Kashmir Crisis: Regional Powers Threaten New War

TONY BLAIR’S shuttle diplomacy to resolve the longstanding Kashmir crisis that has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war has been an abject failure.

Even as he tried to defuse the political tension, shelling continued along the disputed Line of Control forcing 50,000 to flee their homes. And while the prospect for an immediate war has receded in recent days the border remains on a hair-trigger as the military build-up continues.

India’s Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has effectively taunted Blair by pointing out that while the West ruthlessly pursued its ‘war on terrorism’ against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Western imperialism has not taken a similar stand against Islamist terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir operating from bases in Pakistan. It was such groups who are assumed to be responsible for the deadly attacks on the state legislature in Srinigar and on the Indian parliament in Dehli.

However, while the governing BJP-led Hindu nationalist government in India has adopted the moral high ground in accusing Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism, it conveniently ignores the widespread brutal repression it is carrying out in occupied Kashmir, which has led to 35,000 deaths in the last decade.

The BJP-governing coalition faces important state elections next month and is therefore keen to whip up anti-Pakistan, Indian nationalism.

Moreover, the Indian ruling classes have enjoyed a significant shift in the balance of power in the region with the overthrow of the Pakistan-supported Taliban regime and the arrival of the Northern Alliance forces in Kabul. Indian government and Northern Alliance officials have been cementing relations in recent weeks. The new Afghan leader Karzai, a Pashtun speaker, has long championed an independent Pashtun state, laying territorial claims to Western Pakistan.

Imperialist pressures

Having supported the Western coalition, Pakistan’s General Musharraf has responded to US pressure by arresting Islamist ‘Jehadi’ militants belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohamed and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba organisations who are fighting guerrilla campaigns in Kashmir against Indian occupying troops.

Musharraf has also won support from Western leaders by calling for dialogue and talks to resolve the Kashmir crisis.

At the same time, responding to domestic pressures, he drew a distinction at the recent Nepal Asian summit between terrorism and what he calls “legitimate resistance and freedom struggles”.

Pakistan has also reminded the Indian government of its failure to hold a UN-backed referendum on Kashmir’s future status. Pakistan is confident that the 70% majority Muslim population would seek to remove themselves from Indian control.

But while the two regional nuclear powers jockey for diplomatic advantage, the plight of the working masses in India and Pakistan and in Pakistani- and Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir is ignored.

Both ruling classes want to exploit the land and the people of Jammu and Kashmir which has led to the militarisation of the country. And while millions of dollars are wasted on armaments, millions of people suffer from desperate poverty, unemployment, disease and a lack of basic services.

This is what the capitalist system has to offer at the start of the 21st century – no democracy, no future and no hope. As The Socialist warned at the start of the Afghan war, there can be no imperialist solution to the problems in this part of the world which does not result in further destabilising a volatile region. Indeed, many Pakistani Taliban supporters have now returned from Afghanistan and are keen to militarily pursue their fundamentalist aims.

Only by overthrowing capitalism and feudalism and establishing a democratic socialist society can the working masses and rural poor in Kashmir and throughout the region have a viable future.

The building of such a movement is the task of socialists who support the ideas and programme of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI – the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) – a task which our members in Kashmir, Pakistan and India are resolved to complete.

A History Of Conflict

August 1947. India gained independence after strikes, mutinies and hunger strikes forced British imperialism out of the subcontinent. But divisions between Hindus and Muslims, a legacy of British imperialism’s divide and rule tactics, led to the partition into India and Pakistan and numerous skirmishes over disputed areas.

October 1947. Kashmir, then ruled by a maharajah (prince) was invaded by Pakistan and then India. War lasted until 1949 when the “line of control” – the border between Indian-occupied (IOK) and Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (POK) – was established. Pakistan gained one-third of Kashmir.

1962. India’s war with China leaves China in control of part of Kashmir claimed by India.

1965. War after new border exchanges in Kashmir and Punjab.

1971. India and Pakistan’s war over the secession of Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) saw heavy fighting in Kashmir, ended by new ceasefire and new line of control.

1989-90. Troops fired on independence protesters in IOK which came under direct rule from the Delhi government. India and Pakistan came close to a nuclear “exchange” over Kashmir.

1999. The Kargil mountain war. Tensions escalated over the long disputed “line of control” as crisis-racked nationalist governments in India and Pakistan – both now nuclear powers – came to the brink of all-out war again.

Jammu & Kashmir: 54 Years Under Occupation

SINCE THE independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 the masses of both Indian-occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (POK) have suffered greatly in wars and skirmishes between the ruling classes of the two occupying powers.

The capitalist rulers of the newly independent states were at loggerheads from the start. In 1947 Maharajah Hari Singh, the Hindu ruler of the mainly Muslim Kashmir, was uncertain which state to join but Pakistan occupied Kashmir, while in retaliation Indian troops seized the capital Srinagar until Hari Singh made the state part of India.

A ceasefire in 1949 divided Kashmir between India and Pakistan and set up a “line of control” which, despite minor changes, still separates IOK from POK. Most Kashmiris support independence to some degree. 72% of the mainly Muslim Kashmir Valley’s population wanted independence in a 1995 poll.

But India’s rulers have made IOK into an armed encampment, especially after the huge protests of up to a million demanded self-determination in Srinagar in 1990.

Pakistan’s military rulers have used the permanent Kashmiri crisis to bolster arms spending, particularly at times when Pakistan was not an essential part of US imperialism’s strategy. At other times, US leaders looked the other way – for example when Pakistan began its nuclear programme. Pakistan also uses Kashmir to offer lucrative contracts to retired top army officers.

While these elites get ample rewards, the vast majority of Kashmir’s 13 million population get nothing but bombs, kidnappings, murders and poverty.

The masses of India and Pakistan also suffer. In both countries arms spending far outweighs spending on such basics as health and education. Both countries have six times more soldiers than doctors with hundreds of millions having no access to basic medical services.

Now the destabilisation of the area after the war in Afghanistan has brought new dangers to this conflict.

From The Socialist (Paper of the Socialist Party England & Wales – CWI)