Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Struggle for independence or a proxy war?

Struggle for independence or a proxy war?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 20 August 2007

To me and to thousands of other Kashmiris it was a struggle for independence. Some of us called it jihad – meaning struggle for rights and freedom- surely not the kind of jihad, which is waged in holy name of Islam, where innocent people are targeted and killed in name of ‘jihad’; and the entire world seems to be against it.

But it turned out to be some thing else. With benefit of hindsight many now agree that it was not the struggle they anticipated. It is not a struggle for independence nor it is a ‘jihad’ in the sense they visualised. Many now agree that they were used in name of independence and ‘jihad’. It was never their struggle; and those who planned it, helped it and controlled it had a different agenda altogether.

Resentment against India, especially in the Valley was total, and successive Indian governments should accept blame for this. It would be wrong to blame ISI or ‘credit’ it with ‘stirring up’ the trouble in Kashmir. No secret agency can start trouble in another country if the conditions are not ripe for it.

A government because of its blunders and mismanagement create a situation that people are annoyed and frustrated. When their peaceful struggle and protests are ignored and their frustration reaches a certain level they start looking for alternatives and seek help from abroad. They get convinced that their peaceful measure will never bring desired results, and then they rebel against that government and that system which has denied them self respect and basic rights.

And who should be blamed for this, the authorities, ‘rebels’ or the foreign agencies who seek golden opportunities like this to take revenge from enemy which has troubled them for so long?

Majority of Kashmiri people regard Kashmir’s accession to India as ‘provisional’, which had to be ratified by the people in completely impartial plebiscite. This proposed plebiscite could not take place because Pakistan refused to withdraw her forces in accordance with the UNCIP resolutions; and later India also changed its stance and called Kashmir its ‘integral part’.

Provisional accession, which was supposed to save lives, provide security, dignity, and honour to the Kashmiri people resulted in forced division, occupation and oppression. This situation coupled with bad management, corruption, unemployment and proxy politics created that situation which, in view of Pakistani security analysts, especially those who commanded JIN (Joint Intelligence North) and JIM (Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous) in the Pakistani security apparatus as ripe and appropriate for ‘intervention’.

Their assessment was not wrong, and unlike in 1965, people of Kashmir were ready to go along with the plan enacted by their ‘friends’ and ‘advocates’ across the border. But unlike in 1965 these ‘friends’ and ‘brothers’ had different game plan this time, and ‘liberation’ or independence of the Kashmiri people didn’t fit in this. But did we Kashmiris, in 1988, knew this that they were not sincere with us; and their game plan was to keep ‘India engaged’ and ‘keep India bleeding’ with this proxy war that they don’t create problems for Pakistan? Answer is no, we thought they were sincere and serious; and willing to help us; unfortunately despite so many ups and downs and U turns by Pakistani governments some Kashmiris still think the same.

Apart from that, ‘Jihad’ in Afghanistan was coming to an end, and those who planned and executed this massive operation knew its rewards for themselves and for Pakistan. They had to find alternative battleground that the ‘business of exporting jihad’ and violence continues. Kashmir they knew was close to minds and hearts of most Pakistanis, especially those who lived in Punjab and had links with the armed forces of Pakistan. It was easy to motivate people and recruit them for ‘jihad’ in Kashmir.

Most Kashmiri organisations were, at that time considered as pro Pakistan, and they either had no links on the other side of LOC, or they did not fit in the plan. They wanted an organisation with some kind of independent credentials. And due to bad luck of Kashmiri people Amanullah Khan was also at his lowest ebb with no future as he was only recently expelled from Britain for conducting ‘undesirable’ activities, and was looking for a new anchorage or mission.

In view of his close associates Amanullah Khan had links with the Pakistani secret agencies even before he joined Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front in 1965, and this relationship grew stronger with time. People appreciate his hard work but many doubt if he ever had a clear vision about unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir; and had no strategy for liberation of the whole state. At a time when he was expelled from Britain and had no clear ideas what to do with his life and JKLF, he became an easy prey of the Pakistani agencies.

Confused and disillusioned Amanullah Khan and some other senior JKLF leaders agreed to become a proxy of Pakistani agencies. They agreed to provide raw material from across the LOC, which Pakistani experts could prepare as ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘mujahideen’ to liberate Jammu and Kashmir, which was under ‘Indian occupation.’ They agreed to play a subservient role in return for arms, money and publicity, which was made available to them in abundance.

Amanullah Khan and his colleagues who made this pact had no plan, nor they were allowed to prepare one to liberate areas under ‘occupation’ of Pakistan. While succumbing to pressure of these secret agencies he and his colleagues forgot that other JKLF leaders rejected a similar plan a few years ago. They also forgot that plight of people on this side of LOC, especially in Gilgit and Baltistan was much worse than their counterparts on the other side. But the temptation was too great to be rejected and they went along with the plan which had disastrous consequences, especially for the people of the Valley, who had to face wrath of the Indian troops in the first instance then militants and renegade militants.

This understanding or agreement between the JKLF leadership and Pakistani secret agencies resulted in beginning of militancy in the Valley in 1988. What has happened after that is history now, but this question still haunt, and will continue to haunt genuine Kashmiri nationalists and especially those who have lost their love ones why we haven’t got independence?

Is it because there was no planning for ‘liberation’ and militancy was used as a ‘proxy’ to ‘bleed India’ that Pakistan can obtain some concessions, or is it because those who controlled and managed the struggle let us down? Or is it because the ‘Kashmiri struggle’ was transformed in to ‘Jihadi struggle’ with which the world community had no sympathy and wanted to crush it? Or is it because the Kashmiri struggle became a lucrative business for the people with vested interest, and they didn’t want a resolution of the Kashmir dispute and wanted the Kashmir pot to be kept at a certain boiling temperature?

We, people of Jammu and Kashmir are being forcibly divided and oppressed. Since 1988 we have lost a generation. No one knows exactly how many people have lost their lives, how many women have been dishonoured and how many children lost their childhood. People have made up different figures, which range from 60 thousand to ninety thousand, and these figures are used for political and financial reasons. Whatever the exact figure, people have endured a trauma in hope that it will bring them independence, political and economic stability and better future. But where do they find themselves?

After all the suffering, pain and destruction, we are back to square one, where we can’t see light at the end of tunnel, there is no prospect of unification and independence, political and economic stability and better future. The question is what went wrong? I salute all those who have lost their lives, and I salute all those who have suffered in pursuit of independence and better future; but was our strategy appropriate to achieve independence?

Thousands of people sincerely took part in this campaign, which was presented to them as a war of liberation. Sincerity and sacrifices are important for any campaign to be successful, but these two crucial elements alone cannot bring victory and desired rewards if the plan and strategy is wrong.

People of Jammu and Kashmir, especially those in the Valley have made their contribution sincerely and have paid heavy price for it, believing that one - day they will become independent, but alas lack of appropriate planning and strategy, for which they were not responsible has only brought them misery, suffering and disappointment.

It was never our struggle. We people of Jammu and Kashmir never had any control or say over it. Be it talks with India or militancy, control has always been in hands of Pakistan; and this causes anger and frustration in minds of even most pro Pakistan Kashmiris. While expressing his anger, the AJK president complained that ‘Pakistan’s Foreign Office had neither taken him into confidence nor briefed him about negotiations with India since his assuming office last year’.

Evidence shows that it was a proxy war and not a war of liberation; and lesson from history is that you cannot win a war of liberation by becoming a proxy for another country, especially when that country also has territorial interest in that state.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@googlemail.com

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