Friday, 30 May 2008

Kashmir dispute and America

Kashmir dispute and America
Part 1
Dr Shabir Choudhry

When I know I am on the right path then despite opposition and hurdles, and without fear of success or failure, I do not hesitate to sail against the tide. I have done this through out my political life, and at times paid price for this approach. I believe when you have correct and appealing slogans, and even if you start your journey alone soon you will be joined by like- minded people.

In my previous article, U Turn on Kashmir, I briefly analysed the American policy in Kashmir, and contrary to widely held view, stated that America has not made a U Turn on Kashmir. There are many who ascribe to the idea that after American Ambassador, Mr Robert D Blackwill’s, recent visit to Srinagar, and his ‘refusal’ to meet APHC leaders, there has been a clear shift in the American policy on Kashmir.

Mr Robert D Blackwill is an important man for two reasons: he is an American Ambassador to India, America’s close friend and strategic ally, and in view of some a ‘natural friend’. But more important are personal qualities of Mr Robert D Blackwill, who is considered as a man of great intellect and vision. He was appointed as an Ambassador not because of his past experience in this field, but because of his talent, vision and know-how of the current world situation. And his action or inaction – decision to meet or not to meet someone- could clearly reflect the thinking of Washington.

But like in anything else people could read too much into certain events, or expect too much from America. No doubt America is the only country with Superpower status and have the ability to call shots in the international affairs, but it would be stupidity of great magnitude to expect America to liberate Kashmir for us.

Before the mushroom growth of the Kashmiri groups in early 1990s, the JKLF was the main group in the field, and to some extent had powerful voice in the matters, but when interest of those who supported the JKLF changed, with it changed the balance of power in Kashmir. Those who deprived the JKLF of the support at this crucial stage and gradually ‘Talibanised’ the Kashmiri movement thought they were doing that in the national ‘interest’.

They were cautioned that this new approach was wrong and that it was a slow death to the movement, but they didn’t listen and continued with the policy which they thought was in their national interest. Now we all know that the change of policy was wrong, and that it resulted in a serious set back for the movement and caused innumerable problems to Pakistan.

In late1991, when fortunes of the JKLF were on decline, but the movement was still at its peak, and many thought that ‘independence’ was just around the corner, one JKLF leader said: ‘Please Allah put love of Kashmiris in America’s heart that they can also liberate us’. I told him that America will not come to ‘liberate Kashmir’; the case of Kuwait was completely different, and Americans had America’s national interest in mind when they planned ‘Desert Storm’.

History tells us that it is in the national psyche of the Kashmiris to look beyond the borders of the State for help. It was they who invited Moghul Emperor, Akbar the Great to attack Kashmir in 1586; it was also the Kashmiris who invited the subsequent foreign rulers of Kashmir. Despite centuries of despotic and oppressive foreign rule they have not learnt any lesson, and ‘tradition’ of inviting foreigners to intervene in local matters is still ‘live and kicking’. Unfortunately the Kashmiri people still don’t understand that it is easy to bring in the ‘foreigners’, but extremely difficult to get them out, as these foreigners, no matter who they are and in what form and shape they come to Kashmir, come with their own agenda, and their own interest.

For long time Kashmiris lived in hope that Pakistan will ‘liberate’ them, and partly it was for this reason they shouted Pakistan ‘zindabad’ (long live) in parts of the State. There are many who still live with this hope, but the growing numbers of Kashmiri people now hope that their new Messiah would be America. Apart from ordinary people, many Kashmiri leaders also ascribe to this hypothesis and live in hope that after ‘sorting out’ other problems, America would twist arms of India and Pakistan and get them ‘independence’.

This view is also supported by conspiracy theorists who have always advocated that an independent Kashmir is a brain child of America, and that it was a part of America’s New World Order. This theory is so entrenched in their minds that even when you tell them that the idea of New World Order only emerged after the demise of the Soviet Union, and after the Gulf War of 1991, and Mr Jinnah (founder of Pakistan) supported the idea of an independent Kashmir in 1947, they still insist that it is an ‘American Plan’.

These people argue that America needs bases in this area in order to protect the American interests in the region, and an independent Kashmir is ideal place for this. They think from Kashmir America can keep ‘watch’ on China, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia. Whatever the merit in that theory, the question is, now that America has foothold in Central Asian states and virtually ‘controls’ Afghanistan and Pakistan, do they still need bases in Kashmir?

In international relations, Americans don’t do things for fun or sacrifice American interests or lives to uphold a principle or champion human rights cause; they plan in advance and unlike some officials of Third World countries, including Pakistan, always act in their national interest. If it serves American ‘national interest’ they are happy to do ‘business’ with any dictator; and when demand of their national interest is to oppose or overthrow him they will happily facilitate that, and champion the cause of human rights.

Of course America has keen interest in Kashmir because of its strategic importance, but tell me a piece of land where America doesn’t have interest. American ‘national interest’ is vague and is global in nature. When they feel they have to take some kind of action, they stretch canvas of their national interest and take the required action.

So American interest in Kashmir and option of an independent Kashmir has nothing to do with any conspiracy. America knows that it is Kashmir which increases political temperature in South Asia and create ‘eye ball to eye ball’ situation where two nuclear rivals were at the brink of a war. America didn’t want a war between India and Pakistan, especially when its own ‘war on terror’ was in full swing and Pakistan was a key component of it.

It was in America’s interest that there was no war between India and Pakistan, and they did everything in their power to lower the tension. It is unfortunate that the ‘international community ’appears to be only interested in lowering the tension and not resolving the dispute. And when tension is lowered to the desired level, both countries are persuaded to put Kashmir dispute on the back burner for sometime.

Outcome of our sacrifices and all the activities on the border is that the Kashmir dispute is safely back in a place where it was before the present phase of the struggle. After death of thousands of Kashmiris, dishonour of respectable Kashmiri women, imprisonment, and destruction of property and business, Kashmiri people are advised not to oppose or cross forcibly divided line. Sardar Qayyum Khan, a Kashmiri leader and many times Prime Minister of ‘Azad Kashmir’ has said something that was not expected. He is of the view that the Kashmiri people should not ‘out rightly reject the proposals to convert the LOC into a permanent border’, and that we should give this idea a ‘serious consideration’. What an achievement?

It is difficult to say who has put these words in his mouth, and what forced him to project this idea which is highly unpopular among the Kashmiris. Sardar Sahib and all those who are behind this ‘conspiracy’ should know very well that the people of Kashmir will not accept LOC as a permanent border, and that division is not a solution to the Kashmir dispute. All those who are interested in peace, stability and prosperity of the region must understand that people seeking a right of self-determination could not be satisfied with some cosmetic changes to the present borders. To be continued…
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

Kashmir dispute and America
Part 2
Dr Shabir Choudhry

America has close friendly relations with both India and Pakistan, and they would like to keep close interaction with both, but if they have to ‘dump’ one of them we know which one would be ‘dumped’. America has political, economic and strategic interests in South Asia; and has close military and strategic alliance with India; of course Pakistan also has importance mainly because of geographical location and its ties with the Muslim bloc.

Pakistani authorities know that they don’t have the same importance as India has, and that Pakistan’s present importance is because of the on going ‘war on terrorism’; and soon Pakistan will find its importance gradually declining. Pakistan also know that they have not been able to play their Kashmir card effectively, and over the years India is having more sympathy in many capitals of the world.

India got this sympathy mainly because Kashmiri struggle for independence was transformed into Jihad and Jihadis from all over the world were encouraged to rush to Kashmir. Apart from India many other countries including America opposed this new strategy. It wasn’t too difficult for India to link this strategy with ‘international terrorism’ and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, and this was the turning point in the Kashmiri struggle.

It was this Jihadi element, attacks on places of worship and killing of innocent people which India exploited to win the world support. Tragic event of September 11th swung the world sympathy in favour of India. Earlier Kargil fiasco had established some kind of ‘sanctity’ for Line Of Control, and after that suggestions were made to convert the LOC into a border between India and Pakistan.

As far as America was concerned they appeared to be interested in some kind of solution of Kashmir, as they didn’t want a war between India and Pakistan especially when they had buttons on nuclear weapons. Contrary to the conspiracy theorists who claim that America wants an independent Kashmir (they sometime link Israel and India with it as well, and say that all this is to deprive Pakistan to get Kashmir), I believe America wants a solution of Kashmir in accordance with the ‘aspirations of the Kashmiri people’.

Those conspiracy theorist who believe that America wants an independent Kashmir that they can have their forces there, need to understand that Kashmir is a land locked state, and if it becomes an independent it has to heavily rely on its neighbours and has to have good friendly relations with them. America could only get into Kashmir by air and they have to use air space of one of the neighbours of Kashmir, and this facility is not always available.

Over the years America has realised seriousness of the Kashmir dispute, and they have rightly called it ‘a nuclear flash point’ to emphasis its dangers and importance. There are other conspiracy theorists who say that the Americans want this status quo to continue that they can use this tension as a ‘pressure point’ to push through their economic and strategic agenda when negotiating with India and Pakistan.

I differ with both hypotheses. In my experience and what little interaction I have had with the American officials, I can confidently say that they want a solution of the dispute. They are not happy with the status quo as it is too dangerous, and is contrary to their political, economic and strategic interests in the region. But I don’t think the Americans have a solution in their bag, they want the future solution to be negotiated, and if the American help and support is required they are willing to make their services available.

In view of the American officials Kashmir is still disputed, present elections or previous elections, whether on this side of the LOC or on that side, do not change the disputed nature of the State. This point was eloquently made by Robin Raphael, Assisstant Secretary of State, in October 1993: ‘We (USA) do not recognise the legal validity of Kashmir’s accession… (and that) the people of Kashmir got to be consulted in any kind of final settlement of the Kashmir dispute’.

The point I want to make is that despite the fact that America recognises Kashmir as disputed territory, and despite the fact that America is the only superpower in the world, still America does not have a final say in this matter. American role in the Kashmir dispute is supportive in nature. If parties to the dispute need American help and support, that is available, but parties to the dispute should not expect America to twist one party’s arm to impose an American plan, if there was one.

In other words America could help, advise, persuade and to some extent pressurise the parties, but because of many constraints is not in a position to take a leading role in resolving the Kashmir dispute. This leading role lies with the parties to the dispute, and especially the main party, the Kashmiri people who according to Dr Nazir Gilani have a title, not claim like other two parties to the dispute.

As noted above India and Pakistan have a claim to Kashmir, and even if they don’t get what they claim and maintain the status quo, they are still winners, but we as a nation are losers from every respect. I don’t need to go into details of what we lose if this forced division continues, or if this is converted into a permanent border with minor changes. So we being the main party to the dispute with future of our nation at stake have increased responsibility of getting our act together and coming up with a possible solution.

My message to all those Kashmiri people and especially who claim to be leaders is that America is not coming to ‘liberate’ us. Liberation is a rare commodity which is not granted by others, it is very valuable and has very high price. We as a nation have to decide if we are worthy of ‘Azadi’ (independence), but before that we have to take some important decisions:
We need to establish who has taken our Azadi (independence)? Is it India, or Pakistan also has some role in it as well? And what about areas under China?
Do we only want to get ‘azadi’ of areas under India or do we want areas under Pakistan to be azad (independent) as well?
Do we want the State of Jammu and Kashmir to stay as one political entity or are we willing to compromise on sovereignty and size of Kashmir, as has been suggested by some Kashmiri leaders?
Once we have established this, then we as thinking and ‘freedom loving’ people could work out a plan how to get azadi (independence) of each area.

We need to remember one important lesson, ‘when you create your own destiny you prevent others from doing it for you’, and when you don’t have a plan for your life, then it is others who will plan it for you, of course in doing so they will have their own interest in mind.

So my fellow countrymen and women we don’t have much time at our hands. It is time to think and act, and if we fail to rise to the occasion, then not only we will regret, but our future generations will also regret and curse us, because people with vested interest and those who have taken the struggle as a ‘commercial enterprise’ will ultimately triumph. Indeed that would be a sad day for all those who have sincerely made various kinds of contributions for the cause of Azadi (independence), and especially for those who have lost their love ones. End
Dr Shabir Choudhry

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