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Kashmir issue internationalised!

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the previous months, Kashmir has increasingly become a subject of international attention. Comity of nations is no longer ignoring the Indian brutalities, and the ensuing loss of innocent lives. Recently, Amnesty International has once again urged the Indian government to allow UN’s special representatives to visit occupied Kashmir for making a spot study of the cases of fake encounters and extra-judicial killings in the territory. It has also urged Indian Prime Minister to fulfil his promise of zero tolerance to human rights violations in the occupied territory by the Indian security apparatus.

While recently reporting on Kashmir, ‘Wall Street Journal’ has indicated that if India does not heed to the popular demand of Kashmiri people for their right of self-determination, the ongoing spate of protests would continue to intensify. Indian security forces have tried to suppress these protests with their typical brutality and state terrorism, which has led to the loss of life of over 60 peaceful protestors since June. To deceive the general public, Indian security forces have been conducting these acts of brutality while wearing blue headgear resembling UN forces’ headwear. UN has already launched its protest with the Indian government on this act of impersonation and has demanded that Indian security forces must desist from this practice.

Gradually, the international community is beginning to realise that it is the Indian state which is terrorist, and not those who are struggling against the Indian occupation of Kashmir. India should see the writing on the wall, and move towards UN-supervised plebiscite which it itself had agreed to, in the shape of acceptance of relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It is quite evident that its illegal occupation cannot continue, indefinitely. Recently, China denied visa to an Indian military delegation because delegation because it included Lt-Gen B S Jaswal, a senior filed commander of IHK. India’s Army chief was to head the delegation. As a consequence, India had to cancel the defence exchange visit to China. China has persistently maintained its principled stance over Kashmir issue and has a legitimate claim over Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese border dispute with India dates back to a 1914 conference, hosted by British colonial rulers. The ensuing demarcation of the border came to be known as McMahon Line. Ever since, China has never recognised this arbitrary line, and hence it rightfully claims around 90,000 sq km; inclusive of nearly entire landscape of Arunachal Pradesh. From Chinese perspective, McMahon Line is a legacy of colonial encroachment on their country. To counter balance China’s claim, India put forward a farce claim that China has occupied 8,000 sq km of its territory in Kashmir. By taking this position, India virtually axed her own feet by making China a party to the Kashmir dispute. China has always condemned Indian acts of state terrorism against peace loving people of Kashmir. India has always tried to draw a wedge between China and Pakistan. These days, a travesty claim is being raised that Chain has moved its troops into Gilgit-Baltistan area. A sponsored report authored by one Selig Harrison, an analyst well known for presenting Indian point of view, forms the basis of this claim. Moreover, RAW has since long been involved in target killing and harassment of Chinese workers commissioning various civil sector developmental projects in Kashmir. Now even an increasing number of US Congressmen are raising their voice about the gravity of Kashmir issue. They are frequently mentioning the issue of Kashmir and the urgent need for its settlement. ‘The Kashmiri-American Council and Association of Humanitarian Lawyers’ held its Annual International Kashmir Peace Conference in Washington. Theme of the conference was “India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock over Kashmir”. Conference unanimously adopted the Washington Declaration, its main thrust was: ‘there must be an early, just and durable resolution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute taking into account the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir’. As a by product of Kashmir issue, water issue has emerged as another irritant between the Pakistan and India. Pakistan has to frequently refer these water disputes to neutral arbitrator for adjucation. Diversion of Pakistan’s share of water by India has surfaced so many times. Every time water issue is raised at international fora, the Kashmir dispute is highlighted automatically.

Saner voices from within India are advocating a political settlement to the dispute. There is a growing realization within Indian intelligentsia that use of brute force is not likely to bring peace to Kashmir. During a recent conference in New Delhi, high ranking participants have acknowledged the home grown nature of the uprising. They have expressed their consternation over the Indian establishment and the media for following a beaten approach of blaming Pakistan and cross border militant groups for sponsoring violent acts in Indian held Kashmir.

However, Indian establishment and a handful of Kashmiri politicians who are direct beneficiaries of Indian rule, continue to support status quo. Such politicians are fully aware that whenever people of Kashmir are given a chance of making a free and fair choice, their political business would be over. Therefore, they continue to support the suppression of movement through application of force. Though India has fielded around 700,000 troops in IHK, the best they could claim is a shaky stalemate.

Current surge of resistance owes its sustenance to the resilience of the people of Kashmir, who are now better aware of their legitimate rights. There is no indication that the UN will act in this regard in a foreseeable timeframe. United Nations’ protracted indifference towards implementation of its Kashmir related resolutions has attached a negative tag of impotence to UN in the context of resolution of this dispute. People of Kashmir feel that they have to themselves rise to the occasion, yet once again, to secure their inviolable right of self determination. Likewise, people of Kashmir view with utter dismay how the US has given up its effort to solve the issue; they also express their utter disappointment the way ‘Candidate Obama’ committed to the resolution of Kashmir issue has cowed down, as ‘President Obama’, in the face of expediencies.

Onus for solving the Kashmir dispute lies with India, Pakistan and the leadership of Kashmir. However, international community will have to exert its pressure on India. There is an urgent need that India adopts a clear approach to the dispute and effectively engages the Kashmiri leadership along with Pakistan. Gimmicks of farce negotiations on the Israel-Palestine pattern will not work.

A genuine political process would certainly provide yet another opportunity to work out a solution acceptable to all parties to the dispute. People of Kashmir are struggling to keep the issue alive. Pakistan needs to undertake a supportive campaign to correct the international perception and facilitate un-knotting this legitimate freedom struggle from an unjust stigma of terrorism. Likewise, UN needs to wake up to the reality and implement its resolutions on plebiscite.

Kayani, a man for many seasons

PKKH

Shuja Nawaz

In a timely though perhaps overly dramatic move, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan announced recently on national television the extension of army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for another three years beyond November this year, when his first term was to end. Timely, since any further delay in announcing it would have led to further speculation and confusion about what was to happen. Dramatic, since the normal manner would have been a press release from the Inter Services Relations Directorate.

But then this is Pakistan and anything to do with the army chief makes headlines. And this announcement further strengthens the view that the army continues to be a key player even as democracy struggles to establish itself in a country that has been ruled for more than half its life by the military.

This is the first time a civilian government has extended an army chief for a full term. In the past, extensions have been either short, given by military rulers to themselves or, in the case of the first military ruler, Ayub Khan, to an ineffectual army chief with no independent power base. Benazir Bhutto sought to break with tradition when she offered an extension to General Abdul Waheed in 1996 but he refused it. Kayani took pains to convey the impression that he would not seek an extension nor negotiate for one. It appears that the government made him an offer he could not refuse.

Kayani is widely regarded as a quiet, professional soldier, who has helped transform the army in his tenure from a largely conventional force to one that is effectively fighting an irregular war inside its own borders. His new tenure gives him a rare opportunity to continue the transformation of the Pakistan into army into a professional body ready to fight insurgencies and conventional enemies equally well. He maintains a low public profile and is seen as a thinking general. Compared with his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf, who was tempestuous and rarely had time to read, Kayani is deliberate. From the outset, he stated a policy of keeping the army out of politics, a policy that he tried to maintain even while selectively intervening in political squabbles as a referee. In recent months he has played a key role in moving the United States-Pakistan strategic dialogue onto a higher plane in terms of content and action.

While many inside and outside the country have welcomed the move as providing continuity and stability at a time of a raging insurgency and the rise of militancy inside Pakistan, others view it as a retrogressive move away from institutionalizing the selection and promotion system by linking it to personalities. Above all, it is a political move since the final decision was made by a politician. The United States has studiously avoided taking a public position but conversations with U.S. diplomats and military officials over the past few months indicated their deep interest in the future of General Kayani and a noticeable desire to see him remain at the helm of affairs in Pakistan. Yet Kayani on his part has showed no signs that he is or even is willing to be painted as “America’s choice.”

What are the implications of this extension? In the near term, it opens up the possibility of a routine promotion for the next senior most army general to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee when that position falls vacant in October 2010. There may well be an opportunity also to elevate one of the other service chiefs, from the air force or navy, to bolster inter-service cohesion. Within the army there has been some talk of a Vice Chief. This may make sense for such a large army but runs against the grain, since the Pakistan army has a steep pyramid structure. Authority rests in one man: the chief. When I suggested to my own brother, General Asif Nawaz, when he took over as Army chief in 1991 that he appoint a deputy chief to help manage the administrative details of his work, his reply was crisp: “Command is indivisible!” While not supported by historical evidence, this mantra has taken hold in Pakistan and was echoed by General Pervez Musharraf for different and perhaps political reasons, even though he appointed a Vice Chief of the Army Staff. But Musharraf made all the important decisions himself.

In the longer run, the career paths of many senior generals will be affected by this decision. Nearly a dozen operational three-stars (Lieutenant Generals) will retire before Kayani’s new term expires in November 2013. These include a number of very bright and highly trained officers whom he has promoted to three star rank in April this year. As a result, the age and service gap between Kayani and his corps commanders in another two years will be quite large, as he digs down into the ranks order to promote new commanders. The nature and quality of the exchanges between him and his commanders will necessarily be affected, as was the case for General Zia ul-Haq and General Musharraf before him. Few junior officers will be willing to challenge the views of such a senior chief. Yet, he has exhibited a certain collegiality in his exchanges with fellow officers. If he can maintain that approach it will serve him in good stead. Politically, the country will of necessity see another election during Kayani’s extended term, unless things deteriorate so dramatically internally or in relations with Pakistan’s fractious neighbors that the army, under public pressure, mounts another coup. Here, Kayani will fight against historical precedent: in the past, an extension or the dismissal of a chief and replacement by a new chief invariably led to a coup, as mutual suspicions between the civilians and the military was compounded.

A positive spin-off from the extension in the eyes of some may be that a slew of Musharraf promotees will also retire between now and 2013 reducing the tension between them and others vying for the next rung. Some of these are strong professional officers but the taint of having been favored by Musharraf may remain. After all, Kayani too was a Musharraf choice. A major advantage that might accrue is that the certainty provided by the new term for the army chief will allow the civilian government to become confident in asserting itself in policy matters, knowing that the army chief will not overtly intervene in its affairs. This may help strengthen political institutions. At the same time, civilians must resist the temptation to turn to the army to lead the battle against militancy (a national endeavor not purely a military one) or to arbitrate differences on the political field.

These three years should also give Kayani time to assess the present Higher Defense Organization of Pakistan and perhaps come up with a more devolved structure for the army and a better system of command and control at the center. One possible scenario may include regional and centralized commands at four-star rank, appointed by the same authority who selects the service chiefs, and a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs with real powers to regulate all the services while acting as the main military advisor of the government. This approach has been taken by the United States and many other modern militaries, so it would hardly be unprecedented. Without having a stake in the chairman’s position in 2013, Kayani may be able to provide a dispassionate plan for the government to decide, well in advance of the next round of promotions in 2013. Any proposal that he presents as a disinterested party will have credibility and will also help override the parochial concerns of the army relative to the other services in Pakistan.

All this will be against the backdrop of Pakistan’s traditional rivalry with emerging superpower India to the east. Kayani would be key to any effort to reduce hostility and to open the eastern border to trade and traffic. He has already played a role in opening up to Afghanistan and perhaps positioning Pakistan to play a role in the reconciliation efforts of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The United States, as a key ally, must also understand that the army chief in Pakistan will think foremost about Pakistan’s interests. To the extent that they have an interlocutor who knows them well, from his extensive U.S. training and contacts, the U.S. will benefit from a clear dialogue. Removing years of mistrust will take a major and longer-term effort. Officer exchanges will help. But most important will be steady provision of the best possible equipment to the Pakistani forces in their battle against insurgents and militants, with no underlying threats or overhanging waivers accompanying those transfers. That is what trust means.

Key to this entire enterprise is the man who will continue to head the Pakistan army beyond President Barack Obama’s first term and into the term of the next elected government in Pakistan: General Kayani, truly now a man for many seasons.

Shuja Nawaz is Director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council.

Pakistan not bound by US laws against Iran: Gilani

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Tuesday his country is not bound by US laws in regard to its gas deal with Iran.

Pakistan will follow the international laws and not US restrictions, Xinhua quoted Gilani as saying.

US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke Sunday warned Islamabad against the deal intended to bring Iranian gas to Pakistan.

Holbrooke said the US senate is working on a law that could affect the Iran-Pakistan gas deal. ‘We warn Pakistan to wait for the upcoming US law against Iran.’

Gilani said if the UN imposed restrictions on Iran, then Pakistan as a member of the UN would respect those curbs.

Pakistan and Iran signed a $7.5-billion gas deal in Tehran June 13 to start supplying Iranian gas from mid-2014. Iran would export over 21 million cubic metres of gas daily to Pakistan.