Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

India pressing US for resumed oil imports from Iran: Report

Press TV – September 18, 2019

Indian authorities have renewed their efforts to persuade the United States to lift sanctions on imports of oil from Iran amid disruptions caused to supplies from Saudi Arabia following attacks last week that hit oil installations east of the kingdom.

A Tuesday report on the website of The Mint, an Indian financial newspaper, showed that India had held fresh talks with the government of US President Donald Trump on renewed energy imports from Iran.

India stopped crude imports from Iran on May 2 after the White House toughened its sanctions on Iran and removed waivers granted to India and several other countries.

New Delhi used to be Iran’s second top buyer of oil before American sanctions were imposed in November with imports exceeding 20 million tons a year.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Tuesday that resuming oil imports from Iran had never turned into a “static” issue and authorities were trying to find a solution to the problem.

“We are in dialogue with all suppliers including Iran,” said Jaishankar, adding that India wanted to ensure that supplies of energy into the country would remain predictable and affordable.

The remarks come after attacks on Saturday on key oil installations in Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq cut the kingdom’s production in half.

The attacks, claimed by Yemen’s ruling Ansarullah movement, sent shockwaves across the global markets and caused a historic surge in prices while sparking serious concerns in energy-thirsty countries like India about the future of oil supplies.

While trying to revive imports from Iran, India has said it would seek a contract with Russia to secure a long-term supply of oil from the country.

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Are India and Japan Challenging the BRI in Russia’s Far East?

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 11, 2019

Although the Russian Far East has huge investment potential in the fields of raw materials, mineral resources, fisheries, forestry’s and tourism, it still remains a sparely populated area of only around 7 million people. With China, India, Japan, Indonesia and Russia projected to be some of the world’s biggest economies by 2030 according to many experts, the 21st Century has been dubbed as the “Asian Century,” and it is for this reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin has prioritized the rapid development of the Russian Far East.

The region is not only resource rich, but is also conveniently located in northeast Asia, bordering Mongolia, China and North Korea, while sharing a maritime border with Japan. It is so strategic and rich that only weeks ago French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his belief that Europe stretches from Lisbon on the Atlantic Coast to the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok. Vladivostok has hosted the Eastern Economic Forum annually ever since its establishment 2015, in part to attract foreign investors to diversify from only Chinese investments in the Russian Far East. China has invested tens of billions into the region, making it easily the biggest foreign investor in the region.

However, with Indian Prime Minister Modi on the eve of Vladivostok’s 5th Eastern Economic Forum proposing a trilateral cooperation between India, Russia and Japan by jointly developing the Russian Far East, it appears that China’s economic influence in the region will be challenged. Although China emphasizes peaceful relations through mutual economic development and prosperity, it still has frosty relations with Japan and India. It is therefore unsurprising that India and Japan have opted to invest in the Russian Far East to challenge China’s economic might in a region that also shares a vast border with China.

India, Japan and Sri Lanka signed an agreement to build a new container terminal in the port of Colombo, demonstrating that New Delhi and Tokyo have experience in cooperating in a trilateral format. With India opting to be the only South Asian country not involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India continues to show coldness to China as the latter continues to rapidly develop neighboring countries, especially with Nepal and rival Pakistan. With the BRI developing Sri Lanka, it appears India and Japan are creating a new economic duo to match China’s economic strength, and are now prepared to take this to a new front away from Sri Lanka and to the Russian Far East.

Japan’s investments in the Russian Far East’s economy already exceeds $15 billion and will continue to develop, according to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And with India also expressing its interest, the Russian Far East has become a promising place for all prospectors. With Russian President Vladimir Putin offering free land handouts in the Far East to Russians and naturalized citizens in May 2016, it demonstrates that Russia has identified that if it wants to benefit from Asia’s rapid development and economic dominance in the 21st century, it needs to develop its regions in Asia.

With the development of the region naturally meaning increased trade and cultural exchanges with China, tens of thousands of Chinese citizens have now migrated to the region in search of opportunities and establish themselves as merchants and entrepreneurs. Whether we begin seeing Indian and Japanese merchants in the Russian Far East remains to be seen.

With India and China competing in Nepal and border issues on the Indian-Chinese frontier remaining unresolved in New Delhi’s eyes, it appears that India is now wanting to compete against China in a region that has had connections with China for millennia. Russia has been encouraging more and diversified investments in the Far East and Japan and India will take every opportunity to do this.

Russia and China remain strategic partners and are also pragmatic international players that continue to pursue a policy of non-interference. Therefore, although China has frosty relations with Japan and India, it can respect Russia’s ties with both countries. This pragmatism has now allowed India and Japan to engage in a friendly competition for economic influence over Russia’s resource rich region. Although both Japan and China invest in raw material and energy projects in the Far East, India will be a new player to this sector with Indian Oil and Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan expressing his long-term interest in the Russian coal and steel sector during his visit to Russia last week.

With India becoming increasingly energy hungry because of its enormous and growing population, alongside its economic development, it is easily seen why the resource rich Russian region is of critical importance to it. For Japan, the region presents unmatched economic opportunities. Most interestingly to observe is whether India and Japan will continue to work in trilateral formats to continue expanding their economic interests and challenge the BRI in other regions. It appears now that after their cooperation in Sri Lanka, their second step is to challenge the expansion of the BRI in Russia’s Far East by competing for lucrative contracts and opportunities that the region can offer.

Paul Antonopoulos is the director of the Multipolar research centre.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Asian Century bypasses Modi’s India

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 1, 2019

The stunning news that India’s GDP growth rate is hitting a six-year low figure of 5 percent in the past six-year period comes as reality check. Many economists even hold the view that in actuality, take away the statistical jugglery, India’s actual GDP growth figure could be somewhere around 3 percent.

Either way, it is a dismal scenario. As mostly the case, it is the poor people who will suffer from the decline in the GDP growth rate than the rich. There is going to be a significant decline in the employment rate and the number of people below poverty line could rise. Clearly, the 5-trillion dollar economy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted about as his second term began 100 days ago, seems a pipe dream. Even to recall PM’s quote becomes a painful embarrassment.

In a Reuters poll of economists, analysts believe the slowdown could persist for two or three years while much needed structural reforms are put in place. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Thursday a big push on infrastructure spending would be needed to revive consumer demand and private investment. Structural reforms were also required to ease the path for businesses in India, it said.

What causes such profound disquiet is that all this appears to go way beyond a cyclical slowdown. The economy has lost momentum.

To be sure, the government policy approach will need to be multi-pronged. But this is also fundamentally a crisis of India’s political economy. Watch former PM Manmohan Singh’s stern warning that the looming crisis should not be underestimated, as it is a combustible mix of many elements that aren’t easy to separate — deficiency in statecraft, populist politics, political vendetta, flawed economic measures, bad economic management, lack of accountability, authoritarianism, etc.

There is a crucial foreign-policy dimension to it — India is in critical need of a peaceful external environment so that it can prioritise the economy. Plainly put, the government needs to apply itself diligently to keep down tensions in relations with Pakistan.

All that talk by senior cabinet ministers about “nuclear first use” and of “taking back” POK and Northern Areas from Pakistan is hogwash. Standing on such emaciated legs, no country can wage a war. Just throw into the dustbin all that jingoism.

Misplaced national priorities have brought the economy to a cul-de-sac. Glance through the statistics of the top ten fastest growing Asian economies today: Bangladesh (8.13%) ; Nepal (7.9%); Bhutan (7.4%); China (6.9%); Myanmar (6.8%); Philippines (6.7%);  Malaysia (5.9%) Pakistan (5.4%); Indonesia (5.1%); India – 5%

Modi becomes the first prime minister of independent India to take the country’s GDP growth rate below Pakistan’s. This should be rude awakening and should prompt honest soul-searching.

What a wasteful foreign policy our country has been saddled with, focusing on vainglorious projects that have no relevance to the “real India”! How does it help India if PM worships at the Krishna temple in Bahrain or receives the highest national award of the Emirati nation?

Alas, the diplomatic calendar of the present government since it took over in May shows that we are still focused on dream projects to boost the image of the Leader in the domestic audience and to pursue a US-centric foreign policy.

The foreign-policy priority today is to somehow “lock in” the Trump administration by buying more oil and LNG from the US even if at a much higher cost than what Iran is able to supply. By succumbing to the US diktat, India is compelled to import phosphates — a vital input for farming sector — via enterprising Emirati middlemen rather than directly from Iran, at an increased cost of 30 percent! Who cares?

The government prioritises a mega energy conference in Houston, Texas, later this month so that we can buy more energy from the US — and also, explore proposals for massive Indian investments in the American energy sector. The idea is to substantially contribute to “America First” so that Trump is somehow kept happy and the long-term “Indo-Pacific strategy” aimed at containing China can be pursued without hiccups.

Of late, the thrust of Indian diplomacy lies in warding off the Pakistani challenge on the Kashmir issue. But the more we go on that track, the more work it generates for our diplomats to “counter” the Pakistani backlash. It is all turning out to be a Catch-22 situation.

Not all the waters in the Ganges can clean the accumulating filth of the comparisons being bandied about in the world media between Modi’s India and Nazi Germany. We are going to get even more of all that when the European Parliament meets tomorrow to exchange views on the situation in J&K.

Delhi got the tip-off that the POK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider will be present at the European Parliament when it will discuss the Kashmir issue on September 2. So, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar gets through to Brussels post-haste in the weekend with tons of detergent powder to sanitise the lobby. Raja Farooq Haider versus Subrahmanyam Jaishankar: nothing could more graphically highlight the tragedy of Indian diplomacy today.

Forget about India attracting western businessmen as an investment destination in the prevailing setting. And, make no mistake, no one is yet accounting for the massive haemorrhage of resources in the deployment of a million troops in J&K till eternity. How many world economies can sustain such a futile enterprise?

Not even the US, the lone superpower. Trump has programmed his diplomats to delver on his stern demand that the American troop level in Afghanistan should be drastically reduced in immediate terms — from 14,000 troops to 8,600 troops. He thinks it is “ridiculous” and stupid that a great army trained to fight wars is deployed for police duties. Trump is pressing hard for a political solution.

Doesn’t some of all this rub on Modi when he converses with the leaders of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the three top “Asian tigers”? Don’t they talk serious stuff when they get quality time with Modi — how well their countries are growing but how much better they still could if only India ceases to be a laggard in the neighbourhood?

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

India begins sending Russia money for S-400s despite pressure from US

RT | August 29, 2019

New Delhi started paying for the state-of-the-art Russian S-400 air defense missile systems it ordered, as Washington failed to pressure the country into scrapping the major arms deal with Moscow.

Moscow has received an advanced payment for the weapon systems, the spokesperson for the FSVTS, the government agency responsible for coordinating arms trades, confirmed on Thursday.Russia and India sealed the $5.4bn deal in October after lengthy talks. Moscow is now due to ship five batteries of the S-400s by 2023.

The contract is a headache for the US, which has tried to pressure India into scrapping the sale. Officials in New Delhi, however, maintain that the S-400 is essential for national defense and have decided to stick with the purchase, despite the risk of violating US sanctions on Russia.

Similarly, Washington tried to dissuade its NATO ally, Turkey from buying S-400s from Moscow. Ankara also refused to budge, insisting it is free to choose the countries it purchases weapons from. Turkey began receiving components of the S-400s last month.

India has also ordered 21 new MiG-29 jet fighters from Russia and, on Wednesday, signed an agreement to upgrade the MiGs it already has.

August 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Kashmir’s New Status: Why the West Turns a Blind Eye to Democracy Deficit in India

By Brian Cloughley | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 27, 2019

On August 23 the New York Times reported that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs “won’t say why foreign journalists continue to be blocked from setting foot in Kashmir” but managed to obtain a compelling first-hand account of one of the thousands of arrests by the authorities. In this instance “Asifa Mubeen was woken up by the sound of barking dogs as policemen began pouring into her yard. Her husband, Mubeen Shah, a wealthy Kashmiri merchant, stepped out onto their bedroom balcony in the night air. The police shouted that he was under arrest. When he asked to see a warrant, his wife said, the police told him there wouldn’t be one. ‘This is different,’ they said. ‘We have orders.’ It was the start of one of the biggest mass arrests of civilian leaders in decades carried out by India, a close American partner that bills itself as one of the world’s leading democracies…”

The appalling situation in Indian-administered Kashmir has been created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced on August 5 that he was annulling Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which since 1949 has given the territory (called a State by India) virtual self-government. It had its own Constitution and the most important thing was that the special status of the region allowed it to adhere to the ancient law prohibiting outsiders from buying land. The central government could not overrule the law — but with Modi’s repeal of Article 370 there is now direct rule by Delhi.

This means that the people of the territory have no say whatever in their own governance. It has also meant, thus far, the arrest and detention of some 4,000 people under the Public Safety Act which allows the authorities to jail anyone for up to two years without charge. That isn’t exactly democratic — and it is intriguing to think about how Donald Trump would regard such a law, were he aware of it.

Deficiency of democracy doesn’t stop there, because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act “grants the armed forces the power to shoot to kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without warrant, and to detain people without time limits. The law forbids prosecution of soldiers without approval from the central government, which is rarely granted, giving them effective immunity for serious human rights abuses.”

The Public Safety and Special Powers Acts are in full swing in Indian-administered Kashmir, and the population is in effect under military occupation authorised by Modi’s ultra-right wing government in Delhi. It is, to all intents, occupied territory whose inhabitants have no say whatever in their own governance. (There were supposed to be elections this year, but with the invalidation of Article 370 these can no longer take place. It has all been carefully thought through.)

And the leaders of the US and Britain, these usually eloquent supporters of freedom for the peoples of the world, have made no critical statements about the mass arrests or cancellation of elections or total closure of means of communication, and they ignore the fact that India’s Constitution “explicitly declares that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression [Article 19(1)(a)].”

The New York Times managed to ascertain that in Kashmir, the thousands of detainees “have not been able to communicate with their families or meet with lawyers. Their whereabouts remain unknown. Most were taken in the middle of the night, witnesses said.” This smacks of dictatorship, for it is undeniable that detention and incarceration without trial is totalitarian rather than democratic.

It is barely credible that “Among the people who were rounded up were Mian Qayoom, president of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association; Mohammed Yasin Khan, chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance; Raja Muzaffar Bhat, an anticorruption crusader; Fayaz Ahmed Mir, a tractor driver and Arabic scholar; and Mehbooba Mufti, the first woman elected as Kashmir’s chief minister. Shah Faesal, another politician, was arrested at New Delhi’s international airport, bags checked, boarding pass in hand, heading for a fellowship at Harvard. Several prominent state politicians have also been put under house arrest; they told Indian news outlets they had been ordered not to engage in any ‘political activity’.”

But there hasn’t been a peep of protest from Britain’s Boris Johnson, he who showed solidarity with the protestors in Hong Kong by declaring “I do support them and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way.”

There hasn’t been a squeak of remonstrance from Washington, either, where Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the rule of President Maduro “is undemocratic to the core” and Trump committed his country to “stand with… all Venezuelans who seek to restore democracy and the rule of law.”

If Johnson and Trump are so supportive of democracy, why do they not protest about mass arrests and detentions and cancellation of democratic elections in Indian-administered Kashmir? Why do they not take Modi to task for his excesses? It was recorded on August 23 that in Indian-administered Kashmir, “Data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between Aug 5 and Aug 21.” It is regrettable that Trump and Johnson ignored the fact that on August 22 “UN human rights experts today called on the Government of India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests imposed in Indian-Administered Kashmir this month.” It was also stated by the UN experts, headed by Special Rapporteur David Kaye, that “The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality. The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”

The absence of any criticism by Trump and Johnson of the military rule excesses in Indian-administered Kashmir will encourage Modi and his far-right nationalist administration to extend their racist grip throughout India. Since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 there has been a most marked increase in officially-endorsed communal violence, mainly against Muslims but also involving other minority groups. These outbreaks of Hindu-supremacy barbarity are sponsored largely by a militant organisation called the Bajrang Dal which as noted in the New Yorker “has either been banned or has lurked at the margins of Indian society. But [since 2014] the militant group has been legitimized and grown exponentially more powerful. In the past seven years, according to Factchecker, an organization that tracks hate crimes, there have been a hundred and sixty-eight attacks by Hindu extremists, in the name of protecting cows, against Muslims and other religious minorities.”

Indian democracy is under grave threat from racist Hindu supremacists, and the New York Times rightly considers it disquieting that Modi “seems intent on digging in, and he has the Indian public firmly behind him. Many Indians see Kashmir as an integral part of India, and this move has stirred up jingoist feelings. Indian news channels have referred to the detainees being flown out of Kashmir as ‘Pakistani terrorists’ or ‘separatist leaders,’ toeing the government line.”

The most appalling thing is that Modi’s India appears intent on eradicating Muslims and that the vast majority of Hindus are right behind him. In order for him to succeed, there has to be destruction of democracy — and that’s exactly what is happening.

August 27, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Journalism faces dire situation in Kashmir

By Shahana Butt – Press TV – August 22, 2019

Kashmir – In Indian-administered Kashmir, journalists and journalism are suffering the worst work challenges in decades. There has been a complete communication gag in the region since New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status.

This is not a usual gathering or a political meeting, these are the journalists gathered under one roof, working on Kashmir stories.

Kashmir’s administration has created a media center for journalists in the region following the criticism over the media dysfunction.

In the absence of communication facilities like the internet, mobile phones and landlines, this facilitation center created by government is the only source for journalists to send their reports out of Kashmir.

These four desktops and one cellular mobile phone have become lifeline for journalists working from Kashmir. From early morning till late evening, journalists wait in queues for their turn to come.

After New Delhi’s move of scrapping Kashmir’s autonomous status on August 5, Kashmir has witnessed a complete communication blackout. Not just international media outlets suffered, but local and regional news networks and journalists were hit the hardest.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, there are hundreds of journalists associated with more than a hundred news dailies and over 40 national and international media outlets, the communication blackout not only stopped local publications but pushed the entire Himalayan region to somewhere around stone age.

The local administration in Kashmir has no idea as to when this communication blockade will end. Journalists say the information blackout has furthered the fear among people and has created space for rumor-mongering and false news, adding to the already existing panic.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370

Photograph Source: Motohiro Sunouchi – CC BY 2.0
By Nyla Ali Khan | CounterPunch | August 20, 2019

Introduction

The recent unilateral decision of Prime Minister Modi’s government to revoke Article 370, which guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir; dismemberment of the State, and its diminishment are flagrant violations of the sovereign Constitution of India. These maneuvers jeopardize the federal structure of India. The erosion of the rights and privileges of a State is an unhealthy precedent to set in a diverse and federal country. The current curbing of political and civil rights in Jammu and Kashmir is deplorable.

Historical Perspective

On 26 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the “Instrument of Accession” to India, officially ceding to the government of India jurisdiction over defense, foreign affairs and communications. The accession of J & K to India was accepted by Lord Mountbatten with the proviso that once political stability was established in the region, a referendum would be held in which the people of the State would either validate or veto the accession. After signing the Instrument of Accession, the maharaja appointed his political adversary, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, as the head of an interim government.

On 2 November 1947, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, reiterated his government’s pledge to not only the people of Kashmir, but also to the international community, to hold a referendum in Indian and Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of a world body like the United Nations, in order to determine whether the populace preferred to be affiliated with India or Pakistan. Nehru emphasized this commitment several times at public forums over the next few years.

In January 1948 India referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations. Prime Minister Nehru took the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir beyond local and national boundaries by bringing it before the UN Security Council, and seeking a ratification of India’s “legal” claims over Kashmir. The UN reinforced Nehru’s pledge of holding a plebiscite in Kashmir, and in 1948 the Security Council established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to play the role of mediator in the Kashmir issue. The UNCIP adopted a resolution urging the government of Pakistan to cease the infiltration of tribal mercenaries and raiders into J & K. It also urged the government of India to demilitarize the State by “withdrawing their own forces from Jammu and Kashmir and reducing them progressively to the minimum strength required for the support of civil power in the maintenance of law and order.” The resolution proclaimed that once these conditions were fulfilled, the government of India would be obligated to hold a plebiscite in the State in order to either ratify or veto the accession of J & K to India.

In the meantime, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir negotiated with the central government to ensure that it would be allowed to function as a fully autonomous unit within the federation. Article 370 of the Constitution of India ensured that apart from defense, foreign affairs, and communications, decisions with regard to other matters would be determined with the consent of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. There was a reason that special status was guaranteed to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. On 13 July 1950, the new government of J & K, headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, made a landmark decision.

“Between 1950 and 1952, 700,000 landless peasants, mostly Muslims in the Valley but including 250,000 lower-caste Hindus in the Jammu region, became peasant-proprietors as over a million acres were directly transferred to them, while another sizeable chunk of land passed to government-run collective farms. By the early 1960s, 2.8 million acres of farmland (rice being the principal crop in the Valley) and fruit orchards were under cultivation, worked by 2.8 million smallholding peasant-proprietor households.” (Bose 2003: 27–28)

This metamorphosis of the agrarian economy had groundbreaking political consequences. This revolutionary measure, which greatly improved the human development index in the State, would not have been possible without Article 370. The political logic of autonomy and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was necessitated by the need to bring about socioeconomic transformations.

The legislative bill, which had orchestrated this transformation, won the unstinting support of thousands of erstwhile disenfranchised peasants. But displaced landlords and officials in the Dogra regime made no bones about their hatred of the political supremacy of the new class of Kashmiri Muslims. This hatred unleashed a reign of terror and brutality against the Valley’s new political class.

The “defining moment in Jammu and Kashmir’s post-Indian independence history” came in 1950 when disenfranchised peasants “were freed from the shackles of landlords through a law that gave them ownership rights on the land they tilled. . . . The sweeping land reforms under the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act passed on July 13, 1950, changed the complexion of Kashmiri society. The historical image of the emaciated local farmer in tatters, with sunken faces and listless eyes, toiling to fill the granaries of landlords changed overnight into one of a landowner who expected to benefit from the labor he had put in for generations” (Ahmed, F.). This program emphasized the necessity of abolishing exploitative landlordism without compensation and enfranchising tillers by granting them the lands they worked on. Many policy makers in the Indian subcontinent, political scientists, and economists have acknowledged the effectiveness and rigor of land reforms in Jammu and Kashmir, which benefited underprivileged farmers in all three parts of the State—Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.

In August 1952, the government of J & K reiterated the commitment of to the principles of secularism and democracy which enabled the forging of ties with the Indian nation-state: “The supreme guarantee of our relationship with India is the identity of secular and democratic aspirations, which have guided the people of India as well as those of Jammu and Kashmir in their struggle for emancipation, and before which all constitutional safeguards will take a secondary position.” For the layperson, the “new Kashmir” in which the hitherto peripheralized Muslim population of the Valley and marginalized women would reinsert themselves into the language of belonging a welcome development.

But the nationalist project of the Praja Parishad had sought the subsumption of religious minorities into a centralized and authoritarian state since the 1940s. These integrative and centralist measures were met with massive opposition, which the government of India suppressed with bloody maneuvers. The volcanic nature of the protests in the Valley gave a veneer of legitimacy to its action of large-scale repression of leaders of the Plebiscite Front. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was also arrested, for the umpteenth time, under the Defense of India Rules, to further hush the voices of dissent.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah underlined in his letter to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, in February 1953,

When talking about the constitutional aspect, it is sometimes conveniently forgotten that the Praja Parishad wants that Article 370 should be expunged from the Constitution. So far as we are concerned, we have maintained that the special position accorded to the State can alone be the source of a growing unity and closer association between the State and India. The Constituent Assembly of India took note of the special circumstances obtaining in the State and made provisions accordingly.

To entertain the doubt that the Muslims of Kashmir would now give up their secular ideals would be uncharitable, although the statements and the pronouncements made by the leaders of communal parties in India from time to time and the inspiration and guidance they are providing at the moment to the Praja Parishad leadership in Jammu is, no doubt, giving them a rude shock. But let me assure you and the people of India that the Muslims in Kashmir will not falter from their ideals even if they are left alone in this great battle for secularism and human brotherhood.

As I’ve said on other forums, the Constitution of India seeks to guarantee respect for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the integrity of the electoral process. But time and again, provisions of the Constitution of India have been breached in Kashmir, and the ideals that it enshrines have been forgotten. In Kashmir, rights relating to life, liberty, dignity of the people, and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, embodied in the fundamental covenants and enforceable by courts of law, have been flouted. The revocation of Article 370, without consultation, makes it clear that the much lauded parliamentary democracy in India has been unable to protect a genuine democratic set-up in Kashmir.

Heads of Governments cannot avoid their ethical and moral responsibilities toward the peoples of the States in a federal country. The lives of those people cannot be torn asunder by paramilitary forces and other “upholders” of the law.

Blow to Kashmiriyat 

“Kashmiriyat” was not handed down to me as an unachievable and abstract construct. On the contrary, it was crystallized for me as the eradication of a feudal structure and its insidious ramifications. It was the right of the tiller to the land he worked on. It was the unacceptability of any political solution that did not take the aspirations and demands of the Kashmiri people into consideration. It was the right of Kashmiris to high offices in education, the bureaucracy and government; the availability of medical and educational facilities in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It was the preservation of literatures and and historical artifacts that defined an important aspect of “Kashmiriyat.” It was the formation of the Constituent Assembly of J & K to institutionalize the Constitution of the State in 1951, which was an enormous leap toward the process of democratization. It was the fundamental right of both women and men to free education up to the university level. It was, constitutionally, equal opportunities afforded to both sexes in the workplace. It was the nurturing of a contact zone in social, political and intellectual ideologies and institutions. It was pride in a cultural identity that was generated in a space created by multiple perspectives.

Trust cannot be won and unity cannot be maintained by the display of national chauvinism and erosion of Kashmiriyat.

Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at nylakhan@aol.com.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Daesh Is Curiously Pursuing The Same Strategic Goal As India In Afghanistan

By Andrew Korybko | EurasiaFuture | 2019-08-18

Daesh claimed credit for a suicide bombing at a Pakistani mosque on Saturday that ended up killing the Taliban leader’s younger brother, briefly raising fears that the organization would pull out of its ongoing peace talks with the US in response. Those concerns were quickly dismissed after one of the group’s unnamed representatives told Reuters that “If someone thinks martyring our leaders would stop us from our goal they’re living in a fool’s paradise”, which was met with a sigh of relief by practically everyone in the world, that is, except India. The South Asian state doesn’t support the US’ decision to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, as the author elaborated upon earlier this year in his piece about “Reading Between The Lines: India Has Sour Grapes Over America’s Afghan Peace Talks“, which explained that New Delhi wants Washington to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely since its partner’s military presence guarantees that the landlocked country could be used to expand its “strategic depth” by functioning as a Hybrid War staging ground against the global pivot state of Pakistan.

It’s therefore curious that Daesh’s latest suicide attack in Pakistan could have fulfilled India’s political fantasy of sabotaging the US-Taliban peace talks and thus keeping the Pentagon indefinitely in Afghanistan. One would be inclined to believe that Daesh would prefer for the US to leave the country as soon as possible, yet the world’s most notorious terrorist group defied expectations through its brazen action that could have resulted in the opposite. While Daesh’s rivalry with the Taliban is well known, it’s difficult to believe that it would do what it did at this specific time given the ultra-sensitive context involved relating to the US’ possible withdrawal from Afghanistan if the peace talks succeed, so it certainly makes one wonder whether Indian intelligence might have had a hand in guiding events, at the very least. It wouldn’t exactly be unprecedented either since detained Hybrid War operative Kulbhushan Jadav admitted to organizing terrorist attacks in the Pakistani region of Balochistan, which is where Daesh’s latest one occurred.

There’s no way to know for sure whether this was the case or not, but it’s nevertheless a plausible theory when considering the aforementioned strategic variables at play. Indian intelligence has connections with terrorist groups and is using them as proxies for waging a Hybrid War on Pakistan that’s hitherto mostly been with the intent of sabotaging CPEC, so it’s not inconceivable that some of those same assets could be used to target the Taliban’s younger brother with the intent of provoking the group to pull out of its peace talks with the US. Should that have been the case, then this operation definitely failed, but it would reveal just how desperate India is to keep the American military in Afghanistan that it would resort to orchestrating a carefully calibrated terrorist attack that could have ended up being a global game-changer. It would also speak to just how distrustful India is of its new American military-strategic ally and represent an escalation of the incipient Hybrid War being waged by both of them against the other, albeit with India taking the step to make it kinetic whereas the US had kept it purely within the economic and diplomatic realms for now.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Kashmir Caged: A Fact-Finding Report

Army patrol on the road | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
By Jean Drèze, Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah and Vimal Bhai | Indian Cultural Forum | August 14, 2019

We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.

When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.

We travelled widely, inside and outside Srinagar – far beyond the small enclave (in the centre of Srinagar) where the Indian media operates. In that small enclave, a semblance of normalcy returns from time to time, and this has enabled the Indian media to claim that life in Kashmir is back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We spent five days moving around and talking to hundreds of ordinary people in Srinagar city, as well as villages and small towns of Kashmir. We spoke to women, school and college students, shopkeepers, journalists, people who run small businesses, daily wage labourers, workers and migrants from UP, West Bengal and other states. We spoke to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who live in the Valley, as well as Kashmiri Muslims.

Everywhere, we were cordially received, even by people who were very angry about the situation or sceptical of our purpose. Even as people expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India, they extended warmth and unstinting hospitality to us. We are deeply moved by this.

Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. On the contrary, most people were extremely angry, both at the abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A) and at the manner in which it had been done.

Anger and fear were the dominant emotions we encountered everywhere. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera. Anyone who speaks up is at risk of persecution from the government.

Many told us that they expected massive protests to erupt sooner or later (after restrictions were relaxed, after Eid, after 15 August, or even later), and anticipated violent repression even if the protests were peaceful.

A summary of our observations

  • There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.

  • To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.

  • The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.

  • People live in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.

  • The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.

  • As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.

Reactions To The Government’s Treatment of J&K

  • When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passengers could switch on our mobiles, the entire flight (with mostly Kashmiris in it) burst into mocking laughter. “What a joke”, we could hear people say – since mobile and landline phones and internet have all been blocked since 5 August!

  • As soon as we set foot in Srinagar, we came across a few small children playacting in a park. We could hear them say ‘Iblees Modi’. ‘Iblees’ means ‘Satan’.

  • The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.”

  • In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone, India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to the marital contract) between Kashmir and India. (More on people’s reactions to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A below)

  • There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?”

Reactions To The Abrogation Of Article 370 and 35A

  • A man in Guree village (Anantnag district) said: “Hamara unse rishta Article 370 aur 35A se tha. Ab unhone apne hi paer par kulhadi mar di hai. In Articles ko khatm kar diya hai. Ab to ham azad ho gaye hain.” (Our relation with them (India) was through Article 370 and Article 35A. Now they have themselves committed the folly of dissolving these Articles. So now we are free.” The same man raised slogans of “We want freedom” followed by slogans of “Restore Articles 370 and 35A.”

  • Many described Article 370 and 35A as Kashmir’s “pehchan” (identity). They felt that the abrogation of these Articles is a humiliating attack on Kashmir’s self-respect and identity.

  • Not all demanded restoration of Article 370. Many said that it was only the parliamentary parties who had asked people to have faith that India would honour the contract that was Article 370. The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi” (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.”

  • “Modi has destroyed India’s own law, its own Constitution” was another common refrain. Those who said this, felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir. But the Modi Government had not only sought to destroy Kashmir, it had destroyed a law and Constitution that was India’s own.

  • A hosiery businessman in Jahangir Chowk, Srinagar said, “Congress ne peeth mein choora bhonka tha, BJP ne saamne se choora bhonka hai.” (Congress had stabbed us from the back, BJP is stabbing us up front). He added, “They strangled their own Constitution. It’s first step towards Hindu Rashtra.”

  • In some ways, people were more concerned about the effects of the abrogation of 35A than that of 370. It is widely recognised that Article 370 retained only nominal, symbolic autonomy and had already been diluted. With 35A gone, though, people fear that “State land will be sold cheap to investors. Ambani, Patanjali etc can come in easily. Kashmir’s resources and land will be grabbed. In Kashmir as it stands now, education and employment levels are better than in the mainland. But tomorrow Kashmiris will have to compete for Government jobs with those from other states. After one generation, most Kashmiris won’t have jobs or be forced to move to the mainland.”

“Normalcy” – Or “Peace Of The Graveyard”?

Is the situation in Kashmir “normal” and “peaceful”? The answer is an emphatic NO.

  • One young man in Sopore said: “This is bandook ki khamoshi (the silence at gunpoint), kabristan ki khamoshi (the peace of the graveyard).”

  • The newspaper Greater Kashmir had one (front) page of news and a sports page at the back: the two inside pages were full of cancellation announcements of weddings or receptions!

Invitations cancelled I Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • Between 5-9 August, people had suffered for lack of food, milk, and basic needs. People had been prevented even from going to hospitals in case of sickness.

  • The Government claim is that only Section 144 has been imposed, not “curfew”. But in reality, police vans keep patrolling Srinagar warning people to “stay safe at home and not venture out during the curfew”, and tell shops to close their shutters. They demand that people display “curfew passes” to be allowed to move about.

  • All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid.

  • In Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore (South Kashmir) on the day of Eid, we only saw very small kids dressed in Eid finery. Everyone else was in mourning. “We feel like we’re in jail”, said a woman in Guree (Anantnag). Girls in Nagbal (Shopian) said, “With our brothers in police or army custody, how can we celebrate Eid?”

  • On 11 August, on the eve of Eid, a woman at Sopore told us she had come to the bazaar during a brief respite in the curfew, to buy a few supplies for Eid. She said: “We were prisoners in our own homes for 7 days. Even today, shops are closed in my village Langet, so I came to Sopore town to shop for Eid and to check on my daughter who is a nursing student here.”

Eid in Pulwama | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • “It’s Army rule not Modi rule. There are more soldiers here than people”, said a young baker at Watpura near Bandipora. His friend added, “We’re afraid, because the army camp nearby keeps imposing impossible rules. They insist we have to return within half an hour if we leave home. If my kid isn’t well, and I have to take her to the hospital, it may take more than half an hour. If someone visits their daughter who lives in next village, they may take more than half hour to return. But if there’s any delay, they will harass us.” The CRPF paramilitary is everywhere, outside nearly every home in Kashmir. These are clearly not there to provide “security” to Kashmiris – on the contrary, their presence creates fear for the people.

  • Sheep traders and herders could be seen with unsold sheep and goats. Animals they had been rearing all year long, would not be sold. This meant they would incur a huge loss. With people unable to earn, many could not afford to buy animals for the Eid sacrifice.

  • A shopkeeper from Bijnore (UP) showed us the stacks of unsold sweets and delicacies going waste, since people could not buy them. Shops and bakeries wore a deserted look on the eve of Eid, with their perishable food items lying unsold.

  • An asthmatic auto driver in Srinagar, showed us his last remaining dose of salbutamol and asthalin. He had been trying for the past several days to buy more – but the chemists’ shops and hospitals in his area had run out of stocks. He could go to other, bigger hospitals – but CRPF would prevent him. He showed us the empty, crushed cover of one asthalin inhaler – when he told a CRPF man he needed to go further to get the medicine, the man stamped on the cover with his boot. “Why stamp on it? He hates us, that’s why”, said the auto driver.

Protests, Repression, and Brutality

  • Some 10,000 people protested in Soura (Srinagar) on 9 August. The forces responded with pellet gun fire, injuring several. We attempted to go to Soura on 10 August, but were stopped by a CRPF barricade. We did see young protestors on the road that day as well, blockading the road.

  • We met two victims of pellet gun injuries in SMHS hospital in Srinagar. The two young men (Waqar Ahmad and Wahid) had faces, arms and torso full of pellets. Their eyes were bloodshot and blinded. Waqar had a catheter in which the urine, red with blood from internal bleeding, could be seen. Their family members, weeping with grief and rage, told us that the two men had not been pelting stones. They had been peacefully protesting.

Pellet gun victim | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai
  • On 6 August, a graphic designer for the Rising Kashmir newspaper, Samir Ahmad, (in his early 20s) had remonstrated with a CRPF man near his home in the Manderbag area of Srinagar, asking him to allow an old man to pass. Later the same day, when Samir opened the door to his house, CRPF fired at him with a pellet gun, unprovoked. He got 172 pellets in his arm and face near the eyes, but his eyesight is safe. It is clear that the pellet guns are deliberately aimed at the face and eyes, and unarmed, peaceful civilians standing at their own front doors can be targets.

  • At least 600 political leaders and civil society activists are under arrest. There is no clear information on what laws are invoked to arrest them, or where they are being held.

  • A very large number of political leaders are under house arrest – it is impossible to ascertain how many. We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami – but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest.

  • In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages.

  • Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” – i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” – i.e is killed in custody – the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.”

  • But the protests are not likely to stop. A young man at Sopore said: “Jitna zulm karenge, utna ham ubharenge” (The more you oppress us, the more we will rise up) A familiar refrain we heard at many places was: “Never mind if leaders are arrested. We don’t need leaders. As long as even a single Kashmiri baby is alive, we will struggle.”

The Gag On Media

  • A journalist told us: “Newspapers are printing in spite of everything. Without the internet, we do not get any feed from agencies. We were reduced to reporting the J&K related developments in Parliament, from NDTV! This is undeclared censorship. If Govt is giving internet and phone connectivity to police but not to media houses what does it mean? We had some people come to our offices, speaking on behalf of Army and CRPF, asking “Why are you publishing photos of the curfew-affected streets?”

  • Kashmiri TV channels are completely closed and unable to function.

  • Kashmiri newspapers that carry the barest mention of protests (such as the one on Soura) are made to feel the heat from the authorities.

  • Foreign press reporters told us that they are facing restrictions on their movement by the authorities. Also, because of the lack of internet, they are unable to communicate with their own main offices.

  • When we visited Press Enclave in Srinagar on 13 August, we found the newspaper offices closed and the area deserted except for a few stray journalists, and some CID men. One of the journalists told us that papers could not be printed till at least 17 August, because they have run out of newsprint which comes from Delhi.

  • As mentioned above, one graphic designer working with a newspaper suffered pellet gun injuries, during a completely unprovoked attack by CRPF

A checkpoint in Srinagar | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai

Does Kashmir Lack Development?

In an op-ed in the Times Of India (August 9, 2019), former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote: “A young Kashmiri told this writer a few months ago her birthplace was in the “stone age”; that in terms of economic development, Kashmir was two hundred years behind the rest of India.”

We struggled to find this “backward”, “stone age” Kashmir anywhere at all.

  • It is striking how in every Kashmiri village, we found young men and women who go to college or University; speak Kashmiri, Hindi and English fluently; and are able to argue points of Constitutional and international law in relation to the Kashmir conflict with factual accuracy and erudition. All four of the team members are familiar with villages in North Indian states. This high level of education is extremely rare in any village in, say, Bihar, UP, MP, or Jharkhand.

  • The homes in rural Kashmir are all pucca constructions. We saw no shacks like the ones that are common in rural Bihar, UP, Jharkhand.

  • There are poor people in Kashmir, certainly. But the levels of destitution, starvation and abject poverty seen in many North Indian states, is simply absent in rural Kashmir.

  • We met migrant labourers from North India and West Bengal at many places. They told us that they feel safe and free from xenophobic violence that they face in, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat. Daily wage migrant labourers told us “Kashmir is our Dubai. We earn Rs 600 to Rs 800 per day here – that is three or four times what we earn in other states.”

  • We found Kashmir refreshingly free of communal tension or mob lynchings. We met Kashmiri pandits who told us they felt safe in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris always celebrate their festivals together. “We celebrate Eid, Holi, Diwali together. That is our Kashmiriyat. It is something different, special,” said one Kashmiri Pandit young man.

  • The myth of the “backward” Kashmiri woman is perhaps the biggest lie. Kashmiri girls enjoy a high level of education. They are articulate and assertive. Of course, they face and resist patriarchy and gender discrimination in their societies. But does BJP, whose Haryana CM and Muzaffarnagar MLA speak of “getting Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are property to be looted, have any right to preach feminism to Kashmir? Kashmiri girls and women told us, “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”

The BJP Spokesperson’s “Warning”

We met BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo at the office of Rising Kashmir, a Kashmir newspaper. The conversation was initially cordial. He told us he had come to Kashmir from Jammu to persuade people to support the abrogation of Article 370. His main argument was that since the BJP had won a 46% vote share in J&K and had won an unprecedented majority in Parliament, they had not only a right but a duty to keep their promise of scrapping Article 370. “46% vote share – that’s a license”, he said.

He refused to acknowledge that this 46% vote share while winning only three Lok Sabha seats (Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh) was possible only because the voter turnout in the three other LS seats (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) was the lowest in the whole country.

Should a Government impose an unpopular decision on people of Kashmir who have not voted for that decision, at gunpoint? Chrungoo said, “In Bihar when Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition, he didn’t ask the alcoholics for their permission or consent. It’s the same here.” His contempt for the people of Kashmir was evident from this analogy.

Towards the end of the conversation, he became increasingly edgy when confronted by facts and arguments by us. He got up and wagged a finger at Jean Dreze, saying “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you.”

Conclusion

The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control. The decisions taken by the Modi Government on J&K are immoral, unconstitutional and illegal. The means being adopted by the Modi Government to hold Kashmiris captive and suppress potential protests are also immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal.

  • We demand the immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.

  • We assert that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.

  • We demand that communications – including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.

  • We demand that the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect. The people of J&K are anguished – and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public gatherings and other peaceful means.

  • We demand that the gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.

Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

India’s narrative on J&K is hyperbolic

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 13, 2019

Editorials have appeared in two leading Delhi newspapers today (here and here) urging the government to present a credible, appealing diplomatic narrative on the J&K developments.

The Indian narrative so far is largely focused on the domestic audience. It has gone to ridiculous extents by projecting that the situation is actually quite “normal” in J&K. Pictures of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval savouring (mutton) biryani with Kashmiri Muslims on a street corner in Srinagar have been doing the rounds. (Indeed, it was a charade to hoodwink the public.)

Crude propaganda won’t win hearts and minds. A narrative has to be crafted rationally. It’s common knowledge that there is little acceptance of the government move among Kashmiri Muslims.

When it comes to the external projection of the Indian narrative, given the fact that India’s case is flying in the face of international law and the UN Charter, the government must be capable of sensitivity.

The government would have seized the initiative at the diplomatic level if only soon after Home Minister Amit Shah piloted through both houses of the parliament at breakneck speed the legislation on abrogating Article 370 of the constitution, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had stood up and made a suo moto statement offering to discuss all differences with Pakistan bilaterally in a comprehensive dialogue in the best interests of regional security, peace and stability.

Of course, such a momentous initiative would have required imagination, far-sightedness and wisdom — and, most important, political courage at the leadership level. The shortfall in statecraft and diplomacy is appalling.

A self-righteous attitude will not do. Take EAM’s demarche with the Chinese counterpart State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Monday. The MEA readout spells out the Indian stance on the following lines:

One, constitutional amendment is an “internal matter for India” and the “sole prerogative of the country”.

Two, abrogation of J&K’s special status (including changes in Ladakh’s status) is aimed at “promoting better governance and socio-economic development”.

Three, the government move has “no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control” with China.

And, four, India is “not raising any additional territorial claims.”

Incredibly enough, this was how EAM brushed aside China’s “serious concern over the recent escalation of turmoil in Kashmir” – that “any unilateral action that may complicate the situation in Kashmir should not be taken; that the Kashmir issue is a dispute born out of the region’s colonial history and should be properly handled in a peaceful way in line with the UN Charter, relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India”; and, its expectation that “India will play a constructive role in regional peace and stability.” (here, here, here, here and here

EAM’s rejoinder may have some resonance domestically within India as a macho attitude, but it will only arouse mirth and derision abroad — even in the diplomatic enclave in Chanakyapuri area.

No P5 member country has officially voiced support for India. There is no shred of evidence that the Russian Foreign Ministry voiced support for India on the issue — not on the FO website; neither in a Tass or Novosti report nor even in the irrepressible Russian press. Some fly-by-night operator well-versed with the Indian rope trick, apparently spread fake news on a Friday night and it became “breaking news” in India by next morning. Pathetic.

Simply put, the Indian stance articulated by EAM is fundamentally flawed in logic and can only be counter-productive, as it shuts the door on discussion. The point is, Kashmir is an international dispute and India unilaterally changed J&K’s “status” in violation of the relevant UN resolutions. No one will accept India’s claim that it is an “internal matter”.

World opinion accepts that Pakistan is a party to Kashmir dispute. It is beside the point that India is not redrawing boundaries. And it’s gratuitous to say there is “no implication” for the LOC or the LOAC. If things were that simple, why couldn’t Modi government stomach the CPEC passing through Gilgit-Baltistan? We screamed, “territorial sovereignty” blah, blah.

World opinion will only believe that Delhi’s real intention is to change the demographic balance so that there shall be no Muslim-majority entity henceforth within the Indian Union.

If such unilateral acts in modern history are as simple as “internal matter”, why is no one recognising Russia’s annexation of Crimea? Why is Beijing so sensitive on intervention in Hong Kong? Why is the US insisting on “freedom of navigation” in South China Sea? Why is the US raising eyebrow over the North Sea Route and the Arctic? What is wrong with Iran’s claim over Persian Gulf as sovereign territory? What prevents Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa from solving the Tamil problem in similar fashion (as he hinted last week)?

The Modi government will be creating a long-term, intractable problem for India for generations to come by adopting such an ostrich approach. Analysts have pointed out (here and here) that the change in Ladakh’s status makes the India-China border dispute incredibly complicated and all but unsolvable. India’s international standing can get seriously damaged.   

The only way to address the conundrum is to propose to Pakistan that India is ready to discuss these differences. Fortuitously, Pakistan also faces the unhappy situation that no one in the international community is showing willingness to stand up and be counted as its partner to push back at India.

The bottom line is that India enjoys wide acceptance for its insistence on bilateralism to resolve differences with Pakistan. India should now tactfully exercise this privilege. It is always possible to hold out informal assurances that there’ll be no “colonisation” of Kashmir valley. After all, we have such safeguards for many regions of India.  

The window of opportunity shall not remain open for long. From all accounts, the ground situation in J&K is explosive and the grating roar of human misery is approaching. PM Imran Khan’s prognosis on another Pulwama is not off the mark. For Delhi to build a new architecture in J&K out of the debris all around, a dialogue with Pakistan is critically important.

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Mediation Is the Way Forward for Kashmir

By Brian Cloughley | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 13, 2019

It so happened that when the most recent Kashmir crisis broke on 5 August I was at a gathering of the UN Blue Berets of Kashmir. We served together in that beautiful but now chaotic region 39 years ago and have had a reunion almost every year since then. We have rarely been able to discuss good news about Kashmir, because there hasn’t been any.

The August decision by India’s ultra-nationalist Prime Minister to unilaterally change the status of the territory is only one of the many disasters to befall it in the seventy years since the Muslim majority state, the fiefdom of a Hindu Maharaja, was allocated to India by the colonial British who in 1947 had been forced to grant independence to India, resulting in creation of the separate nations of Pakistan and India which disagree about the status of the territory.

Before examining the Indian government’s recent actions, a most important aspect of the Kashmir dispute has to be clarified. It concerns the matter of bilateralism as interpreted by India. This was indicated, for example, by the newspaper the Chandigarh Tribune which stated on 8 August that “UN chief Antonio Guterres has recalled the Simla Agreement of 1972, a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan that rejects third-party mediation in Kashmir after Islamabad asked him to play his ‘due role’ following New Delhi’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.”

The Tribune is one of India’s best newspapers. Its reports are usually factual, objective and well-written. But it is flat wrong in its contention that the Simla Accord “rejects” third party mediation about Kashmir, because it most certainly does no such thing.

The Tribune was retailing the policy of the Indian government whose External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar announced on 2 August that he had “conveyed to American counterpart Mike Pompeo, this morning in clear terms, that any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally.” India has for decades insisted that involvement of any third party is not permissible and that there can be no mediation.

It is obvious why India refuses to countenance mediation — because it is almost certain that any independent, objective mediator would make the point that UN Security Council agreements still apply to the territory, and that none of them, most notably the matter of a plebiscite, have been annulled or in any manner diluted. As the BBC has noted, “In three resolutions, the UN Security Council and the United Nations Commission in India and Pakistan recommended that as already agreed by Indian and Pakistani leaders, a plebiscite should be held to determine the future allegiance of the entire state.”

But it is India’s relentless and wilful misinterpretation of its existing accord with Pakistan that is the greatest blockage in the path to reconciliation.

The Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan was signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto following the 1971 war between the countries, which resulted in creation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. It lays down that “the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries” and “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them . . .”

First, the mention of the United Nations, which is important because the UN Charter states in Paragraph 33 that “The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”

Mediation and arbitration are proposed, and the Simla Accord does not in any way discount or reject them. Its statement “That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them” is quite clear that by inclusion of the phrase “or by any other peaceful means” that mediation is not excluded.

India is intent on becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, but this will be impossible if it continues to ignore the content of the UN Charter Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 1, which says its aim is “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

It is difficult to see how India’s inflexible opposition to international mediation can benefit India or — much more importantly — the twelve million inhabitants of Indian-administered Kashmir.  The decision by Prime Minister Modi to annul Article 370 of the Constitution and thus abolish the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir was simply a movement in his ultra-nationalist campaign to ensure supremacy of Hindus. Since 1948 the Article has meant that the territory’s citizens have their own Constitution, their own laws, and the right to property ownership, with non-Kashmiris not being permitted to buy land. It is this last that is a major life-changer for the region, because southern Hindus will now be encouraged to by land and property, and gradually (or perhaps not-so-gradually) displace the Kashmiris themselves.

Modi promised “new opportunity and prosperity to the people” — but if he thought, before he made the announcement about annulment of citizen’s rights, that this would be greeted with enthusiasm and that his policy would indeed benefit the people of the territory, then why did he send “tens of thousands of Indian troops . . . in addition to the half a million troops already stationed there”? Why did the Central Government “shut off most communication with [the territory], including internet, cellphone and landline networks”?

Obviously he was expecting resentment from every Kashmiri. And he got it.

Even the news outlet India Today was slightly bemused, and three days before the Modi decision was made public reported that “In the past one week, the Narendra Modi government has decided to send an additional 38,000 troops to the Kashmir Valley in two batches — 10,000 and 28,000. This follows a statement by the home ministry in Parliament that the situation has improved in Kashmir Valley.” In other words the Central Government was well aware that the Constitution decision would provoke anger and bitterness on the part of Kashmiris and was well-prepared to take military action to crush any manifestation of discontent.

The New York Times observed that “Clamping down on millions of people is an extraordinary step for the world’s largest democracy. . . As tensions have risen in recent days, groups of young men, full of years of pent-up frustration, have squared off with soldiers, hurling rocks and ducking buckshot. Security forces arrested more than 500 people and put them in makeshift detention centres.”

On 9 August a reporter for the UK’s Guardian managed to find out that because of the clampdown on communications “people cannot call relatives, or call ambulances if there is an emergency. Public transport is not running, which means those with health problems can only get to a hospital if they have a car – and even then they struggle to get far. Across the city, many roads are permanently blocked by loops of barbed wire. At checkpoints, people – including families with children – can be seen pleading with police to let them pass. Most people, nervous that tensions were building last week, had stocked up on food and essentials, but it’s not known how long the curfew will last.”

On 10 August the BBC’s reporter filed that “Thousands of people took to the streets in Srinagar after Friday prayers, in the largest demonstration since a lockdown was imposed in Indian-administered Kashmir. The BBC witnessed the police opening fire and using tear gas to disperse the crowd. Despite that, the Indian government has said the protest never took place.”

Welcome to the Occupied Territory of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan continue to claim the whole of Kashmir, but neither government can seriously believe that any mediation tribunal would judge this to be appropriate. There would be compromise — the sort of compromise that India and Pakistan are incapable of reaching on their own.

If ever mediation was needed, it is now, before there is eruption that could lead to nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | Leave a comment

China backs the opening of Kashmir file in UNSC

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | August 10, 2019

The “special and emergency visit” by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Beijing on Friday August 9 has been highly successful in getting China to voice open support for Islamabad’s proposed move to raise the Kashmir issue in the UN Security Council.

From both Pakistani and Chinese accounts, the outcome of the meeting between the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Qureshi conveys a significant “pro-Pakistan” shift in Beijing’s stance apropos the situation around J&K, which was more or less on neutral ground initially. (See my blog China reacts to J&K, India demands reciprocity.)

How far the reference to China’s “internal affairs” in the MEA spokesman’s remarks on August 6 (which appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction) provoked Beijing is a moot point now. Indeed, Qureshi’s air dash to Beijing signalled Pakistan’s desperate need of Chinese open support and China cannot afford to be seen wanting.

According to the Xinhua report, the cutting edge of Wang’s remarks lies in his listing of the UN Charter (which upholds international peace and security, fundamental human rights, adherence to international law and obligations of member states to adhere to treaties, etc.), relevant resolutions of the UN SC on Kashmir (on the status of J&K, holding of plebiscite, UNMOGIP, etc.) and the bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India (Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration) — in that sequence as the road map on Kashmir.

China has de facto pledged support to Pakistan when the latter raises the Kashmir issue in the UN SC. Wang doubled down on Beijing going the whole hog to support Pakistan: “China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners and have always understood and supported each other on issues concerning core interests, which is also a good tradition that both countries should cherish. China will continue to firmly support Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and uphold fairness for Pakistan in international affairs.”

Qureshi reciprocated subsequently by telling the media in Beijing, “Pakistan is not looking at the military option. We are rather looking at political, diplomatic and legal options to deal with the prevailing situation.” Wang reportedly advised Qureshi that Pakistan should prioritise its national development and peace in South Asia and seek a new path of peaceful co-existence with India.

The Radio Pakistan reported that the Wang-Qureshi meeting lasted for two and half hours, which suggests that substantive discussions took place regarding strategy on Kashmir. The Pakistani report said Wang also agreed that “steps taken by India are unilateral that have changed the status quo and structure” of J&K and “could jeopardize the peace and stability in the region.” It added that Wang “was in concurrence that Jammu and Kashmir has been recognized as a disputed region and its resolution should also be in the light of UN resolutions.”

The overt, dramatic shift in the Chinese stance against Indian interests would have taken into account the ambivalence in the US position on Kashmir. Against the backdrop of the controversial remarks by President Trump to mediate on Kashmir, the US state department spokesperson, when asked on Friday’s press briefing in Washington, blithely passed the buck to the White House.

The spokesperson also underscored, “Obviously, we just had Prime Minister (Imran) Khan here, not just because of Kashmir. That’s certainly an incredibly important issue and something that we follow closely, but we have a host of issues that we work with India on quite closely and that we work with Pakistan on quite closely. I would say that we are – as a State Department, we are incredibly engaged in Southeast Asia.”

During the coming week, two senior US officials are landing in Delhi at the same time — US deputy secretary of state John Sullivan (corresponding to ministerial rank) and Acting deputy secretary of state in charge of South Asia Alice Wells. Sullivan is reaching Delhi from Bhutan while Wells who was on a scheduled visit to Islamabad has extended her tour by travelling to India as well.

By the way, Sullivan becomes the highest ranking US official to visit Bhutan in decades. His visit signals a Churchillian approach in the US policies toward China lately — “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” Historically, this is the first time that Bhutan finds itself being courted as a frontline state in the Cold War cockpit.

Clearly, Sullivan’s visit augurs the same centrality to Bhutan in the US geo-strategy that Washington has lately begun attaching to Mongolia. In June, US National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Ulaanbaatar; in July, President Trump hosted Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga in the White House; by August already, the US Defence Secretary Mark Esper touched down in Ulaanbaatar on a daylong follow-up visit “to expand their military training, joint exercises and defense intelligence sharing”, according to Stratfor, US think tank wired into the security and defence establishment.

The big question is, whether Sullivan is delivering an invitation from Trump to the Dragon King of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Equally, there is the likelihood that the US may seek the establishment of intelligence outposts in Bhutan. En route to Mongolia, Def Secy Esper told reporters openly that the US is working to build relationships with key countries in the Indo-Pacific that share values and respect for each other’s sovereignty, “whether it’s Mongolia this trip, Vietnam, a future trip, Indonesia, other countries who I think are key.”

In a reference to China, Esper said, “We’ve got to be able to compete with them.” An AP report quoted a senior US official that the US seeks to expand its defense and intelligence cooperation with Mongolia, noting that its location makes it ideal for listening posts and monitoring stations for peering into both U.S. adversaries.

According to the US state department, Sullivan “will explore expanding and deepening our ties with the government and people of Bhutan.” Of course, any significant expansion of US-Bhutan relations can only happen with the concurrence and approval of India. This is where Chinese sensitivities arise.

Possibly, Beijing senses that Sullivan’s Bhutan trip figured in the meeting between foreign minister S. Jaishankar and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in Thailand recently. Sullivan is expected to meet Jaishankar.

Most importantly, the state department announcement on Thursday implied that Sullivan’s visits to Thimpu and Delhi are a back-to-back mission with the aim “to advance the United States’ partnership with two nations that are critical to preserving the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.”

To be sure, Beijing would have taken note that the fizz has gone out of the Wuhan Spirit — with just a couple of months left for the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to India in October. The Wang-Qureshi meeting testifies to it.

August 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment