Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Myths About Kashmir

I am utterly dismayed by the way foreign media and supposed foreign analysts describe the Kashmir issue and the way that they discuss it in television debates. They start with such factually incorrect assumptions about Kashmir’s history and its current problems that I wonder if any discussion or suggestions about the solution of that problem will lead us anywhere. I understand the truth is so glaring that recognizing the truth will probably make the complete mockery of the position of Pakistan and many international powers particularly the western countries, that they and their misinformed media perpetuate these myths. I wonder whey India turns out so defensive in the world in its position on J&K. As long as there is conviction amongst Indians in the Idea of India there is hardly any reason to be defensive about it, except that we were limited in our history by our resources and by being on the wrong side in terms of national self interest with the west and China. My conclusion is that in the world of international diplomacy it is not about truth but self interest and we have been collectively let down by our defensive approach in communication and diplomacy while Pakistan and its strategic friends in their single minded pursuit of self interest have managed to bog India down. This post is an effort to dispel some of these myths which have been perpetuating in the world for so long that some of them have even come back and occupied a considerable space in Indian national consciousness.

First let me address what Kashmir is in terms of the territory of Kashmir. What the world calls Kashmir is not Kashmir it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is only a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The size of the valley of Kashmir is about 140 Km long and 32 Km wide which is comparable to the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh which is currently under Chinese occupation. The world seems to know that Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan where as the fact is that Kashmir is not divided, the entire valley of Kashmir is within the Indian side of the Line of Control, what was divided thanks to the Pakistani invasion in 1947 was the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The entire Jhelum valley which is Kashmir was completely cleared of the Pakistani invaders in 1947. In fact what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir is not even Kashmir it is a part of Jammu which it continues to occupy after 1947 invasion.

A question is raised several times that a plebiscite promised by India on the Kashmir question was not honored. The true facts are that Kashmir became an international dispute in 1948 when India appealed to the United Nations for its intervention on the Pakistani aggression on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The fact that it was considered a dispute at all in the UN rather than an act of aggression by Pakistan continued to dismay Indian government for several years. How could the UN have considered an aggressor and a victim of aggression at par by legitimizing it as a dispute between India and Pakistan, where as it was clearly Pakistan which had attacked the state and India had gone in to defend the state after it had legally acceded to India, so it was Pakistan which was in illegal occupation of the territory when India went to the UN. Kashmir issue became and international dispute thanks to a technical error in the appeal which was filed by Sir Girija Bajpai in the UN which was filed under chapter 6 of the UN charter which deals with peaceful resolution of disputed rather than chapter 7 which deals with acts of aggression. The gross disservice done to the nation by the team filing the appeal should have been an issue of national debate and questioning but it was hardly ever raised for the last 65 years in the country. But this technical error gave Pakistan the opportunity and the western country an excuse to hide behind the technicalities of appeal in order to pursue their own national interest at the cost of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The UNSC resolution 47 which was finally passed in April of 1948 mentioned plebiscite as means to decide the fate of Kashmir but it was conditional on the Pakistani forces being removed from the region and an impartial plebiscite to be conducted under supervision Indian armed forces. Since Pakistan had no intention of withdrawing, a plebiscite could not have been held. Thanks to its aggression Pakistan had already been rewarded with a portion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmir had become and international dispute thanks to its desire to acquire more portions of the state by all means possible at its disposal.

Another myth which is perpetuated is that Jammu and Kashmir region has been a source of bitter territorial dispute between India and Pakistan for which they have gone to several wars. The assumption in any such argument is that both sides have been attempting to change the status quo on the line of control and trying to occupy territory in each others control. Where as the fact is that starting from 1947 when Pakistani invaders first attacked the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir it is Pakistan which has been trying to alter the situation by force and not India. Every invasion in the Kashmir region has been initiated by Pakistan. Pakistan thanks to its covert invasion in 1947 managed to acquire a considerable territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1965 brimming with self confidence with their plum acquisition of American Patton tanks and encouraged by the favorable outcome of Raan of Kutch invasion they planned and executed the so called Operation Gibraltar and invaded in Jammu & Kashmir. In 1971 it was Pakistan which chose to first expand the war of Bangladesh Liberation in the western sector by planned air strikes and then tank invasion to acquire territory in Kashmir by force. It was Pakistan which in 1989 chose to apply lessons learned from its Afghan operations to Jammu and Kashmir and wage a proxy war on India, they armed and trained disaffected Kashmiri youth and also Pakistanis and Afghans and other foreigners and sent them out to wage a ‘Jihad’ in J&K. In 1999 again it was the Pakistani Army which invaded and occupied mountains in Kargil on the Indian side of Line of Control and expected to get away with it thanks to its nuclear armed status. What is also pertinent to note is that in each of these instances of invasion and violence in J&K starting with 1947, the Pakistani Army has initially denied having any role to play and the west has remained silent on it (except perhaps the Kargil war of 1999) not in the interest of truth but for its own self interest.

Now let us understand Jammu and Kashmir in terms of its people. Arguments are made by Pakistan and sometimes echoed in the west that ‘Any resolution of Kashmir has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people’. In order to understand the wishes of the Kashmiri people we have to first understand who the Kashmiri people are?  Are they only the primarily Muslim Kashmiri speaking population of the valley? Or are they the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. The thrust of the argument by Pakistan here is that the wishes of a section of the people of the Kashmir valley who are vocal in espousing the separatist cause should matter and the views of the rest of the population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and those in the valley who do not espouse such a cause should essentially be silenced. It should be reminded that it is a voice that the population of Jammu and Kashmir has consistently been expressing in the various elections that have taken place in the state under Indian constitution. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of the cultural diversity of Jammu and Kashmir which I have come across was in an article in Frontline Magazine in 2001 by Mr. Balraj Puri. Jammu and Kashmir in spite of no permanent immigration to that state since independence because of its special status granted to it in the constitution is one of the most diverse of all regions of India in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion and sects. How can such a region have a singular opinion on the so called resolution of Kashmir? Whose opinion matters most? The Kashmiri Muslims, the Kashmiri minority refugees, the Buddhist Ladakhis, the Muslim Ladakhis, the Pahadis, the Gujjars, the Dogras, the Sikhs? Is the future of Jammu and Kashmir to be determined by a very vocal separatist block which has also espoused to violence at the behest of their controllers in Pakistan Army and the silent majority which has consistently been expressing its opinion in the various elections in the past about trust in Indian democracy should suffer the consequence of the separatist agenda?

The real fact of Kashmir is that Kashmir is not a territorial dispute at all. Kashmir is an ideological dispute. It is a dispute between the Idea of India which is a pluralistic multi-religious, mutli-cultural, multi-ethnic, secular  democracy and the Idea of Pakistan which was based on a two nation theory which states that Muslims of India and the Hindus of India are separate nations. So the Pakistani claim on Kashmir is based on the religions identity of Kashmir where as India's claim on the state of Jammu and Kashmir is based on its identity as a mosaic of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups of people.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Our bigger defence scandal - Arjun and INSAS story

This post refers to Shekhar Gupta’s editorial “Our bigger defence scandal”(IE Feb 16). I fully agree with his call for greater private sector participation in defence production, an increase in the FDI allowed in this sector will be a welcome decision. However he has mentioned only a partial story about the Arjun Tank. The fact of today is that this tank is indeed among the best in its class and has outperformed the T72 and T90s of the Indian Army in field trials. The delay is a story of difficult development under sanctions and technology denial and also of the ever changing requirements specs of the Army. The army now claims that the tank is too heavy for its requirements so it is buying thousands of foreign T90 tanks that had poor performance in the desert heat in Indian conditions.  How come the requirement to keep the tank under a certain weight was not conveyed at the outset of the program why suddenly now these excuses are being made? Also if the tank is too heavy for our bridge infrastructure to cope with then how does the Army plan to move its Agni V and Agni VI launchers which would be much heavier. While the Army continues to bad mouth the Arjun tank it continued with its T90 purchases in spite of several issues in its trials.It has been reported that Army is also blocking further trials of Arjun in Punjab to allow the T90 purchases to go through unhindered.

A similar story is about the INSAS service rifle of the Indian army after inducting the rifle in large numbers (around 300,000) now the army is realizing that there are design flaws in the rifle and will spend Rs 10,000 crores to buy a foreign weapon. Why were these flaws not found and corrected during the prototype stage? How can such a colossal waste in case of Arjun and INSAS in particular be allowed to go unchallenged in our country? There are clearly vested interests involved. Every serious military power in the world has indigenous weapons manufacturing. No country can hope to import its way to national security as we have found in every war we were forced to fight, every time the supplier countries threatened to pull the plug on us if it did not serve their strategic interests. Failure of Arjun and INSAS are failure of India's defence ambitions.

In conclusion I would say that public sector units can perform if allowed to be run professionally and in Indian context allowed to compete and collaborate freely with private sector.  After all the Soviet and Chinese defence production was all in public sector. We can even follow the example of Singapore where the government via Temasec owns a majority stake in ST Engineering but allows it to operate like a private company staying hands off from management of the company. We need a stronger indigenous defence sector public, private or joint and perhaps we need more foreign investment in local industries but we cannot continue to rely on imports to satisfy our defence needs.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

"Occupation" of the Valley

Let me try and address a particular question of the so called "occupation" of Kashmir valley by the Indian army which is often raised by Kashmiri separatist, Pakistan based terrorist organizations, international "human rights" activists, certain foreign governments and some Indian "intellectuals".

As far as my reading of history goes the Indian Army went to the Kashmir valley in 1947 for the first time when help was sought by both the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and the popular leader Mr Sheikh Abdullah. When it landed in Srinagar airport it brought a sigh of relief to the population and not any fear of so called occupation. Indian Army went to Kashmir to defend Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh from the same forces which continue to threaten it today. To the people who leave no stone unturned to find faults with Army and criticize it I have to say please read some history about the circumstances under which the Army had to be called in both in '47 and in '89.

Historical reasons apart if we look at the present situation in the Valley then a number of foreign governments and international organization have pointed finger at the Indian government regarding the number of civilian deaths that have taken place in Jammu and Kashmir as a marker of "oppression" by the Indian Army. The number quoted has been an estimate of 60,000 civilian deaths since 1989. I am not sure about the figure but assuming it is true and regardless of the circumstances of these deaths, whether they were caused by terrorist violence, militants killed by security forces, extra judicial killings, terrorists convicted to death by courts or civilians caught in cross fire, this estimated number is of course unacceptable. But does it automatically lead to the conclusion that the cause of such a high civilian death number is a result of Army's presence in the valley? Won't the more correct reason be the proxy war being waged in Kashmir by the Pakistani Army and civilians being the victims of this war. Who is the aggressor in Kashmir today? Is it India or is it Pakistan? Then who has the onus of bringing these deaths to an end.

The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 NATO operation is estimated to be a similar figure of 60,000, yet none of these international organizations and foreign governments have accused ISAF forces in Afghanistan as "occupying" forces, when clearly they are foreign while Indian Army is within its own territory. The same governments who were pointing finger at India in the 90's are part of the ISAF forces.

The ISAF forces are now leaving Afghanistan by cutting a deal with Pakistan and Pakistan backed Taliban not because the war has been won but because the cost has been too high for them to sustain. The civilians in Afghanistan now fear the worst because they know that while the present situation is not rosy, the alternative is even darker. Indian Security Forces have been fighting this Pakistan sponsored insurgency for past 23 years yet India cannot give up on Kashmir because the commitment of the Indian Army is to the silent population in the Valley and also Jammu and Ladakh who do consider themselves as Indians.

Doesn't the nation owe to the people of Ladakh and Jammu the same protection and freedom of life that it owes to other citizens of India. Will the Indian army be able to defend Ladakh and Jammu without protecting Kashmir Valley? What about the Kashmiri Pandit minority population which is a refugee in its own state? What does the nation owe to them?

While all complaints of human right abuses deserve to be looked at dispassionately and justice be done but calling Indian Army an occupier in Kashmir suits only the enemies of India because exit of the Army from Kashmir also results in simultaneous collapse of the Indian Nation as it exists today.

Who deserves sympathy?

Who deserves more sympathy the citizens of Kashmir or the citizens of Afghanistan?

Separatist leaders in Kashmir are still living in the past while political leaders in Afghanistan are more progressive today. While Kashmiri leaders incite people to throw stones when a terrorist is hanged, Afghan leaders clearly identify and expose Pakistani interference and have no sympathy for extremist ideology and terrorists. Afghanistan remembers and honors icon of peace and Indian nationalist Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Kashmiri leaders call on people to rally around the so called 'martyr' Maqbool Bhat who was convicted of murder. Young in Afghanistan look forward to watching the next episode of the Afghan Star while the Kashmir Grand Mufti bans a girls music band.

After being completely destroyed in 30 years of violence Afghanistan wants to free itself of ethnic an cultural difference and identifies national integration as the road to peace and progress. Leaders in Kashmir cant think beyond the valley and the old jargon of autonomy. The valley is shutdown because Afzal Guru was hanged for plotting the attack on Indian Parliament on the behest of a foreign nation. Afghanistan has seen more violence and pain, and yet it can hope to transform itself. Today I have more sympathy for the Afghan citizens than I have for the Kashmiri separatists.