Saturday, July 24, 2010

Desiccated Land, Part 1

In Jammu and Kashmir, India is sure trying to do something (I'm not sure what).

From Terms of Kashmir dialogue finalised (July 24, 2010):

JAMMU: The Indian government has finalised the terms of dialogue that it intends to open with all the groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the separatists, highly placed sources said on Saturday.

The sources here, in touch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and union home minister P Chidambaram, told IANS that the central government would open dialogue with the groups in Kashmir with a straight offer to dilute the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the legal cover that shields armed forces from prosecution for any acts of omission and commission in counter-terrorism operations.

Other initiatives include efforts to find employment, to get local young people working instead of throwing rocks (or maybe even grenades).

But, meanwhile: Curfew imposed in Sopore, Kupwara (July 23, 2010):

Srinagar Curfew was clamped on Friday in Bandipora and Kupwara districts and Sopore town in view of a call given by separatists to hold demonstrations to protest the killing of several youth during clashes with security forces in the past one month.

Elsewhere in the Kashmir Valley, restrictions continued on the movement of people.

For some background, we consider Jihadis set to spill over into Kashmir, July 21, 2010:

LAHORE - There was hope but no great expectations for the dialogue between India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi on July 15. And so the headline of a major English-language Pakistan daily read, "They talked but said nothing" - an outcome which proved pessimists' predictions.

Pakistan's bottom line had always been for progress on the disputed Kashmir region and the Siachen Glacier dispute, with the reduced flow of downstream water in the Indus River connected to the overall equation. The Indian side declined to take up these major issues, saying it did not have the mandate. Khrishna instead remained fixated on blaming Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) for terror activities in India, bringing the talks to a virtual standstill, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The Siachen Glacier lies just east of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, it has been the scene of an ongoing battle between the two countries since 1984. The glacier's melting waters are the source of the Nubra River in Indian-controlled Ladakh, which drains into the Shyok River and in turn joins the Indus, Pakistan's main water source. India abandoned plans to withdraw from Siachen after Pakistan's incursion into Kargil in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1999.

The larger Kashmir dispute encompasses much more than water rights. It is an emotive issue stretching back to 1947, when Pakistan was carved out of British India on the understanding that the sub-continent's Muslims constituted a separate nation. Religion alone determined the territorial demarcation of the two states. Kashmir was made an exception, which set the stage for two of the three wars between the two countries in 1947 and 1965. Whether this was contrived or accidental is moot, and both India and Pakistan suffer the consequences.

There are parallels to be drawn between Kashmir and many other contested regions in the world.

Skipping down:

In the South Asian smoke and mirrors game, encouraging India and Pakistan to work together will clearly take much more than the Americans bargained for. The LeT, the organization India accuses of masterminding the Mumbai carnage, has long been identified as a Pakistan proxy, bred to boost the independence struggle in Kashmir yet reportedly bending only to Pakistan's military establishment.

The LeT was given free rein to collect funds and recruit members in Pakistan before the 9/11 attacks in the US. Post-9/11, however, a large number of LeT "strays", or breakaways, were found in the company of al-Qaeda-linked jihadi groups that had adopted an anti-American position. This drew another picture and the organization was banned. But it was not disbanded: its leaders simply advised LeT members to keep a low profile in Pakistan, with the doors to India purportedly left open.

Inevitably, the LeT was seen by the Indian ruling elite as complicit in terror attacks that rained down on India. These include the December 2001 assault on the Indian parliament that killed 12; the October 2005 Delhi bombings that killed 62; the September 2008 Delhi bombings that killed 30: the November 2008 Mumbai assault which left 175 dead after a three-day rampage; and the February 2010 Pune blasts that killed nine. However, the organization denied any connections to the assaults, claiming that targeting civilians went against its religious principles.

Pakistan meantime was confronted by a vicious campaign of terror, beginning in 2001. This ran all the way up from Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi to the Khyber Pass in the north. The restiveness in Pakistan's Balochistan province was an added problem. Bomb blasts from 2007 through 2009 alone accounted for 5,500 civilian deaths, and nearly every Pakistani was convinced that India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was behind the killings.

Elements in Pakistan are supporting the militants/ separatists/ terrorists, and that support is causing blowback in Pakistan.

Skipping down again:

The "clear and present danger" spelled out from the failure of the Indian-Pakistan talks and the conference episodes, is that the jihadis are gathering momentum and set to spill over into Kashmir. From there, or so the region's political pundits have it, al-Qaeda had planned to move on into India to secure "strategic depth" with heightened terror tactics. Then it can trek onto Central Asia to forward the jihadi movement for the liberation of Palestine.

Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban, in the introduction of his new offering Descent into Chaos, described the support system of al-Qaeda's human resources succinctly when he wrote, "to a handful of Muslims, al-Qaeda posed a civilizational solution - albeit an extreme one - to the justice denied to Muslims in Palestine [and] Kashmir". The failure of India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute will provide the international jihadi movement with all the space it needs.

Honestly, for the jihadists "Palestine" and "Kashmir" are merely buzzwords, excuses to do what Mohammed commanded but which many Muslims had outgrown.

For some analysis regarding India's actions in Kashmir, we go to India's strategy of suppression in Kashmir could backfire, July 23, 2010:

Police say only four protests occurred across the Indian-controlled Kashmir region. One protest in Srinagar swelled to 1,000 people, though tear gas quickly broke its ranks. In the village of Palhalan, someone from within the protest crowd shot a police officer twice in the leg.

But separatist leaders and police officials are now warning that the government's apparent strategy of curfews and suppression lacks a political roadmap and could, in the long run, send the current generation of rock-throwing boys back to the gun-and-grenade warfare that dominated the 1990s. Human rights groups say 19 civilians have died since June 11 in clashes between protesters and security officials.

Kashmir back to the future

"You have the environment that you can push the people again toward what had started in the early '90s. But we don't want that to happen," says Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of the two top separatist leaders. Both are currently under house arrest. "Today boys are out pelting stones. Tomorrow these are the same boys who will probably pick up the gun."

He and most Kashmiris say their struggle is not religious at its root, but about self-determination. However, Mr. Farooq warns that the closure of main mosques – smaller mosques have remained open – starts down a dangerous path.

"If the government is not letting the people pray then it's mandatory for the people at a certain time to declare war against the state. And I think this is something the muftis and the religious scholars will have to think about," he says.

What separatists want

New Delhi has called for meetings that would involve a wide range of voices, including separatists. But before any dialogue begins, separatists have demanded an easing of draconian security laws, release of prisoners, and pullbacks of street forces. The two sides appear at a standoff.

Though economics is a factor - there is a need for more job opportunities, and many of the job opportunities that the region offered are now gone due to the standstill caused by the crackdown - many of the rock-throwing youths say economics is not the reason, but rather the crackdown is causing the problems: if they can't vent peacefully, then simmering problems will boil over into violence. The issue: self-determination, promised during partition in the 1940's, but never realized.

However, the mixture is made more potent by support for militants from across the border in Pakistan.

But, India's response as if all the protesters are Pakistani-backed instigators is itself helping to foment the trouble, and simultaneously giving militants an issue.

More to follow on Jammu and Kashmir.

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