Kashmir:  A Road to Peace or Disaster?

ghulamnabifai.jpgDr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

February 23, 2017

India and Pakistan have had more than 150 official rounds of talks in the last seven decades to discuss conflicts and differences between them. The by-product of every round of talk was an agreement to meet again to talk. In consequence, the peace process between India and Pakistan has always remained an illusion. Talks have always proved barren because both India and Pakistan have never defined the parameters of talks. The talks were never meant to be time bound with specific benchmarks that would define and characterize progress. What was the common goal of talks?  What are the objectives? To settle differences? What are the differences?  How will they be resolved?  When?  Should we identify steps to resolving differences? Who are the important actors involved in those differences?  How are those differences being revealed?

Nevertheless, the world knows that the central bone of contention regarding tensions between India and Pakistan is the ongoing 70-year conflict over Kashmir.  The two countries are both nuclear armed and they continue to have re-occurring border clashes and cross-border raids that threaten the safety and stability of both. People are getting killed on both sides.  More than 100 people were killed this past summer with many thousand injured by pellets.  But while this violence occurred due to the refusal of India to foster peaceful relations with Kashmir and acknowledge its interests, the focus of the press, egged on by India, was on the relationship between India and Pakistan and the responsibility of Pakistan in allegedly stirring up trouble in Kashmir with false propaganda.  It is as though there is nothing to discuss. The whole nation of Kashmir rose up in resistance, but no one could talk about anything but Pakistan and the militancy across the border. Kashmir has never been a focal item of the talks but just one of the eight points agreed to by both India and Pakistan in talks which they called the ‘Comprehensive Dialogue Process.’

Curiously, the primary party pertinent to the issue, the Kashmiri leadership, has never been included in the talks.  Why not?  Are they not the principal representatives of the people, the true stakeholders who may claim the greatest interest in what happens to Kashmir?  Doesn’t it matter what they think?  Are they mere spectators or the real actors in the theater?

Why are the youth in the streets throwing stones at the authorities instead of engaging in some sport at a local recreational field?  Why are people with graduate degrees, doctors, lawyers and engineers, joining the resistance and sacrificing their lives and lucrative careers?  Why are the mothers of the young people picking up rocks and joining them?  Do their desires matter?  What has Pakistan to do with that?

India cannot sweep all this under the galicha. The truth is too painfully obvious.  Isn’t it time that world powers ask the people what they really want?  Perhaps that would force the parties to actually deal with what is at the heart of their differences, the aspirations of the people.

Kashmir is the only nation in the world, which shares its borders with three nuclear powers of the world. Kashmir still remains the nuclear flash point, as the tensions between the BJP-lead government in India has suspended the so called’ peace talks’ between New Delhi and Islamabad. The potential of nuclear war has always been there between these two nuclear rivals, but because of the suspension of the talks, that potential is now real.

In an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “Rising Tensions in Kashmir: A Growing Nuclear Danger on the Subcontinent,” Michael Krepon, author and editor of 21 books and cofounder of the Washington DC-based think tank, the Stimson Center, who heads up programming on nuclear and space issues, wrote:  “As Pakistan’s sense of isolation grows and as the conventional military balance shifts even further in India’s favor, Islamabad is relying increasingly on Chinese military help and on nuclear weapons for deterrence. Its nuclear arsenal is growing faster than India’s, with a capacity to produce 15 or more warheads a year, adding more nuclear weapons every year than North Korea has accumulated to date. While India is moving to close this gap, Pakistan is planning to compete even harder with longer-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles to be delivered in the air, on the ground and at sea, as well as with tactical nuclear weapons. Since testing nuclear devices in 1998, India and Pakistan have together flight-tested on average one new type of missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon every year.”

During a meeting held at the Stimson Center last October, Dr. Shezra Mansab, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, made very clear that attention is clearly focused on this problem. “Our core issue this time is Kashmir.  It is an international dispute. It is not an internal problem. The stakes are very high now, we are nuclear neighbours so we need to have peace on the issue of Kashmir and then rest of the things can be solved,” she said.  She was referring to the relationship peace in Kashmir has with the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan. “No peace can prevail in the region, if this issue is not solved,” Dr. Mansab said.

The uncertainty over Kashmir will lead not only India and Pakistan to disaster but it will also destroy any possibility of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Any resolution of the Kashmir conflict will directly impact the stability of Afghanistan as many experts have started realizing that the key to peace in Afghanistan lies in Kashmir. As Dr. Mansab’s colleague, special envoy on Kashmir Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said at that same conference, “The Road to peace in Kabul lies in Kashmir in the sense that when you talk of peace, you cannot compartmentalise peace, you can’t segregate a section… ok you can have peace in Kabul and let Kashmir burn. That is not going to happen.” “So you talk of a comprehensive peace settlement,” Senator Mushahid Hussain added.  “Let the people of South Asia not be hostage to the hostility of the past. Let them move forward.”

The world powers need to understand very clearly that it is their primary responsibility to make sure that both India and Pakistan realize that their inability to resolve the Kashmir dispute for the last 70 years has led to a growing international nuclear crisis. World peace is a stake.

Real and tangible strategy needs to be initiated with the firm support of the P5, in particular the United States. There is not a slightest possibility of resolving Kashmir dispute without the involvement of the world powers. The lack of resolution after 70 years demands the intervention of a third party.

As Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center notes, “Washington’s ties with New Delhi continue to improve, thanks to the attractiveness of the Indian market and a desire to help India counter China’s military buildup” and economic influence in the region. On the other hand,  “Pakistan’s sense of unease has grown with Donald Trump’s habit of painting Islamic terrorism in broad-brush strokes.”  But President Trump has shown his willingness to mediate between the parties to resolve that “very, very hot, tinderbox“ of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Now is the time to get started. Washington’s influence in New Delhi and Islamabad can be artfully used by Trump to make a deal that suits all sides and brings the Kashmir leadership into the picture.

All parties need to understand that ultimately the Kashmir issue will only be resolved across the table through tripartite negotiations between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership.  And if that is true, then why wait? Any delay will cause more death and destruction in the region.

Any dialogue process demands compromises for the sake of greater good. All parties including India, Pakistan and Kashmir need to show some flexibility in order to reach a final settlement. The contours of compromises should be discussed at the table and not beyond it.

It is time for the war of words between two capitals to stop. The reckless statements by Rajnath Singh, the Home Minister of India who lusts for Azad Kashmir and seems inclined to grab it by force, will not pave the way for a better understanding. Such rhetoric needs to end on all sides.

The leadership of both India and Pakistan must show their statesmanship for the sake of peace and stability in the region of South Asia and beyond.

 Dr. Fai can be reached at 1-202-607-6435  OR   gnfai2003@yahoo.com

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The Hardwara Incident: A Lesson in Tyranny

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by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

April 23, 2016

On April 12, 2016, a 16-year-old girl was either molested or threatened with molestation in the Kashmir town of Handwara by a so-far unidentified Indian soldier when she was using the washroom.  Her screams from within could be heard in the surrounding community, and it is believed that an Indian soldier was seen emerging from the washroom about the same time. When the people of the locality learned about the incident, they flooded the streets, protesting against the incident. In response, the army fired at them from a bunker in the vicinity and three people were shot, who later succumbed to their injuries.

Subsequently, two more civilians were killed who were protesting the incident.

The girl was taken to the police station and placed in “protective custody,”  where, it appears, under duress she changed the actual version of the incident.  Her mother insists that her daughter was made to say that she made false allegations about the army and the police. She along with Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) were to meet the press on Saturday, April 16th but they were detained and no media personnel was allowed to meet with them.  The family’s cellphones were confiscated so that they could talk to no one.

The circumstances surrounding the Handwara girl seem to have brought to the surface the true state of Indian occupation in Kashmir.   The obvious ravaging of this young woman, a mere child, and her reputation demonstrate the lengths to which a military and police authority will go to protect itself from accountability. It was one thing for an individual soldier to attempt to molest her in a public convenience, but quite another for the state to illegally place her face, her identity, and what seems to have been a forced confession contradicting earlier statements in a video in public for all the world to see.

This is utter depravity.  This in itself is a kind of molestation that is far beyond the limits of conceivable credulity.  When the state uses its power and authority to destroy its citizens for no other reason than to protect that power and authority, that is entirely consistent with fascism and dictatorship.

There could clearly be no other motive but to defame and publicly humiliate her, to bring into question and defeat any allegations that might otherwise be made, and even more so, to place her life in danger, to force her from the community, because she has, through the video, implicated innocent friends and associates.

What more evidence is needed with her obvious detention and constant surveillance by the police, who had prevented her from meeting with legal counsel and talking with members of her family or anyone else in public?  Since when did the practice of detaining victims instead of criminals become acceptable civil procedure?  And then, denied access to legal counsel or parental supervision of a minor, what possible value could her testimony be at deposition before the Chief Justice Magistrate, since she had been in police custody the whole time and was to remain so?

And what plausible validity could there be to the story that she had been attacked and harassed by teenage boys after she came out of the public facility?  How could such an attack, which would have been in plain view, provoke a riot against the army, resulting in the killing of five people?  It has not been alleged that the army stepped in and beat up the young culprits unfairly and thereby provoked an attack by the citizens.  How is it possible that protective custody was needed from boys who engage in such childish antics or anyone else?  They should have been sent home with a note to their parents, and nothing more needed to be said about the incident.

Obviously the official story makes no credible sense to anyone who knows the facts. The whole leadership of Kashmiri resistance is either under house arrest or have been lodged in the police stations, because none of it adds up, and the authorities know it. The modus operandi is all too familiar.

In addition, the Army has clearly brought to a screeching halt what seems to have been a moderately successful pacification program with Hardwara, a town unduly charmed by all the freebies and handouts.  It is unlikely that the neighborhood boys will be out playing cricket with the soldiers anytime soon. Perhaps this is a wakeup call, both to the citizens and to the Army. Successful pacification was just an illusion, because the undercurrent of resistance has never really gone away.

We condemn the incident in strong terms.  It seems evident that the Army and the police both are culpable in a cover up, and what they are covering up would not be worth the effort unless it were sufficiently damning.

It is immediately incumbent upon the authorities to permit a fair and impartial investigation by an outside source.  If the Army is concerned about promoting good relations with Kashmiri communities, then only truth will serve that purpose.  It is in the best interests of everyone concerned that open and freely given testimony be permitted in any case where there are disputed facts or allegations.

Furthermore, however culpable the Army may be, whether in molesting the girl, or in making the identity of a minor known, draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act’ (AFSPA) and others have given total impunity to the Indian army and they are not accountable to anybody. These laws need to be repealed. Such laws make sense only when there is an open state of war existing between two countries.

By instituting such laws, India can only be seen as a foreign occupier and actually promotes a state of war with Kashmiris, which it has done for 69 years.  It is undeniably occupation when the rules of civil society are imposed from outside, freedom of expression is suppressed, and international laws, guidelines and resolutions are preempted.  It is occupation and state terrorism when justice is meted out spontaneously, on the spot, through the barrel of a gun.

Quite the contrary, the government of India claims sovereignty over Kashmir as being an integral part of its territory while simultaneously alleging that it is the world’s largest democracy.  Democracy implies the rule of law, not the rule of military might, which has towering bunkers scattered all over a community, from which the military is permitted at will to take pot shots at anyone in sight. Democracy implies legal process to sort out justice in disputes, not the use of terror to exploit an unarmed population.

There are numerous earlier incidents, when the army claimed that militants were involved in killings but later it was found that these killings were carried out by the army itself, among them, the Chattisingpora massacre, when 34 Sikhs were killed on March 20, 2000, a horrible event which occurred when former U.S. President Bill Clinton was visiting India. India immediately claimed that the killers were foreign militants. Later, it was proved that it was carried out by the Indian army.

Another notable incident was the Pathribal killing on March 25, 2000. India again claimed that it involved foreign militants.  However, 10 years later, on March 19, 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation told the Supreme Court of India that it was cold-blooded murder carried out by the Indian army.

Why should the United Nations, United States and world powers remain silent when the Indian army is involved in crimes against humanity? Don’t they know that their silence unwittingly has given a sense of total impunity to the Indian army?

Isn’t the demand of the people of Kashmir legitimate and recognized by the United Nations and international community?

Why should the world powers prefer trade and commerce to moral values and ethical principles?

Isn’t it a bad precedence to prefer trade to morality?

What is to be made of the tall slogans of President Obama when he said, “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis” (October 30, 2008)?  He still has 250 days to at least convey to both India and Pakistan the importance of the need to resolve the issue of Kashmir, which according to President Obama, is “in the interest of the two countries, region and the United States.”

Civil society can only be civil when those in power give more than lip service to the moral tenets which uphold it.

It is time, India, to withdraw your troops.  It is time to show your humanity and put some strength in those democratic principles which you allege to idealize.  It is time, world powers, to back up your words with deeds instead of just lip service and to truly lead in championing those values that have brought progress to the world community instead of selling them all for corporate profits.

Dr. Fai is the Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness and can be reached at:

1-202-607-6435 OR gnfai2003@yahoo.com

Kashmir: Urgency in dialogue process

 

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

March 25, 2015

“All of us remain concerned that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should be solved through peaceful negotiations and should be willing to lend all the strength we have to the resolution of this matter.” President Nelson Mandela at the NAM Summit – September 2, 1998

In matters of international conflict resolution, that can only imply the involvement of a third party mediator or facilitator. If Ashok and Ahmad can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together because they can’t agree on where the pieces go, then Sam, a specialist in eggshell reconstruction, should be called upon in order for differences to be resolved. Most importantly, without a third party’s impartial diligence in pursuing a settlement, breakdowns in lines of communication or other disputes that may arise will inevitably create barriers to resolution, and the process will fail. The side in the dispute which offers initiatives will always be seen as weak when both are out rattling their sabres; hence no progress can be made.

Although it seems that the UN would be the most ideal party to do so, it’s obvious that UN involvement needs acceptance from both Pakistan and India. India has made it clear that the UN’s monitoring of the Line of Control separating the two sides is itself unacceptable. Efforts to involve other major power brokers has achieved nothing, and most have alliances with one or the other of the two countries that would taint the process. The world powers can still persuade India and Pakistan to go back on their position in respect to the UN. Alternatively, they can suggest to both neighboring countries to simply agree that some other neutral party which perhaps professionally engages in conflict resolution might work between the two countries, creating an unbroken line of communication between them so that differences can in fact be resolved.

This mediator or facilitator should not be any party that is tied to any known national or international political agenda, whose funding should be derived independent of such interests, and which may pursue the resolution of this conflict objectively.

It would be the task of such an independent agency or a personality of an international stature to review solutions to the dispute which have garnered some attention and agreement in the past and to propose steps that would bring Pakistan and India together on points of alignment, with the full inclusion of the Kashmiris themselves. Since the future of Kashmir is at stake, it is vitally important that its own interests, however varied among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others, be a party to any discussions that are to take place.

Numerous proposals have been made in the past for resolving the Kashmir dispute which the neutral agency might take into consideration, such as that proposed by Sir Owen Dixon’s Plan in 1950, Ambassador Yusuf Buch’s Proposal in 2003, to Ambassador Kuldip Nayar’s Proposition in 2014.

There are several key issues that have been addressed in such proposals that need to be taken into consideration again.

1. Should all military operations cease and all troops from both countries be withdrawn?

2. What political, economic, national defense or social interests do Pakistan and India have in their respective regions of control in Kashmir that are important to retain?

3. Is their involvement in the power structure of a future Kashmir necessary to preserve such interests?

4. Should the long-term objective be complete sovereignty and independence for such a state, or should a power-sharing arrangement be sought with the countries now involved?

5. Should communal interests that divide these regions culturally and religiously be used to establish provincial or federalized boundaries in order to separate them politically?

6. Should the Chanab River be used as a boundary in making such a division?

7. Should the Line of Control be dissolved?

8. Does land or territory make a country or do people make a country? Which has greater priority in deciding Kashmir’s future?

9. Should the interests of the people who now live in Kashmir be given greater priority than geographic considerations of proximity to Pakistan or India or any other interests of those who live outside its boundaries?

10. Is peace possible if the interests and desires of the population inhabiting Kashmir are not given the highest priority?

11. Should valuable resources within Kashmir, such as water, which provide an essential need to all countries involved, be managed by a board or coordinating committee composed of members from all who benefit with international guarantees?

12. What examples of international conflict resolution may be used to identify successful pathways to resolving the conflict?

13. What are the benefits that would accrue to both India and Pakistan in resolving this dispute?

It is clear that resolving this dispute requires a careful evaluation of its many points of contention and addressing them one by one in a carefully drawn out process in which coming to an agreement on each sets the stage for moving on to the next. The most basic set of principles must be established and adhered to regarding human rights, the interests of the Kashmiris themselves, and the preservation of vital interests that both India and Pakistan have at stake, and then to proceed with steps toward objectives that result in a win-win solution for all.

Dr. Fai can be reached at: gnfai2003@yahoo.com

President Obama Can Help Bring Peace in South Asia

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Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

January 21, 2014

“We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis…” President Obama, October 30, 2008

Your planned visit to India has inspired hopes, in the hearts of Americans of Kashmiri origin, that your global statesmanship may move the frozen dispute over the status of Kashmir towards a settlement based on justice and rationality. We would hasten to add that while we are fully aware of the multiplicity of issues that you will be devoting your time and attention during your forthcoming visit to India, you may perhaps like to remember that Kashmir is not a new issue, having been on the agenda of and in the cognizance of the United Nations for nearly 68 years. Ironically, it is the only entity in the region of South Asia which has so far been denied the opportunity to determine its political future.

It has been most unfortunate that throughout the pendency of the dispute and especially since the uprising in 1989, India has taken full advantage of United States policy, regardless of the intent of that policy. Pronouncements emanating from the highest levels of the US government to the effect that India and Pakistan must settle the dispute bilaterally have been taken by Indian policy-makers as endorsement of their stand. They may not like the balancing statement that the United States regards the whole of Kashmir as disputed territory but they consider it as immaterial.

Equally distressing has been the reported canvassing by some Indian officials of the idea of autonomy for Kashmir within the Indian Union. Kashmiri leadership has the support of mass opinion for its stand that this idea  is totally unacceptable as, in addition to its inherent defects, it would be liable to revision or repeal by the Indian legislature. Unless a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, other than what is embodied in the jointly accepted resolutions of the Security Council, is incorporated in an international treaty or agreement with the expressed support of all states neighboring Kashmir, it will amount only to redesigning the dispute rather than settling it. Also in order for resolution of Kashmir dispute to be credible and lasting, the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir must be included in all future negotiations between India and Pakistan. We also believe that an appointment of a special envoy on Kashmir will go a long way to hasten the process of peace and stability in the region of South Asia – home to one fifth of total human race.

Our plea is based on confidence that the United States is sensitive to human rights situations regardless of the location of their occurrence . We have been deeply moved by reports of almost the entire population of major towns in Kashmir coming out on the streets demanding the fulfillment by the world community of the pledge embodied in the resolutions of the Security Council that they will be enabled to determine their own future. This massive, indigenous and peaceful upsurge defying suppression cannot be seen other than unmistakable expression of resentment by Kashmiris of the neglect of the human tragedy caused by the international community’s failure to resolve the dispute. We also view this as yet another indication of the yearning by Kashmiris for an amicable settlement of dispute so they can live in peace and prosperity.

Our hope that the Kashmir dispute will not be allowed to lead to a massive tragedy has been strengthened by statements you made in October, 2008. It underscored the United States interest in working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir issue in a “serious way” and as a result, remove the basis  of militant extremism in South Asia, and also the cause of the arms race between India and Pakistan.

We place our trust in the statesmanship of our President. It is not imaginable to us that you will in any way countenance any attempt to ignore or bypass the wishes of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Their determination has to be made by giving the people right to self-determination. It is obvious, that, if the people of any region of Jammu & Kashmir wish to stay either with India or with Pakistan or to choose to be independent of both, their will has to be fully respected.

Dr. Fai can be reached at; gnfai2003@yahoo.com

Bad for Business: India’s White Elephant Kashmir (Part II)

by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

ghulamnabifai_thumb.jpgUltimately the referendum in Scotland was held in a peaceful manner, and the people decided according to their own free will not to be an independent nation. This was undoubtedly a victory for democratic principles and universal values. The people of Kashmir do not want anything more than that. They want the same principle to be equally applicable to Kashmir. Let the people decide.

They want a transparent, free and fair election, devoid of rigging, manipulation and external coercion. They do not want the interference of either army, be it Indian or Pakistani. They want the demilitarization of Kashmir on either side of the Ceasefire Line before the referendum takes place. The people of Kashmir want what was promised to them by both India and Pakistan and agreed upon by the world community — an election where the people of Kashmir are free to exercise their right to self-determination, i.e., whether they want to be the part of India or Pakistan or want to become independent.

The people of Kashmir want what Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the founding Prime Minister of India wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on November 21, 1949, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”

What is good for goose should be good for the gander. If it is up to the people of Scotland to decide, as the Indian foreign minister says, then it should be up to the people of all zones of Jammu & Kashmir to decide as well.

All neutral reporters who have visited Kashmir say that the word referendum is common on the lips of Kashmiris and it stirs up excitement among them. Professor Richard Price, a well-known British historian says, “If Kashmir somehow secured a vote for its independence, the people would probably vote to secede.” Yes, probably, but one thing should be clear: whatever the outcome of the referendum –- be it India, Pakistan or independence — provided it is conducted, monitored and supervised by an internationally neutral agency, it must be binding and must be acceptable to all parties – India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership.

On Sunday November 9, 2014 Catalans, like the Scots, also voted in a referendum for independence from Spain. These are two instances in which people believed that their own uniqueness deserved not only autonomy but sovereignty. Both countries have a form of “devolved” government in which they have some control over their affairs. And while the Scottish referendum had legal force and recognition, the Catalonian referendum did not and was officially banned by the central government and its courts. Undoubtedly, with more than 80% voting in favor of independence, the matter will be given greater attention by Spanish authorities. Nevertheless, both proceeded without violence or relative interference from the central government. The balloting was conducted peacefully, which allowed people to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal.

However, in Kashmir, which now, at least in theory, supposedly enjoys a semi-autonomous status as well, and has a several decades-old tradition of demanding a referendum, anyone who makes such an effort to hold a plebiscite would probably be executed on charges of sedition by the government. The mere mention of the word independence is likely to get you shot by troops who may use their own discretion to decide whether or not you are a threat to the integrity of India’s claim over that territory. Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize-winning novelist of India, faced sedition charges in 2010 simply because she said , “the disputed territory of Kashmir is not an integral part of India.” Yet, in acquiring such control after a war with Pakistan, India agreed in 1948 to allow such a plebiscite or referendum to take place. It has never happened.

Kashmir and India share a common heritage, and yet both have their own unique qualities which make them different. Just as siblings have differences that demand that each be given their own private space, Kashmir and India are similar. Were India to allow Kashmir its independence, both sides would be much more accepting of their differences, and both might share in the cultural and economic values that both have to offer in a marriage of mutual cooperation that supports each other’s identity. Today, only divorce is on the table.

It was for the very same reasons that when Britain gave India her independence that Pakistan was created as a separate country to give both Hindus and Muslims their own unique cultural identity and space. Kashmir was somehow caught in the middle, and was illegally acceded to India by its Maharajah against the wishes of its people and in violation of the rules governing the Partition of India with the breakup of the British Indian empire.

However, there is still great opportunity for peace in Kashmir, but it cannot occur unless the people of Kashmir are permitted to have their own identity and chart their own course. The referendum in Scotland outlines the ideal path for that to take place.

Fundamentally it is a win-win solution for both India and Kashmir, and peace might finally come to the Ceasefire Line with Pakistan. India needs greater allocation of its resources to solving its internal problems of poverty, disease and corruption. Allowing a peaceful resolution to this long festering problem with Kashmir would be a bold step toward that goal, toward true democracy, and would be a shining light unto the world of one country’s willingness to do the right thing.

Concluded.

Dr. Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness.

He can be reached at 202-607-6435 OR gnfai2003@yahoo.com

http://www.kashmirawareness.org

Bad for Business: India’s White Elephant Kashmir

ghulamnabifai_thumb.jpgWashington, D.C. January 3, 2014. “It is nothing less than astounding that intelligent men who are charged with the responsibility of leading a country cannot comprehend that spending billions of dollars to maintain possession of a very small disputed territory to its north with millions of troops at the expense of their own national quality of life makes any sense at all. While millions of Indians don’t even have a toilet (As Prime Minister Modi said, “My real thought is to first have toilets and then temples”) and live in squalor in cardboard shelters, the government feeds off their meager incomes in order to possess and control a nation that itself is kept in a dire state economically and cannot possibly pay any return on such an investment,” said Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness.

“Moody’s has a Baa3 rating on India, the lowest investment-grade rating assigned by the company. India’s government debt to GDP ratio is the highest among BRICS nations and major developing countries at 67.9 in 2013, compared with 60.3 for Brazil, 42.9 for the Philippines, 24.5 for Indonesia and 34.4 for Turkey. The Indian financial system’s ability to absorb rising government debt has been diminished significantly as a result of low economic growth and high inflation.”

“Primarily due to energy needs, India is running an overall trade deficit of 7%, Yet, at $8.2 billion expenditures annually, India insists upon being the world’s largest importer of arms, while 205 of its 640 Districts are afflicted by political violence and unrest. This has been going on for years, and military solutions obviously offer no solutions. This, supposedly the world’s largest democracy, does not have its own house in order,” Fai added.

“Indeed,” the South Asia Terrorism Portal, in its 2014 report on India, says, “the lackadaisical, often corruption-led approach to India’s security is everywhere in evidence, with crucial projects, acquisitions and plans delayed beyond measure, or implemented in a fitful manner that destroys the very possibility of their efficacy in securing intended ends…..More than five years after the debacle in Mumbai, and the many political declarations of determination and intent, capacity augmentation has been no more than marginal, and most state agencies continue to struggle with manpower, technology and resource deficits that are little different from the situation in 2008.”

Common corporate strategy is to cut production and services that are not profitable and maintain those that are, so that the company maintains its own health and vitality and has no red ink. The bottom line for India is that it needs to shrink rather than expand, if it is going to be a profitable business.

Fai stressed that “Releasing the chains of bondage it holds on Kashmir would be a first logical step in that direction. It’s first priority should be to develop quality of life for the people now within its borders, so that they can become productive citizens and add to the wealth of the nation. Not only does it keep its own people barely hanging on to survival, it ravages Kashmir with destructive measures and policies that serve no one. The desire to possess Kashmir is nothing but a fantasy, an extremely poor business decision, and an outrageous ego trip.”

This not only humanitarian but sound business objective would involve nothing more than to allow Kashmir to hold the long-overdue referendum it was promised 67 years ago to decide whether it prefers sovereignty over India’s dominance. The persistent resistance of Kashmiris is demonstrated by the fact that 20 of its 22 districts suffered some form of political unrest in the past year. That’s an expense that India cannot afford, obviously cannot manage, and needs to shed as quickly as possible.

The example of how to do that has just been shown. The peaceful referendum held September 18, 2104 in Scotland was a great inspiration to Kashmiris. After expressing horror at the prospect of Britain’s breakup, it is ironic that even Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj corrected herself by saying “It is up to the people of Scotland to decide.” Really? No mention of Kashmir, of course. Good for the goose but not for the gander.

Were India to allow a referendum in Kashmir, it would prove to the world that it too is a great democratic country, and not the persistent and militaristic oppressor that it has become.

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai can be reached at 202-607-6435 OR gnfai2003@yahoo.com

Kashmir Beyond Platitudes: The Responsibility to Protect

ghulamnabifai_thumb.jpgDr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

Secretary general

World Kashmir Awareness

October 25, 2014

Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream / I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been / To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen / They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed…. –lyrics by Jimmy Page from the song Kashmir, performed by Led Zeppelin

Why, after 67 years of dispute, is the question of Kashmir, land of the “gentle race,” still lurking in the shadows of international relations, still unresolved, despite its seemingly relative unimportance to global interests in matters of resources and international trade?

Reasons for the conflict over Kashmir are argued among contenders on a number of points, more often than not to serve globalist interests rather than the fundamental needs or desires of the Kashmiris themselves. Why, after 67 years, the problem continues to fester is the challenge those who talk of peace, stability, and democratic rights must sooner or later confront.

The most pertinent evidence of that conflict is that India has in recent years had as many as 700,000 military and paramilitary forces stationed on a piece of land no larger than the state of Tennessee. By comparison, during the height of the Iraq war, in October 2007, U.S. Troop strength was only a little over 166,000. Iraq compares in size to the state of California. Obviously, the number of troops stationed in Kashmir is highly significant. There is no war taking place there. There is no imminent external threat of a foreign invader, with troops amassed at its border. Why so many troops?
India frequently justifies its military presence, first, by asserting that Kashmir is an ‘integral part’ of India, and, second, that Pakistan, just across the border, is a threat. Both are nuclear-armed, and cross-border skirmishes occur periodically among a handful of troops stationed along the UN-established Cease-fire Line. However, to whatever extent such a threat exists, such an enormous volume of troops is well beyond whatever need there might be to resist such incursions. The best way to make sure that there is no such infiltration is to let the United Nations be allowed to monitor the Cease-fire Line.

“The barrier itself consists of double-row of fencing and concertina wire eight to twelve feet (2.4–3.7 m) in height, and is electrified and connected to a network of motion sensors, thermal imaging devices, lighting systems and alarms. They act as “fast alert signals” to the Indian troops who can be alerted and ambush the infiltrators trying to sneak in. The small stretch of land between the rows of fencing is mined with thousands of landmines.” Wikipedia

The truth is that the people of Kashmir themselves have always been hostile to the presence of India’s troops on their soil and have resisted to such oppression, and over hundred thousand Kashmiris have died within the past 22 years alone. Long standing agreements in place have in fact afforded the Kashmiri people the right to determine their own destiny.

What we have, then, is a case of a large country bullying a small nation into submission in violation of not only their right to sovereignty but international agreements and two dozen UN resolutions giving them the right to determine their own political fate. The purpose of so many troops stationed in this small country is for no other purpose but blatant oppression. Their presences make Kashmir the largest army concentration anywhere in the world.

You would think that the international community would be up in arms over such abuse, particularly in view of the fact that the Kashmiris have shown an iron determination to resist tens of thousands of killings, and thousands of rapes, disappearances and torture inflicted upon the population at the hands of these foreign occupiers.

In a more idealistic mood and swept up in the rhetoric of election campaigning, on October 30, 2008, on the eve of his election, President Barack Obama did, in one his rare moments of candor on the issue, address the problems of Kashmir. “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India, “he announced,” and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis.” It wasn’t long after Obama’s newly anointed status, however, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in New Delhi shuffling cards, engaging in toasts, and making deals on Boeing aircraft. Little more, if anything, was ever said about Kashmir. Trade between India and the U.S. has since become a $100 billion dollar business, with growth estimated in the near term as high as $500 billion.

Given such platitudes, while American foreign policy is supposed to be grounded on moral values, democratic ideals and universal principles, it would appear that wherever the crowd of commercial interests get VIP status, such ideals and principles are easily set aside, relegated to the back of the room, where it’s standing room only. Money talks; ideals walk. Situation ethics is the name of the play.

It is quite conspicuous that the world powers feel awkward and unequipped to intervene in any international conflict because the country concerned is too powerful and does not listen to morals and ethics when everyone has his wallet on the table. In addition, India’s refusal to accept international assistance for the recent flood seems to shut the door on any kind of international dialogue regarding Kashmir. The Kashmiris are shut in, and the outside world out.

Doesn’t the world community recognize such double standards? How is international credibility and trust engendered by such behavior? For whom does this bell toll but for last vestiges of all that we hold dear, while the corrupt and cynical become more emboldened, and does it not sow the seeds of hatred and deeper more lasting conflict among those who suffer because of it?

“Bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones… people should be able to choose their own future,” President Barack Obama said, when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2014. “Too often, ” he added, “we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so.”

It would have been nice if he had mentioned Kashmir in the same breath. However, speeches by a U.S. President on foreign policy usually engage issues that are relative to immediate concerns and objectives, and he seemed much more interested in pointing fingers at Russia for supporting the separatist fight in Ukraine and the need to impose sanctions. “America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy.” he said. “We will reinforce our NATO allies, and uphold our commitment to collective defense. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth.”

So while the U.S. imposes sanctions on Russia for interfering in stability and peace in a country more than 5,000 miles away which is of no strategic pertinence to American safety or freedoms, it engages in trade with India and says nothing about India’s failure to enforce “international norms” where it is apparently inconvenient to do so. India’s transgressions in Kashmir are clearly far more relevant to the issue of international norms, given their history, than anything now occurring in Eastern Europe.

If, in Indian Prime Minister Modi’s address to the same United Nations forum in September 2014, he proposed that “We should put aside our differences and mount a concerted international effort to combat terrorism and extremism, ” then perhaps he ought to look rather carefully into the mirror of his own country’s actions in Kashmir. He went so far as to say, “As a symbol of this effort, I urge you to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism….We should work together to ensure that all countries observe international rules and norms.”
A grand statement, to be sure, but it has little credibility in the face of persistent policies by India against the defenseless people of Kashmir. Nevertheless, we accept Prime Minister Modi’s challenge, “Our efforts must begin here – in the United Nations.” The point of departure for resolving Kashmir dispute has to be the same – to go back, yes, back to the United Nations which has prescribed the resolution of the Kashmir problem through a democratic method of a free and fair plebiscite.

Perhaps the Prime Minister might indeed demonstrate his sincerity by also withdrawing troops from Kashmir. The presence of such a large number inevitably provokes unnecessary incidents of violence which further enflames the populace, serves as an excuse for lockdowns and curfews that last days at a time, and makes absolutely no sense at all, particularly now that the country has been deeply burdened with unimaginable social and economic losses as a result of the worst flood that Kashmir has ever experienced in its recorded history. The soldiers stood by, equipped with substantial resources, making selective rescue operations, and left the Kashmiris — many just teenagers in small makeshift rafts — to fend for themselves.

And how do the world powers, the U.S. among them, justify the inclusion of India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council when all the world sees that it is in violation of the UN’s own charter? This makes the mockery of the international obligations.

On the other side of this coin, we have Pakistan, which also controls one third of Kashmir. The two countries have traded barbs and bullets over possession of this land for over six decades.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Ministry of Pakistan articulated his country’s policy on September 26, 2014 during his speech at the United Nations, “The core issue of Jammu and Kashmir has to be resolved. This is the responsibility of the international community. We cannot draw a veil on the issue of Kashmir, until it is addressed in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

But his advisor, Mr. Sartaj Aziz was extremely cautious and reluctant even to accept this principle policy of Pakistan. He was unenthusiastic and apathetic when he said on September 28, 2014, that the timing of a meeting between Hurriyat leaders and Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit was “probably not right.” The problem apparently was that talks on a broader level between India and Pakistan had not been initiated, and that setting such an agenda with the Kashmiri resistance movement was premature. He was equally apologetic and repentant by saying “I think if the request (from India) had come earlier…..then probably it could have been reconsidered.” Obviously, if Pakistan wants to be taken serious by the world powers, then she has to have a strategic vision and unified approach for the Kashmir dispute. Its policy must be based on solid foundation and not on a shaky one.

Isn’t it also time that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations brings the situation in Kashmir to the attention of the Security Council under the provision of the Article 99 of the United Nations Charter. It is here in the region of South Asia that the two nuclear powers have been eyeball to eyeball for the last four weeks? The Article 99 authorizes the Secretary General to ‘bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security’.

Indeed, the United Nations doctrine of the principle of ‘responsibility to protect,’ the international understanding to intervene to stop atrocities from taking place, was adopted at the 2005 World Summit. All the heads of State and government at the 2005 World Summit, without reservation, committed to the doctrine, and subsequent unanimous adoptions of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions reaffirmed the principle.

“Sometimes known as ‘R2P’ – the doctrine holds States responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity, requiring the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.

Ms. Vannina Maestracci, spokesperson of Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations said on October 9, 2014 that the Secretary General “encourages the governments of India and Pakistan to resolve all differences through dialogue and to engage constructively to find a long-term solution for peace and stability in Kashmir.”

“Encouragement” to India and Pakistan through numerous resolutions have been taking place for the last 67 years. Perhaps it is time that the authority entrusted to the United Nations be taken a little more seriously.

Lastly, the world powers and the saner elements in both India and Pakistan need to realize that the bilateral talks between India and Pakistan have always remained barren. And trilateral dialogue between Governments of India, Pakistan and the leadership of Kashmir — without any precondition from any side — is the only way to resolve the issue of Kashmir once for all. Participation of Kashmiri leadership in the dialogue process is the sine qua non that will help to achieve the lasting peace and tranquility in the region of South Asia.

Dr. Fai can be reached at: gnfai2003@yahoo.com