Kashmir Post 370

The mandatory mourning over the repealing of Articles 370 and 35 A can last a few day, a week or may be a month depending on the degree of sympathy that one has with the Kashmir cause and the Kashmiris. It seems that ultimately become another scar on the much bruised national psyche. It will continue to remind the nation of its travails in times of despair and dismay but nothing more will come out of it. The show of domestic moral support may end by the 5th of September i.e. a month from the day that the announcement was made to absorb the disputed territory formally into the Indian Union. It may get a momentary boost on the 6th of September that being the defence day of Pakistan. Patriotic fervour thus generated may keep the feeling alive for a few more days. The state TV and radio will continue showing video and audio feeds of the sufferings of the Kashmiris forever but interest will certainly subside. The TV anchors will speak less of it over time and the government even lesser. People will become inured and will go about their businesses with numbed senses. The delayed diplomatic offensive will likely peter down, if efforts to host a special session of the OIC does not materialise and moving a motion at the UN Generally Assembly or the Security Council may also not take place because of lack of support. There will be no meaningful third party mediation or arbitration by an honest broker. The world will advise the two nations not to disturb the regional peace and find an amicable solution bilaterally, notwithstanding the fact that India is unwilling to engage in any kind of direct talks. The sad happening of Kashmir being forcibly made part of India will be relegated to the back pages of the newspapers and the headlines will be replaced by another crisis or tragedy. The national and international attention span in this digital age is very short indeed. As the breast beating subsides over what is considered another insult and perfidy by arch enemy India, it is time to ponder why it happened and what we need to do in the future.

The doing away with Articles 370 and 35 A has been on the card for a long time. The Indian leaders of all shapes and hues have been calling Kashmir their country’s atoot ang (unbreakable part) for ages. Modi hasn’t helped matters. When he got elected as the prime minister for the first time in 2015, he tried his level best to get 44 plus votes in the state assembly. Such a majority would have given the legal leverage to get the approval of the majority of the state legislature to repeal the irritating clauses of the Indian constitution that gave the only Muslim majority state a special status and flag and protection from others buying properties on the peace of land referred to as heaven on earth. What Modi couldn’t do after the last elections, was fairly simple to do after his re-election. Since the Assembly had been suspended and there was no chief minister, all he needed to was to sign a presidential order to be announced by his sidekick Amit Shah, ending the special status and carving up the state into two union territories, one of Ladakh without a legislature i.e. reporting directly and the other of Jammu and Kashmir, with a legislature. Without going into the actual disputed status of Kashmir, which is recognized by the United Nations, it is quite clear that India had made Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh with its substantial Muslim population in Kargil, their own territory. Therefore, this legal sleight of the hand will not much will change. The repression on those demanding azadi (liberation) and human rights violations will continue unabated. Modi had made his intentions quite clear, when he moved in 35000 more troops in the occupied territory and authorities cancelled the Amarnath Yatra and issued advisories to tourists and workers from outside Kashmir. From now on, he will suppress the calls for liberation ruthlessly. The world by and large hasn’t spoken against it and Pakistan seems hopelessly alone in this moment, when it needs help the most. Pakistan has itself to blame for its present state of affairs, it is heavily under debt and its economy shows no signs of improvement in the near future and the threat of FATF continues to hang over its neck like the sword of Damocles. The law and order situation is not as bad as it was a few years ago but an occasional bomb blast still breaks the peace. Soldiers fighting the terrorists still get killed by random IEDs in the erstwhile tribal areas and Balochistan and this usually happens in tandem with ceasefire violations along the LOC.

Things are bad but all is not lost. Current and future leaders need to put their house in order. The focus should be on long term objectives. There should be no knee jerk reactions. The policy should be to place national interest before party or personal interest. Pakistan has a host of domestic problems that need to be tackled on emergency basis. The galloping population needs to be controlled. Investment should be made on the increasingly young human resource. They should be provided an education commensurate with market requirements and jobs should be created for the young people. Brain drain should stop. Corruption must be eradicated with across the board accountability. The system of justice needs a massive overhaul. Police should be re-configured to provide protection to the people and not be tool for terror and extortion. The health system should be revamped. Polio program needs to be made more effective. The massive incidence of HIV AIDS in Sindh needs to be arrested. Safe water should be made available for drinking purposes and more for agriculture and producing electricity.

The list of domestic problems is endless but in all this Kashmir should also find a place.  There should be a long term plan for Kashmir. We should be very clear what do we want. A Kashmir that is part of Pakistan or an independent Kashmir or we are willing to live with the status quo? If there are any other choices they should be explored. No stone should be left unturned to build a national consensus on this plan. The hopes and aspirations of the Kashmiris (in occupied territories as well as those living in Pakistan and abroad) must be made part of this plan. Once a plan is in place, all resources of the state should be used to achieve this ultimate goal. Timelines must be set to monitor the progress of this strategy. A fulltime focal person with direct access to the head of the state should oversee this program and should be laterally in contact with all ministries for the fulfilment of this plan.

The mourning once it is over should be followed by real action. Good preparation, hard work and diligence will definitely yield positive results.


Do Walls Matter?

india-plans-great-wall-along-kashmir-border-1385243419-7890India is constructing a ten feet high wall across the 197 kilometer long Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The wall, a strong embankment, will be in addition to the fenced wire that was constructed by the Indians about ten years ago. Pakistan’s permanent representative in the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi has raised a complaint against the wall because this piece of architecture will make the LOC a de facto boundary between Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir. Pakistan considers this a crude way of settling a long outstanding dispute. Relations have steadily deteriorated between India and Pakistan. They have come a long way since the Musharraf formula of 2006 that sought to make the LOC irrelevant and make it porous, encouraging trade and free movement of Kashmiris from both sides at selected points.

Ever since Naraendra Modi took over as the prime minister of India in May 2014, he behavior towards Pakistan has been very aggressive, to say the least. The construction of the wall appears to be another combative action to browbeat Pakistan. The cocky Indian stance has no doubt been spurred by two developments. One, was the joint statement issued at the end of the sixth annual India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue. Second, is the statement made by the leading Republican candidate Donald Trump saying that the US would use India to keep Pakistan in check. The plan to build the Kashmir Wall must have been in the works for quite some time and certainly predates the developments cited above.

The strategic dialogue led by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John F. Kerry had a separate joint declaration highlighting Washington and New Delhi’s shared terrorism concerns. Specific mention was made about al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company (this is a patently Indian construct for Dawood Ibrahim – the Bombay don allegedly hiding in Karachi or Dubai) and the Islamic State or  Daesh. The statement also condemned two recent terrorist attacks in India (in Gurdaspur and Udhampur). It also referenced “continuing efforts to finalize a bilateral agreement to expand intelligence sharing and terrorist watch-list information.”

Now what good are walls? Can they prevent infiltration of terrorists or keeping people apart or defending a territory? I don’t think that is the case.

In the first decade of the century the Indians spent billions of rupees to erect a barbed wired fence along the LOC. This fence was extended to cover the entire length of the international border. More money was spent to light the fence. An air traveler can now clearly discern the border between India and Pakistan brightly lit during the night. Such measures are only temporary and makeshift and cannot stop any person determined to cross this hurdle. Military walls like the Maginot Line and the Barlev Line and for that matter the Great Wall of China proved ineffectual to stop invasions. The Maginot Line, a fortified embankment with weapon nests constructed by the French was bypassed by the blitzkrieging German Panzers in the opening gambit of the Second World War. The Israeli Barlev Line along the Suez Canal was stormed by assaulting Egyptian infantrymen and Special Forces and the high and mighty Chinese Great Wall (visible even from the moon) could not keep the Ming dynasty safe. The Berlin Wall couldn’t prevent determined East Germans from fleeing to the West. It was ultimately demolished brick by brick by jubilant Germans as the East German collapsed in 1991. The Israelis have constructed a number of walls and fences to keep the Palestinians hemmed in the Gaza strip and the West Bank but arms, ammunition and essential utilities are still smuggled in.

This summer Fortress Europe crumbled as refugees fleeing their homelands in the troubled Middle East hit the beaches after risking their lives and limbs in rickety boats. So no walls are only temporary measures. These can keep people separated or enforce historical wrongs. They have a shelf life and can never be permanent.