India’s Hitler is Isolated in Kashmir
India today is globally isolated in Kashmir. Not a single country today endorses India’s annexation of Jammu and Kashmir. The United Nations system and the global media consider Kashmiri territories as disputed under international law. Indian leaders and diplomats face harsh questions in every international forum on New Delhi’s one-sided escalation of tensions in a region where the international focus is on ending wars and bringing peace, as is being done in Afghanistan. Instead of playing a constructive role for stability, there is reasonable doubt that India is trying to disrupt Afghan peace process by distracting Pakistan and the United States, and likely even disrupting a key component of President Trump’s 2020 midterm election campaign: a successful withdrawal from Afghanistan. Indian policies are disruptive, favoring an unstable Afghanistan to keep Pakistan in turmoil, and refusing market access to American and European products, in unfair trade practices. On Kashmir, India has ensured the failure of every single effort to resolve the conflict bilaterally. If a book is written on Kashmir negotiations, it will mostly be about how Indian leaders and diplomats played every trick in the book to delay, disrupt, and obstruct a final peaceful settlement of the conflict. In 72 years, instead of inching closer to a solution, India did everything it could to expand disputes, issues, and hatred in order to make conflict resolution in Kashmir impossible with each passing day. This Indian obsession has led to the unleashing of Nazi-style violent fascist ideology called Hindutva, in which women, minorities, and foreigners are assaulted and where stick-wielding, frothing, and swearing mobs are free to lynch anyone at will, record videos of the violent attacks and upload to social media and celebrate it as the Indian state watches. As the world ends its half a century of silence on Kashmir, and as Kashmiri suffering finds a global voice, it is now time to force a peaceful solution in Kashmir through mediated, multilateral diplomacy that includes a UN-supervised referendum at some point, and also hold India accountable to the ideals of liberal democracy and open society to which it claims ownership as the world’s largest democracy by size.
India’s reckless decision opens a new opportunity for the international community to resolve the oldest pending dispute on UN Security Council agenda – and it is possible.
India-made Disaster in Kashmir
India’s credentials as a responsible member of the international community face a serious challenge in 2019. New Delhi, long seen as a possible anchor for stability in Asia, plunged the region and the world in a territorial and religious dispute under the shadow of a nuclear war.
India did this by taking a blunt unilateral action in Kashmir on August 5, revoking the autonomous rule in a sensitive region, and inviting Indian citizens – a billion of them – to throng Kashmir to buy land and turn 12 million Kashmiris into a minority. And since India is predominantly Hindu while Kashmir is predominantly Muslim, this is a recipe for a Bosnia-style genocide that would drag in nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and China.
The crisis is compounded by a telephone and internet blackout, a curfew, and nearly a million Indian soldiers patrolling the streets of Kashmir. The curfew has led to shortages in food and medicine. The crisis is so sudden that it caught regional and big powers by surprise. They were busy in talks with Iran, trade wars and deals, and the situation in Hong Kong and Lebanon. Pakistan and the United States were busy in an Afghan peace deal, marking a shift in the relations of the Cold War allies. The surprise Indian escalation in Kashmir means Islamabad might get distracted in Afghanistan as well as Washington, and President Trump’s 2020 reelection bid might also be impacted negatively if tensions escalate further. Pakistan, the decades-old flagbearer of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, has made it clear that it will not allow India to annex Kashmiri territory and push Kashmiris out as refugees.
The Indian action has drawn unprecedented global reaction. This is likely the first time that Indian leaders find themselves at the receiving end of a global backlash, a situation they did not experience at any time since India became a country out of British colonies in 1947.
Why India Did This
This is a stunning fall from grace for a country that was expected to play a role commensurate with its size, and where liberal values were supposed to foster a tolerant, constructive view of the neighborhood and the world. Instead, India is undergoing the birth pangs of a violent, segregationist, fascist ideology based on a twisted version of Hinduism, otherwise a powerful religion, that targets Christianity, Islam, and India’s own underprivileged class of untouchables, the Dalits.
Behold the latest version of India: the world’s largest democracy is embroiled in the world’s largest military curfew and communication blackout, with no phones, internet, and outdoor movement for more than eight million residents in Kashmir. This international dispute, simmering since 1947, is the world’s oldest pending conflict at the UN Security Council, preceding even the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which hogs more headlines but is probably not as urgent as Kashmir at this stage, both politically and in terms of the humanitarian crisis.
For all its international stature, India is unable to maturely resolve a territorial dispute with a smaller neighbor. Kashmir issue has not been resolved mainly because Indian leaders will not sit down with Pakistan and work around an impartial UN-supervised referendum where Kashmiris can decide their future.
Up until now India had hoped to stall Kashmir peace talks and ride out the conflict. As smaller parties, Pakistan and Kashmiris cannot force India to come to the negotiating table without possibly instigating a war, which nobody wants, especially Pakistan. New Delhi uses this stalemate to its benefit to perpetuate the conflict instead of resolving it.
But the specter of a nuclear war around Kashmir, and the inability of Indian leaders to resolve the conflict with Pakistan forced the international community last month, on August 16, to intervene. The UN Security Council held its first formal meeting on Kashmir in more than 50 years.
This stunning setback for Indian diplomacy should have been met in New Delhi with introspection and a review of India’s policies in Kashmir. Instead, India protested international community’s “interference” in the conflict, in a move reminiscent of Milosevic after Bosnian genocide and Saddam after Kurd massacres. More worryingly, the term ‘The Final Solution’ is increasingly being used by Indian government officials, politicians, and journalists1, often coupled with denunciation for Kashmiris who have been protesting Indian military occupation for decades.
India’s global position on Kashmir is so tenuous that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released UN’s first-ever report on Kashmir in June 2018, detailing disturbing patterns of Indian abuses that have normally been associated with dictatorships and not a democracy. For example, the UN report refers to alleged sites of mass graves, and to a case of overnight mass gang-rape by Indian soldiers of women of all ages in two Kashmiri villages in 1991. The report described Kashmir as “one of the most militarized zones in the world,” quoting a figure between 500,000-700,000 Indian soldiers. This number has jumped in July and August 2019. Some Kashmiri sources give an estimate of up to 900,000 Indian soldiers cramming the besieged State of Jammu & Kashmir.
August 5: India’s Land Grab, A Highway Robbery in Kashmir
Just to understand the scale of what has happened, imagine that an army in a democracy lays siege to a neighboring unarmed territory, locks down more than eight million people, cuts off internet, telephones, and imposes a strict curfew, while its own legislators sit in the capital to pass a law legitimizing the land grab. And then the prime minister of the aggressor country confidently announces that the besieged neighboring people have welcomed the siege, welcomed the communication blackout, welcomed the lockdown, and the land grab.
This, in a nutshell, is what India has done in Kashmir on August 5, 2019.
The initial celebrations in India have now given way to brooding over the barrage of international criticism and bad press. Unwittingly, Prime Minister Modi has infused a new life into Kashmir conflict and turned the global media spotlight on India. Unfortunately for India, this coverage has now expanded beyond Kashmir to include the rise of Indian religious extremism, the Hindutva ideology of Mr. Modi and his BJP party, which researchers liken to the Nazi ideology. The Kashmir crisis has led to fresh questions on the meteoric rise in mob-lynches across India targeting a range of victims, including anyone who eats beef. Today, Indian cyberspace is full of hand-made cellphone videos showing Hindutva mobs lynching minority Indian men2, mostly Muslims, for refusing to recite Hindu religious lines, or for suspicion of consuming beef.
No Laughing Matter: The Indian Dream of “Marrying White-Skinned Kashmiri Women”
The fear in Kashmir today is that the Government of India will push thousands of poor Indian citizens and families to move into Kashmir to buy properties and take up Kashmiri jobs which until now have been reserved for Kashmiris. Religious extremists in Mr. Modi’s party have gone to the extent of encouraging Indian men to move to Kashmir “to marry white-skinned Kashmiri women.” 3
More than eight million people are currently under siege in Kashmir by the Indian army, with probably the largest enforced curfew and communication blockade in the world in recent memory.
This is the worst time in the 72-year history of Kashmir conflict. Recently, a son waited for his mother to emerge after a Hajj flight at Srinagar airport, only to be told she passed away and was buried in Saudi Arabia. The family could not be informed because of the communication blackout imposed by India.4
“At the end of October, Jammu and Kashmir will cease to be a state of India,” says Sumantra Bose, who uses this dramatic line at start of an article for BBC, an analytical piece that makes for an amazing read.
Bose is a Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics (LSE). His distinguished piece is titled, ‘Has India pushed Kashmir to a point of no return?’
Bose compares Modi’s move in Kashmir to Milosevic’s cancellation of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989, which later led to civil war and genocide: “What the BJP government has done is akin to what Serbia's Milosevic regime did in 1989 by unilaterally revoking Kosovo's autonomy and imposing a police state on Kosovo's Albanian majority. But the BJP government's approach to Kashmir goes beyond what Milosevic intended for the Kosovo Albanians: subjugation,” Bose writes.
Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, has gone a step further. He has warned the world that Modi and his Hindutva ideology is like Nazi ideology and that appeasement could lead to war and genocide in Kashmir and South Asia. Mr. Khan garnered global headlines by comparing the Indian Prime minister to Hitler. Khan went on to write a compelling article in The New York Times, making the case for international intervention in Kashmir.5
President Trump’s Historic Step on Kashmir
U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate Kashmir conflict between Pakistan and India marked a turning point. For starters, no American President has come out so strongly in favor of resolving Kashmir dispute. The premise is simple: the failure of parties to take basic steps toward de-escalation and conflict resolution means international intervention is inevitable.
The offer was an important step in establishing that an international approach is now required to end this long-running conflict. Jack Rosen, President of American Jewish Congress, has called for an active American role in this regard. “Those negotiations — given the scale and gravity of the Kashmir issue — must be mediated and multilateral. Indeed, until President Trump’s offer to mediate, the dispute has festered as a bilateral standoff,” he wrote.6
The arguments for an American intervention to settle this seven-decade-long conflict are strong. Writes Rosen, “We have forged trading and security alliances with both India and Pakistan over the decades. Each country has a large diaspora in the United States. While nuanced diplomacy has ensured that the United States has not faced a zero-sum game between the two, it is time the United States use its moral and strategic leverage to get both sides to the table to address the issue of Kashmir once and for all. There are humanitarian, legal and security interests in such intervention.”
On August 26, on the sidelines of the G-7 summit meeting in France, Prime Minister Modi met President Trump and made a strong public pitch against such an intervention and argued that India can talk to Pakistan and contain the conflict. Ironically, even here, the Indian premier failed to offer any concrete roadmap as to how he will do this. Pakistan says the time for talking to India in a bilateral setting is over and that years of such attempts have yielded no results. India wants to buy time, not resolve the problem.
But Mr. Modi faced questions from Mr. Trump and other world leaders at G-7 regarding Kashmir tensions. It is interesting that none of the P-5 members entertained India’s requests to cancel a formal Security Council meeting on Kashmir on August 16, which went ahead despite Indian objections. This was “a big deal,” according to Richard Roth, a longtime UN-watcher.
Council members met for 90 minutes, without India and Pakistan attending. Some members felt that a statement at this point would favor Pakistan and could escalate tensions. Others felt that the two countries should try to resolve it bilaterally first. There was no agreement on a Council statement to the press, “the lowest-level of Council action,” said Roth. “Still, just dusting off the diplomatic cobwebs was by international standards a big deal,” he wrote for CNN.
It is clear India is still counting on the goodwill of major powers to keep Kashmir off the international agenda. And the powers appear willing to give India time to set its house in order and prove that it can diffuse the situation. But what is also clear is that the world is running out of patience when it comes to Kashmir conflict and the growing political and religious extremism in India. And then there are the theories that India is using Kashmir for larger objectives, linked to Afghanistan and Trump’s 2020 midterms. There are signs that India’s sudden escalation of tensions in Kashmir is linked “to the economic slowdown that India is currently facing […] it provides a much-needed diversion for the government,” according to a BBC report.7 There is also some link to Afghanistan. Creating a distraction for Pakistan just when Islamabad is on the cusp of a major peace push in Afghanistan jointly with Washington seems to serve Indian interests. Unstable Afghanistan keeps Pakistan in turmoil, which suits many Indian leaders. Also, there are signs that India may not want to see President Trump emerge from the midterm election stronger. Missing the Afghan peace bus is one way of ensuring this. Another is the growing evidence that the Indian lobby in Washington is joining hands with Trump’s opponents, including with likeminded foreign lobbies linked to JCPOA.
The solution is simple: India must take a strategic decision to resolve Kashmir conflict and end the zero-sum game with Pakistan. India can reverse or freeze its decision to end Kashmir’s autonomy, accept President Trump’s mediation offer, involve the UN Security Council, Pakistan and the Kashmiris, and pave the way to a referendum. If Islamabad does not respond positively to these steps, then India can hold its neighbor responsible. But it is not possible to endlessly delay dialogue and conflict resolution on various pretexts. Kashmir needs a “mediated, multilateral” solution, in the words of Jack Rosen.
India is at a crossroads in its modern history. It faces unprecedented and unexpected global isolation on Kashmir. Not a single member state of the United Nations, and no major international news organization recognizes India’s annexation of the disputed region. International academia and politicians are drawing comparisons between Indian Prime Minister Modi and Milosevic, the mastermind of genocide in Bosnia; and Hitler, who led the Jewish extermination, the Holocaust.
India has a chance to make things right. And it should start in Kashmir.
The author is a researcher, television host, and writer.
E-mail: [email protected]
1. Ganapathy, K.B. (2019, August 9). Has Modi Found Final Solution to Kashmir? Star of Mysore, India.
2. Maniar, Gopi. (2018, May 21). Dalit man lynched in Gujarat: How India is grappling with violence. India Today.
3. (2019, August 7). BJP Bachelors Can Now Marry White-Skinned Kashmiri Women, Says MLA After 370 Move. News18.com.
4. Wani, Fayaz. (2019, August 26). Communication blockade in Kashmir: Deaths go unattended in Valley sans phones. The New Indian Express.
5. (2019, August 30). Imran Khan: The World Can’t Ignore Kashmir. We Are All in Danger. The New York Times.
6. Rosen, Jack. (2019, September 2). Why the U.S. must mediate Kashmir under a nuclear shadow. Washington Times.
7. Pandey, Geeta. (2019, August 6). Article 370: What happened with Kashmir and why it matters. BBC.
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