Friday, November 23, 2012

Kashmir's Geo-Strategic Position

Also published on viewpoint, Rising Kashmir

Kashmir is gifted with strategic leverages for emerging nations. That’s why, it’s is a vale of caged aspirations. The current geo strategic position for Kashmir is dictated by three emerging nations, which are bred with Secular, Islamic and Communist ideologies.

Kashmir is a mountainous valley and is surrounded by a hilly and mountainous terrain. The land of Jammu, Muzafarabad, Gilgit, Baltistan and Ladakh constitute an area of highlands. They border Pakistan, Afghanistan, Xinjiang, and some parts of Chinese administered Tibet. Kashmir also has proximity to Central Asian Republics. With the nature of increased arm strengths developed by India, Pakistan and China, the geo strategic position of Jammu and Kashmir continues to get importance.

Throughout history, all the political changes that have occurred outside of Kashmir, have had a direct strategic impact on the territorial integrity. The wars of foreigners throughout centuries intensified the geo-strategic influence of Kashmir in the years to come. History tells us that Mughals, Afghans, Duglats all wanted to create Kashmir its own vassal. Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim administrations created a direct and conflicting impact, on the preceding religions, as the new religious affairs affected the beliefs of the people of the non-ruling faiths. It, therefore, created a need by liberal kings and just rulers to create a culture of secularism, where all people enjoyed interdependence. So, Kashmir created its own ethno nationality and regional patriotism. It was called Kashmiriyat – a blend of Kashmiri Shavism and Kashmiri Sufism of Muslims, where Hindu clergies and Muslim saints played a crucial role.

The Czarist Empire of Russia also induced more strategic importance to the problem of Kashmir, in context of European power structures, because of Czarist Russia’s growing power in Central Asian regions, and their proximity to the territories of India. After the partition of India and Pakistan, Kashmir came into existence as a grievous conflict. When British sold the land to the Dogras, dramatic changes occurred and it had impedance on the newly created culture, as Kashmir had weak political institutions and military designs. The British and the Dogra reached a deal with a sale of the land for 75 lakh rupees. Strategically, the Sikh rulers created Kashmir as a buffer state between the north western Muslim frontiers of India.

The onset of Cold war and the settlement of Communist regime in China, in 1949, also enhanced the strategic importance to Kashmir. The Americans also wanted to crush the growing Communist influence of Soviet Russia, after the fall of Czar Monarchs. They joined hands with Pakistan and even established their military base in the country. Initially, Taliban in Afghanistan were taken as allies, to fight Soviet power, and when they unleashed a reign of terror in their own country, they fought them back. Contrarily, Communist ideology had influence on Afghans in universities. They encouraged schools, more freedom to women, but all these factors were downplayed by the west, just to establish a presence in the region. In terms of geo strategic interests at that time, Afghanistan and Kashmir shared and encouraged rising fundamentalist Khalifah supremacy. All these factors not only ousted liberality and harmony of Kashmiri people, but it also suppressed them. Kashmir thus became an orbit of fundamentalism, with Kabul as a harsh silk route to growing tensions.

Pakistan’s interests in Kashmir due to geographical and religious contiguities, has also concerned India, and has helped them to enhance Indian military power. It has given them reasons to make their presence felt in Kashmir. The cold war established difficulties to India and ease to Pakistan, due to successful negotiations and relationships of Pakistan, with western superpowers, in order to grow western influences in the region. Due to increased stockpiles of weaponry and strong military presence, both countries even fought wars with each other to annex Kashmir. Strategically, Kashmir became a reason for a nuclear flash point for both the countries.

Strategic alliances of Pakistan and China in connecting Gilgit with China through links in Abbotabad and Muree also gave increasing complexities to India in recent times. The Chinese also entered some areas of Jammu & Kashmir due to their problems with the Macmohan Line in 1962. They illegally occupied the Aksaichin plateau of Ladakh, and even constructed roads to connect Sinkiang provinces with Lassa in Tibet. These strategic interests posed a direct problem to the historic sovereignty of Kashmir, as all these superpowers in the region namely China, India and Pakistan have had interests in the region. The reason for their strategic importance is Kashmir’s beautiful location, its majestic mountains, rich water resources, a huge resource of forests, minerals, herbs, and highly fertile arable lands. Kashmir can also become a successful military base for any emerging superpower.

As ‘war on terror’ by rightists unleashed in Afghanistan through United States and its allies, it paved the way for a coup and ousted Taliban’s rule. It did help in reinstating democracy, but it also won a reincarnated support from the neighbouring tribals in Pakistan. With the result, it destabilised Pakistani politics due to militant extremism, as now secular democracy was seen hostile to Muslim Sharia or for an Islamic Republic. The armed insurgency in Kashmir, with trainers of militants inside Pakistan, were crushed or weakened for that matter, by their Indian counterparts in the valley. Furthermore, the ever growing political problem in Balouchistan, the human rights violations done there by Pakistani Army and ISI’s increased surveillance on its dissidents and leaders, further made Kashmir’s solution prone to failures, because a stable Pakistan and a committed India has been the only peaceful requirement  for Kashmir’s resolution.  

In recent years, Obama also promised a mediator for Kashmir, in his first Presidential campaign, but it also turned out as a gimmick because of his country’s increased ties with India for economic and political bargains. A weakening Pakistan today is regarded as an irritant in United States political chambers, as they believe only outside mediation will dilute terrorism. Assassination of Bin Laden in Pakistan has given a stronger reason for this exercise. But, at the same time, it has been such an insincere stance by the west, by not intervening in the Kashmir issue. They can mingle in Pakistan’s political problems, but cannot provide outside endorsement of settlement for the Kashmir dispute, through diplomacy.

Leaders in Pakistan who believe in self-reliance and self-negotiations are looked down upon by western powers. All these strategic developments are taking the Kashmir issue on the back seat. Many nationalist leaders of Kashmir have even called for European Union’s consideration for future mediations, but it seems that no country in the world dares to fish into troubled waters, as they believe it will have detrimental effects in South Asian politics, or even world politics for that matter. Kashmir is like Palestine for western powers. They just want to increase the ties with the oppressors. If western powers or United Nations really care for the justice written in the tenets of their republics or charters, then resolving conflict zones is the best solution for world prosperity. But why would they do that, if strategic interests are given a preference for innocent aspirations?

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kashmir and Militarism

Also published on Opinion, Rising Kashmir

Kashmir is like an open prison. The people are captives of caged aspirations. On roads, the convoys of armies look like caravans of modern warfare. Their ammunitions a grave scourge. Militarisation has been cruel to a civil way of life in Kashmir because people have seen raging soldiers lingering around block after block. Kindness is gone from the land, the truth has been tortured and people still continue to get humiliated. 

It is said that there was a time when 35th Rastriya Rifles used to give ‘cash for corpses incentive scheme’ to its battalion members, through which even innocents have been killed, because no one was asked who the gunman fired. Today, India claims itself to be the world’s largest democracy. It takes pride in its written constitution, its secularity, the promised reforms to economic prosperity, but acts as a rogue state when nationalism becomes a preferred doctrine to subdue the oppressed craving for liberation - it holds true for the poor working class of farmers, the tribals, who with the result of impoverished poverty have waged a war through guerilla warfare against the Indian army, in distant lands where economic development, education and a happy life seems as a distant dream. It also holds true for the Kashmiri masses, who have been entangled in a cyclical form of totalitarianism through force after each mass protest.

In the last sixty years, Kashmir has seen birth of armed insurgencies and secessionist institutions inspired by religious and secular nationalism. It has seen in numerous martyrdoms of youth whose blood has been spilled through Palestinian Arab inspired resistance of stones – The new eastern intifadah. During turbulent times, Kashmir is reduced to deserted streets due to exaggerated fear. When Kashmir is locked for months, even buying essential commodities becomes an arduous task. A whole generation has lost family members, either killed or disappeared with no official records. Unmarked graves run into thousands in Kashmir, which are only researched by international humanitarian organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and local research centres like Association of Parent of Disappeared Persons and International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir. The Indian government pays no heed to all these tragic developments. All these problems are direct offshoots of militarism.

Today, wars have left every country bereft. It has laden every continent, be it Europe, Latin America, Africa or Asia. In Kashmir, violence has run unabated towards its people as well. Militarism has represented a threat to regional integration and to its ethno national social consciousness.

When we go back to the European history, militarism was seen as an instrument of social restructuring, a prerogative to achieve a higher status. In Greece, joining military reflected bravery. British achieved nobility by joining military. The Americans joined military to achieve respect. It was a means for class inflation. Mostly, countrymen joined military due to patriotism, exaltation of military virtues and ideals. However, militarism in the world today has acquired a different meaning. Primacy of nationalism creates an advent of conflicts, and that’s the reason why militarism today is taken in a negative sense. Today, many activists and academia believe that wars are natural consequences of extreme forms of nationalism.

Oscar Wilde once called blind nationalism as the trait of the vicious. The lines do hold significance for neo fascist states.  It is primarily because of the excesses of human right violations done due to militarism world over. In Kashmir, the fatality figures run into hundreds of thousands which even dispute the official records. These realities have transformed Kashmir into a serious conflict zone. The Indian state has taken Kashmir in a larceny, after it promised a referendum to its people once the provisional accession was signed by Indian authorities with the Maharaja during the partition era. Since then, both countries have installed military establishments, divided our lands, separated families, and have created an ambiance of hostility towards each other. Therefore, militarisation has resulted in adverse effects in Kashmir, just like in other conflict zones.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) calls India as the largest importer of arms between the year 2007 and 2011. The whole weaponry business has resulted in a thirty seven percent increase. In the next decade itself, the country plans to invest around hundred billion dollars’ worth of weapons. The country is buying arms and ammunitions, improving technology and sharing diplomatic ties with many pivotal defense exporters like United States and Germany. Military strategists are even pressing the governments in power to modernise its army. These initiatives will further rarify the political developments needed for the settlement process. It will even increase the scope of war outbreaks, will further penalise the obedience to UN resolutions, and will neglect peace due to conflicting bilateralism. The vale is already the most militarised zone in the world. People live amongst barbed wires, frisking, bunkers, searches, curfews, and interrogations in a mundane routine. A former princely state, the valley is now coined as a disputed legacy between India and Pakistan, where a resolution seems elusive even after sixty five years.

In the troubled times of today, wars against the state have been reduced to innumerable corpses. George Orwell, the eminent British journalist, rightly believed that totalitarianism is a disease to governance. After seeing the illusions of Spanish Civil War, he believed most revolutions to overthrow tyranny have been lost in a desert of immoral consciousness.

 In India, the role of state has grown inequitably stronger due to nationalistic ideals. Kashmir is India’s most volatile occupation. It is due to the fact that leaders in the valley hold a politics of variance. Some leaders affirm to debate and some glorify violence. India and Pakistan, despite given warnings by UN resolutions, have failed to arrive at any solution. Contrarily, both countries have imposed its own machinery, and insured it with military power. Kashmir is inured into bloodshed. 

  • © Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir