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March 9, 2019

Kashmir Scars Unseen: Would This Conflict Go Nuclear?

India is in the grips of war hysteria.

The terrorist attack on a convoy killing 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers and wounding 30 in Pulwama, Kashmir has sent shock waves all over India. Accusing Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi was quite blunt. India has vowed a "jaw-breaking response" to a suicide bombing in the disputed Kashmir region last week that killed 40 Indian soldiers.

Responding to the accusation, Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan released a statement; “Pakistan was not involved in the attack, which was "conceived, planned and executed indigenously." Addressing the Indian government, he declared; “If you have any actionable intelligence that a Pakistani is involved, give it to us. I guarantee you we will take action. He hoped that better sense will prevail and that India would be open to dialogue with Pakistan.

According to Canadian press report; PM Khan has authorized the armed forces to "respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure" by India, as tensions soar between the nuclear-armed rivals.

No doubt Pulwama is a huge tragedy and for India it has sparked a rising tide of jingoism and war hysteria in that country. The Indian media is already on a war path with chest-thumping nationalist slogans orchestrated by the Modi government and accompanied by the entertainment industry is likely to go out of control. According to reports; ‘India has deployed more than 1 million troops* in held Kashmir.’ The highest concentration of troops in the world is in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir with a ratio of 100:1,200 to civilian population. Compare this ratio with what Gen David Petraeus the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said: to combat the insurgency, the US had close to 25:1,000 to civilian population of its armed personnel in Afghanistan.

The war cries that have been an intrinsic feature of Indian TV have become shriller. Calling for a full-fledged war TV anchors and shouting brigades known for screaming, screeching and yelling from the safe harbours of TV studios aiming to add points to their TV ratings. But all such plans carry the danger of retaliation and uncontrolled escalation. This fear is exacerbated by the fact that both countries possess nuclear weapons. Pakistan has repeatedly signalled it would not hesitate to use them.

This war stoking belligerency coincides with election time in India. The stridently Hindu nationalist ideology of PM Modi’s party (BJP) is facing an uphill task against its main opponent the Congress. The current state of whipping up hostility may be Modi’s last resort to retain his power in the coming elections at an incalculable cost.

For over 70 years, unarmed Kashmiris, including men, women, and children have endured violence and oppression in the form of mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, political repression, and the suppression of free speech.  Tormented by violence and subjugation, the people of Kashmir are suffering from untold miseries.

On the rights situation in occupied Kashmir, the European Parliament on February 20, 2019 put their weight behind the recommendations of a United Nations report calling on India to immediately halt its atrocities in Kashmir. The UN human rights office has called for an international investigation into abuses in the disputed region of Kashmir, criticizing the Indian security forces in particular for inflicting mass civilian casualties in response to escalating protests there.

The media in the West is looking the other way. There is hopelessly scant coverage of the enduring sufferings of the people of Kashmir, scantier than that of the pain and agony of the Palestinians.

India has a dismal record of how it treats its minorities particularly Muslims. Under Modi, Muslims have been almost erased from electoral arithmetic. A BBC report: A senior police officer's sworn statement to India's Supreme Court alleges that (the then) Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi deliberately allowed anti-Muslim riots in the state with more than 1,000 people were killed mostly Muslims in the violence in 2002.**   Modi's real-life complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat was captured in The Guardian UK headline: A man with massacre on his hands ─***

There remains an urgent need to address human rights violations and for justice to comfort those who have suffered in Kashmir for several decades of deadly conflict. A resolution can only exist if the people of Kashmir are given a voice, the basic right of all democratic governments.

India’s former Chief of Naval staff, Admiral L. Ramdas in a letter to PM Modi wisely counsels: “Over the years successive Indian governments since 1948 have failed to find a solution for Kashmir. Recent events, including the violence and unrest in the valley, have further reinforced what many have been saying, that there can be no military solution to the Kashmir problem. Peace can only be restored through a dialogue leading to a political solution.”

It’s time for the UN to bring the two parties on the negotiating table to start talking before it’s too late.

Javed Akbar is a free-lance writer & his columns have appeared in the Toronto Star.




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