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Friday, August 01, 2014

kashmir and gaza

The echo of Gaza closer home

By no means is providing the oxygen of publicity to motivated columnists a palatable task. Even the satisfaction of refuting them does not compensate for the gains they make in having their argument aired, albeit only to be debunked. Identifying them as owners of the argument, howsoever flawed, is useful for them, in this age of visibility passing for wisdom.

Here one's reservations on this score are given a go-bye to make a passing mention to the article dean of the Jindal School of International Relations in the Asian Age, a paper once presided over by MJ Akbar ( The worthy writes of Kashmiris agitating over a far off war. He notes that one of them got killed in the bargain. He rues this loss of life for an unknown cause, informing of the manner these agitators are paid to go out on the street. To him this is best explained by figures of unemployment of youth close to 50 per cent.

It is only natural for him to alight on the stipend as somehow delegitimising the protests since it makes for a cadre of professional agitators, described by one forgettable army general in Badami Bagh as participating in 'agitational terrorism'. The neo-liberal in the intellectual comes forth in this unidimensional economic analysis. Understandably, he goes
on to articulate that if these youth had a job, they would not be on the streets. So QED:
open up the space to private capital, retire the state administration, and look and behold!
Kashmir will be transformed into the secular crown of India.

It is also only natural for him to miss that point that a quarter century after the Indian state
has faced up to crowds in Kashmir, it has not mastered the art of non-lethal crowd control.
This is so despite a defence budget tripling over this century. If it is the paramilitary
that is at the spear tip in Kashmir, then a greater proportion of this should rightly have
gone to outfitting them.

Such a thought may not occur to busy bodies of international affairs and strategic studies faculties.
They barter access for their intellectual capacities. For instance, the good dean was enroute
back from Gurez, where he was most unlikely to have been hosted by either a local or an NGO.
To think the government has declared its intent to dole out more for strategic studies
departments and increase their numbers across the country. This can only expand the
tribe of those insensitive to such questions. No such largesse is for peace studies departments,
such as the one in Awantipore, that could lend some balance to the discourse.

The question as to why the Indian state does not care to resort to non-lethal means is easy to
answer. It is because it does not need to since there is the AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act
in force. Next, punitive action such as this helps deter more vigorous demonstrations. It conveys
the resolve of the state not to tolerate a repeat of 2009 and 2010. It helps nip a problem in the bud
 in that the situation is stabilised before it spirals out of control resulting in more deaths.

Also, just as it silenced its parliament from expressing disapproval of Israel, it is not interested in having this disapproval shown on the streets instead. Remember, it is Israel that has given the technology, not a little hardware and perhaps even the tactical ideas on anti-infiltration along the line of control. However, other than commercial reasons, and the fact that India serves as the 'rest and recuperation' base for the Israeli conscripts between their tenures on West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon, there are other good reasons.

India too may require to 'mow the lawn' in the neighbourhood as Israel does time and again in Gaza and Lebanon. The expectation of a spill over from AfPak when the US departs informs India's Kashmir strategy. It explains the inaction over the past decade in which violence levels were low enough to justify political resolution efforts. That these remained frozen instead suggests Indian strategy of wait and watch. Now that the wait is over, the 'mow the lawn' strategy may be on the cards. It does not want to have the rationale for this challenged even before it gets to operationalise it.

Finally, the state is aware that even if the situation in Gaza does boil the blood of the faithful, particularly as the good dean reminds us after a session in the mosque with the bearded haranguer, the succeeding agitations are less directed at Israel than the state itself. The stone is not intended for Israel. Given the pent up angst and each succeeding Kashmiri generation, rightly termed by the good dean as 'children of conflict', wanting to prove itself against the Indian state, the situation can turn nasty. Magnification of this in the mind of the poor paramilitary soldier peering out of his bunker through the concertina coils at advancing crowds, leads to lethal use of force.

It escapes the academic that such demonstrations cannot be for the money that no doubt is also doled out. Facing possible death and certainty of loss of avenues to earn, particularly with the Kashmir police charging agitators so as to make their record untenable for government and other jobs, is certainly not due to the stipend they may receive for their pains. Instead, they pocket the money since they need it and take their chances on the street, again since they need to but for different reasons.

It is with good reason that India has ordered the UN mission in Kashmir, the UNMOGIP, out of its building in Delhi. UNMOGIP has been focus of agitations in Kashmir in the early nineties in which crowds would petition the UN. Telling the visiting Ladsous, head of UN peacekeeping, off, is to keep the UN on the defensive. When the time comes for India to 'mow the lawn', it would like the same impunity as Israel, since it would be giving the same rationale: self defence.

While political inaction has attended Kashmir, by no means has India been inactive on other fronts. It has topped the table of arms imports, importing more than three times the amount of the next two states - China and Pakistan - combined. Unlike in November 2008, it is better prepared. It is engaged in demonstrating its resolve in, to quote the military, giving a 'befitting reply' to the spate of infiltration attempts this summer, some as the army commander reminds owing to the fallout from the Pakistani operation Zarb e Azb in North Waziristan.

It is only hoped that India has not borrowed another leaf out of Israel's book, that of keeping the surroundings unstable. So long as enemies are fighting each other, they remain busy at each other's throats. This strategy no doubt explains the extent to which the nasty turn of the 'Arab spring' has left Israel as seemingly the only stable place in the region, its Iron Dome notwithstanding. By this yardstick, India could pull the plug on Pakistan and allow it to go down the tube. From press hagiographies, its NSA appears easily capable of divining the way. This way it can more easily ward off fallout of implosion in Pakistan, rather than have a stable Pakistan divert its jihadi energy India's way.

Kashmir having busted the Fukuyama thesis at its very conception in the early nineties, it is clear that history has not ended yet. The state's preparedness has reduced any incentive for it to resolve the problem. The two foreign secretaries will meet no doubt to arrive at an excuse for further bloodletting: 'Look we tried'. Israel has provided the precedence. Proximity to the US is set to increase with the ongoing Kerry visit and follow up Hegel visit, in the run up to the Modi's US yatra. India will have the cover to proceed to cauterise the restive Islamic crescent at the Neelam, Jhelum, Ravi and Sutlej. More visits of the learned professor can be expected and some gratis advice. 

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