in 45 days, will take only 10 days to reach their destination markets, giving China a cost advantage over other countries.
China has invested $46 billion in the CPEC project, topping the list of countries which have invested in Pakistan in the past two years. The mineral-rich provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are attractive destinations for Chinese investors. The Karakoram highway which is part of the CPEC, is the only link between China and Pakistan. And it passes through Kashmir’s Gilgit Balistan region, which has been illegally occupied by Pakistan. As long as the region is under Pakistan’s control, China has nothing to worry about. But if the region merges back with India, then China has a lot to be concerned about as India would never allow the construction of CPEC. China’s presence at Gwadar port will be threat for India.

So, if India goes to war with Pakistan, China will undoubtedly be protective in Pakistan’s defence and support the latter. Last year, when India appealed to censure Pakistan at the UN, China voted against the appeal. Is this the past is coming to bite us back? According to former United Nations Under-Secretary General, Sashi Tharoor, Jawaharlal Nehru had “declined a United States offer” to India to “take the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council” around 1953 and suggested that it be given to China. Although the possibilities of any such event are meagre as in 1953 India was neither an economic force nor a military super power to meet the eligibility criteria for getting a permanent seat at the UNSC.

Pakistan is about one-fourth the size of India and a much smaller economy. Sponsoring terror is a costly game and Pakistan has been on it for years, especially since the 1990s. How has Pakistan been able to generate funds to feed the militants and Kashmiri separatists? Is part of China’s investment in Pakistan being siphoned off to sustain terror on Indian soil?
Every Indian is itching for revenge. Should we declare a war on Pakistan?
As much as the desired answer is Yes, it’s not the solution. If India declares a war on Pakistan, China will renew its assault from the other side of the border, already having captured the Aksai Chin region. Pakistan has robust air defence systems. While India has one of the largest standing armies in the world, Pakistan has the nuclear advantage. According to the Arms Control Association, Pakistan has an estimated 120 nuclear warheads against India’s 110. Even if India decides to push Pakistan out of Kashmir and reclaim the land, will the people of Kashmir celebrate the victory? India needs to work on a two-pronged strategy – first, more than winning Kashmir, GoI should focus on winning the hearts of Kashmiri people. They do not need promises but real development. Secondly, financial and diplomatic relations with Pakistan have to be severed.

Now, if Pakistan does not hold the sanctity of any agreement, why are we holding on to our side of the bargain? India should forgo all treaties, especially the Indus Waters Treaty, choking the very life line of the terror nation. Pakistan exports terror to India and India grants it Most Favoured Nation (MFN ) status for bilateral trade. A befitting reply would be to impose economic sanctions on Pakistan. Although the impact is likely to be weak as in 2014, India’s trade with Pakistan made up for less than 5% of Pakistan’s total trade, amounting to $2.5 billion. On the other hand, China’s trade with Pakistan amounted to almost $13 billion during the same year.
India should freeze all diplomatic ties with Pakistan and mount pressure on US, Saudi Arabia, China and other nations to impose financial sanctions on Pakistan. Although China, Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’, expressed shock over the attack and said that it “opposes and condemns all kinds of terrorism”, too much should not be read in the statement.

Global isolation
Pakistan was hoping to garner sympathy for itself at the 71st United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York where it was aiming to highlight atrocities it alleges have been committed by the Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir. But the Uri attack happened at a wrong time for Pakistan and has turned tables against it.
India must put pressure on UN to declare Pakistan as a terror-sponsoring state. International condemnation of the Uri attack will support India’s stance against Pakistan. Two of the five permanent members of the UNSC, Russia and France, have strongly criticised Pakistan for the attack. Other countries which have shown solidarity with India against Pakistan sponsored terrorism are Germany, Japan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Canada, Mongolia and South Korea.
As South Asia expert Stephen Cohen puts it, “This is a conflict that Pakistan cannot win, and India cannot lose”, it’s a long battle ahead.
As I write this blog, the news coming from Pakistan is that the 19th SAARC Summit to be hosted by Pakistan in November is likely to be postponed with India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh- four of the eight SAARC members have decided to pull out, citing incitement of terror in the region.

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Kashmir through the lens of time……..

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70 years after the British withdrew from India, the state of seraphic beauty and Dal lake is a far cry from serenity. Since its accession to India in 1947, Kashmir (Jammu & Kashmir) has been the victim of territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, engulfing the state in an inferno, an abyss which keeps getting deeper and deeper. The cultural and religious diversity which enriched the state, has become the reason for its downfall. The aspirations of independence, of Azad Kashmir, have not disappeared from the Kashmiri consciousness and insurgency is ripping apart Kashmir. The history of post-accession J&K is witness to cross-border terrorism, an inadequate political system which can be described as an oligarchy at its best and social changes giving rise to Islamic fundamentalism.
The day when it all started
No sooner had the rule of Kashmir, Raja Hari Singh, decided to remain neutral of the two nations, that Pakistan, through tribal infiltrators, started annexation of Kashmir. This forced the then Kashmir ruler to seek military help from India and on 26th Oct, 1947 the Instrument of Accession was signed. Kashmir became a part of the Indian Republic. By the time the Indian army stopped the infiltration, a large fragment of the Kashmiri territory had been captured by Pakistan. Under UN supervision, the two warring nations agreed to a ceasefire. A line sliced the state into two parts – one-third the state under Pakistan (now Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Balistan) and two-thirds administered by India (Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladkah). The UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) which was formed to resolve bilateral conflicts, passed a resolution that the forces on either side be withdrawn and a free and impartial plebiscite be held. Pakistan did not comply with the UN resolution and refused to withdraw from the state.

In September 1951, elections were held in the Indian Jammu & Kashmir for the first time and National Conference under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah came to power, with the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In 1957, Kashmir was formally incorporated into the Indian Union. J&K was granted a special status & internal autonomy under Article 370 of India’s constitution, which ensures, among other things, that non-Kashmiri Indians cannot buy property there. Indian jurisdiction in Kashmir was limited to matters of defence, communications and foreign affairs.

Meanwhile, China was on a parallel strike course, attacking the princely state from its eastern border. During the mid-1950s, Chinese troops had entered the north-east portion of Ladakh. Border tensions led to Indo-China war in October 1962, with China occupying Aksai Chin till date.

Terror from across the border

In 1965, taking advantage of the discontent in the valley, Pakistan sent thousands of armed infiltrators across the cease-fire line, which resulted in the second Indo-Pak war. A ceasefire was established by September 1965 and the Tashkent agreement was signed on January 1, 1966, with the two nations pledging to end the dispute by peaceful means. However, Pakistan supported militant groups increased their activities in Kashmir. The year also witnessed the creation of National Liberation Front (later known as Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front – JKLF) in Azad Kashmir, with the objective of freeing Kashmir from Indian occupation. Five years later, in 1971, another war between India and Pakistan resulted in the formation of Bangladesh (formerly known as East Pakistan), followed by the signing of the landmark Simla Agreement between the two Prime Ministers, Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Under the terms of the Simla agreement, the ceasefire line was renamed as the Line of Control. The two warring sides once again agreed to resolve the issue peacefully. In 1977, Congress withdrew support to the Sheikh Abdullah led National Conference. With the ruling party now being in minority, Indira Gandhi declared a state of national Emergency in J&K. Meanwhile, in the neighbouring country, Bhutto was overthrown and executed. Pakistan came under military rule of Gen Zia-ul-Haq. Massive infiltrations started occurring from across the border and terrorism got a new lease of life.
During the 1980s, the people of Kashmir started losing faith in Indian democracy. The Kashmiris were deeply angered by the rigging of elections, failure of democracy and scarcity of employment. The people no longer sympathised with the Indian government as they did in 1950s. From this point on, insurgency in the valley underwent polymorphic growth. Islamization of Kashmir began with full force. The Abdullah Government changed the names of about a thousand villages from their original names to new Islamic names. The major city of Anantnag was to be known as Islamabad (same name as the Pakistani Capital). Not only this, in his autobiography, Sheikh Abdullah referred to Kashmiri Pundits as “mukhbir” or informers (of the Indian government).

The plight of Kashmiri Pandits

In early 1986, incidents of violence against minority Kashmiri Pandits started gaining grounds. Non-Muslim families were being targeted. A reign of terror began and Muslim fundamentalists attacked Kashmiri Pandits in dozens, sparing none. An estimated 1,60,000 Hindus fled the Valley. Pakistan trained and funded Islamic guerrillas labelled the killing of Pandits as “ethnic cleansing”, a part of their freedom struggle. Since then, Kashmiri Pandits have been living as refugees in their own country. The official 2011 census puts the number of displaced Kashmiri Pandit families at 59,442.

In the mid 1990S, cross border tension started growing in Kargil. J&K was entangled in insurgency and break down of law and order. The state was put under longest duration of President’s rule, lasting 6 years and 264 days. In the summer of 1999, infiltrators occupied many key posts, as far as 10 km deep into the Indian territory and spanned almost 100 km of the LOC. With almost 500 Indian troops lost to the war, the two-month long battle ended with India managing to reclaim most of the area on its side that had been seized by the infiltrators.
No respite in the 21st century
In 2001, Pakistan-backed terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament and the Kashmir Assembly. Anticipating another war, India increased the presence of security in the valley. Diplomatic ties were cut and transport link broke. In 2003, diplomatic ties were restored and Delhi-Lahore bus service resumed. At the 2004 UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf meet and lay foundation for the 2006 Indo-Pakistani peace talks.
Start of 2010 was blemished by the killing of a young Kashmiri militant Tufail Ahmad Mattoo. Violent protests and demonstrations continued in Kashmir for months. In 2014, despite boycott calls by separatist Hurriyat leaders, the J&K Legislative assembly elections saw the highest voter turnout of 65.23%, the highest since the valley was engulfed in insurgency. PDP became the single largest party with 28 seats followed by with 25 seats. With no clear majority, PDP and BJP formed an alliance to form government in J&K. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became the 6th Chief Minister (his second chief ministership, first being from 2002-05) of Jammu & Kashmir. This was the first time that a national party entered into alliance with a local party to form the government. As fate would have it, less than a year in the office, he died in January 2016. With the coalition’s support, his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, succeeded her father as the next chief minister.

Mehooba inherits a war like situation

Within months of Mehbooba’s governance, came the killing of Burhan Wani. Since July 2016, The aftermath of Wani’s death has seen widespread violent protests in which more than 87 people have died and around 7000 civilians and over 5,000 security personnel have been wounded. Separatists leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are instigating the young population of Jammu & Kashmir. The misguided youth are worshipping Wani and chanting his name like a messiah, and put him on a pedestal as a martyr, wrapped in Pakistan’s national flag.
The Central and the State governments, along with the support of other political parties have come together to find a solution for the problem, to deter the gullible youth of Kashmir from being hoodwinked by the rant of Hurriyat leaders. The all-party delegation (APD) unanimously resolved that dialogue with “all stake holders” has to be established. But the Hurriyat’s refusal to hold talks with the Srinagar bound APD in early September has put the Centre in a petulant mood, which is indicated in the toughening of its stand against the separatists. The message is clear……those who do not believe in the Indian constitution will be dealt with firmly. National sovereignty and security cannot be compromised with.
Mehbooba Mufti’s government has its task cut out. She not only has to take tough decisions on matters of J&K’s internal security but also has to deal with dissent issues within her party. PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s wavering faith in the CM is becoming incipient at an unwanted hour. Earlier, Tariq Karra, MP and one of the founding members of PDP, resigned over civilian killing in Kashmir. Sr. Vice President (distt. Srinagar) Nisar Ahmad Mandoo also renounced his party membership over “anti-people policies adopted by RSS backed BJP-PDP coalition. Scrapping of Article 370 has jostled the nerves of many. The Article which was implemented to empower the deeply vulnerable population of J&K, is being seen as having strengthened the separatist tendencies in J&K.
BJP-PDP alliance fuelled the anger of the masses
Not only with the Muslim majority, the BJP-PDP alliance has not gone down well with many inside PDP as well. Party senior Tariq Karra has termed the alliance as “unholy, unethical and unacceptable”. According to him, the fall of the alliance will bring calm on the streets of Kashmir as the electorate feels betrayed because the votes were sought to keep BJP out of power.
BJP’s hyper-nationalism and saffron tilt is seen as a major threat by the Kashmiri Muslims, who constitute 99% of the population in Kashmir and 35% in Jammu. The ground perception is that the government is anti-people. The Centre’s stand on article 370 and intention to resettle Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley have instilled fear amongst Kashmiri Muslims. This feeling was stoked in June when a teacher of the Delhi Public School, Srinagar, was dismissed for wearing a full abaya, that included a face veil. Face veil, which was never seen in Kashmir, has become a symbol of opposition to India. In the rising wave of insurgency, Kashmiri Muslims are gravitating towards a more conservative Islam.
Pellet guns
Pellet guns were used in Kashmir for the first time in 2010 during the Omar Abdullah government. Following the killing of militant Mattoo, the Valley was engulfed in violent protests. The mobs indulged in heavy stone pelting causing a lot of casualties in the security forces. Many civilians were also injured which further angered the masses. In order to maintain law and order and to save the lives of civilians, the Abdullah government decided to use “non-lethal” pellet guns. But that’s not so.
Pellet guns don’t take lives but cause immense damage to the body, especially the eyes. Pellets are loaded with lead and upon firing, disperse in huge numbers. Pellets penetrate the skin and cause wounds inside. Eyes are delicate and once the pellet goes inside the eye, it shatters tissues, causing impairment and loss of sight. Doctors treating the pellet gun victims opine that it maims a person forever. The number of fatal eye injuries has resulted in public outcry and severe criticism for the government.
Fresh protests erupted in the Valley when the body of an eleven-year-old boy was found pierced with 400 pellets.
Where lies the answer to the Kashmiri conundrum?
Over decades, innumerable civilians have been injured, many lives have been lost and many more are looking at a life filled with darkness. The shadows of abhorrence and antipathy are getting longer and longer. The once busy streets are gawking at loneliness. A vicious cycle of terrorism seems to have set its deep roots in the Valley. The disgruntled and aggrieved youngsters chase after false dreams of azadi. And when they are jolted out of their dream world, they attack authority and defy the very symbols of peace and harmony which have given them the liberty to speak and live freely.
Home to a number of religious and ethnic groups, any sustainable solution for Kashmir will have to incorporate the aspirations and ambitions of all Kashmiris, including the ones who have been living the life of refugees outside their soil. For generations, Kashmiris have been part and parcel of India. They enjoyed Indian cinema, sporting achievements and celebrating national events. The wave of insurgency which engulfed the Valley in the 1980s makes it difficult to differentiate between the youth genuinely dissatisfied with the state of democratic process in J&K and those whose are born out of terror campaigns arising out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In either case, religion alone cannot be the deciding factor for inclusion of Kashmir into Pakistan. The proof is in the 47 million Muslims who chose to remain in India in 1947, far outnumbering the 27 million who decided to cross over.

Looking at the present day situation, the Valley’s population is equally dissatisfied with the Indian government over the lack of care the Centre has shown in handling the post-Wani agitation as with how Kashmiris, in the past, have been fooled with rigged elections, false promises, repudiation of elected governments, incidences of violence. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are faced with a grim economic situation. According to the latest Niti Aayog data, the GDP of the state has dipped below zero to -1.57% in 2014-5 from 5.63% in 2013-14. Local businesses have closed down, job opportunities are limited, tourism and handicraft sectors have taken a strong hit. The Valley’s 2.5 lakh artisans have been severely affected by the prolonged shutdown. Schools and colleges are faced with constant shutdowns. Cellphone and internet services have been blocked, and newspapers have also been restricted in many parts of the state. Cinema and entertainment is missing.

The youth are restless and full of resentment. The older generation is living with the memories of past 70 years of turmoil and pain.

Will increasing the security in the Valley guarantee peace? Is the Uri terror attack which saw death of 17 soldiers the beginning of another war? Security will be beefed up and lives of Kashmiris will be further doomed under the shadow of the guns. What does future hold for Kashmir? Will the shikaras adorn the beautiful Dal lake again?

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