Monday, October 20, 2014

"we are muslims"

...“We have source besides the (Pakistan) army…people in Kashmir are fighting....just need to incite them....we can fight with the (Indian) army from both the front and back....we are Muslims”.....

This is true, there is a hot war going on right now in Kashmir and all the familiar arguments (pro-war, pro-peace) are being re-hashed. It is time to examine them anew.

We have ex President/General Musharraf noting that the path to freedom in Kashmir involves inciting Kashmiri Muslims to launch an intifada. He is confident that the inherent strength in the "we are muslims" argument will (finally) lead to the vanquishing of a half-million strong Indian army.

Short response: Our opinion is that the only feasible way forward in Kashmir is to bring Indian civil society on-side by impressing on the moral arguments about self-rule. For that two things (at the minimum) need to happen. First, there has to be a popular consensus in India that meaningful peace is possible with Pakistan. As of now, only Pranay Sharma (see below) and a few committed leftists believe in this. Any Pak incitement will only lead to more Kashmiri deaths (and a rise in popularity of Modi).

Second, moral arguments are not convincingly made by (or on behalf of) people who do not have any inherent faith in them. Large sections of Kashmiri muslims rejoiced when the Pandits left. The argument is simple: get rid of the people (minorities) and the land is yours to enjoy for all times. As originally battle-tested by the proponents of the two nation theory, this winner-takes-all argument has been a winning one all across South Asia. Today in Hindu majority Telangana, the man in charge compares himself favorably to Hitler (see link below) and wants to chase away all Andhra people (also Hindu majority and Telugu speaking).

Thus to win the argument Kashmiri muslims (and their well-wishers such as Musharraf and a Hindu Brahmin like Vishal Bharadwaj) have to stipulate that suppression of the weak by the strong is wrong. But Musharraf is not making that argument. He is claiming that victory will come from Pak army fighting outside-in, even as the Intifada fights inside out. This "we are muslims" dream helped in the birth of Pakistan and (seemingly) helps hold Pakistan together even now. But it will not help liberate Kashmir.

Next, Bruce Riedel worries about a cross-border nuclear war and Pranay Sharma frets about Modi using "Pakistan card" to consolidate his power.

It is interesting (and typical) to see how differently the two analysts read the same situation, while "neocon" Riedel points out that not responding to Pakistan's misadventures will encourage them to attack even more, "aman ki asha" Sharma is worried that a robust response from India will invite backlash from Pak (we think both predictions are correct, an ideological response holds constant regardless of the counter-response).

India has a no-first strike policy on nuclear weapons. Thus the only way a nuclear war happens is if Pakistan initiates a strike. Two things are for sure. First this will not happen without Chinese authorization and that seems unlikely. After all India CAN launch a nuclear missile on Beijing (it is a bit closer to home than MARS). Doomsday scenarios are fun to discuss but beyond the recycled concerns we doubt there is anything fresh to ponder upon.

Second, if Pakistan does strike it will be also the end of Pakistan as a nation. We know that the Pak army has a long history of being irresponsible, but we doubt they are suicidal. 

Former president General Pervez Musharraf on Thursday said Pakistan needs to incite those fighting in Kashmir, India Today reported.   
“We have source (in Kashmir) besides the (Pakistan) army…People in Kashmir are fighting against (India). We just need to incite them,” Musharraf told a TV channel.
Musharraf, who assumed power in 1999 soon after the Kargil conflict as hostilities erupted between Indian and Pakistani troops in the area, claimed that the Pakistan army is ready for war with India. But he cautioned India against any misadventure.
“India should not be under the illusion that Pakistan will not hit back,” he warned.
“In Kashmir, we can fight with the (Indian) army from both the front and back…We are Muslims. We will not show the other cheek when we are slapped. We can respond tit for tat,” he said, while commenting on the recent firing along the Line of Control and working boundary.
At least 12 people have been killed since India resorted to ‘unprovoked’ firing on the border.
“Modi is anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan. He has not changed. The problem is with us… We are running to attend his (Modi) inauguration, we should keep our dignity.”

Let us be absolutely clear on this: the only person who has no dignity left over Kashmir is Ex-P/G Musharraf. He has been exposed as a person who was betraying his allies in the West and (specifically looking at Kargil) betraying his own (Muslim) troops.

The argument that democracy (even if imperfectly) should come to all corners of South Asia (and the near-abroad) is a powerful one.

But then Pakistan as the worst case offender should repair the democracy deficit urgently and teach big brother a "peaceful lesson" in how democracy works, starting with (muslim) people in "Azad Kashmir". Unfortunately there is not a chance of that happening anytime soon, not in Pakistan, but also not in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. And we will be very surprised if Ex-P/G Musharraf will ever come to a position where his opinion counts for anything, except as a measure of what his fellow citizens think (and dream).

India and Pakistan have fought four wars since 1947 and had several crises that went to the brink of war. Both tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Now tensions are escalating between the two again.
It began in May, when a heavily armed squad of Pakistani terrorists from Lashkar e Tayyiba (Army of the Pure) attacked India’s consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan. They planned to massacre Indian diplomats on the eve of the inauguration of India’s new Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi. The consulate’s security forces killed the LeT terrorists first, preventing a crisis.
Since LeT is a proxy of Pakistan's military intelligence service known as the ISI, Indian intelligence officials assume the Herat attack was coordinated with higher-ups in Pakistan.  They assume another LeT attack is only a matter of time.  They are probably right on both counts.

This summer, clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops have escalated along the ceasefire line in Kashmir. Called “the Line of Control,” the Kashmiri front line this year has witnessed the worst exchanges of artillery and small arms fire in a decade, displacing hundreds of civilians on both sides. More than 20 have died in the crossfire already this month. Modi has ordered his army commanders to strike back hard at the Line of Control to demonstrate Indian resolve.
Although Modi made a big gesture in May when he invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration, since then Modi has canceled routine diplomatic talks with Pakistan on Kashmir and signaled a tough line toward terrorism. He also appointed a very experienced intelligence chief, Ajit Doval as his national security adviser. Doval is known as a hard-liner on terrorism—and on Pakistan.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party strongly criticized his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, for what it saw as a weak response to LeT’s attack on Mumbai in 2008. No military action was taken after 10 LeT terrorists, armed and trained by the ISI, killed and wounded hundreds of innocents, including six American dead.
In 2001, a previous BJP government mobilized the Indian military for months after a Pakistan-based terror attack on the Indian parliament. The two countries were eyeball to eyeball in a tense standoff for almost a year. Two years before that, the two countries fought a war in Kashmir around the town of Kargil.
In the 1999 Kargil War, the Pakistani army crossed the LOC to seize mountain heights controlling a key highway in Kashmir. BJP Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee responded with airstrikes and ground forces. The Indian navy prepared to blockade Karachi, Pakistan’s major port and its critical choke point for importing oil. A blockade would have rapidly cut off Pakistan from oil supplies. The Indian navy was so eager to strike it had to be restrained by the high command.
The Pakistanis began losing the fight at Kargil. Then they put their nuclear forces on high alert. President Bill Clinton pressured Nawaz Sharif (the prime minister then and now) into backing down at a crucial summit at Blair House on July 4, 1999. If Clinton had not persuaded Sharif to withdraw behind the LOC, the war would have escalated further, perhaps to a nuclear exchange.
Kargil is a good paradigm for what a future crisis might look like. A BJP government is not likely to turn the other cheek. It cannot afford to let terror attacks go unpunished. That would encourage more.
The difference between the Kargil War and today is that both India and Pakistan now have far more nuclear weapons and delivery systems than 15 years ago. Pakistan is developing tactical nuclear weapons and has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. China provides Pakistan with its nuclear reactors. India has missiles that can reach all of Pakistan and even to Beijing. The escalatory ladder is far more terrifying than it was on the eve of the millennium.
For retreating in 1999, Sharif was overthrown in a coup by the army commander, Pervez Musharraf, who had planned the Kargil War. Now Musharraf is calling for Sharif to stand up to Modi and not be pushed around by India. The main opposition party leader, Bilawal Bhutto, has called for a tough line defending Kashmiri Muslim rights, promising to take “every inch” of Kashmir for Pakistan if he is elected prime minister in the future. Sharif is under pressure from another party leader, Imran Khan, to resign. The politics on both sides in South Asia leave little room for compromise or dialogue.

America is seen in South Asia as a power in decline, a perception fueled by the Afghan War. U.S. influence in New Delhi and Islamabad is low. A Clinton-like intervention to halt an escalation will be a tough act to follow. But the consequences of a nuclear exchange are almost too horrible to contemplate.


The hype notwithstanding, Narendra Modi’s ‘tough’ line on Pakistan, as reflected in the fortnight-long firing across the Line of Control and the International Border by Indian and Pakistani soldiers, sets a dangerous precedent.
A flag meeting that could have ended the firing between the rival troops earlier than it did was put off because of India. Officials in New Delhi justify the Indian stand to argue that it was to prevent Pakistan from embarking on similar ‘adventurism’ in the future. In the process, however, this also opens up space for India’s own ‘adventurism’ which it can adopt in dealing with other smaller neighbours as well.
To his myriad supporters, Modi’s hard stand against Pakistan is something that was long needed. In Modi they see an Indian leader who has finally decided to set the parameters of engaging with Pakistan in a manner that is both effective and couched in terms that the neighbour can well understand.
However, despite the prevailing mood of belligerence in the country, especially among the prime minister’s admirers, the Modi government’s policy of how to deal with Pakistan raises some serious concerns.
There are clear indications that much of India’s tough response was fashioned by Modi to shore up his image domestically, especially before the crucial assembly elections in Maharastra and Haryana. According to a report in the Economic Times, during the entire period of firing at the border, Modi did not convene a single meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The decision to escalate the Indian response to the Pakistani firing was taken solely by the Indian prime minister and his national security advisor Ajit Doval, a former Intelligence Bureau chief.

Modi decided to refer to the developments at the border and the tough stand his government took several times during his campaigns in Maharashtra and Haryana. This clearly shows that irrespective of the death of several people, including hapless civilians living near the border areas, the prime minister continued with his tough line to raise his own stock and brighten the chances of his party’s victory in the two assembly elections.
But the willingness to adopt such a stand and to use Pakistan to build his own image can have negative implications. One, its success may encourage him to play the Pakistan card every time he finds himself in a spot and needs to boost his image with his countrymen at home. Two, Pakistan can play this game of brinkmanship as well in future, with dangerous consequences. 

Whether or not it results in a war between the two nuclear-armed countries, heightened tension between the hostile neighbors will surely scare off potential investors from India and derail India’s project of economic development.
More importantly, a tough, confrontational line drastically reduces the diplo­matic space to resolve differences through peaceful negotiations between the two countries. The precedent Modi is setting can also send a negative signal to India’s smaller neighbors in South Asia. If they continue to feel nervous about India, they may end up moving closer to China—the other big power in the region. And surely the Indian leadership would not desire a possible scenario where India gets isolated in South Asia. For the sake of its own development and growth, India needs a peaceful neighborhood, particularly in South Asia.
The Indian prime minister will therefore have to go back from where he started—by reaching out to India’s immediate neighbours. A policy that not only ensures a peaceful neighbourhood but also allows the space for others to grow and develop with India may turn out to be much more effective in dealing with neighbours. Modi may as well show his strength by taking the ‘tough’ political decision to reach out to Pakistan and resume his engagement with the recalcitrant neighbour.

Suffice to say the Congress govt followed Sharma's prescription and lost respect on the international stage and politically at home. Sharma makes the economic point that investments in India will suffer in case of escalation in conflicts but then where were these investments in the peacetime of 2009-2014?

Also, as is clear from the recent state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, Modi will keep winning due to a complete vacuum in the opposition ranks. Congress is finished, Mayawati also looks finished. Modi has been accepted as an OBC (Shudra) leader by Indians drawing from all sections of society. India is also an OBC nation by a large majority...thus we have a truly strange situation where powerful OBC communities like Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh, Marathas in Maharashtra, and Jats in Haryana opposing Modi (and he will still win).

As far as the muslims are concerned the in-fighting between the "secular" parties have left them without any sure source of political patronage. The understandable reaction has been to vote for "communal" parties like AIMIM headed by the odious Akbaruddin Owaisi. Unfortunately, this will lead to even more marginalization. Strategically, it would make much more sense for muslims to vote for the BJP and make it bend to minority demands (this is starting to happen in some strange Kerala and in West Bengal).

It is early days yet but Modi is transforming into Indira Gandhi (it is a good thing that he has no sons to hand over the baton when the time comes). The weakness of Man Mohan Singh was that the public knew that he was a puppet. So yes, India will not turn the "other cheek" as the provocations keep coming...and Pakistan becomes more and more isolated as a nation with no friends.

Finally, Pranay Sharma knows this well: small neighbors of India seem to be working much better with Modi than the small neighbors of China. Not to mention how the Iran-Pak border has become hot as well as Iranian soldiers violate borders and shoot down Sunni insurgents. It also seems that Afghanistan will not remain passive if ISI continues with the "incite muslims" strategy.

So all in all, even the strongest opponents of Modi are only peddling weak arguments. We have to look harder for better leaders and better arguments (since we are pro-peace after all) but right now all we see is Modi all around us (even if with a broom and a dusting-pan).


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