by Zia Sarhadi
Although there is much noise about Indo-Pakistan rapprochement since the February 20 meeting between their respective prime ministers in Lahore, there has been no let-up in the killing of Kashmiris by the Indian occupation army. A dangerous new development is the introduction of helicopter gunships by India in the troubled Valley. It also indicates the duplicitous nature of Indian rulers, who talk peace through one side of their mouth and shoot from the other.
According to an Agence France Presse (AFP) report of March 26, quoting the Kashmir Monitor, ‘deafening sounds’ were heard in the northern frontier district of Kupwara on March 25. The northern regions are heavily forested, and provide a convenient cover for the Kashmiri mujahideen battling the 700,000 Indian occupation troops.
The reports mention Indian shelling of the forests and strafing by helicopter gunships. This is the first time that aircraft have been used directly against the mujahideen . This is a serious escalation of the conflict at a time when India is projecting an image of good neighbourliness to convince the world that it wants ‘friendly’ relations with Pakistan.
‘Expert’ level talks between the two countries will be held this month before the foreign secretaries’ meeting in Delhi, the Indian capital, in May. The ‘experts’ will discuss the nuclear issue while the foreign secretaries will discuss Kashmir, trade and how to enhance confidence-building measures. Pakistani foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed Khan said on April 1 in Islamabad that the May talks in Delhi will test India’s sincerity about resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully.
The use of helicopter gunships against the people of Kashmir can hardly improve the atmosphere for confidence-building measures. Typically, an Indian army spokesman described the reports as ‘fallacious’ and a ‘figment of the imagination,’ much as India has denied all its human rights violations and atrocities in Kashmir in the last 10 years. All these reports have been fully documented, not only by Kashmiri human rights activists but also by international human rights organisations.
India also accuses Pakistan of masterminding the uprising in Kashmir, without explaining how an unpopular movement could be sustained for 10 years, during which time about 70,000 Kashmiris have been killed. At least 30,000 Kashmiri women have been raped and tens of thousands are missing, presumed killed by the occupation forces. Another fiction stubbornly repeated by India is that only a handful of Kashmiris are behind the uprising. Yet it fails to explain why it is necessary then to maintain an army of occupation of 700,000 to contain a ‘handful’ of miscreants.
The use of helicopter gunships is reminiscent of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. There, too, the occupation forces wreaked havoc on civilians but were ultimately driven out. India will suffer a similar fate. While Indian officials have denied the helicopter story, the Greater Kashmir newspaper confirmed their use in Kupwara.
For Pakistani officials to talk peace with Delhi while Indian troops not only continue their murder, pillage and rape in Kashmir but also escalate their suppression, is likely to prove a gross miscalculation. It provides India a propaganda coup of appearing to be establishing ‘normality’ while permitting it to continues its murderous campaign against the Kashmiri people. At the same time, it creates doubts in the minds of the Kashmiris about the Pakistani rulers’ sincerity in supporting their cause.
Muslimedia: April 16-30, 1999