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Kashmir’s killing fields

M Ziauddin
Eight civilians were killed and another two dozen injured last Sunday when violence broke out during voting in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The intifada leaders had called for a boycott of the election held to fill a seat in the Indian Lok Sabha, left vacant on resignation of a member as a statement against India’s IOK agenda. The turnout was at a record low of only 7 percent.What is happening in the IOK today is a classic case of the failure of India’s democracy. No true democracy would have failed to win, in 70 long years, hearts and minds of a handful of people seeking their fundamental right to self-determine their political fate. The alienation in the IOK seems to have multiplied manifold in the face of highly tyrannical policies of a Hindutva-dominated Bharat against its religious minorities, especially the Indian Muslims.New Delhi seems to have turned what in essence was a bilateral dispute with Pakistan into a bloody domestic problem of gigantic proportion as it keeps on depriving the people of IOK the independence that India’s Constitution had granted them under Article 370. Today, the IOK is being treated by New Delhi as its colony forcibly occupied by armed to the teeth Indian troops, numbering perhaps nearly 700,000.India largely wasted a decade of uneasy quiet, imagining that perhaps peace had returned to the Valley. And in the years since 2008, as anger has built up, it has shown itself bereft of any ideas other than those used to quell militancy in the 1990s.As they say when Nature wishes to destroy someone, it deprives them of their marbles. Perhaps, this is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had started talking openly about India’s designs to create unrest in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, in retaliation for what he believes are Pakistan’s attempts at fomenting trouble in IOK through non-state actors. This has led him directly to the Kulbhushan Yadhav embarrassment. The recent disappearance of a retired Pakistan Army officer, Lt. Col Habib, from Nepal also seems to be the handiwork of India’s RAW.Modi fought the IOK polls in late 2014 purely on religious basis, missing the majority in the ‘state’ assembly by only three seats with the Peoples Democratic Party of late Mufti Sayeed capturing 28 seats against BJP’s 25. Modi was, therefore, forced to enter into a PDP-led coalition government on the condition that he would not try to upset the existing constitutional arrangement between IOK and India through any backdoor (i.e. forcible shift in the demographic balance of the Muslim majority Valley). But Modi did try, rather blatantly, to force a demographic change in the Valley by encouraging Pandits from the Jammu region and non-Muslim Kashmiris, who had migrated to India over the last several years, to return and settle in the Valley by purchasing property in Muslim majority parts.This had actually triggered the first phase of current Intifada in the IOK which has now turned into a strident cry for independence. But New Delhi continues to punish the IOK Muslim majority by unleashing its troops on unarmed civilians for what Modi calls their ‘intransigence’. The barefaced killing of the youthful freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, had only served as the last straw on the camel’s back. It’s unlikely that our security establishment has not yet caught on to what India is up to since Uri: ganging up along with Afghanistan against Islamabad at the Heart of Asia Conference held recently in New Delhi and failing in its attempts to do the same at the last BRICs summit; boycotting the scheduled SAARC summit and taking along with it Afghanistan, Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka and Bhutan; initiating a failed signature campaign urging US legislators to declare Pakistan a terror-sponsoring country; refusing to let Indian national team play cricket with Pakistan national team at any level or in any form of the game; heating up the Line of Control (LoC) and violating ceasefire along the working boundary; claiming ‘successful’ surgical strike across the LoC that never happened; and threatening lower riparian Pakistan with abandoning the age-old Indus Water Treaty (IWT) unilaterally.

Lately, India has been using a combination of hard- and soft-power, in an almost risk-free measure, to politically isolate Pakistan and compel it to abandon what New Delhi believes to be Islamabad’s official policy of using the so-called ‘non-state actors’ in the IOK.

Our security establishment knows this very well, and hopefully also knows how to meet this challenge without getting provoked into doing something drastic enough to attract international censure. The latter may only re-enforce the Indian case for getting Pakistan declared as a terror sponsoring state.

However, the tension is so taut that it could snap any time leading to the unthinkable – a nuclear clash. On this score, the security strategists of the two countries would do well to analyse from their own respective perspectives the conclusions arrived at by George Perkovich, vice president for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Toby Dalton, co-director of Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in their co-authored book Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism.

Here is a relevant excerpt from the last chapter (conclusion) of the book: “India and Pakistan are approaching rough symmetry at three levels of competition: sub-conventional, conventional, and nuclear. One of the countries may be more capable in one or more of these domains, but each has now demonstrated enough capability in all three domains to deny the other the confidence that it can prevail at any level of this violent competition without suffering more costs than gains . . . But at the same time, the existence of basic balance creates an opportunity for leaders to take steps to stabilise and pacify the Indo-Pak competition. Diplomacy and deal-making cannot shift balances of power and deterrence, but they can solidify them through explicit agreements that clarify expectations and standards of behavior. Such agreements – essentially, negotiated accommodations – raise the stakes for any authorities that would subsequently violate them.” (PP276).

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