Kashmir: A troubled paradise

– As a child growing up after India’s partition, Kashmir to me was always a part of India. Only in middle school did I begin to realize that it was considered “disputed territory” by much of the world, the sentiment being especially fierce in neighboring Pakistan. The map of India that we studied in school showed Indian Kashmir as a larger territory than what was actually under Indian control. Parts of it in the north and the west were in reality, within China and Pakistan. The scenic northernmost state, a popular destination for summer tourism and the backdrop of many a puerile romantic song & dance number of made-in-Bombay movies, was not a very urgent topic of discussion for the general Indian public. Kashmir for most Indians, evoked benign, pretty images of apple, apricot and walnut orchards, chinar trees, shimmering lakes, snow capped mountains, houseboats, fine pashmina shawls, lacquered papier mache ornaments and the valley’s light skinned aloof inhabitants.

Later in my teen years I began to understand that Kashmir was not the placid paradise we had imagined as children. Its politics were complicated and its population sharply divided on the state’s rightful status – part of India, part of Pakistan or a wholly independent/ autonomous entity. The difference of opinion fell across religious lines. Kashmiri Hindus wished to remain with India and the majority Muslim population of the state did not. Even then, things were mostly quiet and free of turmoil. There were quite a few Kashmiri students in my school. Many had ancestral homes and relatives in Kashmir and they visited there regularly during summer breaks. Those friends were all Hindus. Come to think of it, I did not know a single Kashmiri Muslim on a personal level until I was in college. There were Muslim traders and merchants who came down to major Indian cities bearing expensive and much coveted Kashmiri merchandise such as saffron, dried fruit, nuts and embroidered woollens, but they did not reside in the plains permanently and their children did not attend our schools. The first Kashmiri Muslim I came to know well was Agha Shahid Ali, a graduate student a few years ahead of me in Delhi University who later became a lecturer of English at my college as also a poet of some renown. It was Ali who first revealed to me that most Kashmiri Muslims did not identify themselves as Indians and many felt a greater emotional and cultural allegiance with Pakistan. An equal number wanted an autonomous state with a very loose federation with India for economic reasons. The Indian government spent large sums of money to subsidize the state’s economy and prohibited non-Kashmiris from buying land there while also meddling in local politics. Kashmiris became increasingly suspicious of the central government’s motives and the rift with India widened both politically and culturally.

Despite tensions and uncertainties, Kashmir never experienced the sectarian violence that had racked the eastern and western wings of India around partition time. Even when India and Pakistan fought several wars over their disagreement surrounding the region, Kashmir itself remained relatively free of communal strife for many decades after India’s independence. The uneasy calm ended in the late 1980s and early ’90s when the Kashmir valley became a battle ground for armed insurgents trained in Pakistan and the Indian military forces. The conflict caused a communal rift among long time residents and resulted in a mass exodus (some say expulsion) of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes. Those tensions remain to this day laced with bitterness on both sides.

I had never visited Kashmir when I lived in India. By the time the political upheaval unfolded in the 1990s, I had already left and had been living abroad for a decade. Kashmir’s troubles and deteriorating political situation were not something I paid close attention to until the Kargil War erupted in 1999. It became clear then that Kashmir had become an intractable problem for India. I am still not sure how I feel about the situation. What can India gain by holding on to a territory whose residents do not want to be a part of India? Can India protect regions like Ladakh and Jammu in the vicinity which identify firmly with the rest of India? What would happen if India does decide to vacate the valley and stops spending money to placate the population and maintain the large presence of its armed forces? Would Kashmir valley remain “independent” or will some other country like China or Pakistan march in and establish control even closer to other Indian states? How does one balance the interests of Kashmiris and the rest of India? Is peace ever possible when the citizenry perceives the government as an “occupying force?” Most confusing of all, will Kashmiri Hindus be permitted go back to the homes they abandoned out of fear and panic? And even if it was possible, would they ever want to return to a place that had cut all ties to India? ….

Read more → Accidental Blogger

What if we win?

– By Omar

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politi…c7K_story.html

Going from bad to worse? It seems that tragedy is turning into farce. Pakistan should do something quickly to help the US before the US loses the war (see below). Pakistan’s rational and far-sighted response may now be America’s best hope!

Many of my Pakistani friends are happy because they think this is a zero-sum game: what is bad for the US is good for Pakistan. I disagree. First of all, I dont think the US is done yet. Confused, yes. Done? probably not.
But even if we imagine that everything goes downhill for the US from now onwards and they eventually pull out defeated, it is not likely to be a fatal blow (Some Paknationalists imagine a Soviet Union scenario, but their knowledge and analysis are both terribly off in this case). The US, while chastened and shocked (as after Vietnam?) will not be seriously wounded by defeat in Afghanistan; What happens to the economy at home will be far more crucial than what happens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, neither of which have a big role in the economy, and the role they do have is entirely negative.

Pakistan is another matter. I dont think stoppage of US aid is going to be a necessarily fatal problem (severe sanctions are another matter, but maybe China can prevent those?). And the inevitable military coup (perhaps a “hidden one” in which a civilian caretaker regime is installed by the army) may even lead to a temporary improvement in administration in the core region for a while; but this “victory” will not solve deep seated problems in the structure and direction of the state. In fact, it will likely make them worse as the jihadi faction starts looking for a victory dividend. In any case, Afghanistan will erupt in open civil war and that will suck us into all kinds of trouble. Even in the best case scenario, it will be very tough. In the worst case scenario, we may collapse before the last American takes off from the embassy roof. The risks in case of “victory” are enormous.
Does this mean that someone in Pakistan will in fact sort out the confusion and help the US out just to save itself? While that may appear logical, it does not appear likely. This is a genuine mess. The kind where nobody is sure what will happen next.

A joke from the nineties suddenly appears to be prescient: Nawaz Sharif was portrayed as something of a simpleton, getting by on the advice of his shrewd father (abba ji). Here is the joke:
Nawaz Sharif: Abba ji, the economy is in terrible shape and nothing is working. What can we do now?
Abba ji: Son, there is only one solution. Start a war with America. They will bomb the country and utterly destroy it. Then they will occupy us and launch a Marshall plan and we will be rebuilt with their money. Look how rich Japan and Germany have become after losing a war to America.
Nawaz Sharif: But abba ji, what if we win?

PS: the “all parties conference” in Pakistan has just released its resolution. They seem to agree with me. Who knows, the corrupt elite may have enough self-awareness to sneak out of this one ….

Notice that Pakistan is opening up trade with India. We delayed an American victory in Afghanistan for 10 years because we dont want Indian influence in Afghanistan. We dont want Indian influence in Afghanistan because the Indians are our eternal enemies. Now the Americans are threatening us, so we are going to make peace with India to relieve pressure on the economy. When we are friends with India, will we still need to deny them “influence” in Afghanistan? Inquiring minds want to know….

Courtesy: → BrownPundits

When was Pakistan’s fate sealed?

Pak paying heavily for its mistakes in the 1970s: Tony Blair

NEW DELHI: Pakistan is “paying heavily” for its mistakes in the 1970s when it started mixing religion with politics and promoted extremism, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

“I think Pakistan is paying a heavy price for the mistakes of 1970s by linking religion with politics and developing religious schools which are, in some cases, dangerous sources of extremism,” Blair told Karan Thapar in an interview to a news channel.

The former British prime minister was responding to queries relating to the role of ISI in spreading terrorism and its links with the Haqqani group in Afghanistan.

When asked if the US, after eliminating Osama bin laden, should also go after the Haqqani faction, Blair said it was something which the Americans have to decide.

“The trouble with these groups is that there is no way to use them wisely. On these issues like Pakistan might have to say about its influence in Afghanistan vis-a-vis India’s influence there, there will be nothing good out of supporting these groups,” he said.

“If ISI is engaged in such activities, in the end it will not merely affect US, UK, Afghanistan or India, it poisons the atmosphere in Pakistan also,” Blair said.

The former British prime minister said that if there was any linkage between the ISI and terror groups such as the Haqqani group and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, “it is a mistake.”

Blair said there was a need to engage “modern and open-minded” Pakistanis who are involved in a struggle against the extremists.

“We have to see how we can engage elements in Pakistan who believe that this was a mistake. The best way is to allow Pakistan to change and evolve and there are a lot of decent people in Pakistan,” he said.

Blair said that Pakistan itself has suffered a lot due to terrorism as thousands of people have been killed. There was a “struggle going on in the country between those with modern and open-minded attitude towards future against those who are in the power struggle and will play dangerously,” he said. ….

Read more → TOI

Asia Times Online – Pepe’s opinion

– THE ROVING EYE

Pentagon aims at target Pakistan

By Pepe Escobar

Syria will have to wait. The next stop in the Pentagon-coined “long war” is bound to be Pakistan. True, a war is already on in what the Barack Obama administration named AfPak. But crunch time in Pak itself looms closer and closer. Call it the “no bomb left behind” campaign.

Al-Qaeda is a thing of the past; after all, al-Qaeda assets such as Abdelhakim Belhaj are now running Tripoli. The new Washington-manufactured mega-bogeyman is now the Haqqani network.

A relentless, Haqqani-targeted manufacture of consensus industry is already on overdrive, via a constellation of the usual neo-conservative suspects, assorted Republican warmongers, “Pentagon officials” and industrial-military complex shills in corporate media.

The Haqqani network, a force of 15,000 to 20,000 Pashtun fighters led by former anti-Soviet mujahideen figure Jalalludin Haqqani, is a key component of the Afghan insurgency from its bases in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area.

For Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] agency”. It took Mullen no less than 10 years since Washington’s bombing of Afghanistan to figure this out. Somebody ought to give him a Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the US government narrative, it was the ISI that gave the go-ahead for the Haqqani network to attack the US Embassy in Kabul on September 13.

Pentagon head Leon Panetta has gone on record saying that in response, Washington might go unilateral. This means that the vast numbers of Pashtun farmers, including women and children, who have already been decimated for months by US drone attacks on the tribal areas should be considered as extras in a humanitarian operation. ….

Read more → ASIA TIMES ONLINE

Pakistan gets ready for the Jihad?

– In Pakistani Media, the U.S. Is a Target for Acrimony

By SALMAN MASOOD

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The United States might still be weighing its options about how to deal with Pakistan, but many politicians, retired army generals and popular television talk show hosts here have already made up their minds that America is on the warpath with their country.

Such is the media frenzy and warmongering that popular talk show hosts have even begun discussing possible scenarios of how Pakistan should react if the United States attacks the country. One television news channel has even aired a war anthem.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has called on a conference of opposition political parties and government’s allies for Thursday to discuss the crisis. The government is also enlisting allies.

Islamabad, the capital, has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity with the visits of Chinese and Saudi officials. The American ambassador, Cameron Munter, has also met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.

After meeting with Vice Premier Meng Jianzhu of China on Tuesday, Mr. Gilani said that “China categorically supports Pakistan’s efforts to uphold its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” an oblique reference aimed at the United States.

Earlier in an interview with Reuters, Mr. Gilani warned against any cross-border raids by American forces in Afghanistan. “We are a sovereign country,” Mr. Gilani was quoted as saying. “How can they come and raid in our country?”

Pakistan’s powerful army and intelligence chiefs, meanwhile, have conveyed their message through their posturing. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief, canceled his Monday visit to Britain, stoking a sense of crisis.

On Sunday, General Kayani led a meeting with his top military commanders. No press statement was issued, but leaks to local media outlets warned of a “stern response” to any attack on Pakistan by American forces from Afghanistan. ….

Read more → THE NEW YORK TIMES