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Kashmir Nuclear Scare: Myth or Muscle Fatigue

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Tacstrat Analysis

Earlier this week, State Disaster Response Force officials in Indian occupied Kashmir distributed pamphlets warning citizens to make preparations for a possible nuclear attack. People were told to build bomb-proof basements and collect provisions to last them two weeks in confinement. This lengthy warning was published in the Greater Kashmir newspaper and described a possible war scene in detail. People were told to brace themselves for possible shock and to ‘expect initial disorientation as the blast wave may blow down and carry away many prominent and familiar features’. While Indian officials have called this ‘regular year-round civil defence preparedness’, and urged people not to connect it with anything else, one cannot help but speculate about the convenient timing of this ‘annual’ safety drill, which has in fact taken place for the first time.

The cross border skirmish earlier this year, has led to a staggering halt of negotiations and a perfunctory handshake on both sides that have been gritting their teeth since. The 70 year old lady’s flight into Pakistan had alarmed Indian officials who began setting up additional observation posts along the LoC. Pakistan fired across the border, and while cross border skirmishes barely make news any more, an Indian soldier with an ‘aggressive’ track record ordered a cross border attack. While the international media, as always, is wont to take an ‘unbiased’ approach to this series of attacks, several Indian newspapers have discussed the possibility and consequences of this bald provocation that led to the death of a Pakistani soldier. Two Indian soldiers were killed in a retaliatory skirmish that now appears to have escalated, as the streets of Srinagar are abuzz with rumours of a possible nuclear attack.

Indian soldiers, on many online forums, have said that even if their authorities have warned people to prepare themselves for a nuclear attack, this is purely for defensive purposes because of India’s ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine, and Pakistan’s lack thereof.

This leads us to the question of nuclear doctrines espoused by both countries. Pakistan has stood behind its doctrine of ‘first use but last resort’, and has been severely criticised for it by western scholarship, which conveniently over looks Israel’s ‘Samson Option’. Last year President Zardari announced his inclination to sign a ‘no first use’ policy in line with India’s, while no action towards this end has been taken so far, a brief analysis of the India doctrine, which espouses the very reassuring ‘no first use’ policy, is in order.

The doctrine states that any threat of use of nuclear weapons against India shall invoke measures to counter the threat (clause 2.3a). The repeated assurance of ‘retaliation only’ does not care to expand on what constitutes these measures. Clause 2.5 states that “India will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against States which do not possess nuclear weapons, or are not aligned with nuclear weapon powers.” This clause further adds to the ambiguity ensconced in the doctrine that shrouds itself behind empty words and unspoken promises. The distinction between non-nuclear states and countries they are aligned with, in effect, places every single country on the Indian hit list. Since Germany and Japan, two non-nuclear states, are aligned with the US on many fronts (the doctrine doesn’t specify the type of alliance either), that makes them possible targets, especially if: “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons”. Thus, if Indian soldiers (they could be infiltrators or even part of a UN deputation) are attacked with nuclear weapons in any part of the world, the ‘no first use’ policy becomes null and void. Furthermore clause 2.3a, revised in 2003 states that, “however, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.” Thus Blanco-ing out the ‘no first use’ for all intents and purposes.

Pakistan has justified its stance of adopting the ‘aggressive’ moral ground, by saying the ‘no first use’ policy on both sides would leave the concept of nuclear deterrence redundant and invite aggression from the Indian side. Pakistan has furthermore explained how the nuclear option will be employed once all others have been exhausted. This effectively places India and Pakistan on a level playing field.

The ‘threat’ of a Pakistani attack on Srinagar is by far the least plausible of all explanations our friends across the border have been proffering. Even less true is the statement that this is a routine safety drill. At best this can be described muscle flexing and a plea for attention in the post UN-observer mission stalemate. In terms of diplomatic progress, this might set the two countries back by two years of consistent peace talks and people-to-people contact. As the initial smokescreen of mistrust rises between the two countries, the audience can not help but wait for what will unfold next.

Kashmir on the boil-again

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Shafqat Mahmood

It is a problem that India wants the world to forget, but it fails to go away. Even after 63 years of political manipulation, sweet promises and brutal repression, the Kashmiri will for freedom refuses to die.

The flame of resistance burns bright despite a harsh occupation. It chastises the international community for its neglect and lack of care for tens of thousands killed, countless women raped, homes destroyed and lives shattered.

It also shows up us liberals in Pakistan who want peace with India at any price. Friendship between neighbours is a good idea and there are many compelling reasons why it would be helpful to both countries and also contribute to regional development.

But should it be at the price of Pakistan’s commitment to the Kashmiri people? Should we just forget what is going on there? Are the candles we light at Wagah every Independence Day unwittingly keeping dark the killing fields of Kashmir?

Too many lives are at stake for us to push this reality under the carpet. It is therefore important to have the correct perspective. Otherwise, it would be a typical example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. And, in this case, the hell being visited on the people of Kashmir.

The only way to conceptualise this conundrum is that it is not an either/or proposition. We want peace with India. We want the two neighbours to trade and have cultural and sporting exchanges. We want easier visa regimes so that the mindsets of hatred are replaced with genuine understanding. We also want the two countries to fight terrorism together.
But we cannot want all this at the cost of ignoring India’s brutal hold on Kashmir. Support for the struggle of the Kashmiri people and outright opposition to India’s brutal tactics in the state has to coexist with our desire for peace and friendship with India.

We cannot keep peace hostage to a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. At the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to what is happening there. It is a tough act to balance the two, but there is little choice. We must push for a resolution to the Kashmir problem acceptable to its people and to India and Pakistan. And we must continue to build bridges in all other spheres.
The current spate of unrest in Indian-occupied Kashmir has demonstrated once again, more to India than to anyone else, that without an acceptable settlement there is no way forward. And this time the bogey of outside interference and foreign-inspired militancy cannot explain away the genuine yearning of the Kashmiri people for an end to Indian military occupation of the state.

In some ways, the situation resembles that of 1989, when there was a spontaneous uprising in Kashmir. This, a genuinely popular movement, lost its way because of outside militants who infiltrated the state and started an armed assault on the Indian forces.

Whether this interference was inspired by the Pakistani state in the 1990s or whether it was a result of its deliberate turning of a blind eye to the activities of the Pakistani-based Jihadi groups is debatable. But of this there is little doubt, that it hurt the genuine struggle of the Kashmiri people.

Outside militants not only engaged the Indian forces but also started to impose their own version of a code of life on the Kashmiri people. There was also internecine fighting and killing that turned many indigenous people of the valley away from the struggle.

I remember the late Eqbal Ahmed telling me then, something that I did not quite buy at that time, that outside interference always harms a genuine people’s liberation movement. Besides having a brilliant mind, Eqbal spoke from his experience of the Algerian, and perhaps Vietnamese, struggle for independence.

Such fine points were, of course, lost on those who were determined to remove Indian occupation of Kashmir through force. This led to a massive Indian deployment of military forces there and much consequent hardship for the Kashmiri people.

If the purpose of some was to tie up large parts of the Indian military in occupying the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was achieved. But if there was any genuine desire for liberation of the state, it was a setback. It was so bad for the people of the valley that Mir Waiz Umar Farooq asked me in New York whether Pakistan would fight to the last Kashmiri.

That was then, some fifteen years back. Much has changed since. After Musharraf’s accord with India in 2004, there has been negligible infiltration into the valley from Azad Kashmir. Pakistan has cracked down on jihadi groups and there is no evidence that any kind of proxy war is being perpetuated from this side.

This has given a fillip to the struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The movement to rid the valley of Indian occupation has once again been indigenised. It is also not an armed struggle but a political resistance. The most lethal of weapons that the protestors have is a stone.

The struggle morphing itself again into a popular liberation movement has had two major impacts. It has divided the Indian establishment, with more voices rising for a settlement acceptable to the Kashmiri people, and it has robbed India of the propaganda tool that this is foreign-inspired terrorism.

It is also instructive that, with the change in the ethos of resistance, the international media has also started to take greater interest in what is happening there. This has affected India’s effort to keep its repression of the Kashmiri people hidden. There is much greater global awareness of what is going on.

It is understandable that, with the Pakistani government busy fighting floods, its attention is diverted. But there is no reason for a complete silence on what is going on in occupied Kashmir. We must ramp up our political and diplomatic support for the genuine struggle of the Kashmiri people.

It is important to repeat that this does not mean moving away from the composite dialogue process. In fact, diplomatic efforts must continue to engage India and keep pushing for dialogue and more dialogue. It has to be a more thought out and consistent process than tit-for-tat point scoring, as happened during the last meeting of the foreign ministers.

The resilience of the liberation movement in Kashmir should also be a wakeup call for India. So far, its attitude has been to keep a lid on it and hope that, over time, it will go away. This is not going happen.

The people of Kashmir with their sacrifices have once again created necessary conditions for a settlement acceptable to all parties. Do the leaderships of India and Pakistan have the will to rise to the occasion?

KASHMIR: Non-lethal weapons more lethal

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By Dilnaz Boga

In Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) after 76 deaths since January, the state government has moved to introduce non-lethal weapons supposed to minimise the chance of casualty during street demonstrations in the Valley. However, these non-lethal weapons have failed to produce the desired results. In fact, a week after they were introduced, Srinagar saw its first casualty.


A death is a death no matter with what!

Last Monday, Sopore resident Danish, who was in his early twenties, got hit by a pellet in his abdomen and chest. He succumbed to his injuries at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura.

On August 27 in Shopian, 30 to 40 people received pellet injuries during protests and were referred to Srinagar. The police also confirmed that 40 people suffered wounds because of pellets.

On condition of anonymity a doctor at SKIMS said, “The non-lethal weapons are more dangerous that lethal weapons because their target is not specified. This makes it difficult to operate for us as the injuries are scattered all over the body. In addition, due to the small size of the pellet, it is hard to remove it from the body.”

The doctor added, “If the pellet is hit in the abdomen, the entire abdomen has to be opened for the removal of the pellets.”

The Public Relations Officer of the Central Reserve Police Force, Commandant P Tripathy while commenting on the introduction of the pellet or pump gun said : “The pump gun is a 12 bore weapon, made in India. It is a non-prohibited bore, which releases a bunch of pellets upon fire. The metal pellets are of a fixed size. If we aim it below the belt, like we are supposed to, then the pellets reach up to the thighs.”

But patients in SKIMS have been reportedly hit in the chest. Shopian resident Zubair Ahmed Turey (20), son of Bashir Ahmed Turey, is suffering from pellet injuries from his foot, right up to his face. Currently recuperating at SKIM, Zubair is grappling with injuries in his foot, abdomen, liver, arm and face. Another patient by his side received injuries in his ear.

Elaborating on the specifics of the newly introduced gun, Tripathy added, “It is a non-lethal weapon, so the injury is temporary.” However, Tripathy says that the nature of the injury due to a pellet depends on the distance its fired from. “The larger the distance the better it is. If it hits vital organs of the body in close range it could result in death,” he said.

Superintendent of SKIMS, Dr Syed Amin Tabish said that there has been a spurt in the number of pellet injuries in the last few days. He explained, “If pellets hit muscles then it’s not a problem, but if they hit the eye or the brain or a blood vessel that could be problematic. Out of 80 odd cases, we can say that 5% of these patients have been hit in the vital organs.”

The state government has also provided the men in uniform with tasers and pepper guns to deal with protesters.

Currently, the Pepper gun is under trial with the CRPF. Said Tripathy, “The weapon is made in the United States. If it is of use to the CRPF, then we will try it out.” But the police have been seen with the Pepper guns and the Tasers, which are in an “experimental” stage with the CRPF.

A victim of the Pepper gun from South Kashmir said, “It’s like tear gas, it bursts. You get a burning sensation over your body and the skin turns red. The smoke contains pepper powder. It irritates your eyes and breathing becomes very difficult.”

Sources from the police department confirmed that since the last fortnight, policemen all over the city have been using pepper guns and tasers in the streets to quell protesters.