ICG’s briefing on Kashmir

By K.N. Pandita

Resuming its briefing on Kashmir on 3 June 2010 after a gap of four years, Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) has once again very faithfully adhered to western policy of forcing parity between the roles of India and Pakistan in their respective parts of Kashmir. When it comes to dealing with third world countries, the west deliberately closes the eyes to see no difference between a military controlled religion-centric state and a liberal secular democratic country.

This briefing is marked by many unjustifiable statements and comments that reveal ICG advertently mixing up issues: it is like telling a story by piecing together odds and ends only to make it less cohesive and more controversial. 

To say that “India (and Pakistan) are constantly subjecting Kashmiri interests to their own security agenda’ is an irresponsible and provocative statement as far as India is concerned. As a border state touching on China, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Kashmir has great security significance for India and the region. National interests are as vital to India as to any country. As such India has the right to have her security agenda in place. In the light of this compulsion India has maintained territorial integrity of its part of J&K State. But adducing different meaning to her security concerns, Pakistan has integrated Northern Areas (part of original state of Jammu and Kashmir) into her territory, something which India did not do. As such the two states cannot be equated.

To say that “India silenced the call for greater autonomy in Kashmir” is misleading. ICG is trying to appease such sections of people in Kashmir as are themselves unclear of what they mean by greater autonomy. In a meeting with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee, the then chief minister of J&K raised the issue of ‘grater autonomy’. Bajpayee asked him to explain where State’s autonomy was curbed so that he would rectify it. The matter ended there.

It has to be understood that J&K is governed by constitutional provisos of both Indian and State constitution with special reference to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. No law can be extended to the State unless accepted by the State legislature. Withdrawal of any law previously extended to the State is not too cumbersome a job provided it does not tell on wider national interests. Here the factor of security concerns of the Indian state comes in.

It is no business of ICG to pass threadbare judgment on previous elections in J&K and state that “blatant election rigging  characterized J&K polls in the past.“ International observers have usually been present in the State at the time of polls to legislative assembly and the parliament. Foreign missions in India have invariably sent their representatives to report on the fairness of polls.  Polling mechanism in J&K has always been transparent and many international NGOs have appreciated the freedom and fairness with which votes were cast by the electorate.

The briefing is full-throated on subjects like  “abuse of human rights”, “draconian laws”, “ roots of alienation”, and “repression by the security forces.” Having said that, it begins to dole out pieces of advice to Indian authorities of what they should do or not do in Kashmir. However, the briefing has not a single word to highlight the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorists in the State, their hurling of bombs in crowded places, kidnappings, murders, unprovoked attacks on security forces and the like. The ICG does not take cognizance of violation of human rights of the persons who perish in militancy created mayhem. It keeps security forces out of the purview of human rights.

The ICG has not a word about the ethnic cleansing of an entire religious minority community from Kashmir. The suffering and deprivation of exiled camp dwellers does not scratch their sensitivity. It does not raise the question of why and how of eruption of religious extremism and terrorism in the State. It has no word on the role of ISI, Pakistan Army and the civilian authorities in Pakistan in perpetrating catastrophe in Kashmir resulting in the exodus of a minority community and along with that thousands of deaths of innocent Kashmiris in the valley.

It is true that in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks of 2008, India suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan. India had strong justification to do so. There appears no sense in talking to a party that is deeply engrossed in conspiratorial activities against our country resulting in large scale innocent killings of Indian citizens.

The briefing claims that Pakistan has taken action against some operatives involved in Mumbai bombing. But it fails to substantiate its claim by citing a single example. Not a single person indicted for Mumbai crime has been brought to book in Pakistan.  When India gave a list of persons involved, and demanded their extradition Islamabad flatly refused to oblige. Why has not ICG taken this into consideration? Do terrorist activities fall out of the purview of ICG?

The report apprehends outbreak of a tragic nuclear holocaust in case of a war breaking out between the two Asian countries in near future. This alarming message first conveyed by an influential American think-tank namely Michael Krepon of Stimson Institute is a subtle move to bring full pressure on New Delhi to settle Kashmir issue not equitably but to cater to the interests of Pakistan. The report ungratefully ignores India’s unilateral declaration of not being the first to strike in a nuclear war.

Finally, it is a matter of ignominy for ICG to call India an “occupying force” in Kashmir. In doing so the ICG is speaking the language of India’s adversaries, something that brings solace to the Pakistani jihadis and their cohorts. It shows ICG’s total lack of knowledge of the history of accession of the State to the Indian Union and what followed thereafter.

India needs no pontification, the least not by an organization whose briefing is a proof of its inefficiency and incapability of making honest and objective reporting on major international events. ICG would do well to initiate a global debate on relationship between universal security concerns and human rights: it should initiate a debate on the consequence of army and religious fanatics-controlled state conspiring against a liberal secular democracy. ICG must also initiate a comprehensive debate on the causes and remedies of global terrorism centered in our adjoining region and its impact on world society. Instead of trivializing its position by getting bogged with distorted and contentious statements and inferences, the ICG must take up issues of great international importance concerning the future of mankind. At the moment the world is deeply embroiled in a disastrous conflict between liberalism and narrow-minded orthodoxy that puts human civilization’s future at stake.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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