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, December 5, 2010

Is Kashmir an International Headline?

Nayeema provides a reality check knowing fully well that Kashmiris are so far from reality in their expectations that truth may not matter to most

(Ms. Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor, 53, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She completed her B.Sc, B.Ed, LL.B (Hons) and Diploma in Jounalism, and Masters in Education and Urdu from the University of Kashmir. Ms. Mahjoor has also completed a Masters degree in government and politics of South Asian Governments from the University of London. She is presently the Desk Editor, BBC World service (Urdu) based in London (UK). Among various awards, she has been a recepient of the Best Journalist of the year 2005 by ECO India, Best women Journalist by American Biographer and Best Journalist for highlighting environmental issues by Peshawar Environmental organisation.)

International Reality of Kashmir

The international community seems least bothered about the prevailing situation in Kashmir as it has been told by the Government of India that it will handle in its own way. However, the international community is alarmed at the risk of the valley becoming a ‘safe haven’ for extremists if it is allowed to become another Islamic state, which it thinks would happen if it became independent or otherwise let free from the control of secular India.

After talking to dozens of reputable think tanks in the West regarding their perception on recent situation in the valley, I came to realize that most of them are worried about the pervasiveness of the Taliban mind-set in the surrounding areas that has the potential to turn the whole region topsy turvy. Due to this fact most of the think tanks are in favour of some sort of solution for Kashmir within the framework of the Indian constitution and nothing more. It is not only the Indian theory that they are supporting but also the Pakistan view which is opposed to any independent state in northern South Asia. Pakistan and India might be at loggerheads with each other so far as their other issues are concerned, but on Kashmir both the countries seem to have reached consensus on not leaving even an inch from their parts of Kashmir. The new thinking about the resolution of Kashmir is something which is supported by China whole-heartedly because it is apprehensive of the spill-over effects of any Kashmiri independence on Sinkiang and Tibet – two regions that have been clamouring for independence from China. The recent row over the separate visa granted to Kashmiris by China is more a political posture than any expression of support for the Kashmiri movement by China. There is a widespread feeling in the Chinese establishment that supporting the Kashmir independence movement would translate into a strengthening of the Uighurs in Sinkiang and the Tibetans, who would no doubt benefit from Indian (and international) support.

The Western governments see trouble only in the Muslim areas of the state where armed organisations have in the past demanded the establishment of a model Islamic state. These governments are striving hard to marginalize religious elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan and spending billions of their taxpayers' money so that these regions do not become sanctuaries for organisations such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Western governments are also committed to secularising Islamic countries such as Pakistan.

Another strong perception created among policy makers is that the trouble is confined to the valley and therefore cannot warrant any special measures. It is believed that this kind of trouble can be handled by the Indian Government and people's concerns assuaged by some form of internal autonomy with a soft link to Muzaffarabad. Pakistan is happy with this sort of solution, especially if in return it secures India's retreat from Afghanistan. Jammu and Ladakh (other than the Muslim areas) want nothing to do either independence or autonomy and they can be separated from the state and placed under the direct control of the Central Government as union territories. This process has already been started in the Ladakh by virtue of the Hill Development Council. So it seems that the Muslim or Kashmiri-speaking areas will form one entity with internal autonomy within the ambit of the Indian constitution. Even if separatists consider Jammu and Ladakh provinces to be part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir the international community does not buy this idea any more. Many think tanks believe that both provinces should be allowed to prosper according to their people’s wishes and need not stay part of the state when they have nothing in common with the valley. US based research organisation Kashmir Study Group is a staunch supporter of this idea and it has the ear of the state department in Washington. It is a common belief that the former President of Pakistan General Musharraf’s four point Kashmir proposal was based on the research done by Kashmir Study Group. The main idea of the Group was to carve out a self-governing entity on the Indian side from the Kashmiri-speaking areas (the valley, Doda and Kishtwar). The self rule and other vision papers followed more or less the same research. In the state itself many political groups have in principle accepted the Musharraf proposal but have never dared to come out and admit this to the people.

Due to India’s intense lobbying and ground work in the international fora it has got more supporters whereas Pakistan has totally failed on every front, even among the Muslim Arab countries who have chosen to turn a blind eye to the Kashmir dispute, Even the militant organisations nurtured and groomed by the Pakistani Establishment are dismayed by its stand on Kashmir.

Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation says that Pakistan made a mistake in predicating its claim to Kashmir on the basis of religion unlike India, whose stand was based on secularism and the necessity of Kashmir in India's secular polity. Curtis thinks that most nations, including many Muslim countries, would not support Kashmiri secession, due to the threat of fundamentalism. 'The world has changed a lot and Kashmiris would have to see beyond religion, beyond Pakistan and accept the reality’, says Lisa Curtis.

We might feel some comfort in saying that we do not care about the international community or its thinking or its backing for India but we cannot ignore how the dispute is being projected on the world stage by the India and Pakistan. Neither of the countries seems much concerned about the plight of Kashmiris.

It is the responsibility of the Kashmiri leadership to ponder over the apprehensions that the international community feels. Delegations need to be sent outside to make the world understand the realities on the ground. The peaceful and democratic movement has the power to grab the attention of the international community even if India has got a strong support to sort out its ‘law and order’ issue in the Valley.

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