Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aman Ki Asha: South Asians Aspire For Peace

Guest Post By Rakesh Mani

It's one of the most remarkable campaigns the subcontinent has seen: a joint peace initiative run by the Times of India, India's most powerful media empire, and the Jang group, Pakistan's most influential media group. Their joint 'Aman ki Asha' (Hope for Peace) initiative looks to develop a stronger Track II channel in the diplomatic and cultural relations between India and Pakistan.

The Urdu language Jang newspaper's involvement is relevant, and crucial, although the Jang Group's English language The News is also involved. However, it is probably the vernacular Jang reader who needs to be made more open to establishing a rapport with India. The case of the linguistic divide is less pronounced in India. Readers of the English press and vernacular press often share similar opinions on relations with Pakistan.

The criticisms about such civilian initiatives are probably fair: the assortment of cricketers, musicians and matinee idols who are lending their names and faces to the cause have little influence in either country. As long as the politicians and mandarins in India's establishment and the military men and mullahs in Pakistan's power elite are not involved, what difference does it all really make?

Given this reality, it is fair to assume that such a concerted initiative must have the approval of those who matter in Delhi and Islamabad, and possibly in Washington as well. Clearly the intent is to build a strong peace constituency among the masses in both countries for a pact that's being made in the highest echelons. Because war, in its adversity, unifies nations while peace divides them and gives rise to arguments about the price.

Negotiations on Kashmir have never gotten anywhere because neither country has been willing to compromise. For years, we have heard the familiar volley of archaic recriminations; with India refusing to budge from the status quo, and Pakistan looking to significantly alter it. Clearly both countries, at some point, will have to make some compromises to build peace. The gradual process of selling that compromise to their respective electorates has now begun in earnest.

Indians and Pakistanis, raised on animosity and mutual suspicion, now have to be programmed to yearn for peace. At any cost.

There have always been romantics and idealists in both countries who spoke fondly of their neighbor and lobbied for peace. But these constituencies were always relegated to peripheral positions by realist viewpoints that stressed strategic interest. And today, after years of opposing interests, we have a situation where the strategic interests of India and Pakistan seem to coincide.

The galaxy of strategic stars in the subcontinent is now aligned for peace. And things are moving quickly.

A few days ago, the governments of India and Pakistan announced that their foreign secretaries will meet for talks at the end of February to resume the formal dialogue on a number of key issues, including Kashmir. In an apparently unrelated gesture, India's Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that the scores of Indian militants from Kashmir who have crossed into Pakistani territory should be allowed to return to India without punishment.

It is in New Delhi's interest to stabilize the democratic regime in Pakistan, to prevent a nightmare scenario: a million Pakistani refugees, fleeing a theocratic Taliban-dominated country, pounding the gates at Wagah. It's a real threat, with a precedent. The Indian government hasn't forgotten the 1971 crisis, when millions of Bengali refugees flooded into West Bengal from erstwhile East Pakistan. Almost forty years ago, the question was economic and humanitarian.

Today, it's a catch-22: let the Pakistani refugees in, and you run the risk of a phalanx of anti-India militants being camouflaged among them; refuse them entry, and it becomes horrible publicity for a country that fancies itself a responsible, emerging superpower.

Islamabad, on the other hand, feels that the time is ripe to pressure Delhi into a settlement. With Washington leaning on them heavily for support in the war on terror, their approach will be to convince the Americans that they can't fight the battle on their Western border when there are Indian guns being pointed at their back in the East.

One suspects that Manmohan Singh, having seen the nuclear deal through in his first term, is looking to make a settlement on Kashmir his foreign policy priority for the UPA's second term in office. If all goes well, each player in the love triangle has their strategic interests fulfilled and becomes a sure shot for the Nobel Peace Prize.

A fine feather in their caps, but also the possibility of a final and lasting peace in a subcontinent that has been saddled with sorrow and disquiet for decades.


The writer is a 2009 Teach For India fellow, and a writer and columnist for a variety of publications. Email: rakesh.mani@ gmail.com

Related Links:

Case For Resuming India-Pakistan Talks

India's Sane Voice Warns Against Smugness

Hindutva Terror to Spark India-Pakistan War?

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

India and Pakistan Compared in 2010

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Middle Class Clout Rising in Pakistan

US Afghan Exit: Trigger For India-Pakistan Talks?

China's Growing Role in Kashmir

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It is in New Delhi's interest to stabilize the democratic regime in Pakistan, to prevent a nightmare scenario: a million Pakistani refugees, fleeing a theocratic Taliban-dominated country, pounding the gates at Wagah. It's a real threat, with a precedent. The Indian government hasn't forgotten the 1971 crisis, when millions of Bengali refugees flooded into West Bengal from erstwhile East Pakistan. Almost forty years ago, the question was economic and humanitarian.

Today, it's a catch-22: let the Pakistani refugees in, and you run the risk of a phalanx of anti-India militants being camouflaged among them; refuse them entry, and it becomes horrible publicity for a country that fancies itself a responsible, emerging superpower."

Purely from an indian point of view this is a blackmail. So I guess it pays to be a failed nation.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "So I guess it pays to be a failed nation."

Talking about failed nations, India is at least as failed a nation as Pakistan, if not more so.

Not unlike North Korea, India is engaged in a massive arms buildup while half of its children are near starvation.

Over 10% of Indian territory is beyond the control of the state and 100,000 troops are engaged in Operation Greenhunt to regain state control of large swaths of land in central and eastern India.

Here's a link to video clip of Dalrymple comparing India and Pakistan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7KfEqikeUQ

Anonymous said...

A strong Pakistan is NOT in India's interest just like a strong India is NOT in PAkistan's interest.

after they collapse fence and mine the border and use the blue water navy to sink any boat that enters our waters.
Its tough but this is the real world.
The thing is Pakistan as a state and most Pakistanis as a people only want peace when they have a severe internal crisis like these days the moment they are even semi stable they want Kashmir,jihad,etc etc.
Its about the the Indian govt grew a spine and set the record straight peace on our terms(LOC as international border and dismantling of terrorist camps in Pakistan) or no peace at all they mess with us in Kashmir we'll give it back in Balochistan,NWFP etc,we can sustain our military budget and grow at 7% + they can't!! Its that simple we just have to wear them out!

Data Cruncher said...

"Talking about failed nations, India is at least as failed a nation as Pakistan, if not more so. "

So why in its 62 yrs history a situation never came when Indians flooded to east or west pakistan as refugees. For India it already happened in 1971 and now you are predicting another one. Tells who is failed or not, right?

Mr. Riaz, I think you were half asleep when you posted this, otherwise I can't think of one reason why a person who proudly believes that Pakistan is as much successful as India is, would post
this.

For every Darlylampr, there is a failed nation index in which Pak is at proud #9, while India is at #87. Wonder why you don't consider that.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "So why in its 62 yrs history a situation never came when Indians flooded to east or west pakistan as refugees."

In addition to the million of Muslim refugees from India who are now settled in Pakistan, UNHCR reports that there are 1.5m Kashmiri refugees in Pakistan.

"I think you were half asleep when you posted this..."

As a regular reader of this blog, you should by now realize that I often publish guest posts by authors who I don't necessarily agree with but I share their goal of harmonious coexistence and peace in South Asia that will be beneficial to the peoples of both India and Pakistan.


DC: "For every Darlylampr, there is a failed nation index in which Pak is at proud #9, while India is at #87. Wonder why you don't consider that."

This myth about Pakistan being a failed state is being pushed by people who are either ignorant about Pakistan, or have an ax to grind.

Dalrymple, a self-declared Indophile, is not alone in rejecting the myth of Pak being a failed state. Others who know South Asia and other parts of the world, such as Prof Juan Cole, Peter Bergen,
and others.

Riaz Haq said...

The biggest cost of the policy of confrontation backed up by a massive military buildup by India is already being paid by the most vulnerable Indians whose numbers exceed the poor, hungry and illiterate people anywhere else in the world.

One out of every three illiterate adults in the world is an Indian, according to UNESCO.

One out of very two hungry persons in the world is an Indian, according to World Food Program.

Almost one out of two Indians lives below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.

And yet, India spends $30 billion on defense, and just increased the defense budget by 32% this year.

Here are some more recent comparative indicators in South Asia:

Poverty:

Population living under $1.25 a day - India: 41.6% Pakistan: 22.6% Source: UNDP

Underweight Children Under Five (in percent) Pakistan 38% India 46% Source: UNICEF

Life expectancy at birth (years), 2007 India: 63.4 Pakistan: 66.2 Source: HDR2009

Education:

Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, male Pak istan: 80% India 87% Source: UNICEF

Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, female Pak istan 60% India 77% Source: UNICEF

Economics:

GDP per capita (US$), 2008 Pak:$1000-1022 India $1017-1100

Child Protection:

Child marriage under 15-years ; 1998–2007*, total Pak istan - 32% India - 47% Source: UNICEF

Under-5 mortality rate per 1000 live births (2007), Value Pakistan - 90 India 72 Source: UNICEF

In spite of the grim statistics above, India is ranked the fourth biggest military spender in terms of purchasing power parity.

Data Cruncher said...

"This myth about Pakistan being a failed state is being pushed by people who are either ignorant about Pakistan, or have an ax to grind. "

People!!! Fundforpeace.org is the organization which lists out failed state index, where pak is in top 10.

Also if an ax to grind is the reason, why can't it be true for India.

Objectively speaking, chances of William Dalrymple having an axe to grind against India is far more than that of an organization having an axe to grind against pak.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "Objectively speaking, chances of William Dalrymple having an axe to grind against India is far more than that of an organization having an axe to grind against pak. "

Your argument is not just with me or Dalymple, a self-described Indophile who has lived in India and written about India in glowing terms for years.

Your argument is also with many other knowledgeable analysts and scholars like Prof Juan Cole of U Mich and Peter Bergen of CNN.

Data Cruncher said...

"Your argument is not just with me or Dalymple, a self-described Indophile who has lived in India and written about India in glowing terms for years.

Your argument is also with many other knowledgeable analysts and scholars like Prof Juan Cole of U Mich and Peter Bergen of CNN."

And there are more number of people who say the opposite about india vs Pakistan. You don't seem to consider that.


That's why Failed Nation Index is taken more seriously since it is coming from organization and not individuals.

Contemptuously dismissing all this as agenda/propaganda of people with vested interest is no different than majority of Pakistanis considering 9/11 as a jewish and Bush plot.

Riaz Haq said...

DC: "That's why Failed Nation Index is taken more seriously since it is coming from organization and not individuals."

Who takes it seriously? You? And why do you take it so seriously? Is it an objective measure of data like the number of poor and hungry people? Or is it some contrived index based entirely on perceptions?

Do any serious analysts challenge the poverty and hunger figures for India? Absolutely not! Even Indian officials agree with the data on hunger and poverty and malnutrition.

Do any serious analysts challenge Pakistan's place on failed state index? Absolutely! Not just one, many analysts do!

And what do organizations consist of? Of individuals? Right? And who are these nameless, faceless individuals who put together this index? Are they more or less qualified in their knowledge and assessment of all the nations on the list than the individuals I mentioned?

Let's be rational, rather than simply repeat some abstract figure of "failed state index" without understanding what constitutes a failed or failing state. Read the arguments of each to decide whether the subjective perceptions are valid.

Most modern nation-states are run by permanent bureaucracies consisting of career civil servants to run day-to-day government, tax collectors to generate resources for the state, and police to maintain internal security, and military to defend against both internal and external threats. Politicians come and ago, but the permanent state functionaries maintain the state functions. Pakistan as its career bureaucrats, tax collectors, police force and military to ensure it does not fail.

Read some of the arguments by people who believe Pakistan is nowhere near being failed state, regardless of any hyperbole from any organization or analysts who know very little about Pakistan.

Saurav said...

Why argue about objectivity or subjectivity of things and numbers? In due course of time, we will know as to who turns out to be a failed state. I have to praise Mr. Haq for being hopelessly optimistic about Pakistan that too sitting in America and the desis arguing with him otherwise :-)

Anonymous said...

Riaz Sb.

On one hand Aman Ki Asha is a great idea, it is time for ordinary people of Pakistan and India to take the matters into their own hands. However, I do not see any future for these efforts. The problem is that Indian is an artificially created nation. For a nation to exist it must have some common element (other that geography). So keep this artificial country together India needs enemies. That is exactly why India has not solved any border issue with any neighbor.

Zamir

Riaz Haq said...

Zamir Sahib: "So keep this artificial country together India needs enemies. That is exactly why India has not solved any border issue with any neighbor

Given the many ethnic, regional, religious and caste fault lines running through the length and breadth of India, there have long been questions raised about India's identity as a nation. Speaking about it last April, the US South Asia expert Stephen Cohen of Brookings Institution said, " But there is no all-Indian Hindu identity—India is riven by caste and linguistic differences, and Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar are more relevant rallying points for more Indians than any Hindu caste or sect, let alone the Sanskritized Hindi that is officially promulgated".

Nationhood is not very old concept. It has come in vogue no more than a couple of centuries ago. Before that it was allegiance to cities or tribes etc. brought together by force of arms under great empires such as Roman, British, Russian, Omayyad, Abbasid, Ottomans, etc. When these empires fell, anarchy and violence often ensued that took a terrible toll on many of their components.

Nationhood is a concept that is usually more psychological than physical. Name any nation, and you'll see differences in ethnicity, tribe, caste, culture, religion, sects, etc etc. Symbols of nationhood such as national anthems, flags, speeches etc are usually manufactured, as is the rhetoric via "national" media to hold the nations together. But what practically holds them together is a sense of shared tangible interest and fear of outside "enemies".

In Pakistan's case, military and A-bomb are important, but what is even more important is a realization of some real tangible benefits for its component groups from being one nation, and the fear of the terrible consequences of its break-up.

Just having "outside" enemies, real or imagined, is not enough for either India or Pakistan. Shared tangible interest is absolutely essential to maintain unity of any modern nation state.

Data Cruncher said...

zamir, both India and Pak is a modern concept created by British. So that extent both are 'artifical entity'. History books will show that there was never a common king of both Delhi and Madras (Chennai).

One can even argue that creation of Pakistan itself was wrong and Mountbatten, before leaving Delhi said that West and East pakistan have nothing in common and would not lost even 25 yrs (this was mentioned in Freedom at Midnight). He was off the mark by only 1 yr.

anoop said...

@Data Cruncher,

You are right. India and Indians have many different Identities. Democracy is the only system that works. The good thing is Democracy is the best system in the world too.

Riaz is also right when he quotes that Sachin Tendulkar and Aishwarya Rai are examples of Identities in modern India. That is why India has been stable since its creation. The Indian constitution says, whoever who resides in India is an Indian. That is the right approach. We should be an inclusive country and our Identity should not based on any Religion or Language or any other factor. We have seen what Identity can do to people in pre-partition of Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Haq Sb.

The definition of nationalism in its present form may be a couple of hundred years old, but the concept has existed for a long period of time. If you think about the fact the Greek city states used to fight against each other, for them the city was the nation. Similarly for tribes, their tribes were nations. The problem with India is that it’s nationhood was created by a colonial power. If you look at South Asia’s history, most this area was united only thrice. First by Chandargupt Muria’s grandson Ashoka, who, in the war of Kalinga killed so many people that it horrified him and he converted to Budhism. Moghuls were the second to unite South Asia as a unit and British were the last uniters. In all these cases the unity was forced not voluntary. It was a Bengali nationalist leader (can’t remember the name right now), who said in 1920s that the people of India have united in hatred of their colonial masters and once the British leave this bond will not survive. After 1947 India has used every possible method to keep itself united and hatred/fear of neighbors was a part. As ZAB once wrote (in his book the myth of independence) that it is the hatred of Pakistan that has kept India united. You mentioned that Ash and Tendulkar define India, but George Friedman has totally ignored India and China in his book “the next 100 years”. He was asked about this in an interview and he said that India is multi-nation state that has been united as a governing unit and these nations will keep on fighting against each other for the foreseeable future.

The case of Pakistan is a little different, first of all Pakistan was created by its people, over 89% of whom voted for its creating. In the last 60+ years we have been able create a culture that is uniquely Pakistani. Today you can go from Gilgit to Gawadar and talk to any one the street in the national language, not to mention that most dress exactly same.

Zamir

Data Cruncher said...

"In the last 60+ years we have been able create a culture that is uniquely Pakistani. "

1971 !!!

Anonymous said...

"1971 !!!"

Irrelevant

Zamir

Data Cruncher said...

how it is irrelevant?? Last 60 yrs also include 1947-1971 when East Pakistan was treated like sh!t by West Pakistan and was considered inferior. Now don't tell me the culture of east and west pakistan was same. It never was. Mount Batten specifically said that they have nothing in common, except religion.

Even today I am not sure how much Balochis will agree that they have same culture like Sindhis or Urdu Speaking Pakistanis.

Basically my point is that whatever you are trying to say about India, holds for Pakistan too. And given by our glorious record of killing our own people, I am not sure I would be stupid enough to pontificate in a public forum about how homogeneous is our culture.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting commentary by Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

"You don't have to fall in love to be a good neighbour; in fact romance can have harmful side-effects," says Indian analyst MJ Akbar about India and Pakistan. "But good neighbours do not pelt each other with stones (through media) or test nerves with sniper fire during their waking hours."

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. India and Pakistan are not two ordinary sparring neighbours - they are nuclear-armed estranged siblings with a history of three wars, brinkmanship and endless sniping.

Also, South Asia's defining conflict is rooted in religious differences and struggle for control over the disputed region of Kashmir. It is also an example, as Stephen Cohen says, of a "psychological paired-minority conflict" where key groups on both sides - even a majority - feel that they are the threatened, weaker party, under attack from the other side. The dispute is as knotty and intractable as that between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours. It is also energised by plenty of hate and distrust, some of it rather petty.

So a militant strike on Indian soil originating from Pakistan like the 2008 Mumbai attacks makes it difficult for any Indian government to hold back from spewing fire and brimstone on its neighbour and continue negotiations. And stones have to be pelted at each other through the media to satisfy tired domestic constituencies in both countries. It is all cheap triumphalism, and does little to mend fences.

Still the decision of the two countries to resume talks - the peace process has been in the cold storage since the Mumbai attacks - on 25 February is to be welcomed. Both sides know it is not going to be easy. Expectations are low. There are severe misgivings. India is not happy with the progress that Pakistan has made on cracking down on militants who plot and launch attacks on India. Pakistan believes it is doing all it can in its fight against the tyranny of terror on its own soil.

In fact, it appears that India took Pakistan by surprise when it offered talks earlier this month - the influential Pakistani newspaper Dawn found the offer surprising since India had indicated a willingness to move beyond the "one-point agenda it has clung to since the Mumbai attacks i.e. that Pakistan must shut down the terror infrastructure on its soil that allegedly poses a direct threat to India." Few will disagree with what the newspaper said next: "Looked at from any angle, the problems between India and Pakistan are simply too serious for them to avoid talking to each other."

Analysts often pontificate on how the peace constituencies - people wanting peace - in both countries have grown over the years. After all, a lot of people on both sides share the same language, food, music, cinema, and literature. But such heady exchanges - a virtual cross-border cultural love-fest sponsored by two newspapers was in progress in Delhi when India offered talks - are no substitute for serious, official interaction. Romanticising the shared cultural and personal ties, many believe, will not help in solving the real problems. They also cut no ice with the vast majority of Indians and Pakistanis.

Everybody knows that there is obduracy and denial on both sides in taking on the real issues. Everybody knows that there is a deficit of bold and innovative leadership. And as far as the so-called peace constituencies go, all it needs is another Mumbai type attack to return to the odious rhetoric of hate and risky hostilities. Already, naysayers in India have been pointing to the bomb attack at a bakery in Pune over the weekend as a good reason to call off the talks.

But talk the two countries must for their own good.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent article in Dawn on India-Pak water issues:

Another take on the issue comes from John Briscoe, a South African expert who has spent three decades in South Asia, and has served as a senior advisor on water issues to the World Bank. In an article titled War or Peace on the Indus?, Briscoe places the matter in a political context:

“Living in Delhi and working in both India and Pakistan, I was struck by a paradox. One country was a vigorous democracy, the other a military regime. But whereas important parts of the Pakistani press regularly reported India’s views on the water issue in an objective way, the Indian press never did the same. I never saw a report which gave Indian readers a factual description of the enormous vulnerability of Pakistan, of the way India had socked it to Pakistan when filling Baglihar….

“Equally depressing is my repeated experience — most recently at a major international meeting of strategic security institutions in Delhi — that even the most liberal and enlightened of Indian analysts … seem constitutionally incapable of seeing the great vulnerability and legitimate concern of Pakistan (which is obvious and objective to an outsider)…. This is a very uneven playing field. The regional hegemon is the upper riparian and has all the cards in its hands.”

Briscoe makes the point that even though India was cleared of any technical violation of the treaty in building Baglihar dam by an international panel of experts its timing of the diversion of the river to fill the dam caused great hardship to farmers in Pakistan. He goes on to argue that as the upper riparian, India can and should do much more to reassure Pakistan that it has no intention of violating the letter or spirit of the treaty. Above all, Briscoe puts the onus on Indian opinion makers to do much more to explain the issues fairly to the Indian public.


Media coverage and analysts are very significant in India Pakistan relations. There's a lot of hope hanging on journalists and analysts exchanges as part of Aman Ki Asha.

A hopeful sign I saw recently was Indian anchor Burkha Dutt, known for her extremely hawkish views after Mumbai, visiting and joining Pak journalists and expressing herself in a much more conciliatory tone. This happened as part of Aman Ki Asha programs being aired in both South Asian countries.

anoop said...

It was always the case- India never violated the treaty. Pakistani establishment is just trying to flame anti-India passions.

Had it been Pakistan the upper riparian state IWT would have been violated dozens of times. Pakistan would have used the water weapon quite often.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a recent post by Soutik Biswas of BBC.com on his Kashmir visit:

"The interminable day and night curfews have drained all life out of Srinagar. People have retreated into their homes leaving back graffiti on the walls screaming Go Back India! In the restive old city, surly young men sit outside shuttered homes and shops and glare at the troops peering out of sandbagged bunkers and manning the razor wire checkpoints. People wake up at the crack of dawn to store up on supplies when the grocers open for a few minutes. At night, an eerie silence descends over the city as the moon plays hide and seek with the clouds.

It is another summer of unrest in what is possibly the most scenic valley in the world. Two months of cyclical violence between stone pelting protesters and heavily armed security forces have left more than 50 dead - mostly teenagers. Things are looking grimmer than ever before. It's a summer that could turn out to be another defining point in the valley's tortured history. A whole generation of children of the conflict - Kashmiri writer Basharat Peer evocatively calls it their "war of adolescence" - who grew up in the days of militancy and violence in the early 1990s are driving the protests today. (Seven out of 10 Kashmiris are below 25.)

Growing up in the shadow of the gun and what they say is "perpetual humiliation" by the security forces, they are angry, alienated and distrustful of the state. As prominent opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti tells me when I visit her at her heavily secured home overlooking the stunning Dal lake: "If these young men are not given something to look forward to, God help Kashmir." The valley, most residents say, is in the early stages of an intifada."

"One mother emptied a cupboard and a suitcase full of of her 14 yr-old boy's belongings for me. Wamiq Farooq had gone to play in the neighbourhood when a tear gas shell fired by the troops exploded on his head. Doctors tried to revive him for an hour at the hospital before declaring him dead.

Now, sitting on a brown rug in a modest family home, his mother brings out Wamiq's red tie, red belt, white cap, fraying blue uniform, half a dozen school trophies, report cards, school certificates and then his pithy death certificate. "He is sure to be a face in the crowd," writes his school principal on one certificate praising Wamiq, the Tom and Jerry cartoons and science-loving teenaged son of a street vendor father. Then she slowly puts back Wamiq - his life and death - back into the suitcase and the cupboard and tells me, her eyes welling up: "I never understood why Kashmiri people demand freedom. After Wamiq's death, I do. I want freedom too. So that my children can return home unharmed and in peace.""

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Soutik Biswas of BBC on rising Kashmir protests against Indian rule:

This is clearly beginning to look like the biggest challenge to Indian rule in Kashmir in more than a decade. The protests have also begun to spread outside the valley - some recent ones have taken place in Muslim-dominated pockets of Jammu, the bit of Kashmir where Hindus are in the majority and which has been peaceful so far.

Most believe that the government has itself to blame for the current mess in Kashmir. The common perception is that it didn't fix the leaking roofs when the sun was shining in the valley - the months of relative peace, booming tourist traffic. Now the authorities are groping around for administrative solutions to fix the festering wounds - they are under pressure to water down or even scrap the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act or to move security forces out of the bigger towns.

But most believe that this kind of tinkering, however important, would not be enough. The time has come for the government to think big - and be imaginative - and launch the beginnings of a political solution to bring peace to the valley. Bringing the hardline separatists on board will be key to any solution - the octogenarian separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, by default, is the only leader with credibility among people in the valley because of his consistently obdurate pro-Pakistan, pro-secessionist stand. Some believe that India's cussedness in refusing to talk to Mr Geelani is costing Kashmir dear - the leader appeared to have mellowed, leaving Pakistan out of the equation in his recent roadmap to restore peace in the valley. Pakistan could perhaps be worked into the matrix of a political solution at some later stage. But for the moment, India needs to show initiative and come up with some guarantees and time-bound plans to foster political reconciliation and sow the seeds of a political solution. Without this, the stone-throwing protesters may give way to Kalashnikov-wielding rebels from within the valley and across the border, in a return to full-blown bloody militancy.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/09/kashmir_on_the_brink.html

Riaz Haq said...

You often hear rhetoric about India-Pakistan friendship. But friendship is a two-way street.

Musharraf was very serious about making friends with India on his watch from 2000 to 2007. He offered significant concessions and tried very hard to reach an agreement with Delhi on Kashmir, but to no avail.

Instead of of responding positively, India stepped its hostility by opening a new front in starting a covert war in Pakistan via Afghanistan.

Here is how South Asia expert Stephen Cohen described India's ambivalent attitude toward Pakistan recently:

Indians do not know whether they want to play cricket and trade with Pakistan, or whether they want to destroy it. There is still no consensus on talking with Pakistan: sometimes the government and its spokesman claim that they do not want to deal with the generals, but when the generals are out of the limelight, they complain that the civilians are too weak to conclude a deal.

In addition to Kashmir, the other key and potentially more explosive issue between India and Pakistan is that Indus water.

A South African water expert and Harvard professor John Briscoe recently argued that Pakistan was woefully vulnerable to Indian manipulation of the timing of water flows of the Jhelum and Chenab; that the Indian press—unlike the Pakistani media—never noted the other country’s views on the issue, and was instructed on what to say by the Ministry of External Affairs; and that India lacked the leadership of a regional power, as Brazil had been magnanimous in similar disputes with Bolivia and Paraguay.

Here is the exact quote from Briscoe's piece published in April 2010:

Living in Delhi and working in both India and Pakistan, I was struck by a paradox. One country was a vigorous democracy, the other a military regime. But whereas an important part of the Pakistani press regularly reported India's views on the water issue in an objective way, the Indian press never did the same. I never saw a report which gave Indian readers a factual description of the enormous vulnerability of Pakistan, of the way in which India had socked it to Pakistan when filling Baglihar. How could this be, I asked? Because, a journalist colleague in Delhi told me, "when it comes to Kashmir – and the Indus Treaty is considered an integral part of Kashmir -- the ministry of external affairs instructs newspapers on what they can and cannot say, and often tells them explicitly what it is they are to say."

http://www.countercurrents.org/briscoe050410.htm

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian report indicating Indian govt's intent to arrest and prosecute Arundhati Roy for sedition for her remarks on Kashmir:

India's home ministry is reported to have told police in Delhi that a case of sedition may be registered against Roy and the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for remarks they made at the weekend.

Under section 124A of the Indian penal code, those convicted of sedition face punishment ranging from a fine to life imprisonment.

Roy, who won the Booker in 1997 for The God of Small Things, is a controversial figure in India for her championing of politically sensitive causes. She has divided opinion by speaking out in support of the Naxalite insurgency and for casting doubt on Pakistan's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The 48-year-old author refused to backtrack. In an email interview with the Guardian, she said: "That the government is considering charging me with sedition me has to do with its panic about many voices, even in India, being raised against what is happening in Kashmir. This is a new development, and one that must be worrisome for the government."

"Threatening me with legal action is meant to frighten the civil rights groups and young journalists into keeping quiet. But I think it will have the opposite effect. I think the government is mature enough to understand that it's too late to put the lid on now," Roy said.

Earlier the author, who is currently in Srinagar, Kashmir, said in a statement: "I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators, have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice.

"I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state."

After describing her meetings with people caught up in the Kashmir violence, she said: "Some have accused me of giving 'hate speeches', of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one.

"Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor roam free."

India's justice minister, Moodbidri Veerappa Moily, described Roy's remarks as "most unfortunate". He said: "Yes, there is freedom of speech … it can't violate the patriotic sentiments of the people."

Others were less restrained. One person posted a comment on the Indian Express newspaper website calling for the novelist to be charged with treason and executed.

Roy said she was not aware of the calls for her death, but said the comments were part of a "reasonably healthy debate in the Indian press".

"The rightwing Hindu stormtroopers are furious and say some pretty extreme things," she told the Guardian.

Roy made her original remarks on Sunday in a seminar – entitled Whither Kashmir? Freedom or Enslavement, during which she accused India of becoming a colonial power. Geelani also spoke at the seminar.

HopeWins Junior said...

^^RH: "Here's a recent article in Dawn on India-Pak water issues:

Another take on the issue comes from John Briscoe, a South African expert..."
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Here is John Briscoe saying PAKISTAN HAS WON the arbitration!

http://alturl.com/rczhr

Riaz Haq said...

NY Times: "Many analysts say that India is unlikely to achieve prominence on the world stage until it reaches some sort of resolution with Pakistan of disputes that have lasted for decades over Kashmir and other issues."

Here's NY Times on India's growing troubles:

...a summer of difficulties has dented India’s confidence, and a growing chorus of critics is starting to ask whether India’s rise may take years, and perhaps decades, longer than many had hoped.

“There is a growing sense of desperation out there, particularly among the young,” said Ramachandra Guha, one of India’s leading historians.

Three events last week crystallized those new worries. On Wednesday, one of India’s most advanced submarines, the Sindhurakshak, exploded and sank at its berth in Mumbai, almost certainly killing 18 of the 21 sailors on its night watch.

On Friday, a top Indian general announced that India had killed 28 people in recent weeks in and around the Line of Control in Kashmir as part of the worst fighting between India and Pakistan since a 2003 cease-fire.

Also Friday, the Sensex, the Indian stock index, plunged nearly 4 percent, while the value of the rupee continued to fall, reaching just under 62 rupees per dollar, a record low.

Each event was unrelated to the others, but together they paint a picture of a country that is rapidly losing its swagger. India’s growing economic worries are perhaps its most challenging.

“India is now the sick man of Asia,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at the financial information provider IHS Global Insight. “They are in a crisis.”

---.

The Indian government recently loosened restrictions on direct foreign investment, expecting a number of major retailers like Walmart and other companies to come rushing in. The companies have instead stayed away, worried not only by the government’s constant policy changes but also by the widespread and endemic corruption in Indian society.

The government has followed with a series of increasingly desperate policy announcements in recent weeks in hopes of turning things around, including an increase in import duties on gold and silver and attempts to defend the currency without raising interest rates too high.

Then Wednesday night, the government announced measures to restrict the amounts that individuals and local companies could invest overseas without seeking approval. It was an astonishing move in a country where a growing number of companies have global operations and ambitions.
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The submarine explosion revealed once again the vast strategic challenges that the Indian military faces and how far behind China it has fallen. India still relies on Russia for more than 60 percent of its defense equipment needs, and its army, air force and navy have vital Russian equipment that is often decades old and of increasingly poor quality.

The Sindhurakshak is one of 10 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines that India has as part of its front-line maritime defenses, but only six of India’s submarines are operational at any given time — far fewer than are needed to protect the nation’s vast coastline.

Indeed, India has fewer than 100 ships, compared with China’s 260. India is the world’s largest weapons importer, but with its economy under stress and foreign currency reserves increasingly precious, that level of purchases will be increasingly hard to sustain.

The country’s efforts to build its own weapons have largely been disastrous, and a growing number of corruption scandals have tainted its foreign purchases, including a recent deal to buy helicopters from Italy.

Unable to build or buy, India is becoming dangerously short of vital defense equipment, analysts say....

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/19/business/global/a-summer-of-troubles-saps-indias-confidence.html

Riaz Haq said...

From Dawn newspaper:

Even if limited in scope, a conflict with nuclear weapons would wreak havoc in the atmosphere and devastate crop yields, with the effects multiplied as global food markets went into turmoil, the report said.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Physicians for Social Responsibility released an initial peer-reviewed study in April 2012 that predicted a nuclear famine could kill more than a billion people.

In a second edition, the groups said they widely underestimated the impact in China and calculated that the world's most populous country would face severe food insecurity.

“A billion people dead in the developing world is obviously a catastrophe unparalleled in human history. But then if you add to that the possibility of another 1.3 billion people in China being at risk, we are entering something that is clearly the end of civilization,” said Ira Helfand, the report's author. http://www.dawn.com/news/1061711