Nobel to Obama: for dismembering India?
by M R Venkatesh on 20 Sep 2010 11 Comments

When the Norwegians met in February 2008 to propose names for the Nobel Peace Prize, they were perhaps aware of the possible controversy that nominations for Barack Obama could generate. After all, Obama would assume office as American President only on January 20, 2009. And till then, it is common knowledge Obama did not do anything spectacular to deserve the Nobel.


The chairman of the Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said the prize has often been used to “encourage” laureates, rather than reward them for achievements. “The committee wants to not only endorse, but contribute to enhancing that kind of international policy and attitude which (Obama) stands for,” Jagland then rationalized.


Elaborating this idea of encouragement, a February 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Nobel Committee’s Decision Courts Controversy by Guy Chazan and Alistair Macdonald, quotes Jagland pointing to the example of Willy Brandt, the West German Chancellor who won the prize in 1971, which “encouraged” Brandt to pursue Ostpolitik - the push to normalize West Germany’s relations with the Communist Bloc. Brandt was elected Chancellor in 1969 and held office till 1974.


Nothing illustrates this paradigm of “encouragement” better than the nomination of Henry Kissinger in 1973, despite the fact that many political observers held him to be the architect of the Vietnam War. Since then, it is generally believed, Henry Kissinger has been trotting around the globe at every opportunity to “justify” the award.


Clearly, it would seem that the idea is to first award the Nobel Peace Prize and hope that the awardee justifies it (by achieving a political objective much desired by the Western world). The award to Obama was part of this grand design of “encouragement.”


Kashmir: obvious target


It must be worrying Obama and his aides that twenty months after assuming office, the President’s track record is anything but spectacular. Crucially, his ratings in the US are probably slightly better than that of Omar Abdullah, incumbent Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. Naturally, all these are having a negative impact on the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party in the US. 


To improve his ratings and justify the peace prize, Obama needs to achieve something spectacular during the remainder of his term, and this is possible only in the realm of foreign, rather than domestic, policy. From an American perspective, a stunning attempt at peace can be tested only in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, or Kashmir. Obama seems determined to pull out of Iraq, while Afghanistan does not excite many. On account of Israeli pressure, nothing dramatic can happen in the Gulf region. That leaves Kashmir as a potential target for the American President to redeem himself.


Probably everyone (except the Indian establishment and media) is aware of Obama’s compulsions. That explains the rise in violence in Kashmir, which may increase in the run up to his visit in November. The Pakistanis as well as separatists are obviously acting in tandem to encash on this volatile scenario.


Fire two bullets for a stone thrown


Strangely, the Indian response to this complex situation has been bewildering. Strategically, this is the time to fully back our security forces. In the writer’s opinion, our response should have been to fire two bullets (or rubber pellets) for every pebble thrown in Kashmir. Instead, we are endlessly debating the dilution or even scrapping of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), little realising the potency of force in such circumstances.


Indeed, Obama in his acceptance speech after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize precisely pointed to the use of force: “as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples (Gandhi, King) alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” This is consistent with the Hindu concept of Raj Dharma, and is a handy statement should we be confronted globally about the use of force!


Yet one witnesses supine indifference of the government compounded by complete abdication of responsibility by sections of the media. Media debates border on the ludicrous, including overt suggestions of granting independence to Kashmir. Some have taken on the task of voicing the supposed grievances of Kashmiri Youth to justify violence in the Valley. Little do such “analysts” realize that if Kashmiri youth is disillusioned, so is the youth from all other states of India. So why single out Kashmiri youth? 


The intelligentsia is hardly better. Ever since violence broke out in the Valley in late 1980s, the Indian intelligentsia has suggested that the LoC be made the final border – in other words, gift Pakistan what it has grabbed rather than fight and reclaim the territory. This time around the intelligentsia is willing to give up the Indian side of Kashmir, and is tacitly readying the nation for the secession of Kashmir from India.


Given the state of confusion within political parties, media and intelligentsia, the proposed visit of Obama has been viewed in some quarters as the most opportune moment to launch the agenda of ‘liberating’ Kashmir from India (and also Pakistan) in the next couple of years. For if a few hundred stone-pelters in Srinagar can bring our government to its knees, imagine what the mighty American Government with all its coercive powers can achieve?


Divine providence saves the day for India


John Perkins, in his celebrated book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” provides shocking insights into how successive American governments have overthrown various regimes in South America, Asia and Africa, merely to suit their interests. Naturally, the fear that India (especially in the context of suspect EVMs) could figure on this hit-list is not far-fetched. Even otherwise, Indian governments are not famous for standing tall in the face of such onslaughts.


Thanks to the legacy of partition, world capitals are well aware that Kashmir is our soft underbelly. Then there is the proclivity of American Governments in general and the imperative need of Obama in particular to broker peace. It is therefore a matter of time before Washington makes some decisive moves on Kashmir. Obviously its aim is geo-political – to set up a base in Kashmir to control the entire South Asian region including China. The game plan is obvious – dismember India, dominate Pakistan, and control China.


While Indians continue to be oblivious of history or geo-political developments, the Chinese response has been remarkable. Clearly anticipating American desperation, Beijing has moved a substantial number of troops into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Naturally this has put American strategists in a tail-spin.


In an article in the New York Times (27 Aug. 2010), titled “China’s Discreet Hold on Pakistan’s Northern Borderlands,” Selig S Harrison lets the cat out of the bag: “The United States is uniquely situated to play a moderating role in Kashmir, given its growing economic and military ties with India and Pakistan’s aid dependence on Washington. Such a role should be limited to quiet diplomacy. Washington should press New Delhi to resume autonomy negotiations with Kashmiri separatists. Success would put pressure on Islamabad for comparable concessions in Free Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.”


The Indian stand is that Kashmir secession is non-negotiable and American intervention a strict no-no; yet Harrison finds nothing untoward in his audacious suggestion that the two portions of Kashmir be united voluntarily by India and Pakistan and allowed to walk free into the American embrace! But why blame the Americans when our own people in the political and strategic establishment seem desperate to toe the American line?


It is increasingly obvious that an independent Kashmir suits America; and not a Kashmir controlled by India, Pakistan or China. Outraged at Chinese intrusions in Kashmir, Harrison suggests “Precisely because the Gilgit-Baltistan region is so important to China, the United States, India and Pakistan should work together to make sure that it is not overwhelmed, like Tibet, by the Chinese behemoth.” Possibly he also wants New Delhi to lend its shoulders to the Americans to fire at the Chinese.


Ms Sandhya Jain captured the entire issue quite brilliantly in her column in the Pioneer and Vijayvaani (14 Sept. 2010): “For India, a collateral benefit of Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan is that it has nixed plans to delink Jammu & Kashmir from India by creating an East Timor-like situation in Srinagar Valley prior to President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi, thereby forcing UN intervention and plebiscite.”



Surely, the Chinese have outwitted the Americans, for now. In contrast to the indolence of New Delhi, Beijing seems to be in no mood to justify the Nobel to Obama. And in the process, it has inadvertently saved Kashmir for India, if only we take advantage of the temporary respite.


PS: We may well have got the monkey off our back and replaced it with a chimpanzee. But a nation with an irresponsible government and indifferent people deserves nothing better.


M.R. Venkatesh is a Chennai-based Chartered Accountant; his email is

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