Kashmir: Time to bring matters to a close before it unleashes a spiral of bloodshed

Opinion: Pakistan must confront its tawdry past as a provocateur of violence; India must, in turn, end the immense burden on everyday Kashmiris.

By Hamza Khan

We find ourselves on the brink yet again of an all out war in South Asia. Unless immediate action is taken to calm tensions, and silence the irrationally nationalistic rhetoric of all sides, innocent lives will be lost. Written here are immediate actions that all three major actors, Pakistanis, Indians and Kashmiris, can and should take to restore peace.

Pakistan must confront its tawdry past as a provocateur of violence throughout the region, and assure India and Kashmir that its role as such is at an end. India must, in turn, bring to an immediate end the immense burden on everyday Kashmiris, whose state is host to nearly half of all Indian military personnel. Kashmir’s democratic leaders must stop fanning the flames of secessionism and playing both India and Pakistan against one another to secure short-term gains. Finally, Donald Trump and his joke of a foreign policy team must emerge from their latest drunken stupor to play a positive role in de-escalating tensions in the region. All of this must happen fast, very fast, before Narendra Modi’s desire to win re-election, and Imran Khan’s need to prove that he’s a real Pakistani and Pathan drive us into a nuclear war.

Neither India nor Pakistan may feign innocence in their role in perpetuating a conflict that should have been resolved decades ago. Pakistan’s intelligence and military apparatus has actively worked to undermine in previous years the Kashmiri self-government movement by handing over the names of secular and non-religious nationalist activists to Indian authorities, while cultivating Islamist organizations loyal to Rawalpindi for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, India’s democratic institutions have often stopped at the Vale’s edge in enforcing and protecting the civil rights of everyday Kashmiris against a brutal and repressive occupation of Indian Union territory. Meanwhile, Kashmir’s democratically elected leaders often have played nationalist rhetoric off against Islamist and pro-independence elements in order to strike a deal of their choosing with Delhi and/or Islamabad. These are the facts. They are known, they have been written about extensively by regional experts and scholars on at least three continents. But until now, few have sought to memorialize these points on the strange scattergram of hubris that is South Asia’s political scene today.

If India is to emerge as the not-so paper tiger and global power it espouses to be, it must with immediate effect seek to lessen the burdens of near-military occupation it places on the loyal citizens of Kashmir. A commission must be establish to investigate the human rights abuses and abjuring of due process and civil liberties going back to the time of Indira Gandhi in Kashmir. Heads must roll and remuneration must be given to the victims of state-sanctioned violence if a modicum of legitimacy is to be restored to India’s right to administer Jammu & Kashmir.

Kashmir’s political leaders have for too long played a vicious cat and mouse game with the Indian Union. Vacillating from secular independence to alignment with Muslim Pakistan, to finally acceding to India, the political elites of Jammu and Kashmir have done nothing but play for time in ongoing efforts to secure short term gains and the maintenance of the status quo. Pakistan’s growing middle class is becoming weary of Islamist rhetoric demanding Kashmir join their country. Indians, too, are wondering why so many of their soldiers have fought and died so far from home for a people whose political leaders cannot seem to make up their mind on whether they wish to be Indian, Pakistani or none of the above.

Pakistan has proven itself to be the cat with nine lives — the country’s largely secular political elites have avoided serious repercussions for decades for aiding and abetting jihadi terrorism across the globe. But the days of the West electing responsible sheriffs in Washington ended when through a fluke and constitutional technicality Donald Trump ended up in the White House. Trump has little love or respect for Pakistan’s erstwhile if half-hearted contributions to the War on Terror. His poll numbers tell him that Pakistan is deeply unpopular as a country with the American people — and they are right; none of us have forgiven the country for somehow missing that Osama Bin Laden was living quite comfortably in a Pakistani city named for a British general. Pakistan is skating on very thin ice — and no one will dive in after them should they fall into the icy waters of another Kashmir-centric war.

Indeed, in the past few weeks not a single one of the Pakistan’s neighbors has been left unscathed by terror attacks that they attribute to terrorists operating in plain view in that country. Iran announced it would not forget who was behind the recent killings of 27 Iranian soldiers by terrorists based in Pakistan. Afghanistan has accused (yet again) Pakistan of providing aid and even medical treatment to wounded Taliban fighters seeking to overthrow the Kabul government. And now India has blamed Pakistan for Jaish-e-Mohmmad’s attack on Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir. Even if it were to be believed that any or even all three of these acts were carried out with the express displeasure of Pakistani authorities, the question remains: why does everyone in the region seem to think Pakistan has something to do with these attacks? Enough is enough, Pakistan’s elites must cease and desist their proxies wars on their neighbors if they want to convince the world that it is not a terror state.

As an American, I have little desire to upset my many Indian American, Pakistani American or Kashmiri American constituents here at home in Maryland. That has taken both tact and adhering to my firm commitment to supporting a democratic and free future for all inhabitants of South Asia, no matter their nationality or origin. However, I find myself, as an individual with deep ties to all three major parties in the Kashmir matter, to speak openly about the matter at hand. We must bring matters to a close before there is more violence, and a spiral of bloodshed that none of us can emerge from.

(Hamza Khan is a political activist and consultant based in Maryland. He has advised congressional and senatorial candidates on outreach to minority voters, and has spoken widely to the international press about the US presidential elections. You can follow him on Twitter: @HamzaSKhan)


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