Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kashmir's Own Version of the Tea Party

Riyaz explains Politics 101 to the Hyderpora and Raj Bagh tea club members

America and Kashmir’s Tea-Party Delusions

(Mr. Riyaz Masroor, 39, was born and raised in Srinagar. He is a Srinagar based journalist who writes in English, Urdu and Kashmiri. Besides working in the local press, his articles have appeared on BBC Radio online, Himal Southasia and the Journal of International Federation of Journalists. He is currently the Executive Editor of the Rising Kashmir, a leading English language daily newspaper in Srinagar.)

When a frail Kashmiri, according to a local maxim, was beaten by a street goon, he shouted back: my big brother will kill you. During past six decades Kashmiris have been receiving wound after wound but every time they are deluded into believing that the ‘Big Brother’ (America) will avenge their sufferings and force the ‘street goon’ to leave them off.

Curiously, the ‘Big Brother’ has often looked the other way, and many in Kashmir, chiefly the ‘Hurriyatists’ (let’s admit Hurriyatism exists), still believe that ‘India hoodwinked’ Him.

Most of the local observers shared with Hurriyat this hoodwink theory when New Delhi appointed a panel to explore new contours of its relationship with J&K. Indeed the appointment of low-key individuals to perform a bigger task appeared a non-military offensive from New Delhi. Yet, the Kashmiris lapsed into the lyricism of resistance rather than attempting to carefully understand the move. Hurriyat must remember that it cannot always hide its political incapacities behind the readymade pretext that India had played a ‘dirty trick’ to ‘hoodwink the world community’ – the world community in Hurriyat jargon is a convenient euphemism for United States. So far, the Hurriyat politics in Kashmir is defined by several such platitudes such as South Asia will burn if talks are delayed, India will break up without resolving Kashmir or the movement is at a crucial juncture. But the most clichéd of all is ‘India is hoodwinking the world’. Can India really hoodwink America on Kashmir? We need a little elaborate answer.

Rewind to 1989 when the Kashmir movement turned violent. Gun-totting boys would conduct daredevil actions against India’s ill-prepared CRPF and stage armed parades on Aug 14 to observe Pakistan’s Independence Day. India did not want to let America know how Kashmiris were defying her rule in Kashmir when William Clark took charge as U.S. ambassador to India. During the welcome briefing to Clark, Delhi chose to ‘hoodwink’ the world community by brushing aside Kashmir and projecting Punjab, where the militancy had almost died down, as India’s major worry. But, the ‘hoodwink operation’ came to a naught because Walter Anderson, head of political desk in the Embassy, had already prepared a detailed note on growing disaffection within Kashmir and predicted the dangers. Clark had gone through Anderson’s note and corroborated it with other intelligence sources before he flew from Washington. India could not hoodwink America on Kashmir militancy. Phew!

In May 1990, the U.S. dispatched an experienced intelligence officer, Robert Gates to Pakistan where he would try to convince authorities on ending the ‘Kashmir operation’ in lieu of a guarantee that India would be asked to initiate some ‘CBMs’ and an “effective intelligence support from the U.S. to monitor the LoC.” Pshaw! The ‘Big Brother’ was rather hoodwinking Pakistan.

In fact, America’s Central Intelligence Agency had started to pry intelligence from the region way back in 1970s, soon after India and Pakistan started acquiring nuclear arsenal. In July 2004 a Brazilian journalist Sao Paulo wrote in the monthly Caros Amigos (meaning Dear Friends) an exhaustive analysis on the dispute titled Kashmir: Occupied, Partitioned and Disputed. The report says, “There are as many CIA agents in Kashmir as there are Al-Qaeda members (in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan)”.

Such suspicions were visibly corroborated by the fulltime intelligence operation of FBI in Kashmir between July 1995 and May 1996. A group of foreign tourists had been kidnapped while it was trekking at South Kashmir’s Pahalgam heights. Veteran U.S. diplomat Howard B Schaffer disclosed past year how the U.S. Army’s “Crack Delta Force” and elite British and German counterterrorism groups were mounting secret missions in Kashmir to hunt the kidnappers. The CIA papers that were declassified in 2004 have revealed that the CIA sleuths had interrogated some arrested militants of Harkat-ul-Ansar, the group they suspected had masterminded the abduction under the front name of “Al-Faran”. And, the think tanks are still debating whether CIA knew in advance what was happening on the heights of Kargil.

These references prove that the Americans don’t need Hurriyat caveats against India as they get down focusing on Kashmir? They know enough of it, more than Hurriyat and perhaps India. Before tossing up the hoodwink theory Hurriyat camp should have recalled that Loy Henderson was the first U.S. ambassador to India who visited Kashmir way back in 1950. And, a year later, Frank Graham whom the United Nations Organization had appointed as special negotiator on Kashmir, too was an American. Hurriyat expelled Shabir Shah in 1996 for lending audience to Frank Wisner, then U.S. ambassador to India. Was it afraid India may hoodwink U.S. if Americans engaged separatist leaders?

Howard B Schaffer was part of the state department’s South Asia mission and used to frequent Kashmir since 1960s. Writes he: “In pursuing an active U.S. role in Kashmir settlement American officials have stayed well informed about Kashmir developments. They have been in touch with all the organizations concerned with Kashmir and been privy to back-channel talks.”

In this backdrop, the platitude of ‘hoodwinking America’ appears laughable; it shows incapacity of separatist camp to tackle certain political challenges. When you dismiss a government action as something to hoodwink a superpower you absolve yourself from a desired response, a need to critically understand the move. If India needs just a retired journalist and a trendy academic or for that matter a shamelessly rigged election to hoodwink America, then better be with India to safeguard Jammu and Kashmir from any future invasion. The Brazilian monthly has also quoted some NATO policy documents which say, “After 11 September 2001, the United States does have a legal justification to invade J&K.”

When the state acknowledges only 17 out of 111 killings , that too subject to a lengthy, unending probe, Hurriyat and those peddling its hoodwink theory, better come out of their tea-party delusions. Ever since 1995 – when the government of India chose to initiate dialogue with five militants who had shunned arms – Kashmiris have been fed on mere noise of the dialogue while the economic and political benefits have been reaped by the ruling class in the state’s neighboring regions.

In response to the four-month unrest in Kashmir that saw 111 deaths and inexplicable tragedies, Delhi has appointed sitting executives of Planning Commission to rehabilitate the economic and social security concerns of people in Jammu and Ladakh. This implies ‘direct aid’ via Planning Commission. And for Kashmir, the government of India picked up some ‘thought engineers’. No wonder if Azadi is being subjected to rigorous debating across India because Professor Radha Kumar has enough skill to reinterpret this so far objectionable word to suit India’s foreign policy needs. And the ‘Big Brother’ will keep watching.

This is the time to shun this India-hoodwinking-America stuff from the menu of Hurriyat politics. The ‘Big Brother’ much in the Orwellian sense has all along been around us, but “He” is already friends with the “street goon”.

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