India/Pakistan conflict: Only Socialism Can End the ‘Madness Of War’

GLOBETROTTING TONY Blair has jetted off in a bid to avert a looming military conflict between Pakistan and India. But it is the US-led Afghan war – backed by ‘lieutenant’ Blair – that has further destabilised central Asia, risking an India/Pakistan war.

IN THE most serious conflict between the two nuclear powers since the Kargil mountain war in 1999, both the Indian and Pakistani ruling classes have put their countries on a war footing.

Over the European holiday period dozens of lives were lost in cross-border skirmishes. Tens of thousands of poverty stricken Indians and Pakistanis workers and peasants have fled villages in the border areas.

A new regional war (there have been three since independence from Britain in 1947 – the last one in 1971) could escalate from using conventional weapons to an exchange of nuclear bombs, killing millions in both countries and in occupied Kashmir.

This deadly scenario has alarmed Western imperialism. Under US pressure, Pakistan’s dictator General Pervez Musharraf has arrested Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the head of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba Islamist group.

These militants are suspected of involvement in the suicide bombing attack outside the state legislature in Srinigar, Indian Occupied Kashmir, which killed 38 people and the 13 December attack on the Indian Parliament in Delhi which left 14 dead.

The Indian coalition government has taken advantage of the new power relations in the region since the US-led war against Afghanistan in its response to the bomb attack on the Parliament. The Pakistani regime has emerged from that conflict in a weaker position.

But while the US and British governments are hoping they can defuse tensions between India and Pakistan at this week’s regional summit, India’s Prime Minister AB Vajpayee has increased the stakes by demanding that Musharraf arrest and hand over to India 20 ‘terrorists’. (Vajpayee’s BJP-led governing coalition is determined to beat the drum of Hindu chauvinism ahead of important regional elections.)

Wasted resources

Musharraf has subsequently arrested 50 members of ‘Jehadi’ Islamic groups. But if Musharraf is forced to make too many concessions then he could be removed by more hardline Islamic elements within the military which would make another Indo-Pakistan war even more likely.

The spiralling of military spending in both India and Pakistan alongside the existence of mass poverty is an example of the sickness of capitalism at its most obscene. 370 million people in India and Pakistan live on less than $1 a day. Between 1990-96 the governments of these two countries wasted $70 billion on arms compared to only $12 billion spent on education.

This latest conflict is a continuation of the decades long struggle by both the Indian and Pakistani ruling classes to control Kashmir and to dominate the region. In Indian Occupied Kashmir the Indian rulers have resisted demands for Kashmiri self-determination and act as a brutal occupying power. Likewise in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir the Pakistan ruling class oppresses the working class.

With the military build-up on both sides of the border some political observers are predicting a descent into war. This will have severe implications for markets and the profits of big business but above all it will be the working masses who will pay a hefty price.

As a Kashmiri socialist recently explained (Socialism Today, July/August 2001): “The only durable solution to the madness of war hanging over the masses of the subcontinent, the poverty, hunger, disease, and oppression, is to overthrow capitalism and feudalism. This struggle would have to be linked with the struggle for the national liberation of the Kashmiri people for a united, independent and socialist Kashmir, as part of a voluntary federation of socialist India and Pakistan.”

The task facing socialists in the sub-continent is to build mass working-class movements based on these ideas.

From The Socialist (Socialist Party England & Wales – CWI)