(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
US Congress has now been front-loaded with a report on Afghanistan by its think-tank, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which is a double whammy for Indian policymakers.
The report talks of “fear of encirclement” in Pakistan over India’s commercial and diplomatic ties with the Afghan government which has led the Islamic nation, in retaliation, to patronize Taliban insurgents for decades now.
In reality, India is staring at a failed Afghan policy. It trusted United States to provide a strong democratic government in Afghanistan. Now United States is looking for a face-saving exit from the mountainous terrain and the Kabul government has never been weaker in years. The double blowback is the think-tank report which makes Pakistan, and not India, appear an aggrieved country which must be shored up with funds and arms.
All this is because Taliban is at its strongest in years. US had to woo it with a peace plan till recently even as Taliban ruled out ceasefire and the presence of Afghanistan government on the same table. Taliban peace-makers moved with ease in Beijing, Moscow and Tehran even though none of the three powers had a liking for Taliban. This was pragmatic for Afghanistan today can’t be solved without Taliban.
A little background is in order: Taliban owes a great deal to Pakistan. Its muscle is in southern Afghanistan which shares a fluid border with Pakistan and thus a safe cover to insurgents. US counters Taliban with funds and arms to Afghan government. It does stop Taliban from gaining a decisive military victory in the absence of international forces which left Afghanistan in 2014. But it does little else for the stability of the Kabul government.
The trouble is India has burnt most of its bridges with Taliban. In the 1990s, there was a brief window for diplomatic ties when Talibans were in power in Afghanistan. But then Talibans became “blood brothers” of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment and India had to look for its succour in fledgling Afghanistan governments. Afghanistan is of critical importance to New Delhi as it opened door for Central Asia and Middle East, overcoming the physical barrier of Pakistan on its north-west frontiers.
Over the years, India’s stance on Taliban has only hardened. It’s wary of presence of Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) which moved to Afghanistan in 2015 and whose core belongs to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. (It’s another matter that Afghan government props up this organ of ISIS in the hope it would counter Taliban). India fears that ISKP would always appeal to young Afghanis who have grown up on the killing fields of Afghanistan in the civil war of last two decades. One, there is not just Taliban but also Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbek insurgents in Afghanistan who need a rallying force. Two, Islamic State could use the base of Afghanistan for its revival and unleash terror in Kashmir.
Besides, India suffers from a fractured psyche in its long battle against terrorism. It knows Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) not only props up Taliban but also Haqqani Network which US has designated as a terrorist organization. Its deputy leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of its founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, was reportedly involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 which killed 58 people.
India was pleased when Trump called off peace talks with Taliban following two bomb attacks by the terrorist group that killed 10 civilians and an American soldier in September. Afghanistan government lost little time in announcing elections for September 28. Taliban struck back with two suicide bomb attacks within an hour of each other: the first one at an election rally of president Ashraf Ghani and the second near US Embassy for a combined death toll of 48 people. The turnout predictably was low: Only two million out of 10 million registered voters turned up at vote-casting booths.
Not that it helped clear the mist. The results weren’t declared on intended date of October 17 nor did it come about this week. The winner would now be known only on November 14. The election commission puts the delay due to a hacking attempt on its servers and tampering with its digital lock. Taliban, predictably, has made accusation of rigging and mismanagement.
Thus, as things stand, India finds itself trapped in Afghanistan. The Kabul government is tottering. It can’t survive without United States which in turn is waking up to a Vietnam-like situation, looking for a face-saving exit. On the other hand, walking towards Taliban is a minefield. India can’t make a “fight against terrorism” as bedrock of its foreign policy and yet extend a hand towards Taliban. It’s Pakistan which seems to be holding all the aces for having backed the right horse in Taliban. And yet, a US Congress think-tank is alerting the world of Pakistan fearing “encirclement” from India in Afghanistan. Indeed it’s India which has a lot to fear—and lose—in the unending saga of Afghanistan.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Kashmir was a game which the Centre played with political parties, Pakistan and the world. It was a bout without an end, round after round, with people never the coveted object.
Congress began it at India’s independence, decades passed, Nehru-Gandhis parleyed with Abdullahs and Muftis, pretty pictures all around, all like an exclusive club of democrats which kept people out of gate.
There were of course people within people, like Matryoshka dolls, some important some dispensable, like the Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley without a story in our newspapers, without a word in our Parliament and state assemblies, worth not a glance by champions of “democracy” and “human rights.”
Such a set had dug their roots deep, seemingly controlling all levers of Indian state, a Pakistan and ISI away from Pakistan, often lauded by Hafiz Saeeds and Masood Azhars, ready to spill blood of tens of thousands of brave Indian soldiers, even as glasses were clinked in Pakistan embassy or global summits.
People in Kashmir were scared with the threat of the mainland; the one in mainland were made nervous by the implications of a nuclear war; newspapers, like the trumpet boys, blew “Aman ki Asha” score in the background; terror and goodwill two imposters who took turns on centrestage, every next appearance bigger and worse for the people on either side of the divide.
People in Kashmir Valley wallowed in squalor and dirt. There were no jobs to pick, only stones or AK-47; every round of bloodshed growing their hatred against the Indian army; every reality of no doctors, no dentist, no industry, no investment, no reservation, no provident fund, no private employer, no health, no power, no education, no sanitation was bludgeoned by the homilies of Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriat. The only access to money came from bullets and bombs which were for free. Even throwing stones were worth two bucks of hundred rupees. The only language left was – you get us or we certainly would.
In two decades, by 2047, it would’ve been 100 years to the Kashmir problem. Imperial forces was too eager to fish in the troubled waters, brought its weight to bear on India’s West and East shoulders; all the while paralyzing us from taking any action. They danced in symphony with India’s power-brokers who dressed up in different garbs of politicians and historians; media and academicians; think-tanks and activists. Self-promotion mattered; not people protection.
Kashmir won’t go out of headlines in a hurry. A few implications could only be guessed: Pakistan which has nurtured the terror monster for decades wouldn’t abandon it overnight. The state is run by its army which is the father of modern terrorism. It’s a bargaining chip they won’t surrender at a drop. If bombs can’t go off in the Valley, limbs could be strewn around in the rest of India. Our newspapers would work overtime to link every terrible incident with the fateful decision of August 5, 2019. (Don’t you know already with the lynching and Jai Shree Ram how narratives are spun).
You won’t read many positive stories on Kashmir. Even as lives are bound to improve with the avowed promise of Amit Shah—“give us five years and see for yourself”—only blood and gore would accompany your morning tea with newspapers. Kashmir would be made to appear a Palestine, East Timor or South Sudan. If anything, BJP would need a Kashmir wing in its information and broadcasting ministry to neutralize such bugs in the room.
It’s also not too early to say the duo of Modi-Shah would be most admired children of India’s political history. As if Sardar Patel again took the human form in this duo to fulfill his unfinished work towards One India. Mahrana Pratap and Chattrapati Shivaji were valiant but these two are victorious. For all his virtues, Mahatma Gandhi ironically laid the basis of Partition with his morals which only served to appease. Pt Nehru’s spirit would also be at peace in grave now that it’s historical blunder is straightened out. It’s an India with eye on future and a baton in hand for inimical forces within and without.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Delhi has little control in Kashmir Valley. Out of 87 seats in assembly, 46 are reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh has the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, control the levers of power in the troublesome state of Jammu & Kashmir.
This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered more than Muslims in Kashmir Valley.
However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.
Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.
Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.
Game, set and match over.
Fast forward to present times. Modi 2.0 is in place. His party BJP rose to power, among others, on the promise of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in its manifesto. Nationalism and his tough stance on separatist forces in Jammu & Kashmir, and their masters in Pakistan, reflected in Balakot surgical strike, helped him win the 2019 mandate with a staggering majority.
In people’s mind, Modi’s success or failure in his second tenure would be judged by what he does with Kashmir. The appointment of hard-nosed Amit Shah as home minister is an early signal. If Kashmir is settled, Modi would’ve earned the nation’s gratitude for centuries to come. He would be the favourite child of India’s history.
Modi has made his first move within hours into his second term. Amit Shah is positioned as home minister. Shah too has lost little time: He already has held a detailed closed-door discussion with Satya Pal Malik, governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The state is presently in its second year under the President’s rule. (Legally, President’s rule is tenable for three years at the most).
The rumour is abuzz that delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir could happen soon. Petitions are being written to the President of India. Now that the power of J & K assembly is vested with the President, it’s within his powers to order such a move. A Delimitation Commission could be set up which could redraw the constituencies—and take away the stranglehold which Kashmir Valley has enjoyed over the rest of the state. The freeze till 2026 would go in a jiffy.
This has the separatist forces in the Valley in a flutter. Everyday, Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) are warning of the consequences if this comes to a pass. Once the freeze is lifted, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).
Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:
- A state under its political control could make BJP do wonders in not just protecting the integrity of the state but also of its soldiers who have died in tens of thousands over the last few decades;
- Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley by militants, could regain their paradise lost;
- Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley).
- Legislative control in the J & K assembly would make the abrogation of 370 and 35A a child’s play;
- A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
- If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
- Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.
Modi has the mandate. Shah is in the hot chair of home minister. Millions of Indians are looking for askance: Settle Kashmir once for all. This dispensation has a historic opportunity to undo the damage of appeasement to the Valley which India has practised since the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred)
Controversial Congress leader Saifuddin Soz launched his book in the Capital on Monday. Two things were of interest to average Indians: (a) Would Congress be seen in public with the leader who echoes secessionists’ voices; (b) Would Congress respect the popular sentiment and punish its key man in the Kashmir Valley.
Soz in the past one week has brought the focus on Congress and its’ exchanges with the secessionist forces. Officially, Congress dubbed Soz’s statements as stray remarks and “cheap gimmick”. The party also talked about the state unit taking action against him.
However, even as Congress threatened action, Soz continued speaking the voice of secessionists to the media, stating that Kashmiris would prefer freedom.. This was incongruous and appeared a classic smokescreen: to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
Hence the interest in the book launch of Soz and the related two questions, uppermost in mind. There was no live coverage of the event but TV news and newspapers this morning were all airbrushed versions: Manmohan-skips; Chidambaram-stays-away-as-panelist etc. There was no media questioning on what senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was doing in the event. Is he not part of Congress? And isn’t his presence a soft message to Soz that he remains one of the boys?
So has Congress really distanced itself from Soz??? Or would it distance itself from Jairam Ramesh???
Now look at what Congress has promised as action against Soz: It has said that it’s the state unit which will take an action. Really??? Since when state units have mattered to hideously dynastic Congress? Since when state units could take decisions independent of central command? And if the state unit absolves Soz of any guilt, may be a week, a month or a year from now, shouldn’t it be seen as a ruling of the Congress leadership itself?
Soz’ brazenness shows the support he is getting from his own ranks. At the book launch, he made another shocker: That Sardar Patel wanted to exchange Kashmir for Hyderabad with Pakistan. Nobody has asked Congress if it believes in this claim. And if it doesn’t, would it move to take action against Soz?
There must be a lot in Soz’s persona for Congress to play this game of red herring. And it’s involvement in the Kashmir politics.
The media, mostly TV channels have also merrily stated that Arun Shourie termed the famous “surgical strike” as “farzical strike” in a bid to attack the Modi government. What they haven’t reported and which is highlighted in a Hindi report is that journalists questioned him, pointing out that the claims of “surgical strike” was made by the army itself. So by terming it “farzical strike,” isn’t Shourie insulting our own armed forces?
In response, the news report states, “शौरी ने पत्रकारों को भी गधा बता दिया और फिर गुस्से में निकल गए.(Shourie called journalists as asses and walked out in anger).”
If the above report is true, it throws up very disturbing questions. One, that Shourie sidetracks facts; two, his lack of tolerance and respect for fellows of own profession; and three, the “deep state” within India which advocates Kashmir’s independence and toes the lie of terrorists, ISI and Pakistan.
Above all, independent voices in this country must question these forces and our very own media for their commitment to India’s integrity and sovereignty.
This is a reprint from Newsbred.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s unscheduled stopover for his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan is not symbolic alone. It has a domestic and international substance which would only annoy those who don’t want peace between two combustible nuclear-ed neighbours.
And who don’t want peace? We now know of forces who would like Middle East to be terrorist-infested; that in its second phase could export terror on to north, east and south of Eurasia. Russia, which has grappled with terrorism in Caucasus longer than any other nation; and China which is struggling with Uyghur Muslim in its Xinjiang region; fear such a flood of separatist trouble if Middle East is completely submerged with terrorists.
Pakistan, which has had a hand in creating the first lot of terrorists through its Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) in the 80s to drive out Soviets from Afghanistan (it’s all documented), is now in a historical correction mode. It’s more China than US-centric and has no interest in being the shoulder from which Washington fires its guns. The US drone warfare in Pakistan has lasted for almost a decade now. The tutelage of US for decades has yielded Pakistan nothing but mass killings on its streets and schools and the epitaph of a near-failed state.
Modi, like leader of any sovereign nation, has two compelling narratives: to ensure peace at its borders and to economically grow the country. There is no sense to remain mired in China-Pakistan vs India narrative (which of course is what imperialist forces of divide-and-rule would like) and miss out on all the infrastructural, gas and communications highways presently underway in Eurasia for its integration.
Hostile borders is what allows terrorism to flourish and which is a common fear of Russia, China, India and dare I say, Pakistan. A move to protect Eurasia’s security is what prompted the creation of Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) in 2001. The Asian powers clearly saw the game of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to spread to Asia and wreck the region (e.g Iraq, Libya, Syria etc) so as it never gets integrated and challenge the dominance of West.
Interestingly, both India and Pakistan are to be formally inducted as members of the SCO in 2016. Their cooperation is sought by SCO founders China and Russia who exert a considerable influence on Pakistan and India. Modi’s impromptu visit to Pakistan must be seen in this light. The parley of last few weeks in Paris, Bangkok and Islamabad has been a build-up for this Lahore bonhomie.
That all this has overtaken the preceding acrimony has been most pleasant. Pakistan had submitted three dossiers in the United Nations comprising alleged role of India in subversive activities in Karachi and Balochistan. India had cried foul when China didn’t allow 26/11 perpetrators to be listed as terrorists in UN books. The border skirmishes and killings had scaled up. All this has been too recent.
Economically, India wants its roads to lead deeper into Eurasia rather than be hemmed in by Pakistan and China. The recent signing of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline was a sign of changing winds in the Indian subcontinent. Don’t be surprised if decks are also cleared in long-delayed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in 2016.
Modi would reap the most from this peace harvest. He has realized that domestic opposition would’ve only one stick to beat him up with: to show him as communal and promoter of “intolerance.” This clearly orchestrated Modi-demonizing method flares up before any state elections and is the handiwork of Marxist-Congress-Media-CIA “gang of four” in this country.
Modi’s overture to Pakistan has taken the sting out of poison-tipped arrows of opposition. It would be difficult to portray him as anti-Muslim after such a breezy outreach. They haven’t been able to pin him down on corruption—“intolerance” is the only hammer at their command. These destabilizing forces would now have to come up with something new.
It’s also time not to judge India-Pakistan relations on Kashmir alone. Kashmir would remain insoluble in near future. But Kashmir shouldn’t deny low-hanging fruits to the two neighbours.
The only solution to Kashmir would be to declare it a non-militarized zone just as it exists between North and South Korea. All conflicts would then go to the UN table and both India and Pakistan would be denied an arbitrary stance.
After Modi’s visit to Pakistan, the usual peace-bashers would be up to their tricks. You could hear of clashes at the border, terrorist attacks and compromised NGOs hogging the headlines. Mark them out and the newspapers which promote them. There are the enemies which lie within.