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Omar on the horns of a dilemma

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By K N Pandita

Kashmiri youth are puzzled to know that in his interview to Karan Thapar, Omar Abdullah has sounded a pessimistic note about his interest in politics. He has not given any cogent reason for the change of heart. Such depressing moods are the result of a combination of various factors, personal, circumstantial or professional. His abstention from politics will be a loss to the Kashmiri youth in the long run.

We should keep away from discussing Omar’s personal life. It is the circumstantial and political environment that seems to have triggered his despondency. Omar is young; he comes from a distinguished family entrenched in politics that forms an important chapter of the modern history of Kashmir. He has been groomed in local politics from his childhood under the supervision of his father and grandfather. The entire atmosphere in which he opened his eyes and grew to reach the adolescence was steeped in politics.

Omar may not have seen the tumultuous days of his grandfather’s struggle for replacing the autocratic dispensation in Kashmir by a popular government. But he has been a witness to the great turmoil in Kashmir caused by the externally sponsored and abetted armed insurgency in 1989-90 preceded by recurring incidents of planned or unplanned bombing or firing at odd places in Srinagar city or the towns. He was inducted into active politics of the state at a very young age and was catapulted into the seat of power without much experience for the crucial post of the chief minister. Observers think that his father was keen for the perpetuation of the dynastic rule. Farooq neither observed the norms of a fresher going through the mill of party discipline and training nor did he remember that his father’s long struggle was against the dynastic rule.

But why single out Omar for the hateful dynastic rule. We have several states in which progeny of erstwhile rulers still rule the roost and wield influence. Being the scion of an outstanding dynasty is not as disgusting as being cast in a inward looking and fixated mindset.

As party chief or as the chief minister, Omar had to be docile and submissive to his over- imposing and flamboyant father. The qualities of assertiveness, initiative and creativity, known as the hallmark of a successful leader, remained elusive for him. Farooq toed the line of the old guard in National Conference with which Omar was not compatible owing to the proverbial generation gap.

In the Gupkar meet, one could find that Omar was more a sidelined odd man than a pro-active member. His inner light is dimmer than what it was in the past. The explanation is that when a youth leader who has all the pre-requisites at his bidding but is unable to find space and freedom to translate his ideas, vision and initiative into practice, his determination and urge slow down and pale into insignificance.

August 5 development has left its impact on him. Omar grew in an atmosphere of enormous public support to his grandfather’s house. The public support was misconstrued as the perennial source of power. The house began to believe in the permanence of power and influence forgetting that in democratic dispensation public opinion is not to be taken for granted.

His father had vowed that streams of blood would flow if Article 370 was removed. The NC in general and the Sheikh House in particular, believed that 370 was the eternal gift they had won for the Kashmiris. Contrary to all this tall talk he found that when Article 370 was torn to shreds and not a dog barked in the valley. Farooq’s threats had vanished in thin air. Omar fathomed the shallowness of his party leader’s claptrap. He is justified in saying he is shocked by the aftermath of August 5 episode. It has come like a shock to many more especially those who used Article 370 as an instrument of blackmailing.

Omar has, perhaps for the first time, realized that power rests with the people. He had often argued that J&K had only “acceded” and not “integrated” into the Indian Union. Norms of democracy are not applied selectively. A federating unit economically and financially fully dependent on the federation has to understand that the line dividing accession from integration is no more existent as the unit moves ahead along the path to economic and social development. That is precisely what Nehru had meant by his famous comment on Article 370, viz. “ghiste ghiste ghis jaega”.

Looking in retrospect Omar must be ruminating over how National Conference failed to rise to the occasion in the face of externally sponsored armed insurgency. Perhaps he had no say in warning the NC cadres of the serious repercussions it’s hobnobbing with the jihadist-terrorists groups would bring in the trail. Not only that, Omar must be wondering how come his father wants to carry Kashmir into the lap of China as did the leaders of Pakistan do with Pakistan. And look at the consequence: thousands of Pakistani girls “married” to Chinese men have been taken to China where they finally landed in the brothels. Farooq is not to be blamed for the China daydream; his illustrious father, too, had fallen into the trance as on 31 March 1965, he had a long-secret meeting with the then Chinese premier Chow en Lai in Algiers.

Omar’s disillusionment is also caused by the incredible corruption seeping deep into the administrative cadres of the State and the collapse of moral force of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy never obliged him, rather he obliged the bureaucracy by succumbing to the pressures they brought via his father and other bigwigs in the party.

dency is a worry not only to Omar but to the entire Muslim leadership of the valley as well. It is because of the way the Islamic fundamentalists have projected him. The reasons are very simple. Modi understood the tricks of blackmail in which NC leaders are adepts and he countered them. The earlier regime viz. Congress gave the NC the requisite leeway to profile itself as the secularist symbol of Kashmir yet perpetrate rank communalism in practice. Manipulating elections, bureaucracy, administration, relations with the centre, insurgency, and ethnic cleansing of Kashmir, and above all, pursuing avenues of self-aggrandizement were the gifts to the people during latest phase of the NC regime. Omar could not move a single blade of grass without the permission of the High Command viz. his father, uncle and close family elders reducing him to the status of a pawn on the NC’s chessboard of politics.

Omar has to reconcile with some fundamentals of statecraft if he intends to return to politics and do some lasting service to the people of the State. The foremost is that J&K is an integral part of the Union of India and it can survive only in that capacity and in no other form call it autonomy, greater autonomy, self rule etc. Kashmir is crucial not only to India’s foreign policy but more to her security parameters. As such Kashmir leadership has to reshape its relations and approach in a manner that it remains in the national mainstream. Secondly, the power rests in the hands of the people and democracy is the other name of the majoritarian-ism however obnoxious it may be. Lastly, Kashmir leadership has to realize that the days of blackmail are gone for all times as are the days of the dynastic rule. No people in this country deserve any special treatment because our economic development has to be universal and all-pervasive. All steps that lead to the integration of the State (at present UT) with the Indian Union have to be hailed and given due recognition.

If these realities are understood and recognized by Omar Abdullah, we can assure him that he will wriggle out of the dilemma and despondency. He will find new horizons of progress and happiness opening on him and his people in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmir invites khalafat in its new avatar

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By K.N. Pandita

Lately, Farooq Abdullah said he would approach China for helping Kashmiris retrieve the special status. He is disappointed with the Western powers and the Islamic countries. Simultaneously, his political adversary, the Jama’at-e-Islami (JeI) is excited over the revival of the Ottoman Empire’s past Islamic grandeur to reach Kashmir in its new avatar – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a new-found Islamist. It shows that Kashmiri leaders want to re-enact the old story of inviting a foreign power to rule over them.

Pakistan has already made China a stakeholder in Kashmir dispute; ceding a large chunk of Indian Territory in Aksaichin to her, collaborating with her in the Karakorum Highway through the disputed territory and the endorsement of the CPEC, and now the significant presence of PLA personnel in Gilgit-Baltistan, including a strong contingent of secret service outfits, stands refurbished by nearly twenty thousand Pakistani troops despite massive protestation by the local population, is the combined Sino-Pakistani bulwark against any “surprise attack” by India. This explains why in recent days Pakistani Prime Minister and some of his cabinet ministers have been raising the hoax of an impending Indian attack on Gilgit – Baltistan. Intensifying firing and shelling along the LoC is a corollary to the Indophobia narrative widely built up by Pakistan official and private media. It shows that Pakistan’s foreign policy is dictated by acute animus towards India and not the national interests.

President Erdogan of Turkey is aspiring for greater political control not just in Turkey, but also in the Middle East and Europe. In 2002 the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi; AKP) a conservative but non-confessional democratic party rooted in Islamism swept the parliamentary elections under the leadership of Abdullah Gul. Erdogan, the then party leader and mayor of Istanbul was ineligible to serve in parliament or as prime minister because of a 1998 conviction. The ineligibility was overcome through a 2002 constitutional amendment and he was elected to the Parliament a year later and replaced Gul as the premier. Some steps that Erdogan took after assuming power included economic reforms and religious transformations of Turkish society. He has extended Islamic influence by encouraging the construction of multiple mosques and leaning more towards the Islamic faith. He takes a cue from an idealistic outlook of the past grandeur of the Ottoman Empire. However, his vision of reconciling Islam in the West has become doubtful because of the suppression of democratic reforms, support for radical Islamism, and an aggressive foreign policy that harms the Turkish population. Turkey has today shunned its pre-2003 secularist outlook.

His supporters portray him as a model leader of all Muslims, escalating to the point where Erdogan now supports Islamists, particularly the Islamic Brotherhood (Ikhwan) —in countries such as Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, which in essence is complementing the ideology of Jamaat-e-Islami of the Indian sub-continent.

Erdogan has made no secret of his aspiration for the leadership of the Sunni Muslims all over the world. This has brought him into ideological conflict with pragmatic and business savvy Arab littoral states not perennially afflicted with anti-Israel psychosis as the Islamic countries of non-Semitic origin are. Last year, the OIC summit sponsored by Indonesian neo-Islamist premier Mahathir Muhammad ended up in a fiasco when the Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Salman summoned Pakistani premier to Riyadh and reproach him for taking a lead in the anti-Saudi and anti-OIC calumny. Imran Khan had to eat the humble pie. Nevertheless, the divide in the ummah is deep.

He uses his influence with the Muslim Brotherhood to generate soft power, a decision that has progressively developed into a propaganda tool. For example, because of the aforementioned connections, Turkey uses Sunni religious arenas, provides scholarships to Turkish universities, and pays for heritage trips to Turkey to establish its influence throughout the Muslim world. These actions specifically target the Middle Eastern youth to manipulate them to serve Erdogan’s long-term Islamic agenda.

Turkey uses Sunni religious platforms, provides scholarships to Turkish universities, and pays for heritage trips to Turkey to establish its influence throughout the Muslim world. These actions specifically target the Middle Eastern youth to manipulate them to serve his long-term Islamic agenda. In addition to supporting Islamist groups abroad, North Africa both economically and militarily. For example, in Cyprus, Erdogan has been reluctant to decrease his control of oil and natural gas exploration. He has also placed Turkish troops in Iraq, in a bid to uphold his brutal war against the ethnic minority of the Kurds.

When the fighting in Syria was at its height, Erdogan allowed foreign mercenaries to cross the Turkish border for supporting the fighters against the embattled Syrian President Basher al-Assad. His adoption of hard power tactics is also evident from Turkey’s establishment of military bases in Qatar and Somalia. Turkey and Qatar are unified in their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which poses a threat to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies. In Somalia, Turkey has established its military foothold under the guise of training Somali soldiers.

Erdogan has abandoned most democratic reforms he had previously advocated and has turned towards methodical Islamization of Turkey, destroying democratic pillars and secular values that had previously worked in transforming Turkey into a modern state. Association with Islamist groups and the militarization of Turkey’s foreign policy have not helped Erdogan’s cause either.

Erdogan’s vision of worldwide Islamic leadership does not seem to be realistic. The reason is that the combination of support for Islamist groups and his vigorous foreign policy approach both have created problems for Turkey with virtually all of her neighbours. The Muslim Brotherhood’s unpopularity, both in the Middle East and around the globe, has hampered Turkey’s influence. Political punditry presumes that Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism will set the country back in terms of democracy, civil rights and economic development.

Erdogan has already alienated some Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, thus creating more turmoil instead of unity. Islamization of Turkey is likely to drive the rest of Europe further away, eliminating chances of collaboration with the West.

The core of our proposition is the Turkey-Pakistan nexus that now conjures up the leadership of the ummah since Iran and Indonesia, the two other counterfeit Islamic comrades both have fallen off the track – the former because of her Shi’a label and the latter because of seeping political instability as well as the imbecility of leadership. At the same time, it is not difficult to assess the fragility of the axis duo and then the final parting of ways.

In a bid to make amends to his waning popularity, nationally as well as internationally, Erdogan frantically tries to re-establish it wherever conditions are conducive. In the process, he has fallen in the trap of Pakistani ISI and he came out openly against India regarding Kashmir dispute. On the behest of the ISI, and after taking some top-secret Kashmirian conduits into confidence, according to the Zee News Report of Dec 20, 2020 “a new Turkey-Pakistan nexus has emerged in the recent past, leading to a complex network of academia, media, and NGOs working to propagate anti-India propaganda.” It has become a backdoor and safe haven for anti-India elements to work on Pakistan’s behest as well as the converging point for anti-India actors and Pakistani agencies.

Being highly critical of the Indian government the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and Anadolu Agency have been at the forefront, leading the anti-India campaign. These have raised a barrage of issues like so-called atrocities on Kashmiris and Muslims and CAA-NRC. Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak on 26 December 2019 published an article titled ‘Gujarat Killer’, attacking PM Narendra Modi and terming CAA as anti-Muslim legislation.

Turkish propaganda has also successfully penetrated the Indian society. Popular Turkish serials like Ertugrul and Baba are circulated widely in the Kashmir Valley, provoking the Kashmiris to wage a war against India for freedom. These serials depict the victory of a small 2000 strong Turkish tribe against the invaders. It is reminiscent of Omar Khalid that was screened for more than a year in one cinema hall of Kashmir before the eruption of insurgency. Transcending the Kashmir Valley, videos of these serials have reached inside the digital gadgets across India, further provoking pro-Muslim sentiments to fight India. The Report goes on to says:
“A journalist from Jammu and Kashmir, now working in Anadolu Agency, earlier worked with many Indian news organisations and closely connected to Pakistani agencies, working at their directions and is actively indulged in anti-India activities in Turkey. He is in contact with Pakistani ISI and planning to launch a website dedicated to anti- India content to further the narratives of “saffronization” and “fascism” by India. ISI is directly funding the website, which is in the final stage of launching. Observers from the Western countries are the target audience of the website. However, they plan to build a network in India as well. The website might contain a range of content including blogs, infographics, reviews, research papers, primary resources, etc. Based on the modus operandi of similar platforms, the website might be launched as a part of any Turkey-based organisation – to add legitimacy to it.” a source aware of this development said Zee News.

Similarly, Sayyid Ali Shah Geelani’s grand-daughter Ruwa Shah hosts a weekly talk show in English titled ‘The Ruwa Shah Show’ on TRT. The show is promoting the anti-India stance on Kashmir. In like of the above, Ahmed Bin Qasim, son of Muhammad Qasim Faktoo and Dukhteran-e-Millat leader Asiya Andrabi is one of the key contributors to the TRT with an anti-India stance.

” It has also been found that journalists from Turkish media organisations have been able to visit India under the veil of tourist visa to carry out reporting/information gathering from India. India based chapters of these media organisations have been facilitating their visas for India under tourist visa category. Several Pakistani media platforms are also working under the guise of being sub-sets of Turkish media organisations. There are credible pieces of evidence to establish the fact that Pakistani agencies are actively launching several platforms dedicated to producing anti-India content as affiliates/parts of Turkish media organisations/NGOs.” a senior security officer told Zee News.

Besides the media, Turkey is also promoting and accelerating anti-India activities through educational institutions – in Turkey as well as within India. She has been providing lucrative scholarships and Tuning exchange programs for Indian Kashmiri and Muslim students to study in Turkey through state-sponsored NGOs. Once the students land in Turkey, they are approached and taken over by the Pakistani proxies operating there. Thus, pushing together anti-India agenda.

“The list of organisations providing scholarships to Indian students is long and includes Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Yunnus Emre Institute (YE), Turkey’s Diyanet Foundation (TDV), Turkish Airlines, Anadolu Agency, and Turkey Youth Foundation (TUGVA). Most of these organisations have direct connections with the Turkish Government and President Erdogan. The TYB directly runs under the patronage of President Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan. The organisation never takes the Government of India in the loop of the selection process of students. Once students land in Turkey, they remain out of the radar of the Indian Embassy in Turkey. Similarly, the TUGYS also functions under Bilal Erdogan’s patronage and has made strong inroads within India by establishing connections with Islamic outfits in Indian security agencies are not ruling out the involvement of the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Hyderabad and Mumbai. Turkish Embassy also maintains a close connection with the students returning to India after the conclusion of their studies in Turkey and engages them in its activities. The returned students also act as facilitators for the scholarship programmes as propagators of pro-Turkish agenda. Indian institutions like Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Maulana Azad National Urdu University run courses in Turkish language and have become centres of activities of the Turkish Embassy.

Indian security agencies are not ruling out the involvement of the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Hyderabad and Mumbai. Turkish Embassy also maintains a close connection with the students returning to India after the conclusion of their studies in Turkey and engages them in its activities. The returned students also act as facilitators for the scholarship programmes as propagators of pro-Turkish agenda. Indian institutions like Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Maulana Azad National Urdu University run courses in Turkish language and have become centres of activities of the Turkish Embassy.

The most important fact to note is that the students under Turkish scholarship programmes are made to engage in the anti-India campaigns. It has been discovered that a couple of Kashmiri students associated with Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University (IZU), under the scholarship of Pakistan government-sponsored organisation Institute of Dialogue, Development, & Diplomatic Studies (IDDS), have been participating in such campaigns. Many of these students have earlier worked for leading media houses in India. Besides Islamic and Kashmiri outfits, the Turkish Embassy has also been forging alliances with Indian NGOs to further its agenda.

Indian ‘activists’ carrying out anti-India agenda are increasingly being sponsored and invited to Turkey. The meetings of these organisations with Turkish diplomats and leaders have been facilitated by Pakistani proxies at multiple instances. A number of these Turkey-based NGO’s have also collaborated with and provided space to anti-India voices in the Indian academia and civil society. It is noteworthy that there is a significant Pakistani influence on some of these organisations and the others are run directly by Pakistani proxies.

Besides these coverts designs, Turkey has also resorted to few open and brazen anti-India moves. To magnify and converge the strength of anti-India elements, Turkey has been pro-actively issuing citizenship to Indian Kashmiris engaged in promoting pro-Pakistan narrative. The list of such individuals includes Baba Umar, Riaz-ul-Khaliq, Tasheen Nazar, besides others. Most of such individuals have been employed by either of the three sectors: Turkish state media, non-profit organisations, and educational institutions.

Writing under the caption ‘ Turkey using its media to propagate ‘Anti-India sentiments’ in Kashmir, The Eurasian Times of 30 December 2020 gave a vivid insight story, which is succinctly reproduced here.

Like Pakistan, Turkey also runs propaganda about the alleged oppression of Kashmiris by the Indian government. Following the abrogation of Article 370, which stripped Kashmir of its special status, Pakistan has been at forefront of taking the matter to international platforms.

Along with other Muslim countries like Malaysia and Turkey, Pakistan had pressured the Organisation of Islamic Community (OIC), led by Saudi Arabia, to pass a resolution against the Indian government’s decision on the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution.

Riyadh, which shares good relations with New Delhi, had termed the Kashmir conflict as India’s “internal matter” and avoided discussion on it in the OIC.

The Indian media report claims that Turkey is using soft power to provoke Kashmiris. Turkish serials like Ertugrul and Baba are circulated in the Valley. The report alleges that Turkey offers “lucrative scholarships and exchange programs for Indian Kashmiri and Muslim students”.

Turkish President Erdogan, during his visit to Pakistan earlier this year, had said that Kashmir was as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan. “We have never forgotten and will never forget the help which the Pakistani people extended by sharing their bread during our War of Independence. And now, Kashmir is and will be the same for us,” he had said.

The crucial news is that the Eurasian Times had earlier cited a Greek media reports that Turkey wanted militia from Syrian National Army to be relocated to Kashmir. It indicated that similar recruitment activity for a Kashmiri operation was ongoing in Azaz, Jarablus, Bab, and Idlib.

The Eurasian Times of 4 December 2020 wrote under the heading “After Backing Pakistan on Kashmir, Is Turkey’s Erdogan Hiring Syrian Mercenaries to fight In the Valley’ as follows: “For some time now, Turkey has been making attempts to grow its influence among the Muslims in South Asia to challenge Saudi Arabia’s dominance in the Islamic world. As part of this move, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has consistently backed Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. Erdogan is ready to send mercenaries from NE Syria to Kashmir. SNA militia commander “Sulayman Shah Brigades”, Muhammed Abu Amsha, told 5 days ago to militia members in the Siyê area near Afrin that Turkey wants to relocate some units to Kashmir.

It appears that in near future Pakistan, Turkey and China will be coordinating their Kashmir plan to initiate a full-fledged campaign of wresting Kashmir from the hands of India. What will happen to the “wrested India” nobody can predict? In other words, this could be the process for launching ghazvatul Hind or the Indian campaign about which Muslim theologians have been making predictions. War cries from Pakistan are raised louder and louder with each passing day and Turkey is all set to fight the only existing kafir (heretic) in fulfilment of the Quranic injunctions. India would do better to remember that these hostile countries are marking the time to execute their plan of bringing Khalaft to Kashmir at a time when the inside enemies of India’s patriotic forces find that the iron is hot to be hit.
(The writer is the former Director of the Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.