Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PDP's latest: Self-rule an alternative to Azadi

Srinagar, Sept 29: The Peoples Democratic Party described its agenda of self-rule as freedom
-an alternative to Azadi.  
 “I have no hesitation to say that the people of Kashmir are for Azadi. In Jammu, a number of regions are for Azadi. In Ladakh one district 
seeks union territory status and the other has sympathy with Kashmiris,” said Mehbooba Mufti, the PDP president while launching its membership drive.  She took an oath to spread the self-rule message across the state, particularly among the educated class.
However, Mufti said, PDP’s self rule seeks freedom for people of Jammu and Kashmir to do business through historical routes including silk route, to have power to exploit its water resources, to have its elected governor and to have a joint mechanism with the Pakistan Administered Kashmir to run the affairs of the Jammu and Kashmir and Azad Kashmir. 
However she said the self-rule would restore the historical position of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in 1947 without disturbing the sovereignty of India and Pakistan. She said partition of Jammu and Kashmir, disintegrated the state and with it its roads and business relations were cut off with the rest of the world.
“Kashmir had business relations with Iran, Central Asia through Jehlum Valley Road and with Tibet and China through Ladakh,” she said. She described the PDP’s self-rule as freedom that would be an alternative to the Azadi voice. She said 
She emphasized that it would unite the two Kashmirs and open up the world to the people of the region without changing the borders. “There are 20 seats lying vacant for Azad Kashmir (in J&K Assembly) and time has come when these seats needed to be filled. There must be a joint council,” she said.
She said PDP raised the slogan of peace when no one was talking about it. “Today it is easy for everyone to talk about good relations between India and Pakistan. But we talked about it even days after Kargil war when the atmosphere was different,” she said.
She said self-rule had internal dimensions as well. “It means the Article 356 should not be invoked in the state and the governor should be elected,” she said. The PDP president talked repeatedly of the water resources saying time had come when Kashmiris should have freedom to decide over state’s water resources. “PDP is for this freedom as an alternative to independence.”
She said Mughal Road, though a dream of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, was realized by Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. During its rule, the PDP had planned a tunnel across Simthan pass to have smooth road to Doda, proposed a tunnel for Gurez and supported devolution of powers.
“There should be Development Councils for Doda, Kishtwar, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch,” she demanded.
Presently, she said, there were 20-28 lakh kanal under the occupation of troops in the state. “Even in Zabarwan area where it is impossible for civilians to raise construction, army is openly raising buildings,” she said. She described massive military presence contrary to self-rule and called for demilitarization from civilian areas.
She launched a scathing attack on National Conference accusing its ‘fickle’ leadership of being responsible for the trust deficit between New Delhi and Kashmir. Without naming Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, she said the NC leaders remained in jail for 22 years and then compromised for power.
Mehbooba said PDP would ‘never take people towarda path and later describe it as political wilderness.’ She however emphasized that the PDP has not raised a rebellion. “Instead we are for restoring the historical position of the state as it existed in 1947,” she said.
In her address, Mehbooba compared the PDP’s self-rule with the autonomy plan of National Conference and said the latter as a concept was aimed at settling issues between New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir only. The NC, she said, has always used the autonomy plank to get into power.
The PDP would be issuing cards to its prospective members on which the party has explained its self-rule concept.

Later former chief minister and PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed addressed the gathering. He first dealt with the issue of mistrust between New Delhi and Srinagar. New Delhi, he said, should first ask itself why Kashmir went far away from India.
He cited examples of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, saying in both states regional parties were ruling since 1967 and the Government of India has not disturbed them. While quoting Z.A Bhutto that India has survived due to chaos and confusion of democracy, Mufti said “the chaos of democracy” was not allowed to function in Jammu and Kashmir. “In 1953 a police officer had two orders in his hand for the Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah- one of his dismissal and second of his arrest,” he said.
Mufti called for a change in the mindset and said in 2003 security agencies were against operation of mobile service in Jammu and Kashmir, apprehending its misuse. He said the PDP convinced the then telecommunication minister Arun Shorie and the then Prime Minister A.B Vajpayee that mobiles wouldn’t create any security problems. “Today BSNL earns highest revenue from Kashmir,” he said. He said people were craving for passport in Kashmir and the chief minister, instead, was gloating over one passport he has issued to someone. Mufti said issuance of passports shouldn’t be any problem. He said when he campaigned for opening Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road many apprehended it won’t be opened. “But it did open and changed the perceptions,” he said.
He revealed when Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road was opened a Hurriyat leader had met the then prime minister and told him “had you opened the road through us, lakhs of people would have been on roads to welcome the bus service.”
He described opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road as a great leap forward and said it would bring many changes in the region. He however cautioned against playing with the identity of people and described people as real sources of power and cited the last year’s protest against the transfer of forest land as an example. “It was a struggle of people for their identity,” he said.
Mufti described self-rule as an evolutionary process and urged his party leaders to take it everywhere. He described his 21 MLAs as mujahideen and said he called them so ‘because they would raise the voice of people in Assembly and continue to raise voice for justice outside it.’
He said self-rule means that president of India should not negate the verdict of people by using the tool of Article 356. He described demilitarization as withdrawal of forces from civilian areas. “The demobilization shouldn’t be construed that we are against army,” he said.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now OIC appoints special envoy on Kashmir

In a significant development the Organization of Islamic Conference, an international organisation with a permanent delegation to the United Nations, has appointed a special envoy on Jammu and Kashmir. The OIC appointed Abdullah Bin Adbul Rahman Al Bakr as the special envoy on Kashmir. The OIC would be first such organisation to appoint the envoy. 

In January, this year when Obama administration appointed Richard Holbroke as new U.S envoy to South Asia, Kashmir was expected in his brief. 

But Holbrooke, the veteran negotiator of the Dayton accords, was officially named "special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan." But the omission of Kashmir from his title was noticeable. Newspapers reported that India vigorously -- and successfully -- lobbied the Obama transition team to make sure that neither India nor Kashmir was included in Holbrooke's official brief.

Interestingly during his campaign Obama himself had proposed a special envoy to deal with Kashmir. Obama had told Times, that working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve their Kashmir conflict would be a critical task for his administration's efforts to try to counter growing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Kashmir in particular is an interesting situation where that is obviously a potential tar pit diplomatically," Obama had said. "But, for us to devote serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in there, to figure out a plausible approach, and essentially make the argument to the Indians, you guys are on the brink of being an economic superpower, why do you want to keep on messing with this? ... I think there is a moment where potentially we could get their attention. It won't be easy, but it's important." Obama had also suggested in the interview that he had discussed the special envoy idea with former President Bill Clinton.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Finally, China Talks Kashmir

In a surprising move, China on Monday asked India and Pakistan to seek a solution to the Kashmir issue through peaceful and friendly consultations and offered to play a constructive role in resolving the Kashmir issue.

Agencies quoting Hu Zhengyue, Chinese Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, in charge of the Asian region saying: “As a friendly country, China would also be happy to see progress in the peace process between India and Pakistan.” 

Kashmir, he said, is an issue that has been longstanding left from history. “This issue touches the bilateral relations between the relevant countries," he said.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Passionate, scholarly, logical: Kobad Ghandy’s friends look back on his student days
Former associates in Mumbai have fond memories of the times they spent with Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy and his wife Anuradha before they shifted to Nagpur in the early 1980s, soon after which they went underground.
Ghandy, 63, has been arrested in Delhi. Anuradha died of malaria last year in a tribal area of Maharashtra. She was 54.
Senior journalist Jatin Desai, who was part of the youth movement, recalls his association with Ghandy from 1977-79. “Kobad was extraordinarily intelligent and well read. We used to gather on the Mumbai University campus and sit near Rajabai Tower because we could not afford meetings at restaurants. We used to be a bunch of 20 youngsters discussing politics, human rights, and international revolutions and dreaming of a new world. Kobad was passionate but he did not propagate violence aggressively.”
Ghandy and Anuradha formed the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) in 1978 after the Emergency. Activist Jyoti Punwani, who was the editor of CPDR’s magazine Adhikar Raksha, remembers Kobad as an influential writer. “Adhikar Raksha was primarily about human rights and Kobad wrote strong articles about economics and exploitation of the poor,” said Punwani, who was a close friend of Anuradha at Elphinstone College.
Ghandy’s sense of justice was accurate, according to close friend Asghar Ali Engineer, writer and activist. “I did not know he was planning to join a political party when we were together at CPDR in the late 1970s. He is an ideologue for the CPI (Maoist), a scholarly person. He is very soft-spoken and a thorough gentleman. I can’t believe he led violent operations,” Engineer said.
Dr Ritu Diwan, professor of economics at Mumbai University, was part of the core group of the CPDR in the early 1980s. “Kobad played a key role in mobilising youth movements. At youth meetings when an argument would heat up, his calm intervention would settle matters. He was not bossy but his logic was spot on. He was known for his vision and sense of humour,” Diwan said.
Within a few years, most members had left the CPDR. “Most of us went on with our lives and chose to settle down in various professions but Kobad and Anuradha carried on,” Diwan said.
Anuradha’s brother Sunil Shanbag, a theatre actor, recalls the Ghandys as studious and academic. “Most of their time would be spent reading and writing. It was not just plain passion and valour but sensibility and intelligence with which they pursued their endeavour. Kobad is scholarly and I would enjoy listening to him talking about politics and injustice,” Shanbag said.
Anuradha’s mother Kumud Shanbag, 84, who works with an NGO, said, “We would communicate with Anuradha and Kobad once a year after they went underground. In fact I did not even know that she was suffering from malaria before I got news of her death. I never opposed her decisions and I am proud of both of them,” Shanbag said
 India's unlikely Maoist revolutionary
Kobad Ghandy, a top Maoist leader in India, came from an upper class background before he become one of the country's most wanted rebels. He was arrested in the capital, Delhi, on Monday. The 's Prachi Pinglay has this profile.
Kobad Ghandy is an "unlikely revolutionary" - a foreign educated urbanite, he is reputed to like joking and socialising.
But not for him the life of a middle class city professional. Instead he has remained committed to the Maoist cause with "discipline and perseverance" for over 30 years - with over a decade spent underground in various tribal areas, his friends say.
Maoist-linked violence across central and eastern India has killed at least 6,000 people over the past 20 years. The rebels say they represent the rights of landless farmhands and tribal communities.
Mr Ghandy is wanted in various cases, accused of being a member of a banned group, organising demonstrations and writing publicity material for the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
He first became active in socio-political activities in Mumbai (then called Bombay) during the tenure of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
While his initial years are fairly well documented, very little is known about him in later years.
He spoke to the  in 2008, describing Indian society as "semi-feudal, semi-colonial" and saying it needed to be "democratised".
Political activities
 A Khoja-Parsi by birth, Kobad Ghandy completed his schooling in India's elite Doon school and St Xavier's College in Bombay. He went to London to pursue studies in chartered accountancy. His friend PA Sebastian told the  that it was in England that Mr Ghandy first became involved in political activities.
After returning to Bombay, he was active during Mrs Gandhi's emergency (from 1975-1977), when democracy was suspended.
Mr Ghandy set up the leading rights group, the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), along with activist friends like Mr Sebastian and reformer Asghar Ali Engineer.
Mr Engineer remembers how they used to meet at the convocation hall of Bombay University once a week at six pm after office hours.
"He was a thorough gentleman and was very strong in his convictions even then. He regarded the ruling Congress party as a clever bourgeois and capitalist party."
Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s Mr Ghandy's support of communism seemed to increase.
He married activist-academic Anuradha Shanbag and decided to move to Nagpur with her - dedicating themselves entirely to the cause of tribal rights, women's issues and campaigns on behalf of lower caste people and women. Anuradha, also a staunch activist, lecturer and member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) died in April last year after a bout of cerebral malaria.
Her brother, the well-known theatre personality Sunil Shanbag, remembers how the couple made the difficult decision to leave Mumbai as "they felt they were needed more in those areas".
"The atmosphere of those days was different. There was a great sense of liberation and all of us were swept in. The CPDR used to book tickets in bulk for our plays and there would [always] be a discussion [afterwards]. There was a bridging at this time between art and politics and Anuradha and Kobad were not narrow-minded ideologues. They were very non-judgmental."
Mr Shanbag said: "His father Adi Ghandy worked in a pharmaceutical company and they lived in an old sprawling flat in Worli. His father was in fact extremely supportive of the cause. He too led a simple life inspired by his son. Kobad had complete support from his family."
Susan Abraham, another long time friend of the couple, said: "He was committed to the revolution and revolutionary ideals. He came from an upper class background but led a Spartan life. He was tuned with his surroundings. When you see so much inequality, you want so much to change things.
"In the days after the emergency everyone was influenced by activism," she said, explaining the apparent difference between Mr Ghandy's background and the life he chose to live.
Activist and writer Jyoti Punwani says it was far from obvious that he had had an elite schooling or foreign education.
Mr Ghandy's wife, Anuradha, died last year
"We could not have guessed he was from all these places. His behaviour was very normal and he even laughed about his time spent at the Doon school. They had a huge house but never showed off money. He was leftist and committed to changing the system. He did all his work by himself and did not keep a servant."
While his jhola (cotton shoulder bag), his self-discipline and his commitment come up often in his friends' memories, they also mention how he loved mixing with people from all walks of life.
"Kobad and Anuradha gave up their lives to work with the poor but never said anything about it. He was always enthusiastic and he liked to mix with people. He could interact with people from every class and make friends and joke about many things. He is the most unlikely revolutionary, he liked to have fun - he was an ideologue but not an intellectual," Ms Punwani reminisces.
A police official who has investigated several cases in areas of Maharashtra state where Maoist rebels are active said that Mr Ghandy was also known by the names Kamal and Azad.
"He is a strong ideologue. He has organised demonstrations and written
articles and other publicity material," he said.
"He is a senior in their ranks. Cases are registered against him in Nagpur and Chandrapur. However, charges against him are not of a serious nature," he said.
Mr Ghandy has been remanded in custody and it is not clear if he will be transferred out of Delhi.
Activists who campaign for the release of political prisoners have started rallying to demand that he is given his legal rights.
Mr Shanbag says some sections of the media may have got it wrong about Mr Ghandy.
"Kobad cannot be called a blood-thirsty terrorist as some in the media are calling him. Somebody has to get real."    (Agencies) 

Farooq’s schedule in Srinagar

Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Farooq Abdullah inaugurats newly constructed Khalsa High School building at Magarmal Bagh Srinagar on September 25, 2009.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Of Hakeem Balwant Singh

Naseer A Ganai

Hakeem Balwant Singh is not alien to any reader of Urdu newspapers in Kashmir. The day Hakeem Sahib doesn’t appear in the papers is the day when the papers didn’t hit the stands. Elders say over the years the contents of Hakeem Balwant’s advertisement has not changed. It continues to occupy the same space, on the same page of the papers, which it was occupying three decades ago. In the advertisement, Hakeem Balwant Singh claims, he is the only hope for hopeless patient (read patients suffering from sexual disorders). He claims his presence in Srinagar is last chance for the hopeless patients. He has more to say. He says, he diagnoses the disease of a patient just in seconds. He comes to know about disorders and orders of a patient once he puts his hand on latter’s pulse.

In each advertisement he says, he is in Srinagar for last 40 years, but in the same advertisement, he says, his presence in Srinagar is last chance for the hopeless patients. He says his elder son Hakeem Kuldeep Singh too is Srinagar for short time and patients are advised to take benefit of his presence. It is being repeated every day.

Hakeem Balwant Singh’s advertising slogans are:

Quick Relief,

No Side Effect,

Hakeem Balwant Singh Kahndani Shahi Tabib Specialist in Sex and Chronic Diseases.

The advertisement also carries a warning: “There is no other Branch of Hakeem Balwant Singh in valley.”

The second warning is: “Medicine could be exchanged not returned.”

Hakeem Balwant Singh had no competition in showing his face every day to readers of Kashmir albeit through advertisements. But situation has now changed.

It changed when Prof Riyaz Punjabi replaced Prof Wahid as vice chancellor of Kashmir University three years ago. Now, like Hakem Sahib, Punjabi is everywhere. One day, that is on Monday, he is on front page. Next day, that is on Tuesday, he is on third page. Remember second page is for Hakeem Balwant Singh. And third day, that is Wednesday he is again on front page. Idhar Dubay Udhar Niklay. On Thursday he is on fourth page. On Friday he is again on some page. On Saturday he occupies last page. But on Sunday he jumps back to the front pages of papers. Whatever the page, whatever the day, he is there. Interestingly, he is always in the same pose in every photograph.

On Monday newspapers carry his statement about the Decline and Fall of Dal Lake. Next day they carry his gems about peace and pathology. Third day on Medicine and Kashmir conflict. Fourth day on pedagogy and importance of tomatoes for health of teachers.

Fifth day, we are told by newspapers, he spoke on fiction, plagiarism and Ph.Ds offered by Kashmir University, sixth day, we are told he delivered a lecture On culture and Vultural Activistism at the Vultural Academy of Art and Artists, and seventh day that is Sunday he talks about importance of being Riyaz Punjabi.

His presence is so dominant in newspapers that he seems to be an autocratic ruler of the independent Kashmir where every newspaper is duty bound to carry his statement. One feels, if some day newspapers here won’t publish his words of wisdom, he will hang up newspapers on the wall and shoot at them. One by one.

Punjabi like Hakeem Balwant Singh has solution for every problem including most complicated problems. But, that doesn’t mean newspapers should publish claims of Balwant Singh as advertisement against money, and carry statements of Punjabi as news reports. This is gross injustice to Balwant Singh. He should agitate the matter. It is indeed discrimination.

Voice For Independent Kashmir Comes From Omer Mukhtar's Land

Naseer A Ganai

Srinagar, Sept 24: For the first time any country has advocated the cause of independent Kashmir from the Podium of UN General Assembly.

The Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi changed the history when while delivering his first ever speech from the United Nations podium yesterday not only advocated independent Kashmir saying Kashmir should be an independent buffer state between India and Pakistan.

"Kashmir should be an independent state, not Indian, not Pakistani. We should end this conflict. It should be a Ba'athist state between India andPakistan," the Libyan leader said in his address to the UN General Assembly.

Interestingly, in Kashmir Libya is known through Hollywood film Lion of Desert on Libyan leader Omar Mukhtar. Omar Mukhtar was born in 1862 in the Mnifa tribe in the small village of Janzour near Tobruk in eastern Barqa (Cyrenaica).

Omar Mukhtar’s struggle of nearly 20 years came to an end on 11 September 1931, when he was wounded in battle and captured by the Italian army. On 16 September 1931, on the orders of the Italian court and with Italian hopes that Libyan resistance would die with him, Mukhtar was hanged before his followers in the concentration camp of Solluqon. Mukhtar's face appears on the Libyan 10 Dinar bill.

However, half a century later, a Hollywood movie on Omar Mukhtar, trigged a fresh rebellion in Kashmir.

Following the screening of the movie there were widespread anti-Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah protests across Kashmir forcing the then NC government to stop the screening of the movie in the first week when it was running houseful.

The ‘Lion of the Desert’ set in 1985 turned Kashmir into a volcano. “In one hour Kashmir realized follies of Sheikh Abdullah. The film changed the outlook of Kashmiris towards the National Conference and its role in their plight and subsequent it changed the political history of Kashmir,” said a retired bureaucrat.

Two years after the screening of the film, the National Conference rigged the elections of 1987 and declared itself winner contrary to the general perception that it was losing before the Muslim United Front. 

This brought sudden change in the situation and Kashmiri youth started crossing the Line of Control (LoC) from for getting arms training in Pakistanadministered Kashmir to launch a rebellion against the Indian rule.

The speakers are supposed to limit themselves to 15 minutes but Libyan leader spoke for 90-minutes. The Cuban leader Fidel Castro spoke for four and a half hours in 1960. However, VK Krishna Menon has delivered a longest ever speech in UN for eight hours. That too on Kashmir in 1957.

In Srinagar the political analysts see the statement for significant. “It is significant as Gaddafi is no longer pariah in the West. He is presently seen as an alley of the west and he is not outcast,” said analyst who wished not to be quoted. He said no other country has supported the independent Kashmir so far except the Libyan leader.

Significantly, Col Gaddafi, who is also the president of the African Union, praised Barack Obama and even referred to him as "our Obama."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Journey Through Lesser Known Kashmir

Naseer A Ganai

Gurez (LoC): “Please stop to have a sanga view” reads a board near Razdhan Pass about 11,762 feet up in the greater Himalays. The beauty of the area is so breathtaking that a caravan of jeeps carrying journalists, travel operators and tourism department officials, who were on way to Gurez to attend Gurez Festival, stopped here without even looking at the board. “It is so close to nature,” said a Polish photographer, and with it she started capturing the landscape in her camera. 
 Others too were mesmerized. From Sanga the entire Bandipora, including Wullar Lake, is visible. Labourers who work with Border Road Organisation here say that at times cloud hang so close above the earth’s surface that “they could be touched”.
 Nearly 200 meters from Sanga is Peerbaba shrine managed by Army. All visitors have to report to Traffic Check Point Peerbaba before proceeding forward. But the caravan was allowed to proceed without the searches to which they are accustomed in the city and towns and villages of Kashmir. Still it stopped to see “Sarva Dharma Sthal” (all religions place). Outside the shrine there are bathrooms constructed by various regiments by Army and donated to the shrine. Scribbled in white stone in Hindi and English is a biographical note on Peerbaba just outside the main shrine. It says Baba had come to this place from Mansar Pakistan. He was known as Nanga Baba as he didn’t wear clothes even in winters when temperature here goes several degrees below zero degrees Celsius, and “subscribed to no religion”. He died after the partition and days after his death one person known as Malik, a resident of Bandipora, dreamt that baba had died. So he went up to Razdhan to bring his body to Bandipora. Heavy rains and snow failed him in his endeavor forcing him to bury the Baba at Razdhan. Inside the shrine there is Mausoleum of Baba and symbols of all faiths. Mostly army men visit the place to pay obeisance. This is perhaps only shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, which is under the direct control of Army.

Road to Gurez

The road to Gurez from Razdhan gives you back ache; it is riddled with bumps and potholes. And there is a lingering danger of slides. This only lifeline to Gurez is so fragile that it can’t stand a slight snowfall. It remains cut off from the Valley and the rest of the world for six months in a year. And in summer the condition of the road is such that this 86 kms stretch from Sunerwani in Bandipora to Gurez takes at least four hours to cover by a Sumo. This road was jeep track managed Military Engineering Service of army. Later, officials here said, the road was constructed on the orders of former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi. The officials of the Roads and Building Department say that if the road comes under their jurisdiction, they would keep it open for round the year. “Three places, Dragbal, Zadkhusan and Kanzalwan are prone to slides and to manage this 30 kms stretch PWD needs men and machinery which it has in abundance to keep this road open,” said Muhammad Dilwar Khan, an official of Roads and Building. Presently road is under the control of Beacon. From Razdhan to Kanzalwan there is omnipresence of outside the State labourers who work the beacon project. “We work with Sarkar,” said a labourer. Asked what is Sarkar, he pointed towards an official of Beacon project.

Gurez festival 

The travel is back breaking. But once you reach near Gurez valley cold breeze, high peaks, view of Neelam, irrigated plots, log houses and smiling faces of Dards work as a balm. “I have been to every part of the Jammu and Kashmir, but this is different. Foreigners would love to visit here,” said Nasir Shah, a tour operator. And on Saturday, July 14 when two day Gurez Festival was inaugurated, the president of tour operators Akram Siah promised Minister for Tourism Dilwar Mir that they will bring some 40 foreign tourists here next month. Siah, however, had some apprehensions, which he didn’t hesitate to express. Directly addressing Brigadier Roy, who was present in the function, he appealed that foreign tourists should be spared the hassle of security checks. 

 Explaining later, he said foreigners are not afraid of difficult terrain but they should not be subjected to security hassles. This area, he said, has everything for adventure tourists and if tourism is allowed here it will bring revolution. “There is everything in this area for foreigners: meadows, mountains for rock climbing, water for rafting and then you can also go for trekking; it has no parallel,” he said. 
 The minister was prompt to respond. “The government has plan for the development of this area. Nearly Rs 5 crore will be spend on the infrastructure development of Gurez,” promised Dilawar Mir. The words of the minister didn’t only get applause from the locals who had come from different villages to Dawar, Tehsil headquarter of Gurez but local MLA of the area was ecstatic. He stood up and shouted “Dilwar Mir Zindabad.” Minister earlier said that the festival could take place because of the efforts of Nazir Gurezi. “He has converted my office into his own office,” the Minister said.
 Perhaps it is the first time that the National Conference MLA has been seen shouting slogans in favour of Peoples Democratic Party Minister. Political analysts in Srinagar might conclude that Gurezi may join PDP, but people are unfazed. “So what. No matter what party he joins he should do something for this constituency,” says Amir Lone, 60, of Churvan village. Churvan is last hamlet on this side of the border. He says since Gurezi became MLA, the area has seen some activity and the ministers are visiting oftener. A young schoolteacher sitting next to him however had a different take on the issue. He was not against Gurezi but said the area will only develop once the politicians here start fighting election on Ladakh pattern. “We should send MLA from this constituency unopposed. This would help the MLA to always support the ruling party and there chances of his becoming a Minister as well. And once MLA from this area becomes the Minister he could do more for the area,” he said. Lone appreciated the teacher for his wisdom. 
 The people here belong to Dard tribe and take pride in their history and culture. But years of isolation, closure of Gilgit route in 1947, and exodus of highly educated people has changed the things. The tourism Minister was quick to realize the gravity of situation. “You have great culture so it is frustrating that you people are deserting your log-houses and giving up your culture,” said Dilwar Mir, who was perturbed on seeing some concrete construction in the area. 
 Mir argues that log-houses and culture of Dards including Shina, the Dardic language, which only the 30,000 people of this area could speak and understand, could be added attraction to tourists. “Concrete buildings are not compatible with the landscape,” he said. The joint director Tourism Department Sarwat Hafeez says there should be total ban on concrete construction in the area. For it tourism department has made some plans. “We will construct hutments here on the pattern of log-houses,” says Director Tourism Farooq Shah. He said foreign tourists look for local touch and we will do our best provide the same to them. Locals in the evening asked Shah to provide helicopter facility to the area. “There should be two sorties at least once in a week. This is terrible place when people in winter suffer from aliments here. There is no health care facility available and helicopter sorties would bring some relief to us,” pleaded a delegation of local respectable to Shah. Shah promised he will take up the matter with the government. “Please do something in this regard. The closure of road is killing us,” said an aged person before leaving the meeting hall. 
 Others asked that Gurez Festival should be organized every year now. “This was part of our culture in years gone-by. Its’ revival will help in great deal to revive our culture,” said Abdul Aziz, a political leader. Aziz proudly says that Dards are first Aryan race to accept Islam and “we came from ruling clan.” He says Yousuf Shah Chak, the last Chak ruler of Jammu and Kashmir was a Dard. There is a small stream, which immerses into the Neelam near a mountain named Habba Khatoon Mountain. Residents said Yousuf Shah Chak had moved from this area and when he was incarcerated by Mughal emperor Akbar, Haba Khatoon came here to look for him. “She went to the peak of the mountain to search for Yousuf. Hence the name Habba Khatoon Mountain,” said Abdul Aziz.

Road to Gilgit 

From Churvan, Dodigai village in Gilgit can be seen clearly. Amir Lone says after it there is another village called Zeyan. “I only remember these two villages of Pakistan,” he says. He says before partition, this was the route used by the traders and army of Dogra Maharaja. However after the partition this route of commerce was closed. The residents long for opening of the road. “There are various check points on various borders. If they are not opening the road at least they should open the check points so that we can cross over to see our relatives,” said a villager.

Road to Drass

Whether Gilgit road will be opened or not, but the government of India would soon throw Gurez-Drass road open for the traffic. Officials here said this strategically important road linking Gurez to Drass was constructed after the Kargil war. “Initially when the construction was taken up 1995 the plan was for 59 kms to connect Chakwali in Teilal with Dawar,” said an official. However after 1999 the government changed the plan and included 37 kms from Chakwali to Drass in the construction. The road constructed by 56 RCC Gref will be thrown open in August-September this year, officials said. This is route which will provide alternate road to the Ladakh area. They said the road has been constructed through forest and wildlife areas and both the departments have given permission to the construction company for the construction of the road. The travelers can travel to Kargil from this route and then return to Srinagar from Zojila.

Separatist politics  

Residents here say that this is only border area where people didn’t join militancy. However, this doesn’t mean that they have no interest in politics. They remember names of all the pro-freedom or separatist leaders but say that they have not seen any leader visiting the area. “I don’t know why they didn’t come here. In fact I don’t know any who had even tried to visit here,” said a resident. Despite it residents discusses politics at length and ask why there are so many factions in the separatist politics when the goal is same? That’s why the pro-freedom leaders didn’t visit border areas. That’s why border areas were always ignored. Any answers?


Monday, September 14, 2009

Is India Creating China Scare?

China will launch an attack on India before 2012.

Note: The Article written by the editor-in-chief of Indian Defence Review was published by the IDR in its July  2009 issue.

By Bharat Verma
There are multiple reasons for a desperate Beijing to teach India the final lesson, thereby ensuring Chinese supremacy in Asia in this century. The recession that shut the Chinese exports shop is creating an unprecedented internal social unrest. In turn, the vice-like grip of the communists over the society stands severely threatened.

Unemployment is on the rise. The unofficial estimate stands at a whopping fourteen percent. Worldwide recession has put thirty million people out of jobs. Economic slowdown is depleting the foreign exchange reserves. Foreign investors are slowly shifting out. To create a domestic market, the massive dole of loans to individuals is turning out to be a nightmare. There appears to be a flight of capital in billions of dollars in the shape of diamond and gold bought in Hong Kong and shipped out towards end 2008.

The fear of losing control over the Chinese masses is forcing the communists to compulsorily install filtering software on new computers on sale to crush dissent on the Internet, even though it is impossible to censor in entirety the flow of information as witnessed recently in Tibet, Xinjiang and Iran.

The growing internal unrest is making Beijing jittery.

The external picture appears to be equally dismal. The unfolding Obama strategy seems to be scoring goals for democracy and freedom without firing a single shot. While Bush unwittingly united and arrayed against himself Islamic countries and radical Islam worldwide, Obama has put radical Islam in disarray by lowering the intra-societal temperature vis-à-vis America and the Muslim world. He deftly hints at democracy in his talk without directly threatening any group or country and the youth picks it up from there - as in Iran. With more and more Chinese citizens beginning to demand political freedom, the future of the communists is also becoming uncertain. The technological means available in the 21st century to spread democracy is definitely not conducive for the totalitarian regime in Beijing.

India’s chaotic but successful democracy is an eyesore for the authoritarian regime in Beijing. Unlike India, China is handicapped as it lacks the soft power - an essential ingredient to spread influence. This further adds fuel to the fire.

In addition, the growing irrelevance of Pakistan, their right hand that operates against India on their behest, is increasing the Chinese nervousness. Obama’s AF-PAK policy is primarily a PAK-AF policy. It has intelligently set the thief to catch the thief. The stated withdrawal from Iraq by America now allows it to concentrate its military surplus on the single front to successfully execute the mission. This surplus, in combination with other democratic forces, enables America to look deep into resource rich Central Asia, besides containing China’s expansionist ambitions.

To offset this adverse scenario, while overtly pretending to side with the West, the Chinese covertly ordered their other proxy, North Korea, to test underground nuclear explosions and carry out trials of missiles that threaten Japan and South Korea. The Chinese anxiety is understandable. Under Bush’s declared policy of being ‘a strategic competitor’ alongside the ‘axis of evil’, they shared a large strategic maneuverability with others of similar hues. However, Obama policies wisely deny such a luxury by reclaiming more and more international strategic space ceded by the previous administration.

The communists in China, therefore, need a military victory to unite the disillusioned citizenry behind them. This will assist in marketing the psychological perception that the 21st century belongs to China and assert their deep belief in the superiority of the Chinese race. To retain the communist party’s hold on power, it is essential to divert attention from the brewing internal dissent. In an autocratic system normally the only recipe to unite the citizenry is by mannpulating their nationalistic feelings. The easy method for Beijing to heighten the feeling of patriotism and forging national unity is to design a war with an adversary. They believe that this will help them to midwife the Chinese century. That is the end game rooted in the abiding conviction of the communists that the Chinese race is far superior to Nazi Germany and is destined to “Lord over the Earth”.

At present, there is no overall cost benefit ratio in integrating Taiwan by force with the mainland, since under the new dispensation in Taipei, the island is ‘behaving’ itself. Also, the American presence around the region is too strong for comfort. There is also the factor of Japan to be reckoned. Though Beijing is increasing its naval presence in the South China Sea to coerce into submission those opposing its claim on the Sprately Islands, at this point of time in history it will be unwise for recession-hit China to move against the Western interests, including Japan. Therefore, the most attractive option is to attack a soft target like India and forcibly occupy its territory in the Northeast.

Ideally, the Chinese believe that the east-wind should prevail over the west-wind. However, despite their imperial calculations of the past, they lag behind the West, particularly America, by many decades. Hence, they want the east-wind to at least prevail over the other east-wind, i.e., India, to ensure their dominance over Asia. Beijing’s cleverly raising the hackles on its fabricated dispute in Arunachal Pradesh to an alarming level, is the preparatory groundwork for imposing such a conflict on India. A sinking Pakistan will team up with China to teach India “the final lesson”.

The Chinese leadership wants to rally its population behind the communist rule. As it is, Beijing is already rattled, with its proxy Pakistan, now literally embroiled in a civil war, losing its sheen against India. Above all, it is worried over the growing alliance of India with the United States and the West, because the alliance has the potential to create a technologically superior counterpoise.

All these three concerns of the Chinese communists are best addressed by waging a war against pacifist India to achieve multiple strategic objectives. But India, otherwise the biggest challenge to the supremacy of China in Asia, is least prepared on ground to face the Chinese threat.

How will India repel the Chinese game plan? Will Indian leadership be able to take the heat of war? Have they laid the groundwork adequately to defend India? Is the Indian military equipped to face the two-front war by Beijing and Islamabad? Is the Indian Civil Administration geared to meet the internal security challenges that the external actors will sponsor simultaneously through their doctrine of unrestricted warfare?

 The answers is an unequivocal ‘NO’. Pacifist India is not ready by a long shot either on the internal or the external front.

It is said that long time back, a king with an excellent military machine at his disposal could not stomach the violence involved in winning wars. So he renounced war in victory. This led to the rise of the pacifist philosophies. The state either refused to defend itself or neglected the instruments that could defend it. 

Any ‘extreme’ is dangerous, as it tends to create imbalance in statecraft.

We saw that in the unjust unilateral aggression in Iraq. It diminished the American aura and recessed the economy. China’s despotic regime is another extreme, scared to permit political dissent. This will fuel an explosion worse than the Tiananmen Square. Despite the use of disproportionate force and the demographic invasion of Tibet, Beijing’s hold remains tenuous. Pakistan’s over-aggressive agenda in the name of jihad haunts it now to the point of fragmentation of the State. 

Similarly, India’s pacifism is the other extreme. 26/11s will occur on a regular basis as it infects policy-making. Such extreme postures on either side invariably generate wars. Armed with an aggressive Wahabi philosophy, Pakistan, in cohort with China, wants to destabilize a pacifist India. India’s instruments of state steeped in pacifism are unable to rise to its defence.

In the past sixty years, the deep-rooted pacifism contributed to the Civil Administration, ceding control of forty per cent of the Union’s territory to the Maoists and ten percent to the insurgents, effecting a shrinking influence internally, as well in the ‘near abroad’.

India must rapidly shift out from its defeatist posture of pacifism to deter China. New Delhi’s stance should modify, not to aggression, but to a firm assertion in statecraft. The state must also exclusively retain the capability of intervention by use of force internally as well as externally. If it permits the non-state actors to develop this capability in competition, then the state will whither away. On the contrary, the state machinery should ensure a fast-paced development in the Red Corridor even it if has to hold Maoists hostage at gunpoint. The state’s firm and just intervention will dissolve the Maoist movement.

Keeping in view the imminent threat posed by China, the quickest way to swing out of pacifism to a state of assertion is by injecting military thinking in the Civil Administration to build the sinews. That will enormously increase the deliverables on ground - from Lalgarh to Tawang.

Bharat Verma, Editor Indian Defence Review. 

Counter View 


Illusion of “China’s Attack on India Before 2012″ 

ByChen Xiaochen, Beijing, Published:July 17,2009 

The 2000 km border between China and India has been a notable absence from press headlines in the years since then-Indian PM Vajpayee’s 2003 visit to Beijing. Tensions, however, have risen again as India announced last month a plan to deploy two additional army divisions and two air force squadrons of Su-30 Fighter Unit, some 60,000 soldiers in total, in a disputed border area in the southern part of Tibet, which India claims as its state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Adding fuel to the flames is an article by Bharat Verma, editor of Indian Defense Review, predicting that China will attack India before 2012, leaving only three years to Indian government for preparation.

According to Mr. Verma, “growing unrest in China” due in part to economic downturn will leave the Chinese government looking for something to “divert the attention of its own people from ‘unprecedented’ internal dissent, growing unemployment and financial problems.” China will also want to strike India before the latter becomes powerful, which is the reason for the 2012 “deadline.” India, with its growing affiliation with the West, is yet weak under China’s fire.

But a “China’s attack” is not going to happen, and one wonders at the basis for Mr. Verma’s thinking. First, although it is true that China’s macro-economy has taken a hit from the global financial crisis, the extent of the damage is under control. Recent statistics shows China’s economy grew 7.1% in the first half of 2009, while its foreign exchange reserve has exceeded $2 trillion. China’s stimulus plan has been effective and given people confidence. China will survive the global downturn as well or better than the rest of the world’s economies.

And even if China’s economy was really all that bad, would the government try to distract “unrest” by taking military actions against India? Mr Verma’s reasoning rests on a lack of documentation. Looking into the past 60 years, China has no record of launching a war to divert public attention from anything. Moreover, while Mr. Verma supposes the Chinese Communist Party has no cards to play other than “invading India,” the Party, widely experienced in dealing with domestic disputes, will hardly in only three years have run out of all options facing potential social instability. Moreover, even if Chinese leaders considered such an option, they would certainly be aware that an external war would severely jeopardize domestic affairs.

Other reasons the author mentions in the article are also vague. The Western powers would not take kindly to a Chinese conflict with India, leaving China rightfully reluctant to use force in any case other than extreme provocation. US forces well deployed in Afghanistan and Pakistan could check any China’s military action in South Asia. And then there is also the nuclear problem: there has never been a war between two nuclear equipped nations, and both sides would have to be extremely cautious in decision-making, giving more room for less violent solutions.

Further, it is important to realize there is no reason for China to launch a war, against India in particular. Economic development, rather than military achievement, has long been the consensus of value among China’s core leaders and citizens. Despite occasional calls to “Reoccupy South Tibet (occupied Chinese territory),” China’s decision-making is always cautious. It is not possible to see a Chinese “incursion” into India, even into Tawang, an Indian-occupied Buddhist holy land over which China argues a resolute sovereignty.

Last but not least, China’s strategy, even during the 1962 border war with India, has been mainly oriented towards the east, where Taiwan is its core interest, while the recent Xinjiang unrest highlights China’s growing anti-terrorist tasks in the northwest - both issues are more important than the southwest border. If China were to be involved in a war within the next three years, as unlikely as that seems, the adversary would hardly be India. The best option, the sole option, open for the Chinese government is to negotiate around the disputed territory.

However, there is one     scenario where there is possibility for war: an aggressive Indian policy toward China, a “New Forward Policy,” may aggravate border disputes and push China to use force - despite China’s appeal, as far as possible, for peaceful solutions.

Consider the 1959-1962 conflict, the only recorded war between China and India in the long history of their civilizations. After some slight friction with China in 1959, the Indian army implemented aggressive action known as its Forward Policy. The Chinese Army made a limited but successful counterattack in 1962.

Now, it seems “back to the future”. Mr. Verma asserts another war will happen before 2012, a half century after the last, regrettable one. India has started to deploy more troops in the border area, similar to its Forward Policy 50 years ago. Is Mr. Verma’s China-bashing merely a justification for more troops deployed along the border? Will India’s “New Forward Policy”, as the old one did 50 years ago, trigger a “2012 war?”

The answers lie mainly on the Indian side. Given China’s relatively small military garrison in Tibet, Indian’s 60,000 additional soldiers may largely break the balance. If India is as “pacific” as Mr. Verma says, and is sincere in its border negotiation, China-India friendship will remain. After all, China shares a long and mostly friendly cultural exchange with India as well as other neighbors. Now China is seeking deeper cooperation, wider coordination, and better consensus with India, especially in the global recession, and peace is a precondition for doing so. China wants to say, “We are on the same side,” as the Indian Ambassador did in a recent interview in China. Thus, “China will attack India before 2012″ is a provocative and inflammatory illusion.

(Chen Xiaochen serves as a journalist of editorial and comments in China Business News.)