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Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan

FP Analysis: The Population Bomb

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By Enum Naseer
FOR PAKISTAN

It is simple economics: resources are scarce and wants are unlimited. The problem of allocation gets more serious when population growth is unchecked- as is the case in Pakistan. It is confusing hence, that no one has taken the pains to voice the issue in the mainstream media; no political party mentioned it in its rallies; no slogans or chants went further than the usual clichés. While the future leaders and the public busy themselves with the task of wooing and being wooed, the population bomb ticks away. The promises and plans, albeit optimistic and hopeful, evade the population issue almost strategically. It is as if the fact that the unrestrained population growth will have an undesirable impact on the distribution of resources like food has gone unnoticed. Or more so perhaps, the problem has been brushed under the carpet for fear that it may give rise to an uncomfortable debate?

Read more….

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.

Pakistani govt wants us to delay Kishenganga project: Omar

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Chief minister Omar Abdullah on Monday accused Pakistan for trying to “delay” the Kishenganga Hydroelectric Power project along the Line of Control in Gurez.

“Both the parts of Kashmir are constructing power projects on Kishenganga and the project that is completed first will be benefited the more.”,said Omar.

Commenting on Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz’s criticism that the Centre is exploiting the natural resources of Kashmir; Omar said, “we know who pulls their strings and at whose behest they (separatists) are making such allegations”.

“The government of Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir want us to delay the project,”Omar added.

Omar also assured people of gurez that their safety is taken as priority while the formulation and modification of Kishanganga hydel project.

“There is no threat to the existence of any tribe.Moreover, environment impact analysis of the project has not indicated any flood like situation in Wullar.”,Omar said.

Cautious China Denies Copter Access Reports

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China on Tuesday dismissed a report that Pakistan gave it access to an advanced U.S. “stealth” helicopter that crashed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.


Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, May 2, 2011.

During the raid, one of two Blackhawk helicopters — believed to use advanced stealth technology — crashed, forcing U.S. commandos to abandon it. The Financial Times reported on Sunday that Pakistani authorities gave China access to the wreckage, despite CIA requests to Islamabad to keep the wreckage under wraps.

China’s Ministry of Defense denied this in a one-sentence statement, Beijing’s first public response to the report.

“This report is totally unfounded and extremely absurd,” said the statement on the ministry’s website. (www.mod.gov.cn)

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the country’s top spy agency, also earlier denied the report.

The Financial Times said Pakistan allowed Chinese intelligence officials to take pictures of the crashed helicopter and take samples of its special skin that helped the American raid evade Pakistani radar.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, earlier told Reuters there was reason to believe Pakistan had allowed the Chinese to inspect the aircraft. But the official could not confirm with certainty that this had happened.

The surviving tail section of the downed helicopter was returned to the United States after a trip by U.S. Senator John Kerry in May, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy told Reuters.

Pakistan’s already tense relationship with the United States, its major donor, was badly bruised after U.S. forces killed bin Laden in May in Pakistan where he appears to have been in hiding for several years.

Meanwhile, China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather friends” and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence across the region.

After the raid that killed bin Laden — the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — China called the event a “progressive development” but also defended the Pakistani government, which has been criticized in the U.S. for failing to find bin Laden, if not harboring him.

India can’t do a ‘Geronimo’

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Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd).

Consequent to American operation ‘Geronimo,’ at Abbottabad in Pakistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden, many in civil society have been asking whether India can go ahead with a similar operation. ‘Geronimo’ involved painstaking intelligence work spread over many years, though the final ‘fine- tuning’ took seven months or so. Detailed intelligence work and application of cutting edge technology apart, it required an enormous amount of co-ordination among those in the higher echelons of the civil administration and military high command as well as with the one who was to control the mission. The entire planning was closely monitored by the Chiefs of Defence Staff, the CIA chief and the President himself, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

For months they worked on the plan, disseminating information strictly following the principle, ‘need to know’. A mock-up of the ‘Osama house’ would have been erected and an operation rehearsed a number of times by the designated team of helicopter crews and Seals, and the latter had otherwise been undergoing one of the most vigorous training schedules. Only then was it possible to complete the mission with clock-work precision. It was the President who had to take the final call and gave written orders.

Since intelligence is the most essential input for such an operation, can Indian intelligence agencies measure up to this basic requirement? Weaknesses of Indian intelligence have repeatedly surprised the nation, be it the Chinese road across Ladakh, the scale of aggression in 1962, and mass infiltration in 1965 in J and K followed by the attack in Chamb-Jorian. Kargil was a major intelligence failure and so was the attack on Parliament where there were security lapses too. It was repeated at Mumbai, in spite of some early leads. More recent are the cases of lists of terrorists in Pakistan and the CBI team arriving in Copenhangen with an out-dated warrant of arrest. The list is endless.

Accurate and actionable intelligence is fundamental to the success of covert operations, whereas it remains our weakest point. In fact, in the case of Indian intelligence agencies, it is not the case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing but the little finger not knowing whom the index finger, of the same hand, is fingering?

At the national level we have the NSG, especially trained and equipped for such operations. At Mumbai these commandos first took too long to arrive and later too long to complete the operation. Equally, are the NSG commandos equal to the job? Just recall the visuals of a commando holding his weapon well above his head and firing at supposedly some terrorists! This visual was repeatedly shown on the American TV, where we saw the drama unfold. The NSG was commanded by an army officer, invariably an ex-commando, but now it is a police officer with no ground-level experience of commando operations. Grabbing jobs, irrespective of the suitability of the appointee, is another feature of Indian setting.

There was no centralised control over the operation and the entire scene around Taj Hotel appeared one of a ‘circus,’ with apparently no one knowing what to do. The details of ammunition and grenades expended by the commandos in this action would give an idea of the operation and our suspicion of possible collateral damage.

Both the Indian Navy and the Indian Army have special forces which can carry out missions of the type conducted by the US naval Seals at Abbottabad. They are organised and trained for such missions and have the best of leadership. Quality of intelligence inputs apart, it is the joint operations where more than one service is to take part and then problems arise. There are major fault-lines in the field of coordination and meshing together of various aspects of such an operation between the two Services taking part in the operation. This lack of ‘joint-ship’ has been the bane of Indian defence forces, which essentially is the handiwork of the politic-bureaucratic combine. The policy of ‘divide and rule’, and ‘turf-tending’ over national interest has been the dominant feature of the Indian defence apparatus.

In the case of the Abbattobad raid, in spite of the complete integration of the defence forces in the United States, the Naval Seals had their own helicopters to ensure total involvement and commitment of those taking part in the operation. In the case of India, helicopters meant for carrying such troops are with the Indian Air Force rather than the Army! So, the total commitment required on the part of all those taking part in the operation will not measure up to the level required in an operation of the type conducted at Abbottabad. In fact, discord has often appeared when two Services had to operate together. It surfaced in rather an ugly form during the Kargil operations.

In the Indian political setting, a clear direction and the will to go for the kill will continue to be lacking. At Kargil, troops were told to carry out a ‘hot pursuit,’ but were forbidden to cross the Line of Control. This is when Pakistan had violated, on a very wide front and to great depth, India’s territorial integrity and the situation called for and justified a befitting response. However, India’s timid and inappropriate reaction resulted in frontal attacks up those impossible slopes, with avoidable casualties. Pakistan suffered no punishment for its blatant act of aggression. Consequent to attack on Indian Parliament, ‘Operation Parakaram’ kept the troops in their battle locations for months and ended in a fiasco. Indian reaction to these two incidents conveyed to Pakistan that it can take liberties with India and the latter carries no deterrence for the former. At the same time, it demonstrated that Indian political leadership will never have the stomach to order an operation of the ‘Geronimo’ type, no matter how provocative the action of the other country may be.

Civil society has suddenly woken up and is now seeking answers to searching questions on these issues, having closed its eyes and switched off its mind to national security issues all these decades. The inescapable fact is that the full potential of various components of the defence forces just cannot be realised without adopting the concepts of Chiefs of Defence Staff and “Theater Commands” along with the integration of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Services headquarters on the lines of the Pentagon. What has currently been carried out by way of amalgamation of Defence Headquarters with the MoD is a joke and a fraud on the nation. Yet civil society has remained a silent spectator. The Arun Singh Committee Report continues to gather dust, as it stands consigned to the archives of the Indian government.

Besides the above fault-lines in the Indian security establishment, it is the watertight compartments in which various organs of the state work. Foreign policy is evolved and practised in isolation of national security considerations and consultations. Intelligence agencies are never made accountable and have inadequate interaction with the defence Services.

India plans $50 billion purchase of 101 naval warships

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Jason Overdorf

India’s investment in naval power expected to double China’s over next 20 years

India is expected to invest nearly $50 billion to strengthen its naval forces over the next 20 years, adding 101 new warships, ranging from destroyers to nuclear submarines, the Indian Express reported.

“Going by the investment value, India is expected to build sophisticated destroyers, new generation and new radar vessels, nuclear submarines, and amphibious ships,” the paper quoted US naval analyst Bob Nugent as saying.

Nugent said China would likely spend $24 billion to build 113 war vessels, focusing on aircraft carriers, over the same period.

India’s expenditure on warship building could account for as much as 27.8 per cent of the total investment in Asia-Pacific, the paper reported, and spending by India and China naval alone will likely surpass non-NATO and even Russian investments.

Other major naval investors in Asia-Pacific will include Australia at $14 billion, Indonesia at $7 billion, Taiwan at $16 billion, Pakistan at $2.85 billion and Singapore at $1.74 billion.

India has the highest number of stillbirths

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New Delhi: After the explosive report on Delhi’s water being contaminated with the super bug, British medical journal ‘The Lancet’ has again highlighted India, this time in a survey on stillbirths.

The report says India has the highest number of stillbirths in the world. In 2009, more than six lakh children were born dead in India.

In fact, the study says India along with, Pakistan, Nigeria, China and Bangladesh account for half of all stillbirths worldwide.

“Typical complications of pregnancy, hypertension diabetes are still killing a lot of babies in low-income countries. Infections like malaria and syphilis still affecting many babies world over-third group,” says J. Frederik, Author, The Lancet.

In India, the stillbirth rates vary from 20 to 66 per 1,000 births in different states. If one compares the figure with countries like Finland and Singapore that have the lowest childbirth rates (2 per 1000), it is rather shocking as well as embarrassing.

Unflatteringly, the stillbirth rates have declined by barely one percent per year in the last 15 years – from 3 million in 1995 to 2.6 million in 2009.

Coming just weeks after the dismal picture on the child sex ratio painted by the census report, it’s yet another blot for India where prenatal care for lakhs of women is virtually non-existent, care that probably could have turned these statistics around.

What Israel Is Afraid of After the Egyptian Uprising

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By: Peter Beinart

We’re almost two weeks into the revolution in Egypt and the American media keeps asking the question that my extended family asks during all world events: Is it good for Israel? Ask a Jewish question, get a Jewish answer, by which I mean, another question: What’s good for Israel?

Obviously, a theocracy that abrogated Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state would be bad for Israel, period. But that is unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood is not al Qaeda: It abandoned violence decades ago, and declared that it would pursue its Islamist vision through the democratic process, which has earned it scorn among Bin Laden types. Nor is the Brotherhood akin to the regime in Iran: When Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to appropriate the Egyptian protests last week, the Brotherhood shot him down, declaring that it “regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution” and insisting that “The Egyptian people’s revolution includes Muslims, Christians and [is] from all sects and political” tendencies. In the words of George Washington University’s Nathan Brown, an expert on Brotherhood movements across the Middle East, “These parties definitely reject the Iranian model…Their slogan is, ‘We seek participation, not domination.’ The idea of creating an Islamic state does not seem to be anywhere near their agenda.”

Could this all be an elaborate ruse? Might the Brotherhood act differently if it gained absolute power? Sure, but it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which that happens. For one thing, the best estimates, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Stephen Cook, are that the Brotherhood would win perhaps 20 percent of the vote in a free election, which means it would have to govern in coalition. What’s more, the Egyptian officer corps, which avowedly opposes an Islamic state, will likely wield power behind the scenes in any future government. And while the Brotherhood takes an ambiguous position on Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel–it opposes it but says it will abide by the will of the Egyptian people-the Egyptian army has little interest in returning to war footing with a vastly stronger Israel. Already, Mohammed ElBaradei, the closest thing the Egyptian protest movement has to a leader, has called the peace treaty with Israel “rock solid.”

But Egypt doesn’t have to abrogate the peace treaty to cause the Israeli government problems. Ever since 2006, when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history, Egypt, Israel and the United States have colluded to enforce a blockade meant to undermine the group’s control of the Gaza Strip. A more accountable Egyptian government might no longer do that, partly because Hamas is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, but mostly because a policy of impoverishing the people of Gaza has little appeal among Egyptian voters. It’s easy to imagine a newly democratic government of Egypt adopting a policy akin to the one adopted by the newly democratic government of Turkey. The Turkish government hasn’t severed ties with Israel, but it does harshly criticize Israel’s policies, especially in Gaza, partly because Turkey’s ruling party has Islamist tendencies, but mostly because that is what the Turkish people want.

More than ever in the months and years to come, Israelis and American Jews must distinguish hatred of Israel’s policies from hatred of Israel’s very existence.

Which bring us back to the question: Is this bad for Israel? Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC certainly think so, since they believe that what’s best for Israel is for its government to be free to pursue its current policies with as little external criticism as possible. I disagree. For several years now, Israel has pursued a policy designed, according to Israeli officials, to “keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse.” (The quote comes courtesy of the recent Wikileaks document dump). The impact on the Gazan people has been horrendous, but Hamas is doing fine, for the same basic reason that Fidel Castro has done fine for the last 60 years: The blockade allows Hamas to completely control Gaza’s economy and blame its own repression and mismanagement on the American-Zionist bogeyman. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad govern in the West Bank without the democratic legitimacy they would likely need to sell a peace treaty to the Palestinian people.

All of which is to say: a shift in U.S. and Israeli policy towards Hamas is long overdue. The organization has been basically observing a de-facto cease-fire for two years now, and in the last year its two top leaders, Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniya, have both said Hamas would accept a two-state deal if the Palestinian people endorse it in a referendum. That doesn’t mean Hamas isn’t vile in many ways, but it does mean that Israel and America are better off allowing the Palestinians to create a democratically legitimate, national unity government that includes Hamas than continuing their current, immoral, failed policy. If a more democratic Egyptian government makes that policy harder to sustain, it may be doing Israel a favor.

The Middle East’s tectonic plates are shifting. For a long time, countries like Turkey and Egypt were ruled by men more interested in pleasing the United States than their own people, and as a result, they shielded Israel from their people’s anger. Now more of that anger will find its way into the corridors of power. The Israeli and American Jewish right will see this as further evidence that all the world hates Jews, and that Israel has no choice but to turn further in on itself. But that would be a terrible mistake. More than ever in the months and years to come, Israelis and American Jews must distinguish hatred of Israel’s policies from hatred of Israel’s very existence. The Turkish government, after all, has maintained diplomatic ties with Israel even as it excoriates Israel’s policies in Gaza. ElBaradei this week reaffirmed Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel even as he negotiates the formation of a government that could well challenge Israel’s policy in Gaza.

Instead of trying to prop up a dying autocratic order, what Israel desperately needs is to begin competing for Middle Eastern public opinion, something American power and Arab tyranny have kept it from having to do. And really competing means reassessing policies like the Gaza blockade, which create deep-and understandable-rage in Cairo and Istanbul without making Israel safer. It is ironic that Israel, the Middle East’s most vibrant democracy, seems so uncomfortable in a democratizing Middle East. But at root, that discomfort stems from Israel’s own profoundly anti-democratic policies in the West Bank and Gaza. In an increasingly democratic, increasingly post-American Middle East, the costs of those policies will only continue to rise. Israel must somehow find the will to change them, while it can still do so on its own terms, not only because of what is happening in Tahrir Square, but because the next Tahrir Square could be in Ramallah or East Jerusalem. After all, as Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar recently noted, Palestinian kids use Facebook too.

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.

Growing fascist intolerance

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Praful Bidwai

Activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mahila Morcha (women’s front) attacked writer Arundhati Roy’s residence in Delhi this past Sunday. Like the Islamic extremists who recently chopped off the hands of a Christian teacher in Kerala, this marks a new low in the destructive activities of the forces of bigotry and intolerance in India. India has slipped far from the constitutional ideal of a liberal democracy which genuinely respects the freedom of expression and the right of dissent.

The Morcha obnoxiously rationalised its attack as a protest against Roy’s remarks about azaadi in Kashmir. The attack, it said, was timed to coincide with the birth anniversary of former Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel, whom the Hindutva forces are trying to appropriate. But Patel had banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s parent, after Gandhi’s assassination, and warned Hindutva supporters against trying to suborn the Indian state.

The events leading to the attack follow a definite pattern. First, Roy’s remarks on Kashmir are distorted to mean that she favours India’s break-up. What she said was that the status of Jammu and Kashmir is not settled despite its Maharaja’s October 1947 accession to India.

This is something that many Kashmiris, including most recently, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, have often reiterated. Indeed, the Shimla agreement of 1972, and efforts by various Indian governments to reach a settlement on Kashmir with Pakistan, testify to the existence of an issue or dispute. Roy also spoke of Kashmir’s brutal military occupation. Over 400,000 security and police forces are present in the Valley, and some 20,000 deaths have occurred over two decades.

Second, the BJP demands that the government sue Roy – equating her with hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani – for sedition. By saying it’s examining the issue, the Centre partly legitimises the repugnant idea that Roy’s sober reflection on Kashmir was meant to create “disaffection” against the state. This erases the vital distinction between remarks which are controversial and contentious, even disagreeable, but acceptable in a democracy, and those which constitute a direct, explicit incitement to violence.

Three, mercifully, the Centre drops the idea of prosecuting Roy, but sections of the media call Roy an “impostor” and a “traitor”. TV channels send outdoor broadcasting vans to Roy’s residence ahead of the BJP mob. They become an accessory to a criminal attack and trample on the fundamental right to free expression – in pursuit of higher Television Rating Points!
This is a repetition of what some TV channels did last June when Roy’s house was first attacked. The groundwork for this hysteria against Roy was laid with the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Then, a Right-wing TV anchor known for his jingoism screamed: “Arundhati Roy, where are you? We want to tell you we hate you ….” This is akin to the fascist targeting of dissidents and critics through calumny. Roy’s crime was that she exposed and criticised nationalist hysteria.

The Supreme Court too had punished Roy for contempt of court for saying, in the Narmada dam context, that the judiciary complacently believes that those who build large dams respect the constitution and the human rights of displaced people. This interpretation of contempt of court, against which truth is no defence, and which elevates the higher judiciary to divinity, victimises a writer with the courage to speak the truth about the state’s excesses and destructive projects.

One doesn’t have to agree with Roy one hundred per cent to say this. I disagree, for instance, with her analysis of the Naxalite movement in Chhattisgarh. But I unconditionally defend her right to express herself. The attack on Roy comes just when the Hindu Right has launched a two-pronged offensive upon free speech and democracy. The first is a campaign against books, plays and films which it dislikes for arbitrary, irrational reasons. It wants them banned for offending the sentiments of “the majority community”. But it doesn’t represent that community. This has culminated in the Shiv Sena’s successful attempt to get Rohinton Mistry’s fine novel removed from the reading list of Bombay University’s English literature course.

There’s a long lineage to such assaults on artistic freedom and scholarly writings – witness the parivar’s many raids: on Sahmat’s Ayodhya exhibition in Delhi, on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune (for its indirect association with a book critical of Shivaji), and on M F Hussain’s gumpha (cave) in Gujarat. The parivar has driven Hussain, India’s best-known modern painter, into exile. Over the years, India has “absorbed” such offences against freedom and tolerance as normal, without acknowledging that they degrade its democracy.
Once intolerance by those who claim to speak for “the majority”, for “the real India” (as if there’s only one!), for “Indian culture”, for “Bharatiya Nari”, for whoever, comes to be accepted as tolerable, we destroy the soul of tolerance and punish those with whom we might disagree, but who cause no harm to others. We become numb towards the value of freedom for social life and the health of the public sphere. A society which cannot countenance multiple ways of looking at reality, or diversity of cultures and beliefs, and which cannot debate differences without feeling paranoid, isn’t healthy.

Tolerance and respect for difference and diversity are essential attributes of democracy. India is being driven by the Right towards a devalued half-democracy and a majoritarian – not a free, egalitarian and enlightened – political system. The Hindu Right’s second campaign aims to shield some of its most violent elements, implicated in a well-organised network which has recently conducted numerous terrorist bombings of Muslim dargahs and mosques.

The latest disclosure here comes from the charge-sheet filed in the Ajmer dargah blasts of October 2007, which killed three persons. The Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad names five accused, of whom four are associated with the RSS. Suspicion centres particularly on the RSS executive council member Indresh Kumar. He organised a secret meeting in 2005 which discussed the strategy for conducting the Ajmer blast. He was in regular contact with Sunil Joshi, believed to have made and triggered the bomb with Harshad Solanki. Solanki has just been arrested. He’s a prime accused in Gujarat’s Best Bakery case – an ominous connection. Indresh Kumar and other RSS members are connected with the shadowy Jai Vande Mataram – itself linked to Abhinav Bharat, which was behind the September 2006 Malegaon blasts and Hyderabad’s May 2007 Mecca Masjid bombings.

The RSS has responded to these events by deciding to launch nationwide “protests” (read, a campaign of bullying) against “a political conspiracy” to link it to terrorist activities. If the link is indeed established, the RSS’s “nationalist” credentials would collapse like a house of cards, with consequences similar to those in 1948-49, when it was accused of involvement in Gandhi’s assassination.

These are despicable tactics on the part of an organisation which believes it’s legitimate to kill the religious minorities to fulfil its narrow political goals, but which also hides behind labels like “cultural nationalism” to deny it has a political agenda. The Hindu Right’s terrorism is no less pernicious than Islamic-jihadist extremism. It’s often more insidious – when it’s treated with kid-gloves by the state and successfully infiltrates the police. Punishing the Hindutva terror network is a litmus test for India’s democracy. It must not fail it.