Resolution of Kashmir dispute will not normalize relations between India and Pakistan
by Ramtanu Maitra on 12 Jan 2009 2 Comments

Over the years, a myth has been created through a sustained campaign, and that myth has come to be accepted as the self-evident truth. The myth says resolution of the Kashmir dispute is the only way to usher in a durable peace between India and Pakistan. This campaign is the handiwork of the Pakistani military, and has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by most of the western analysts.

The purpose of this campaign is to induce Washington to get involved in the resolution of a dispute in which both parties, India and Pakistan, are to be evaluated equally. New Delhi does not want the Kashmir dispute to be internationalized and it strongly opposes any outside interference in a matter it believes should be resolved bilaterally. Knowing this, the perpetrators of the current campaign are trying to sour the growing India-US relations.

At the same time, whether New Delhi likes it or not, it did not succeed over the years to keep the issue bilateral. Earlier, Pakistan internationalized it by bringing in the West to mediate, and has now brought into Kashmir the jihadis, who are now engaged in a violent campaign worldwide to set up an Islamic Ummah.

A fresh Kashmir initiative

Selig S Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy and a senior scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International, said as much in an opinion piece published in The Washington Times. He pointed out that a Kashmir initiative by America, however "veiled,” can undermine improving Indo-US ties. “President-elect Barack Obama has made his first big foreign policy mistake - pledging US intervention in the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan,” he wrote.

What Harrison is referring to is the then-presidential candidate’s interview to Time magazine last October. There, Obama said that Kashmir is a place he wanted to “devote serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in there, to figure out a plausible approach.”

But beyond using Kashmir as a decoy, to put India-US relations on a wrong footing, what is not fully realized in Washington is that the Kashmir issue is no longer the keystone in improving bilateral relations of these two neighbouring nations. During the four decades of Cold War, West did a yeoman’s job to undermine the Indian Republic with the intent of strengthening its “free world” ally, Pakistan. With such tacit approval behind them, the Pakistani authorities, helped by a number of virulent anti-India nations, unleashed the jihadi movement in the late 1980s within Kashmir and thus moved the issue beyond the realm of Islamabad and New Delhi. In other words, Kashmir is now in the realm of the jihadis, who do not accept sovereign nation-states, and Islamabad has become too weak and fragmented to deny the jihadis what they were offered to begin with.

At the same time, resolution of the Kashmir dispute is an absolute necessity, the single purpose of which is to guarantee all Kashmiris, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists peaceful and purposeful lives. Such a resolution of the Kashmir dispute must focus upon bringing back the old integrated way of life to all Kashmiris. If such a resolution of the dispute ends up in helping to improve India-Pakistan relations, so much the better. But, it may not.

The anti-India nationalism

There are reasons why resolution of the Kashmir dispute is projected in Pakistan, and in the West, as the key issue for bringing peace to the subcontinent. To begin with, one of Pakistan’s internal crises, which led to the separation of its eastern wing in 1972 and is now threatening to break up its western wing, west of River Indus, is patently basic and fundamental.

The fact is that even among Pakistan’s elite, the concept of Pakistani nationalism never existed in an adequate form. What these elites have, instead, and which was never clearly understood by western academics and policy-makers, is an “anti-India nationalism.” Pakistan is “not-India” – its identity is negative. The dominance of this “anti-India nationalism” explains why the Pakistani military became such a domineering force, and Pakistani democrats remained dormant.

Even today, when the Pakistani military, divided and a shadow of its old self, chooses to flex its muscles, it exudes nothing but the same old “anti-India nationalism.”

By contrast, a clear commitment to Pakistani nationalism would have pushed Pakistan’s powers-that-be in to making efforts to integrate East Pakistan, instead of “using” it for the jute-and-tea generated cash to build up an anti-India Pakistan Army. The same understanding of nationalism would have prevented air-strikes against the Baloch tribes in the 1970s, and would have pushed Islamabad to strengthen Baluchistan and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. These two highly volatile areas bordering Afghanistan should have been integrated with the economically stronger Punjab and Sindh by carrying out physical infrastructural developments. That would have made Pakistan a powerful nation. Instead, the powers-that-be continued to identify the Baloch tribes as “anti-national” and used the tribal areas to grow opium in the 1980s until the Americans intervened. All this while, the Pakistani elite remained indifferent.

With an elite like that, it is not surprising that western nations never cared much for Pakistan, other than using it as a bulwark against the “advancing Soviet Army” and as a check on an unreliable India. India was a close ally of the Soviet Union in those days and it was considered necessary for the “free world” not only to condone the “anti-India nationalism” in Pakistan, but to encourage that crudity.

Meanwhile, the myth that says resolution of the Kashmir dispute will resolve the animosity between India and Pakistan continues to dominate western thought process for the following reasons.

Unleash the jihadis

Most of the western policy-makers and their cohorts have kept their minds in a fossilized state when it comes to policy-making about India and Pakistan. They are simply not willing, or capable of grasping, the changes that have occurred in that region over the last 20 years. Until the late 1970s, Pakistani Army was still dreaming of militarily annexing Kashmir. But that began to change in the early 1980s when, for its own selfish reasons, the Washington-London axis propped up a Pakistani military ruler, Zia ul-Haq, who dealt more devastating blows to that nation’s body than perhaps any other single individual. Pakistan’s Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were infiltrated during this period with non-professional Islamists, and even outsiders. Pakistan’s tribal areas became a centre of opium production for off-the-book funding of various Islamist groups and for the training and arming of these groups for militant acts inside the Indian-held part of Kashmir.

Pakistan President Zia ul-Haq came to realize in the 1980s that an armed conflict with India for the purpose of annexing Kashmir is a non-starter (After three wars with India, despite what London said, or the arms Washington sold, it finally dawned on Rawalpindi that the Indian military is fully capable of crippling its Pakistani counterpart). The cheapest and most convenient way to “bleed” India is through a resurgence of Islamist jihadis, President Zia concluded.

It was Zia ul-Haq who unleashed the “Operation Topac” to infiltrate and promote religious extremism inside India as a new weapon. More important than annexing Kashmir, President Zia’s aim was to re-invigorate the “anti-India nationalism” in Pakistan. Religious extremism was unleashed in the Indian-part of Punjab in the 1980s, when a Khalistani movement was launched using Sikh religious fanatics and some disgruntled locals. Trying to deal with these religious extremists, who were supplanted from abroad with money generated through drugs and other illegitimate sources, a palpably inept New Delhi made a series of brutal mistakes, strengthening the insurgents in the process. New Delhi continues to make those mistakes even today. The occurrence of the Mumbai massacre is a case in point.

Londonistan in action in Kashmir

The principal aim of Operation Topac was to create an Islamist upsurge in a Muslim-majority Kashmir. Since Operation Topac was unleashed in 1989, more than 300,000 Kashmiri Hindus have been thrown out of the valley. These Kashmiri Hindus - victims of rape, bloodshed, arson and looting - were major backers of Kashmir’s integration with India, but they live no longer in the Kashmir Valley.

By uprooting them, the Islamization of Kashmiriyat (the Kashmiri way of life) in the Valley was advanced, but by no means completed. The recent elections in the Indian part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir had a record turnout. The electoral results also indicate that the majority want moderate, non-radical political leadership close to New Delhi.

However, thanks to the jihadis, a significant number of people of Kashmir have become violently anti-India. New Delhi’s inept approach – a curious mixture of appeasement of terrorists and a brutal treatment of the locals – adopted was admittedly also a major factor in their growing anti-India attitude. The campaign to use militants espousing Islam had long been organized by the Pakistani ISI, with the help of foreign intelligence, funded by opium and Saudi money. It is the same process that has been introduced in Chechnya and elsewhere in Central Asia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.     

Besides that, a lot of misinformation is also regularly dished out by analysts to justify their viewpoints. Take, for instance, a recent write-up by Paul Cruikshank, author of the book, Al Qaeda: the Current Threat. In his recent article, “Tackling Kashmir”, in The Guardian, he said the Nov.26-29 Mumbai attack “was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Kashmiri militant group…” 

The fact remains that the LeT, created by the Pakistani ISI in the 1980s, is not a Kashmiri group, it is active not only in India, but in Chechnya, Sudan and in Britain, where Cruikshank resides. Moreover, there is hardly a single Kashmiri in the LeT organization. Most of the LeT members are Pakistanis from Punjab and the tribal areas, in addition to a smattering of British Muslims. It is unlikely that Cruikshank does not know these facts, yet he chose to distort them, to make the point that Kashmir is what keeps these two nations at each other.

Cruikshank came to the conclusion that the “key here is Kashmir, a conflict hitherto relatively neglected by Washington. The Obama administration should broker further talks about the status of the region; confidence can be built if Pakistan takes verifiable steps to close down training facilities on its territory and if India takes a less heavy-handed approach towards opponents of its rule south of the Line of Control.”

Britain’s moves…

There is a second and deeper reason for the persistence of this myth. And that is that it has a very long history of serving as a cover for geo-political manipulations. In 1947, when Major William A. Brown, Commandant of the Gilgit Scouts and a British officer sabotaged the legal transition of Gilgit Wazarat to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the British facilitated the occupation of this region by Pakistan. “Brown and his second in command, Captain A.S. Mathieson, used the Scouts to stage a revolt to take complete control of the Gilgit Agency and offer it to Pakistan (Centre of South Asian Studies, Univ. of Cambridge, Hand List of Papers of Lt. Col. P.C. Garrett, cited in An Analysis of the Turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir by Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim, AVSM retd.). 

The British had moved in to create a dispute in Kashmir between two fledgling nations. The British objective then, as now, was to create a weak and independent Kashmir, from where London would oversee, and intervene in, the developments of three major nations - India, China and Russia (then, the Soviet Union).

This British plan had been consistently backed by the Americans and other carriers of the “free world” flag during the Cold War. The argument of the western nations during that period was that India, being close to the Soviet Union and one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), is not a part of the “free world”. Hence, any sort of attack on its body is permissible.

It should be noted that those who promoted the creation of an independent Kashmir in the 1950-1980 period, are active today. Some have put on a different garb, such as the garb of human rights activists, or that of pro-democratic forces. But they want to put the Kashmir dispute under the spotlight once again, claiming it as the issue that threatens both India and Pakistan. The huge bureaucracy that the nuclear non-proliferation lobby created in the West during the Cold War period, pipes in saying non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute threatens a “nuclear war” between India and Pakistan. In the United States, these academics wait in the wings for a new American president and then produce policy propagating this myth tailored to “fit” the profile of the in-coming chief executive.

Today, a new American President, Barrack Obama, is about to take over. American academics, eager to influence the coming administration vis-à-vis the Indian sub-continent are once again busy pouring the old wine in to new bottles. Resolution of the Kashmir dispute will bring New Delhi and Islamabad closer together, or else, a nuclear war may be in the offing, they claim. Facing such a no-option situation, President Obama may like to dip his fingers in to the Kashmir fiasco, these academics hope.

The fact remains, however, that while a judicious resolution of the Kashmir dispute, brought about by Islamabad and New Delhi in collaboration with the Kashmiris residing on both sides of the disputed Line of Actual Control, will surely help the Kashmiris, it will do little to help India-Pakistan relations.

And its Pakistani operators

“Anti-India nationalism” is now the horse that the Islamist jihadis in Pakistan ride. To these jihadis, who have been shored up by the Pakistan ISI, the former Pakistan Army officers who work under the country’s tattered security fabric, and the Anglo-Dutch liberal community that remains active beyond the shores of Britain and the Netherlands, India is a “Hindu Nation”- the way Israel is a “Jewish Nation” and the white race-dominated west is a “Christian Nation.”

Unleashed by a less-than-adequate Pakistani ruler, Zia ul-Haq, and backed by the western powers out of the perceived geo-political exigency, these jihadis do not consider Kashmir as their only target. Their objective is not only to make Afghanistan and Pakistan’s western wing a part of the Islamic Ummah, but also parts of  India, Central Asia, Chechnya, and even distant nations such as Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria, to name a few. In this context, yes, Kashmir shows up as a part of India that the jihadis consider as part of the Islamic Ummah.

Kashmiri independence is viewed as an Islamic cause to regain “lost” Muslim territories, not only from within the Indian sub-continent, but from all over the world. Some insights could be gained from a book entitled, The Army of Madinah in Kashmir (Maktabah Al-Ansaar, Birmingham, England, 1999). The book was written by Esa Al-Hindi, whose real name is Dhiren Barot. He was alleged to be the leader of an al-Qaeda cell in Britain. Some reports also mentioned him as al-Qaeda’s cell leader in Europe.

The book identifies five countries as enemies: India, because of its occupation of Kashmir and the atrocities committed by its forces against the Kashmiris; the Pakistani government, for being a puppet of the US and using the Kashmir issue and the mujahideen as its pawns; the US, for supporting the Indian government with millions of dollars of  emergency aid and “being the tip of the spear against al-Islam in modern times”; Russia, for being the “mentor” for India; and finally Israel, for providing training for the Indian army.

It is not about Kashmir

The author is South Asian Analyst at Executive Intelligence Review News Services Inc.



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