Re­flec­tions on Modi’s visit to the US: What’s in it for Kash­mir?

Views from Srinagar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR - [Dr. Fai is the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of World Kash­mir Aware­ness and can be reached at: 1-202607-6435 OR gn­fai2003@ya­hoo.com]

DR. GHU­LAM NABI FAI S it true Naren­dra Modi just boarded a flight to visit In­dia?” Tweeted a critic of Indian Prime Min­is­ter’s globe-trot­ting jaunts. “Wel­come home, Prad­han Mantriji! How long will you be stay­ing this time?” Modi has al­ready been to 33 coun­tries just this year alone. The Don­ald Trump of South Asia, the man out to make In­dia great again, a na­tion­al­ist and sec­tar­ian, di­vi­sive at home but the man with the grand plan on the global stage, on June 7, 2016 marked his fourth visit to the U.S. since tak­ing of­fice in 2014. The joint state­ment of Naren­dra Modi, the Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia and Pres­i­dent Obama on the oc­ca­sion, note­wor­thy for its lack of any real sub­stance, in part says, “…the lead­ers re­viewed the deep­en­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship between the United States and In­dia that is rooted in shared val­ues of free­dom, democ­racy, univer­sal hu­man rights, tol­er­ance and plu­ral­ism, equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for all cit­i­zens, and rule of law.”

So much opium for the masses. Pub­lic rhetoric has be­come a mas­quer­ade, a kind of cam­ou­flage to dis­guise less desirable truths. It’s an in­ter­est­ing and per­haps ap­peal­ing thought that Modi would be sit­ting around con­tem­plat­ing univer­sal hu­man rights and all the eter­nal ver­i­ties with ma­jor for­eign lead­ers, but I’m sure we would be hard pressed to find such sub­jects on any real agenda. It is classic speech-mak­ing in its call­ing forth of the high­est virtues of mankind, and there are in­deed certain ap­pear­ances

Ito be main­tained, but when we see what is go­ing on be­hind the scenes, it’s quite a dif­fer­ent story. In a speech to the United Na­tions in Septem­ber 2015, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had said: “There are those who ar­gue that the ideals en­shrined in the U.N. char­ter are un­achiev­able or out of date — a legacy of a post­war era not suited to our own. Ef­fec­tively, they ar­gue for a re­turn to the rules that ap­plied for most of hu­man his­tory and that pre-date this in­sti­tu­tion: the be­lief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must im­pose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of in­di­vid­u­als don’t mat­ter; and that in a time of rapid change, or­der must be im­posed by force.

“On this ba­sis, we see some ma­jor pow­ers as­sert them­selves in ways that con­tra­vene in­ter­na­tional law. We see an ero­sion of the demo­cratic prin­ci­ples and hu­man rights that are fun­da­men­tal to this in­sti­tu­tion’s mis­sion; in­for­ma­tion is strictly con­trolled, the space for civil so­ci­ety re­stricted. We’re told that such re­trench­ment is re­quired to beat back dis­or­der; that it’s the only way to stamp out ter­ror­ism, or pre­vent for­eign med­dling.”

Such a speech would have been quite ap­pro­pri­ate on June 7, 2016. It’s an in­ter­est­ing state­ment that re­flects a num­ber of coun­tries in the world whose ter­ri­to­ries are ei­ther oc­cu­pied or un­der di­rect at­tack, whose hu­man rights are con­stantly vi­o­lated, where civil so­ci­ety is re­stricted by the ever-present ter­ror of liv­ing with for­eign troops; and none could be more con­spic­u­ous than Kash­mir.

While I am con­vinced that Pres­i­dent Obama has been sin­cere in expressing such views, I am deeply dis­mayed that he would not ut­ter a word even in pri­vate to Prime Min­is­ter Modi, his guest, about In­dia’s im­po­si­tion of such con­di­tions on Kash­mir. Are we in such a rush for prof­its from busi­ness ven­tures that we can just walk away from our ba­sic val­ues?

The U.S. was once con­sid­ered a shin­ing ex­am­ple to the rest of the world of what democ­racy can mean, and yet, now, too, we see a com­plete break­down of this grand vi­sion at its very source that awak­ened gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple to hope for real change. What is the sig­nif­i­cance of an al­liance between the great democ­racy (US) and so-called largest democ­racy in the world (In­dia) when univer­sal prin­ci­ples, demo­cratic val­ues and hu­man rights are com­pletely ig­nored?

U.S. al­liance with In­dia is some­what con­vo­luted when con­sid­er­ing the broader pic­ture. Of supreme im­por­tance is China and it specif­i­cally takes into con­sid­er­a­tion China’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia. U.S. neo­cons have long had both Rus­sia and China in their sights. Both coun­tries rep­re­sent a threat to Amer­ica’s eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal dom­i­nance in the world. In­dia has nur­tured am­bi­tions of be­ing a re­gional global power, and it seems that an al­liance with the U.S. is lit­tle more than a pig­gy­back ride de­signed to fur­ther that aim. In­dia would then be a part­ner in U.S. hege­mony, ben­e­fit­ing politically and eco­nom­i­cally from such an ar­range­ment.

The cur­rent buildup of NATO along Rus­sia’s bor­der has long been in­tended, from a pol­icy stand­point, as a pre­cur­sor to war with China. Although Pres­i­dent Rea­gan brought a halt to the cold war and rid the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion of its war­mon­gers, since the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, there has been a resurgence of the no­tion of Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism through poli­cies, such as sanc­tions, that in­tend to desta­bi­lize Rus­sia which then would in turn weaken China.

I don’t think there’s any ques­tion that Prime Min­is­ter Modi un­der­stands this. The al­liance between the U.S. and In­dia there­fore has to be viewed as tac­ti­cal rather than strate­gic. The two are not mak­ing wed­ding vows, they are just on a date, hav­ing a nice ro­man­tic dinner to­gether. In­dia isn’t giv­ing up its re­la­tion­ship with China; it’s just like any other en­ter­pris­ing cap­i­tal­ist who, in po­lit­i­cal elections, do­nates to both sides in or­der to al­ways be on the win­ning side.

In­dia’s at­ti­tude to­ward Pak­istan has to be viewed in such a con­text as well. Ob­vi­ously still quite hos­tile on the sur­face, Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s re­marks dur­ing his speech to the U.S. Congress blamed Pak­istan for much of the ter­ror­ism in the world.

Since 1950, China has been a close ally of Pak­istan, sup­ported Pak­istan in its op­po­si­tion to the Soviet in­va­sion of Afghanistan, and has stood with Pak­istan on Kash­mir. Yet Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s warm em­brace of Pak­istan’s Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif late last year also needs to be taken into ac­count in try­ing to un­der­stand what the long term strat­egy of In­dia is, if it can be un­der­stood at all. Per­haps the ges­ture was gen­uine, and on the other hand, pos­si­bly noth­ing more than pro­pa­ganda — noth­ing more than frost­ing on a wed­ding cake that was never in­tended to be eaten.

The sub­se­quent ar­rest of al­leged Indian spy Kulb­hushan Jad­hav in Pak­istan, the Pathankot ter­ror­ist at­tack and Nawaz Sharif’s dwin­dling power at home politically may have di­min­ished, some say in­ten­tion­ally, any im­me­di­ate prospects for ne­go­ti­a­tion, de­spite as­ser­tions to the con­trary.

The fu­ture of Kash­mir, of course, is deeply linked to the fate of In­dia – Pak­istan re­la­tion­ship. A closer friend­ship between In­dia and Pak­istan, with agree­ments for trade and co­op­er­a­tion, would give Kash­miris some hope. It would give us all a sense that dia­logue would even­tu­ally drift to­ward the cru­cial is­sue of Kash­mir which is the un­der­ly­ing cause of ten­sions between the two coun­tries. But deeper ties between In­dia and the U.S. cer­tainly con­strains the lat­ter’s hand in ad­dress­ing any con­cerns re­gard­ing In­dia’s hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Kash­mir, which makes for a dif­fi­cult fu­ture with­out much hope for change in the near out­look.

Although John Sifton, Asia Pol­icy Di­rec­tor, Hu­man Rights Watch, said dur­ing a Con­gres­sional hear­ing that took place at the Capi­tol Hill on June 7, 2016 when Prime Min­is­ter Modi was ad­dress­ing the same Congress “It is a false claim, made by some in In­dia and the United States, that be­cause In­dia is a democ­racy and an ally, the United States should re­main silent about In­dia’s record,” it takes courage and lead­er­ship which seems quite ab­sent in cur­rent talks.

Kash­mir was, to our knowl­edge, never mentioned dur­ing Modi’s meet­ing with the U.S. Congress. No one asked the hard ques­tions. In­stead, a man who was, until just two years ago banned from en­ter­ing the U.S. be­cause of his sus­pected in­volve­ment in the Gu­jarat mas­sacre, was greeted with three min­utes of ap­plause when he en­tered the Cham­bers. An­other 63 rounds of ap­plause fol­lowed. While In­dia could re­joice, this was hardly a rea­son for op­ti­mism for Kash­mir. Money and moral­ity tend to be quite in­com­pat­i­ble, wear dif­fer­ent robes, and have dif­fer­ent ri­tu­als.

When the joint state­ment reaf­firmed the two lead­ers “sup­port for a re­formed UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil with In­dia as a per­ma­nent member,” Pres­i­dent Obama con­ve­niently over­looked the fact that the United States was the prin­ci­pal spon­sor of the res­o­lu­tion the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil adopted on April 21, 1948 which states that the fu­ture of Kash­mir shall be de­cided by the peo­ple. How can In­dia be­come a member of this Coun­cil when she has not ful­filled the com­mit­ment that she made to Kash­mir at this Coun­cil? —Email

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