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Occupied Jammu Kashmir puppet government wants Azadi

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By: Rohit Kumar

More trouble for Corrupt Congress: Its minister wants azadi for Kashmir

“Freeing Kashmir would free a major chunk of central funds”; “If Kashmiris want azadi, give it to them”, Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma said

In an apparent nosedive for India’s moral high ground and unwavering stance on the Occupation of Kashmir, the JK government has itself – symbolically as well as politically – outshone the Kashmiri freedom fighters and civilian activists that Delhi calls ‘militants’ and terrorists. After Arundhati Roy, a sitting State Minister has also joined the azadi bandwagon – embarrassing his own government which faces precarious circumstances both at the Centre and in the volatile the state.

Sharma urged the Centre to divide the three regions of the state – give ‘azadi’ to Kashmir, make Jammu a separate state and give the Union Territory status to Ladakh. Sharma said: “If Kashmiris want ‘azadi’, give it to them.” Sharma holds the portfolio of State Health Minister along with the additional charge of Horticulture and Floriculture.

Other party leaders, including state president and MP Saifuddin Soz, could be seen squirming on the dais. Sharma went on: “While there are voices for ‘azadi’ in Kashmir, people in Jammu and Ladakh complain of discrimination in all spheres.”

Freeing Kashmir would free a major chunk of central funds that are sent for the state’s development, which ultimately end up in the Valley, State Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma said yesterday at a public rally in Bani, nearly 200 kilometres from Jammu. Sharma said: “Kashmiris take away a major share of funds allocated by the Centre and also show eyes at it. On the other hand, those who get discriminated against remain silent.” Such a situation cannot be tolerated for long, he pointed out.

He said it was time to end such regional discrimination within the state. He said those advocating unity and integrity of all the three regions in the state should be shunned.

Turning to Soz who, besides being the party’s state president, is also a Rajya Sabha member and a former Union minister, Sharma said: “I request that my proposal be implemented on ground.”

The minister’s remarks evoked sharp criticism from Opposition BJP and also colleagues in the Cabinet and party as well. While BJP leaders Nirmal Singh and Ashok Khajuria described the minister’s public statement as treason and demanded his immediate arrest and dismissal from the state Cabinet, state Congress vice president Abdul Gani Vakil said the comments were unfortnuate. He as a Cabinet minister should not have talked of ‘azadi’ to Kashmir and division of the state, he added.

A senior Congress minister from Jammu in the Omar Abdullah Cabinet who also happens to be in the camp of Saifuddin Soz, said that Sharma’s statement was against the policy of the Congress party which is committed to not only the unity and integrity of the state, but also its equitable development.

Though State Congress president Saifuddin Soz tried to counter the minister saying that unity and integrity of the state was of paramount importance and that the Congress was committed to maintaining and strengthening it, it did not satisfy many within the party. According to them, Soz was helpless to do anything in the matter as Sharma belonged to his camp in the already faction-ridden Congress unit in the state.

In a situation where he himself had been keeping a distance from those owing allegiance to Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Soz was not in a position to annoy people in his own camp, they pointed out. In typical damage-control mode, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi described Sharma’s remarks as his “personal view” and said the party’s stand “is very clear – autonomy within the framework of the Indian Constitution”.

“We are all answerable to AICC President Sonia Gandhi and what we say here will be considered as the Congress’ word and we must speak along the party line”, Soz said.

Seeking to downplay Sharma’s view, Singhvi told reporters in Delhi: “I can only describe it as a personal opinion. He was at a rally in his own home state and certainly this is his personal view.”

“Some of the words which I have heard, I can either describe it as a metaphorical speak which should not be taken literally,” he said adding, “In any case, we do not accept any such allegations.”

National Executive Member and former Pradesh President Nirmal Singh told reporters: “Sharma has taken oath under the Constitution and his statement tantamounts to treason and therefore an FIR should be registered against him and he should be arrested forthwith.”

Senior BJP leader of the state Chaman Lal Gupta said Congress should come out openly on what its minister in the coalition government has said.

Sharma alleges Jammu and Ladakh regions have been discriminated by “Kashmir-centric” leadership and “this has strengthened our view point”.

Gupta, who is BJP legislature party leader, said: “We want Congress to understand the hard fact that the government has been discriminating Jammu and Ladakh for decades and this has been rightly realised by Sharma who is a minister in the coalition government headed by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.”

Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) chief Bhim Singh accused the Congress of playing the “most mischievous game to disintegrate Kashmir from the rest of the country.”

“This is clear by the statement made by the Congress Minister in presence of JKPCC President that Kashmir should be given a ‘azadi’,” he said.

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India – Pakistan’s water war

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Sultan M Hali

Water in Pakistan’s rivers has touched perilously low levels. The reason for it is not just lack of rains. India is controlling the water flow of rivers that flow from India into Pakistan, especially the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers that pass through India’s Jammu & Kashmir state.

Pakistan has raised objections to Indian water projects, but a World Bank-appointed neutral expert rejected most of the Pakistani objections, especially with regard to the Baglihar Dam on Chenab River, while also advising India to make some changes to the dam’s height. Pakistani commentators, pressure groups and religious leaders are convinced that India is controlling the river waters to strangulate Pakistani agriculture, which could affect Pakistani exports and increase its dependency on food imports. Pakistani commentators fear future war with India may break out over water disputes. There is a realization in Pakistan that the 1960 Indus Water Treaty that establishes legal framework for use of river waters has been to the advantage of India. However, Pakistani authorities are raising the issue of water sharing between the two nuclear neighbours.

The Indus Water Treaty sets out the legal framework for the sharing of the waters of six rivers: the Indus and its five tributaries. All six rivers – Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi – flow through northern India into Pakistan. Under the pact, the waters of three rivers – the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum-are to be used by Pakistan, while India has rights to the waters of the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi before these three enter Pakistani territory. The Chenab is the key tributary, as it carries the waters of the rest four rivers into the Indus. The complicated origins of the Indus river system plays a key role in the water debates, as the rivers originate in and pass through a number of countries. According to the Indus Water Treaty, the following three rivers are for use by Pakistan:

The Indus River originates in Chinese-controlled Tibet and flows through Jammu & Kashmir. The Chenab originates in India’s Himachal Pradesh state, travels through Jammu & Kashmir. The Jhelum rises in Jammu & Kashmir and flows into Pakistan, finally joining Chenab. The Treaty affords India use of the following three rivers:

The Sutlej originates in Tibet, flows through Himachal Pradesh and Punjab before joining the Chenab. The Beas and the Ravi originate in Himachal Pradesh state and flow into Pakistan, emptying into the Chenab. Taking into account the flow of the rivers, the importance of the Chenab and the Indus becomes clear. The Chenab combines the waters of four rivers, the Jhelum, the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi, to form a single water system which then joins the Indus in Pakistan. The Indus River is considered to be the lifeline of Pakistani economy and livestock. Pakistani concern regarding the water from the rivers started in the 1990s after India began constructing a hydroelectric power project on the Chenab River in the Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir. Since the Chenab is the key tributary of the Indus, Pakistani policymakers, religious and political parties, and political commentators feared that India could exert control over the waters. Such control could be used to injure the Pakistani economy and livestock, or could be used to cause floods in Pakistan by the release of water during times of war.In early 2009, it was estimated that Pakistan is on the brink of a water disaster, as the availability of water in Pakistan has been declining over the past few decades, from 5,000 cubic meters per capita 60 years ago to 1,200 cubic meters per capita in 2009. By 2020, the availability of water is estimated to fall to about 800 cubic meters per capita.

Pakistan is also estimated to be losing 13 million cusecs [approximately 368,119 cubic meters/second] of water every year from its rivers into the sea, as it does not have enough reservoirs or dams to store water.

During the past two years, the debate in Pakistan about the Indian water projects in Jammu & Kashmir has gained a bitter momentum, as Pakistani leaders have begun to describe India as their eternal enemy and accuse India of trying to suffocate the Pakistani economy. The construction of the Baglihar Dam Baglihar dam has also raised Pakistan’s defense security concerns. A number of canals, drains and artificial distributaries used for irrigation purposes are crucial during times of war. The strategic importance of the Indian water projects in Kashmir is significant because the projects could wreak havoc… if the said dams were to collapse or malfunction.

It is feared that if India continues to take Pakistan’s share of water it could turn Pakistan into another desert. On the other hand, Indian influence in Afghanistan is growing, causing alarms in Pakistan that India will gain control over the water from two Afghan rivers that flow into the Pakistan border regions, where water shortages could inflame local insurgencies. Indian investment in Afghanistan has doubled since 2006, to $1.2 billion, and up to 35 percent of that is going into canals for local irrigation, as well as hydroelectric dams that will supply power to Iran and Turkmenistan, India’s gateways to Central Asia and the Gulf. India has used water as a weapon against Pakistan before. The fear now is that India will use the Afghan dams to deny Pakistan’s border regions the water they need to sustain their farms and hydropower projects.

The sad part is that successive Pakistani governments have failed to take cognizance of the impending water crisis and have not addressed the construction of dams, resulting in water shortage as well as acute energy deficiency. The current dispensation in the government is also neither taking up the cudgels against India for ensuring that it gets fair and equitable share of water nor tackling the looming water shortage by educating the people into the discipline of water rationing and frugal use of the scare resource thus contributing to the ominous disaster.

Looking Ahead

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Ramesh Phadke
January 12, 2010

Has the time come for India to launch multiple peace initiatives? In the eight years since, the US-led war on global terrorism began on October 8, 2001 against the Taliban and al Qaeda both Afghanistan and Iraq have seen much devastation and regime change and the former is now bracing up for a troop surge. Most analysts are, however, agreed that the United States is neither looking to win the war nor to establishing democracy in this hapless land called Afghanistan. The United States can at best work towards making the region manageable so that Obama can actually begin withdrawing troops by the middle of 2011.

Pakistan has never been happy about India’s presence in Afghanistan even if only for reconstruction efforts. Only recently Prime Minister Gilani told the UK foreign minister Miliband to ‘not include India in the proposed Afghan Council’. North Korea continues to dodge the various attempts of the major powers to denuclearise and at the same time. Iran shows no signs of giving up its uranium enrichment plans. According to some experts, e.g. George Friedman of ‘Stratfor’, military action against Iran by the United States, either alone or in collaboration with Israel, appears to be a distinct possibility in the not too distant future since both Russia and China would not support more stringent sanctions in the United Nations. Should such a war come to pass, the South Asian neighbourhood would be the worst hit. Even if Iran succeeds in only temporarily disrupting the movement of oil in the Persian Gulf, the effects could well be catastrophic for the whole world and China, Japan and India in particular as these countries are even more dependent on Gulf oil.

As if by coincidence, four Indian strategic/military experts have voiced their concern about the possibility of a two-front war with Pakistan and China without giving any specific timeline (Brajesh Mishra at the Observer Research Foundation, Ambassador K.S. Bajpai and C. Raja Mohan in the Indian Express and the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor at a closed door meeting of the Army Training Command). One does not know why these four decided to raise the issue at this time. Expectedly, Pakistan reacted to the Army Chief’s remarks with characteristic anger. The Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony had to ultimately assuage the ruffled feelings of our neighbours by clearly stating that India had no territorial designs and that there was no chance of a war even if some differences existed.

Those looking positively at the new decade have also said that India needed to embark on a more proactive foreign policy including opening talks with Pakistan, China and the United States to consolidate the gains of recent years. Tavleen Singh, who normally holds strong views, has also spoken of peace in the subcontinent. (Indian Express, January 10, 2009). Some also hold the view that Pakistani action against the perpetrators of 26/11 need not be made a precondition to resume the stalled Composite Dialogue. Given the uncertainties in Pakistan, they seem to think that if delayed further, India might not find ‘anyone’ to talk to in that country.

If India indeed considers itself to be a rising power, it cannot be appear reluctant to take new initiatives So, instead of repeating that, ‘India should get its act together’, ‘get its house in order’ or that ‘it lacks strategic thought/culture’, here are some possible options.

By resuming the stalled dialogue with Pakistan India can achieve two major foreign policy objectives. First, it will silence the hard-line elements in Pakistan and also in Jammu & Kashmir, at least for a time. Second, the Obama administration, facing its own challenges, will be encouraged to view India as part of the solution and not the problem. It is important for India to get its relations with the United States at nearly the same level as they were during the Bush years. It may reduce infiltration attempts and also help improve the situation in J&K. It may also help give additional audibility to India’s concerns on future climate change talks. While China’s hard-line posture on border and other issues is seen by some as a direct reaction to the India-US partnership, but in fact, India’s gains from this relationship are already reaching a point of diminishing returns which is certainly not a good sign.

India should also begin to talk with China on ways to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. It is possible if not likely that when the United States finally decides to leave the country a loose coalition of various stake holders including the Taliban with support from Pakistan will rule Afghanistan. But to assure the world that it would not permit terrorist activity on its soil the future government will have to be supported economically. What better way to do that than both China and India working together for its comprehensive reconstruction? Surely, Afghans of all hues would be more ready to welcome India and China, two regional powers that are already engaged in building that country’s infrastructure and economy. The benign and positive presence of China will also remove any residual insecurity from Pakistani minds about India joining the effort. China may also feel more secure if the new government in Afghanistan helped block the movement of extremist elements into Xinjiang.

India should also intensify its contacts with Iran to help avert any precipitate action against that country by either the United States or Israel. If that happens the jihadi elements across the world would be encouraged to intensify their actions, further destabilising the already fragile situation. It would, therefore, be worth the effort to co-opt China and even Russia to facilitate such talks. India could then mount pressure on the United States and Israel to abandon their plans for a military solution to the Iran nuclear issue. Barring a few ‘neoconservative elements’ the American people will surely heave a sigh of relief at the prospect of peaceful relations with Iran. Surely, they do not want to send their sons and daughters to start another war.

There are also new if tentative attempts towards nuclear zero (Global Zero). However halting and even impractical the process might appear to sceptics, there is a strong consensus across the world to at least start moving towards nuclear disarmament. While there would undoubtedly be many hurdles and major procedural/verification problems on the way; de-alerting, delegitimising nuclear weapons and adoption of No First Use (NFU) by all Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) would be a salutary first step. Countries like North Korea might not agree but can be coaxed into it once other major players take the lead.

India, in the early years, showed extreme reluctance to go nuclear even though it kept its options open. It is widely known that Homi Bhabha had assured the then Indian Prime Minister that his scientists could produce a nuclear weapon in a mere fifteen months from the time a go-ahead was given. Yet it was only in 1974 that India finally did the 8-to-10 kiloton test and called it a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE). Until 1983, when India began its Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), it had no worthwhile delivery systems and even that took another six years to launch its first Agni missile in May 1989. In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government had also attempted a joint initiative with Sweden to start the process of nuclear disarmament but perhaps it was before its time.

Last year, there were reports that Pakistan’s arsenal had already surpassed that of India’s and there was a major controversy about India’s fusion weapon test having been a ‘fizzle’ but the Indian leadership did not show signs of excitement or panic. While India is no doubt trying to develop a nuclear triad, its pace of progress is anything but fast. Although, qualified in 2003, its commitment to NFU has not diminished in real terms. Both India and Pakistan continue to unfailingly exchange information on their nuclear establishments under the agreement signed in 1988. India has thus never shown an inclination to unnecessarily expand its modest nuclear arsenal.

India must take a major initiative to reduce the nuclear temperature in South Asia and indeed the world by offering a freeze on its nuclear arsenal at the present levels provided Pakistan and China followed suit. The United States and Russia and other NWS could then be asked to at least agree to a NFU followed by deep reductions in their arsenals in good time.

Haven’t India’s current moves to improve relations with Bangladesh received good press? While some ‘hyper-realists’ may dub these suggestions as ‘surrender’ to China and the United States, it is better than doing nothing. In any case, there is little to lose. Inaction on India’s part may prove worse as events gather their own momentum. It is said, “God gave man two ends; one to sit on and the other to think with. Ever since, man’s success has depended on which end he uses the most; heads you win, tails you lose.”