Kashmir skipped in Indian prime minister’s ‘historic’ bus ride to Lahore

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Qa'dah 13, 1419 1999-03-01

World

by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 1, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1419)

Even as Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was being dined in Lahore, Pakistan, at least 34 persons were killed in the troubled Kashmir Valley over the two-day period on February 19 and 20. The follwing day, 12 more Kashmiris were shot dead. Vajpayee had the gall to call for ‘adopting the path of balance, moderation and realism,’ in his address at the banquet in Lahore.

There was neither ‘balance’ nor ‘moderation’ in the manner in which the Kashmiris were murdered. At least 70,000 people have been killed by the Indian occupation forces in Kashmir since 1990. As for ‘realism,’ this is a euphemism for accepting Indian hegemony in the region.

Despite this, there was much euphoria generated by his visit to Lahore but it failed to produce the results the Pakistani rulers had hoped for. There was only a perfunctory reference to holding a dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir. In the past, Indian officials have stubbornly repeated the mantra that Kashmir is an ‘integral part’ of India.

True, to have expected Vajpayee to have given in on the core issue of Kashmir in one visit was simplistic. Even if he had wanted to--a big if--the Indian prime minister could not have done so for his own domestic reasons. The fact is the Indians see no compelling reasons to climb down from their rigid position except talking in generalities. And Pakistan has allowed itself to be put on the defensive by the accusation, repeated parrot-fashion from Delhi, that the uprising in Kashmir is Islamabad-inspired.

It is insulting to the Kashmiris and their valiant struggle; it is also a challenge to Pakistan. Far from standing up to the Indians and telling them that their brutal policy of rape and murder would not be tolerated, successive Pakistani governments have been bullied into confining themselves to moral and political support for the genuine cause of the Kashmiris. Why this defensive posturing in the face of overwhelming evidence of Indian brutalities against hapless Kashmiris?

What is even more disturbing is the headlong pursuit of CBMs--this strange creature stands for confidence building measures, not continental ballistic missiles!--without any progress on the core issue. The Americans have also jumped into fray with their whimsical demand to curb the nuclear arms race on the subcontinent. They are breathing heavily down Pakistan’s neck while supplying nuclear fuel to India as reported last month by the US Journal of Commerce.

Islamabad’s nuclear prowess, though economically taxing, has neutralised India’s conventional weapons superiority. The unequal relationship that had existed since the dark days of December 1971 has been brought to an even footing. It would be unwise to throw this away, whatever the threats or inducements from America.

For yankees, the only good Muslim, short of being dead, is a neutered one. American policy is hostage to zionist interests and is made in Tel Aviv rather than in Washington. Given the zionists’ terrorist nature and their obnoxious behaviour, it would be naive to lower one’s guard, especially when the Hindus have also jumped into bed with them.

Islamabad must not allow the nuclear issue to cloud the unresolved question of Kashmir. Unfortunately, voices are already being raised in Pakistan to confuse the issue. Maulana Mohammad Khan Shirani, a member of the National Assembly (MNA) from Baluchistan and member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, was quoted by the Dawn newspaper of Karachi on February 19 as advising the Kashmiris to settle for ‘autonomy within India.’

The maulana’s naive pronouncement would be music to the Hindus’ ears. After all, his party, the Jami’atul Ulama-e Hind, in pre-partition India had opposed the creation of Pakistan also. Pakistani secularists are all too eager to normalise relations with their Hindu cousins.

The process of confidence building measures is a trap for Pakistan. After all, if relations improve without resolving the core issue of Kashmir, Delhi can argue: why not speed up the process. Let there be more bus rides, more cricket matches, more cultural and kanjar exchanges, more bhangras, even transfer of electricity from Pakistan to India and the sale of onions.

Let the onion diplomacy begin in earnest, followed by potatoes and egg plants as well. None of this will bring Pakistan any closer to getting the Indians to resolve the Kashmir dispute through negotiations. A fundamental point of politics is that what cannot be taken by force will not be surrendered at the negotiating table.

The Americans are also anxious to see temperatures lowered in the subcontinent but for their own reasons. They do not care how many Kashmiris are killed or how many women are raped by the Indian beasts. They have their sights fixed on containing China--their next big challenge--for which they want India freed from worries about Pakistan to confront China.

So what should Islamabad do? The answer is already there in what the Kashmiris have achieved in the last 10 years. They have pinned down 700,000 Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir, a remarkable feat by any standards. This they have achieved with little outside backing. With increased help, they can achieve more; prayers and moral support alone will not do.

The cost of Indian occupation needs to be escalated to the level where it will no longer be feasible for them to hold on to Kashmir. The Vietnamese imposed a cost on the Americans forcing them to flee Indo-China; the Afghans did it to the Russians; the Hizbullah to the zionists in Lebanon and the Chechens to the Russians. Why the cost of Indian occupation of Kashmir cannot be increased?

Further, a determined effort is needed to bring the Kashmir issue to the forefront of the agenda of the Global Islamic Movement. The Ummah has a duty to help the oppressed people of Kashmir. Muslims must grow out of the habit of simply feeling sorry for their brothers and sisters in distress and begin to help them in meaningful ways.

The west has forced the Sudanese government to agree to a referendum in the South of the country; the Timorese have been promised independence by Indonesia. Why should the people of Kashmir, who have nothing in common with the Hindus and whose state is recognised by the United Nations as disputed territory, settle for anything less?

Food and medicines are no defence against rape and bullets. Muslims must become goal-oriented. The Kashmiris must be equipped to exact a higher price from the Indian occupiers. Besides, it is in the interest of Muslims to cut India down to size. The physical geography of this artificial State needs rearranging, just as the Soviet Union was rearranged.

Kashmir is the key to this. Muslims must grasp this opportunity and think creatively. Those who do not work out their own agenda end up working to someone else’s.

Muslimedia: March 1-15, 1999

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