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U.S. Silence On Kashmir Feeds The Extremes

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As ghastly as it was for an Indian diplomat to lexically collate the words Tibet and Kashmir within the same sentence, even more surprising was the discovery of said parallelization's source, which was none other than the typically more deliberate and diplomatically adroit Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, who issued a motion today to Chinese foreign dignitaries that could easily be construed as meaning, "if you close your eyes to India's alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir, we shall do the same with respect to China's in Tibet."

Of course one would hope Krishna had perhaps been misquoted during a 70-minute bilateral conversation that took place between Krishna and Chinese diplomats on the margins of the Russia-India-China trilateral discussions. Yet, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao seemed fairly clear in relaying Krishna's sentiments, according to The Hindu's online newspaper:

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"In that context," said Ms. Rao, "[the External Affairs Minister] spoke of Jammu and Kashmir and expressed the hope that China would be sensitive to J&K just as we have been to the Tibet Autonomous Region and Taiwan."

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One wonders if New Delhi was able to procure President Barack Obama's silence on the Kashmir issue during his recent trip to Bharat, in which multiple billions of dollars worth of business deals were announced that would lead to the creation of 45,000 U.S. jobs, successfully attempting indirect bribery as opposed to the more extortive measures insinuated with Beijing.

Because at one point Kashmir did seem like an important issue to Obama, as Indian author and human rights activist Arundhati Roy wrote recently in the New York Times, pointing out how a week before he was elected in 2008, Obama said that solving the dispute over Kashmir's struggle for self-determination would be among his "critical tasks." However, his remarks were greeted with consternation in India, and he has said almost nothing about Kashmir since then and future decisions will likely be driven by less-than-altruistic motives, per Roy:

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Whether Mr. Obama decides to change his position on Kashmir again depends on several factors: how the war in Afghanistan is going, how much help the United States needs from Pakistan and whether the government of India goes aircraft shopping this winter. (An order for 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, worth $5.8 billion, among other huge business deals in the pipeline, may ensure the president's silence.) But neither Mr. Obama's silence nor his intervention is likely to make the people in Kashmir drop the stones in their hands.

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Unfortunately, the implications of America's "see no evil" approach are written on the cave walls in the AfPak border region, and are apparent in the lack of enthusiasm Pakistan's military leaders have exhibited in rooting out Taliban and affiliated militants holed up in North Waziristan safe havens. Hence, the cost of such silence far outweighs the economic and political value of the aforementioned business deals, as Pakistan's reluctance strengthens the Taliban and Haqqani Network who are able to maintain their sanctuaries, the very existence of which have rendered General David Petraeus's counterinsurgency efforts futile.

Ahmed Rashid stressed in Foreign Policy Magazine last week that the road to Kabul runs through Kashmir, and America's biggest mistake is its failure to recognize Pakistan's near-fatal obsession with India. Pakistani Army Chief, General Kayani, has frequently voiced his security philosophy as being "India-centric", whose fears are deeply rooted in a Pakistani military mindset that will require major Indian overtures before it changes.

Throughout the past decade of the Indo-Pakistani rivalry it seems Bharat has gotten by largely unscathed by Western political leaders and Western media, especially with respect to India's transgressions in Kashmir. The U.S. has tended to demonize Pakistan especially since 9/11 as Americans learned more about the role of Pakistan's government, military and intelligence services in the creation, enabling and continued support of the Taliban movement that harbored Al Qaeda operatives - a perception that became even worse after the 2008 terrorist attacks carried out by Pakistani Islamic jihadists in Mumbai that killed 170 people.

Yet just last week Obama himself bore witness to India's burgeoning and dangerous right-wing conservative Hindu nationalism, specifically the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose members chastised him for being soft on terror within 30 minutes of Obama's arrival in Mumbai.

India's hardliners have exposed themselves like never before recently, with serious and persistent attempts to quell freedom of expression in the name of national security, as they attempted to jail Arundhati Roy on charges of sedition for daring to publicly dissent as she shattered the silence about India's brutality against the poor people of Kashmir.

Is India truly the world's biggest democracy - or one in name only? Just as Israel cannot call itself a democracy while bulldozing Palestinian homes with impunity, India cannot claim the same while subjecting Kashmiris to draconian curfews, Gestapo tactics and disproportionate levels of military force, as the state employs overwhelming violence against Kashmir's young "stone pelters".

More than 112 civilians - mostly youths - have been killed and several thousand injured in this most recent infitada that broke out mid-summer. The nakedly oppressive Public Safety Act provides local authorities with latitude to incarcerate Kashmiri citizens involved in civil protest for up to 2 years if they are deemed "potential" threats to the security of the state.

India's Chinese police state tactics have also included restricting journalists from reporting on demonstrations and even forcing closure of leading newspapers. And according to Murtaza Shibli in the Guardian, in absence of any Pakistani support to the new generation of Kashmiris, Indian claims to blame Pakistan, Islamic terrorism and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have lost credibility even among its own population.

Amitabh Mattoo, Professor of International Studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, has argued that the Indian government must better understand the anatomy of the uprising because unlike in the past, the writ of the state is not being challenged by militant organizations or even by a separatist cartel. Mattoo penned in the Hindustan Times this summer that:

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While it's tempting to reduce the protests to indoctrination by extremist Islamic groups, Pakistan's machinations or the influence of other vested interests, the reality is that this radicalization has been caused by multiple factors, but above all by a sense of hopelessness. This is a generation that has seen suffering, killings, political uncertainty, and has had to remain sequestered in their homes for great lengths of time. A generation that has witnessed often a daily tragedy, seen no light at the end of tunnel, often endured harassment, and which has been distrusted by sections of the Indian establishment, is consequently simmering with deep discontent and angst. And yet is not at an age where it can introspect and take a long-term view of matters.

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Mattoo also raises the hard-to-get-around reality that India security forces seem to handle protests in India much differently than they do in Kashmir, saying that "surely, in the 21st century it should be possible to control protesters, armed only with stones, without having to kill young men and women." The average Kashmiri finds it disturbing that while Kashmiri protests lead to deaths, protests during the Bharat bandh [i.e. India shutdown], for instance, lead to no such violence.

We'll finish with hope. Mohammed Khaishgi wrote in a recent HuffPost piece that according to a Pew Center poll 70% of Pakistanis desire better relations with India. Although, paradoxically, he also indicated that 53% of them also view India as the country's greatest threat. Hence, a Kashmir settlement is in order, which would directly address this dichotomy, assuming the popular General Kayani and his military are willing to adapt to the wishes of seven out of ten Pakistanis.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this writing are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of League of India, its Editorial Board or the business and socio-political interests that they might represent.

This article was first published at The Huffington Post on Nov 15 here


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