Jingoist Propaganda can lead to War and Destruction of the region

Cartoon: The Hindu
Cartoon: The Hindu
Cartoon: The Hindu

The recent firing at the Line of Control (LOC), demarcating the Indian held Kashmir (Jammu & Kashmir or IOK) and Pakistani held Kashmir (Azad Kashmir or POK) has once again brought into focus the fragile peace relations between India and Pakistan. According to a report in The Hindu, what started the current round of escalation in tensions was a seemingly innocuous incident involving a 70 year old women who crossed the LOC in September from the Indian side (at Charonda Village near Uri) to the Pakistani side to be with her sons and thus exposing the porous borders along the heavily militarized zone

India-Pakistan: Escalating Tensions

This sparked off a flurry of activity on the Indian side with the construction of observation bunkers along the LOC at Charonda that was barred according to the cease fire agreement signed between India and Pakistan in 2003. Predictably this action on the Indian side was met by warnings from the Pakistani side, later followed by firing and shelling along the border that have been on and off ever since. Matters came to a head on 6th January when a Pakistani soldier was shot dead and another critically injured by firing from the Indian side, the details of which remain unclear because of conflicting versions from both the sides.

This sparked off retaliation from the Pakistani army on 8th January crossing the border over to Indian side and brutally killing two soldiers. While the manner of killing of the two Indian troops remains a question mark (given the highly secretive nature of these skirmishes), what has suddenly sparked the jingoistic clamour in India were the reports first in the media and later claims from the Indian government sources that one of the soldiers was beheaded and the other badly mutilated by Pakistani troops.

BJP trying to bake its Beans!

Cartoon on Arnab Goswami by Satish Acharya
Cartoon on Arnab Goswami by Satish Acharya

Leading the charge for a strong Indian retaliation to this army excess by Pakistan have been the Indian mainstream media led by the likes of Arnab Goswami{{1}} & co- well known for their highly vituperative coverage of events that usually borders on right-wing nationalism. While the Congress led UPA{{2}} government have kept a mischievous silence over the whole issue sticking to the time-honoured diplomatic response (the war by other means), on the opposition benches the incident has given the main opposition party – the communal/ Hindu nationalistic BJP{{3}} and its ilk, an issue to harp upon to what has been till now a downhill for the party.

The left have tended to stick to their oft repeated dry statements with emphasis on talks on both sides without going much further than that. For instance, the statement of Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, CPI(M){{4}} secretary of J&K stated “ “The border skirmishes, whatever be the cause, risk the prosperity and security of two countries that have far more in common than areas of suspicion and discard,” sounds nothing more than a statement of the capitalist establishment which is only worried about the – growth, prosperity and profits!

With the LOC continuing to remain tense, the diplomatic war continues. While on a seemingly broader plane there appears to be efforts to normalize ‘status quo’ relationship as it existed previously, there are forces on both the sides who would not mind a low scale war given the tumultuous period both the regions are going through presently. The diplomatic relations have not been the same since the Mumbai attacks on November 2008. The recent visit by the Pakistani Interior minister – Rehman Malik in December 2012 was perceived by one and all as huge flop show from the very beginning.

With the Pakistani army bogged down in an internal war along its western border, the threat of jihadist/ Islamic fundamentalism looming large and an economy that is close to collapse, analysts may wonder whether it has the stomach to conduct even a low scale war along its eastern front on the issue of Kashmir. Given the fault-lines between the so called civilian government of Zardari/ PPP{{5}} and the Army/ ISI{{6}}, the army backed by reactionary elements within the establishment may decide to act on their own in a desperate attempt to salvage national opinion on the issue of Kashmir to divert the attention of the masses from the hell hole that is Pakistan.

From the Indian establishment point of view, while the government has been talking tough diplomatically speaking, it remains to be seen how things evolve. While an all out war is ruled out as things stand out at present, but the ruling establishment may not be averse to continuing with the low scale exchanges of fire across the border or even a full scale diplomatic war such as breaking off relations with Pakistan so as to project Pakistan as an eternal enemy and sponsor of terrorism/ fundamentalism, as a build up to next year elections.

This would very much suit the Indian establishment given the absolute trust deficit it suffers as a result of its hugely unpopular neo-liberal reforms, massive corruption scandals that has rocked the Indian ruling class in the last 3 years and the recent government handling of the rape issue that has completely alienated the salaried middle classes and other sections from the present Congress govt. This is not the first time that the Indian or Pakistani establishment has sought to divert attention of the masses from the more pressing issues on the ground. This is a time tested tactic of divide and rule that both the ruling class have inherited from their British predecessors and they will play it to the hilt to manipulate public opinions to continue their oppressive rule.

indo-pakFutility of “Talks”

What this incident has exposed once again is the fragile peace process that can break any-time. The conflict over Kashmir is an inheritance of the British Raj that has deliberately been carried over till the present time to maintain the feudal-capitalist oppression of the masses on both sides of the divide. The story of the old women crossing the border, whose family has been broken because of the conflict, speaks volumes on the countless tragedies that has befallen the people of that region.

The ruling classes of both the countries imagine such artificially created divisions between the people can be switched on and off as per their convenience. But the reality is both the countries actually risk a much wider escalation of conflict that gets even more uglier with the huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons that could virtually wipe out the entire South Asian region.

While we welcome any genuine initiatives from the people on both sides of the divide to continue with the peace process, we do not believe the oppressive ruling classes of the region genuinely seek peace or what’s more solve the issue over Kashmir. All the vested interests in the region are threatened by the fact that the heightened political consciousness of the people of Jammu & Kashmir would settle for nothing less than ‘freedom’ from all the oppressors around: India, Pakistan and China.

If the ruling classes is genuinely interested in peace, why the increased defence spending every year. For instance, India increased its defence spending in the last year budget to $44 bn (2.7% GDP) ranking it at 8th among the top military spenders, while its Human Development Index ranks it at an abysmal 134 way behind some of the poorest countries of the world. The same is true for Pakistan as well.

Capitalism which should have long ago solved the national question, or the land question for that matter, has outlived its usefulness and today capitalism seeks to profit itself from these very national divisions. One major beneficiary are the multinational defence industries that have hugely benefited from the increasing budgetary allocation every year towards defence.

Brutal Indian Military Occupation

Kashmir Valley has been under brutal military occupation since the popular uprising that erupted against Indian Rule in 1989. This “paradise on earth” has turned into a valley of blood. At least 40,000 people have been killed since insurgency began in 1989, according to conservative estimates. Unofficially the estimates are well over 80,000 and over half of them civilians. Thousands of Indian soldiers have been killed and it costs crores of rupees to keep the security forces in Kashmir.

The Indian government has promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the army unlimited powers. They can shoot to kill, arrest at will and invade the privacy of homes without warrant or showing any reason. This has resulted in innumerable cases of human rights abuses as the army fears no law and in fact, in Kashmir and areas of North Eastern India, the army is the law!

No to War between India and Pakistan ! Yes to War against Capitalism and Lanlordism!

It is very clear that the working people on both sides have nothing to gain from this warmongering that only serve interests of the wealthy capitalist and feudal elements of the region that only want to prolong their oppressive rule. A war, even on a very limited scale or otherwise, will be a disaster for the people of both the regions and it gets even more deadly with the threat of use of nuclear weapons. This warmongering is nothing more than a reflection of the profound crisis – socially, economically and politically – facing the entire region.

One shudders to recall the 2001–2002 India–Pakistan military standoff that resulted in the massing of troops on either side of the International Border (IB) and along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir. This was the second major military standoff between India and Pakistan following the successful detonation of nuclear bomb by both countries in 1998. The other was the Kargil War in 1999.

The military build up was initiated by India responding to the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 during which twelve people, including the five men who attacked the building, were killed. Both India and Pakistan armed with nuclear weapons, the possibility of a conventional war escalating into a nuclear one was raised several times during the stand-off.

Not a Rupee for Warmongering!

Not a single rupee should go into this war efforts in both the countries. Instead efforts should be made by the working class of both the regions to mobilize public opinions against any form of warmongering or even the current continuation of hostilities along the LOC.

We, New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India), absolutely condemn the brutal killing of the Indian soldiers along the LoC. We appeal to the ordinary rank and file soldiers of the army on both sides, who are no more than workers in uniform. We appeal to them, not to get sucked into the war jingoism of the top army brass/ politicians and efforts, instead turn their guns against the respective regimes. We call upon rank and file soldiers in both the armies to form committees to co-operate with the anti-war efforts of the working class and poor in both the counties.

The Marxist- Socialist forces coming under the banner of Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), active in over 40 countries around the world, with forces in the South Asian region – New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India), Pakistan Socialist Movement (CWI-Pakistan), United Socialist Party (CWI-Sri Lanka) and China Worker (CWI-China) fighting against Capitalism, Landlordism and Imperialism will actively campaign to mobilize public opinion against any war efforts and struggle for revolutionary peace.

We stand for the right of self determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and the people of the North East. Only a united struggle of the working class and the poor of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on the programme of a voluntary Socialist Confederation of the Subcontinent can bring a revolutionary change to all the nationalities struggling against capitalism, landordism and dictatorships.

New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India)

[[1]] Arnab Goswami is a news anchor and editor in chief of the News Channel Times Now. For more on Arnab Goswami and his style of media journalism, read this very interesting article in Caravan Magazine – Fast And Furious: The turbulent reign of Arnab Goswami [[1]]

[[2]] United Progressive Alliance[[2]]
[[3]] Bharatiya Janata Party [[3]]
[[4]] Communist Party of India (Marxist) [[4]]
[[5]] Pakistan People’s Party[[5]]
[[6]] Inter-Services Intelligence [[6]]