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Pushing Kashmir toward Pakistan

Discussion in 'World Affairs' started by RabzonKhan, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. RabzonKhan

    RabzonKhan SENIOR MEMBER

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    Pushing Kashmir toward Pakistan

    Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
    13 Aug, 2008

    When I first visited Kashmir in 1981, the pros and cons of accession to India or Pakistan inevitably cropped up in conversation. One government official argued that the Kashmiri economy, highly dependent on fruit, had suffered because the state had become part of India rather than Pakistan.

    “Right through history,” he said, “all our fruit went down the Jhelum valley into West Punjab (which is now in Pakistan). That was always the natural road and river route, and low transport costs meant that our fruit farmers got a good price. But now we have been cut off from our natural trade routes and consumers. Instead, we have been forced to cross the Pir Panjal range into Jammu and the Gangetic plain. This route is fraught with logistical difficulties, high costs and longer distances. So, Kashmiri fruit growers get a lower price for their produce.”

    I could not disagree. The argument seemed sound. The official went on to argue that exports would in the long run fetch the highest fruit prices. For exports, he said, Karachi was closer to Kashmir than Bombay, and this was an additional reason for Kashmir to be with Pakistan. I stumped him by saying that Kandla was even closer than Karachi. He had never heard of Kandla.

    Yet my argument was not honest. Road and rail connections between Kashmir and Kandla were — and still are — so poorly developed that Kashmiri fruit is not exported from there. In the absence of cold chains, very little Kashmiri produce can be exported, from either Indian or Pakistani ports. The export argument offered by the Kashmir official was weak. However, it showed how strong was his nostalgia for the historical trade route. It must be so for millions of others in the Valley.

    That conversation has come back to me vividly in the context of today’s blockade of Kashmir by Hindu mobs in Jammu, and the Kashmiri response to it. Last Monday, a huge crowd of demonstrators set out from Sopore to march across the line of control into Muzzafarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir. Hundreds of trucks full of fruit joined the ‘Muzzafarabad Chalo’ movement, which was backed by the Kashmir Fruit Growers Association, various trade and industry associations, the two Hurriyat factions and the PDP. As locals joined along the route, the crowd increased in size to 1.5 lakh people, and the cavalcade became several kilometres long. The gargantuan size of the demonstration showed the depth and breadth of Kashmiri outrage over the blockade.

    The police cut the road at Chahal, and tried to stop the march with tear gas and guns. One Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, died in the firing. Furious mobs burned police stations. Tempers are still raging, and will further alienate Kashmiris from what they see as colonial oppressors from New Delhi. The PDP, once seen as a nationalist party, now has one foot in the separatist camp, represented by the Hurriyat factions.

    Let nobody think that the march to Muzzafarabad was simply a response to the Jammu blockade. Kashmiris have long resented their being cut off from their historical trade route down the Jhelum into West Punjab. The Muzzafarabad Chalo movement was not just an economic plea for evacuating their produce, it was a demand for the restoration of the historical links between the Valley and what is now Pakistan. It was a demand by Kashmiris for the right to determine their own future, to send their produce where and when they wanted, and not be at the mercy of Indian (or Pakistani) political parties. The case for separatism has been strengthened greatly, even in the mind of moderates.

    The Jammu agitators had no qualms about imposing a blockade with the explicit aim of starving or bludgeoning the Valley into submission. The immediate cause of their agitation was the government’s supine surrender to the Kashmiri outburst against transferring land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. Yet much of Jammu’s anger stemmed from the earlier expulsion of Pandits from the Valley, which is and will always be a running sore.

    Optimists may keep talking about Kashmiriyat and local traditions that transcend religion, and may project differences between the Valley and Jammu as regional rather than religious. But the fact is that communalism has mixed inexorably with regionalism to produce a toxic and combustible potion. Optimists can seek regional, economic or secular explanations for the Kashmiri protest over Amarnath and the Jammu blockade, but both have communal cores, notwithstanding regional outer layers.

    It should surprise nobody that, after the police firing near the line of control, rampaging Muslims mobs attempted to destroy two Hindu temples. The Islamisation of the Valley is growing apace. The policemen who killed the Hurriyat leader may well be Muslims. But Kashmiris will see them as agents of Hindu imperialism. At the recent WTO meeting, commerce minister Kamal Nath waxed eloquent about his determination to protect Indian farmers against depressed prices arising from cheap imports. It never occurred to him that Kashmiri farmers might face not just depressed but zero prices if they were prevented from sending their produce either into Jammu or Pakistan.

    Anger in the Valley will not disappear even if the Jammu blockade is lifted. The feeling of outraged vulnerability will continue, and azaadi (independence) will increasingly be seen as the only solution consistent with Kashmiri security and self-respect. This reality cannot be evaded by legal waffling about the state’s accession to India. Besides, the accession instrument provided for a plebiscite that has never been implemented.

    The Jammu blockade is a blatant attempt to squeeze Kashmiris economically into submission. This approach is doomed to failure. You cannot starve a community into comradeship, and the very attempt to do so is a form of colonial brutality. The Jammu agitators may have legitimate grievances, but their chosen instrument of protest can only stoke secessionism. Ironically, the Hindu die-hards who most bitterly oppose secession are doing the most to make it a reality.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2008
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  2. ashfaque

    ashfaque BANNED

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    I said in another thread, opening another route of trade to Pakistan is not bad, I do not know why the hell GoI stopped these traders. They have all rights to trade with Pakistan and its aligned with India's trade policies.

    Lets start this trade, but before that Pakistan has to open its Market for traders in Kashmir for all kind of good.
     
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  3. Spring Onion

    Spring Onion PDF VETERAN

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    Trade could only be done with Kashmiris not the Government of India as LoC is Line of Controle not the international border.


    And thanks to Hindu Fanatic political parties Kashmiris realised they have been weakend and destroyed economicaly too.
     
  4. Energon

    Energon SENIOR MEMBER

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    Are you kidding me? Nothing you're saying here is realistic. Pakistan can't
    "only trade with Kashmiris"; just like India can't conjure up a trade policy with Balochistan.

    And oh, if Kashmir wasn't a hotbed of chaos, it would be able to give Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra a run for their money in terms of being the most prosperous state.
     
  5. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    The comparison with Balochistan is misplaced - Kashmir remains disputed territory and it has a distinctly different status in Indo-Pak relations, and even within India. What is being suggested (and there is a thread somewhere in the economy section discussing the proposals raised - by the two Government, if I remember correctly) is trade between AK and IK.

    Given that India and Pakistan are unlikely to come to a resolution of the dispute anytime soon, it makes sense to atleast allow the people of divided Kashmir to interact in various ways.
     
  6. Energon

    Energon SENIOR MEMBER

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    There is a vast difference between the policy of inter-Kashmir trade and what Jana is alluding to here (or failing to be specific about).

    Again, realistically this is only possible if Kashmir is consistently stable for a duration of time. Every incidence of violence IMO just makes it all the more difficult to even consider opening up the borders; thereby further perpetuating the cycle. No government in its right mind is going to open a volatile area to conduct business with another region nestled within an adversarial nation who has been engaged in a conflict over the said region for over 6 decades.
     
  7. su-47

    su-47 SENIOR MEMBER

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    the problem with opening the old trade route is that it can make it much easier for cross-border terrorism and arms smuggling. terrorists can pose as traders.
     
  8. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Those concerns woudl exist for both nations.

    However, opening up trade would require approval from both governments, and once established, hopefully would create economic interests that both sides would be vested enough in to perhaps avoid jeopardizing by supporting destabilizing activities in each others territory.

    Inspections of shipments at border crossings would probably still take place, and those with legitimate business interests can be easily verified, by both sides. Beyond that I doubt it would be possible for significant numbers of militants to sneak in as traders through official crossings - it would still be done clandestinely for the most part.

    The issue of significant numbers of militants coming across arises more when you are looking at opening regular travel between the two Kashmir's, but mechanisms can still be put in place that allow Kashmiris to visit each other and also reduce the risk of militancy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2008
  9. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Energon,

    I may have in fact imposed my own understanding of the proposals on Jana's views - I will leave it up to her to clarify her position.
     
  10. Energon

    Energon SENIOR MEMBER

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    Again, the key here is sustained stability. IMHO inter-Kashmir trade has more of a symbolic value than any major pragmatic advantage. What Kashmir needs a lot more is for the trade restrictions within India itself to be lifted. There has to be a full flow of development in all its economic sectors: agriculture, infrastructure, tourism/eco tourism, industry, institutions etc etc. Right now all of this potential is being trampled upon by nonsensical violence over trivial issues which in turn has resulted in a pathetic stagnation of all social and economic indicators. The GoI is trying to orchestrate all sorts of initiatives, SEZs, subsidized electricity etc. but all of this again has 0 pragmatic value if the region can't remain stable for more than a few weeks at a time.
    Unless Kashmir is stabilized rehabilitated and set on a path of prosperity (for which it has all the necessary ingredients) we will see absolutely nothing come off it. India will never relinquish it, and Pakistan will never be able to successfully wrest it away from India. It will remain a troubled region with untold unrealized potential.
     
  11. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Energon,

    In the absence of a resolution of Kashmir, the 'symbolic value' of trade between the two Kashmirs, and indirectly with Pakistan, is not minuscule. This is supposed to be an intermediate step that helps move towards stability, not one to come in its aftermath.

    Such a step therefore has both a strong symbolic and pragmatic value, in the economic and stabilization areas.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2008
  12. Energon

    Energon SENIOR MEMBER

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    I know you've written about this topic before, but I still fail to see how you expect any government in its right mind to open up its borders in such a volatile and unstable region without so much so as a couple of years of stability *shrug*. These expectations are simply unrealistic. The entire thing would be rendered a farce.
     
  13. ashfaque

    ashfaque BANNED

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    Jana please...... :)
     
  14. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Energon,


    This is but an extension of India's policy of an emphasis on building trade and cultural links, advocated in times when the violence and instability in Kashmir and in India was far worse, as a means of moving beyond the impasse Indo-Pak relations find themselves in.

    Similarly, given Pakistani distrust of Indian intentions in Afghanistan and suspicions of support for elements in Baluchistan, there would be no point in CBM's until you had your 'optimum situation'.

    Militancy in Kashmir is not entirely in the hands of Pakistan, and for quite few years now Pakistan has done little to push separatists into IK. There is a strong local/Kashmiri component to the secessionist movement. Pakistan will not invite hostility from its own Kashmiri population by using force against that segment of the insurgency, nor will the electorate let a party taking such steps last.

    This segment of Kashmiri opinion can be moderated however by increasing the economic and people to people ties between the two regions. Though not 'independence', it does 'unite' the two sides in some strong ways and lessens the appearance of being under siege, divided and 'under occupation'.

    I would also point out that the current instability, by far the greatest in quite some time, is entirely of India's making, in terms of its policies in Kashmir, and has little to do with the argument that trade between the two Kshmir's be contingent upon Pakistan 'doing more' to help stabilize the region. On the last count Pakistan has done exactly that in the past few years.

    That is the whole idea behind CBM's such as trade and an easing of travel restrictions, and AFAIK, India has been the one pushing the Trade proposals in Kashmir (perhaps due to pressure from the local government that is a coalition partner).

    If I remember correctly, it is unfortunately Pakistan that is dragging its feet on the issue of trade between AK and IK -a continuation of its policy of not moving on other issues until some sort of movement on Kashmir is seen. The infrastructure on the IK side is reportedly complete.
     
  15. dabong1

    dabong1 <b>PDF VETERAN</b>

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    Just like the bus crossing in punjab.....there must thousands of ISI agents getting through and who know how many weapons have crossed the wagah border:crazy: