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Harsh Kapoor: Nuclear Neighbours fanning flare-up in Kashmir (fwd)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 19:39:22 +0200
From: Harsh Kapoor <>
Subject: Nuclear Neighbours fanning flare-up in Kashmir

South Asia Citizens Web  - Dispatch
June 15, 1999

# 1. Truth, the first casualty of current Kashmir conflict
# 2. Pakistani Villagers Willing to Wait for Passage to India
# 3. Battles in the Mind


::# 1::

From: The Daily Star (Dhaka),
Editorial Page
Volume 2 Number 292            
Tue. June 15, 1999


Praful Bidwai* writes from New Delhi

 Truth is the first casualty of war. Even though the Kargil conflict is not
war, it is proving this. The government is moving towards censorship. On
June 4, it banned journalists from going to Kargil. Now it says it would
"escort" them selectively. The decision has no logistical rationale.
 Consider the government's record. First, it refused to disclose pertinent
details about the "infiltrators". The vantage-points they occupied were
variously reported at five, eight, and 21. Mysteriously, 10 days into the
air-strikes, the number had increased!

 Second, the [Indian] government banned Pakistan TV. Third, it rejected the
reasonable demand for a Rajya Sabha [Upper house of India's Parliament]
session. Fourth, it gave out conflicting numbers on the "infiltrators"
killed: first 100, later 589, then 500. On May 8, it claimed to have killed
227 Pakistani soldiers, but only produced three bodies.

 Mr George Fernandes's [Indian Defence Minister] record of contradictory
statements is disgraceful. Mr Vajpayee [Indian Prime Minister] has joined
him in denial mode, undermining official credibility. On May 5, Mr Vajpayee
exhorted the media to consider "the impact" of what it writes on the armed
forces' "morale"... "before publishing" it. This was an appeal for

 Ministers are not censorship's sole advocates. Eleven former generals and
bureaucrats have demanded "suspension" of independent analyses of Kargil.
They include, unsurprisingly, the hawk K. Subrahmanyam, and, disturbingly,
two former foreign secretaries.

 They say Kargil "is a test of [the] national will". Hence any "post-mortem
by analysts should be suspended". We must not talk about "any inadequacies
and failures that have led to the crisis". At stake is "our credibility as
a nation."

 This is a plea for suppressing truth and suspending rationality. Unless we
have independent analyses, how will citizens know whether the right
policies are being pursued? Or must we think our leaders always act
competently? Is there no alternative to analyses by sarkari [governmental]
"experts"? The signatories' plea to ban non-sarkari analysts is gross.

 Whom is the goverment trying to fool? Mr Fernandes has done more damage to
the army's morale than our enemies. He helped arms- smugglers in the
Andamans, sacked Admiral Bhagwat [former Chief of the Indian Navy], offered
"safe passage" to infiltrators. This is compounded by diplomatic failure
and Mr Vajpayee's poor leadership.

 The plain truth is, the Right has proved incapable of defending the
nation; it has compromised our security. It is trying to cover up its
failures through media censorship.

 There are two larger issues here. We have reason to be proud of our media.
But it has regrettably spread ignorance and prejudice on issues of security
by towing the official line. In 1962, it reported that our army was fully
prepared to meet the Chinese, when it wasn't. The media was partly to blame
for public shock and disbelief at the outcome of the China war.

 Then the media exaggerated India's defeat and the "Yellow Peril's
villainy". As independent scholars have shown, the war had its origins in
India's impatience with China's attempt to settle its borders in the
post-colonial era according to consistent principles. New Delhi followed an
arrogantly unilateral approach, citing Imperial claims, and refusing

 Yet, the war was less bitter than believed. Indian casualties were less
than during the IPKF operation. The Chinese even oiled Indian firearms
before returning them. They did not take prisoners. However, the picture
from our media is different and foments chauvinism.

 Take the Pakistan 1965 war. It ended not in a decisive defeat for
Pakistan, as the media portrayed, but in a stalemate. In 1986-89 too, the
media was not objective on India's Sri Lanka intervention and the IPKF's
[Indian Peace Keeping Force] poor performance. By being manipulated for
"national honour", the press added to the poverty of public debate.

 The media's litmus-test is not loyalty to officialdom, even arbitrarily
defined "patriotism", but to truth and critical analysis. It must question
and verify official claims and be prepared to cross swords with power.

 This is doubly important in a crisis. It is profoundly wrong to suspend or
abridge the role of the media as mirror of the truth.

 The second larger issue is the link between Kargil and Kashmir. It is
futile to pretend that Kashmir is not a dispute. Numerous UN resolutions
and even the Simla agreement recognise this, although this does not mean
Pakistan should alter the LoC.

 The present crisis partly stems from the festering of the Kashmir dispute
and periodic border skirmishes. It shows how civilians have become victims
of India-Pakistan rivalry. Kargil's Shias have never been part of the
Valley's azadi movement. But they have been turned into refugees. This is
not inevitable.

 The Kashmir problem is amenable to solution. This can come about through
changed Indian and Pakistani mindsets and involvement of the Kashmiri
people in the determination of their fate.
 Kashmir is not just about Partition and the maharajah's refusal to accede
to India until October 1947. Nor is it about Muslim identity. It is about
giving Kashmiris a voice in a just solution to the problem, which enhances
everyone's security. Kashmir's relationship to India and Pakistan must be
settled on a modern, secular, pluralist basis.

 The Kashmiri people's involvement in the conciliation process will
transform its complexion. All concerned will then have to confront the
issues of democracy and plurality in culture and society--outside the
straitjacket of rivalry. This is just what is needed.

 Fortunately, an intra-Kashmiri dialogue across ethnic and political
divides has started. Around the Hague Peace Conference last month, a large
number of Kashmiris, from Pannun Kashmir to pro-Mujahideen, groups met for
the first time. They called for an end to all violence, for free dialogue
between Kashmiris, and return to Kashmir's traditions of peaceful

 This is a positive step. Real progress will come through such moves, not
military conflict with its horrific potential for nuclear

(* The writer is eminent Indian journalist)

::# 2::

From: SAJA E-mail Discussion List
Dissecting American Media Now

The Washington Post
June 14, 1999
Page A18

Pakistani Villagers Willing to Wait for Passage to India

PHOTO: A Pakistani man brews tea outside the Indian mission in
Islamabad as he waits to apply for a visa.

By Pamela Constable

Islamabad, Pakistan--It is well after dark, and outside the Indian High
Commission clusters of people are settling into makeshift camps for the

Under a tarp strung between two saplings, half a dozen sleeping women are
rolled up like cocoons inside their shawls. Nearby, a group of men sits
up, smoking and murmuring as someone brews tea on a little pile of

The men, cotton farmers from Punjab, have been waiting here for more than
a week for an interview inside the commission, the equivalent of an
embassy. If it goes well, they will emerge with permission to travel to

"We don't mind. We are villagers, so we are used to sleeping outside,"
said Tharia Ram, 24, who said he plans to travel three days by train --
from Islamabad to Lahore, across the Indian border to Amritsar, then on to
New Delhi and Jodhpur -- to visit relatives. "I hope things don't get
worse between India and Pakistan, because then all travel could stop."

Ram and the other campers are Pakistani citizens who have applied for
visas to visit India. Despite the current border conflict between the
neighbors over the disputed Kashmir region, the demand for visas is heavy.
Millions of people in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, which was carved out
of northern India to create a homeland for Muslims when Britain gave both
nations independence in 1947, still have roots and relatives in India.

Relations between the two nations have always been tense, and the border
is sealed except for one spot near Lahore. But the Indian and Pakistani
prime ministers met there in February to inaugurate a bus service to New
Delhi, a symbolic gesture that many people in both countries hoped would
offset the long-standing antagonism that reached new heights when both
nations conducted nuclear tests last year.

The Lahore meeting did not alter the rules for travel to India, but it
inspired and emboldened thousands of Pakistanis to visit, some for the
first time. By last month, the Indian High Commission was flooded with
25,000 personal visa requests, far more than it could handle efficiently.
The crowds grew so large that Indian officials began distributing tokens
by lottery to people who line up each day. Each token bears a date for the
person's visa interview, and in theory each person can simply return on
that day.

The reality, however, is that most of the applicants are poor people who
have traveled long distances, especially from the southern port city of
Karachi, where large numbers of Indian Muslims settled after 1947. They
have little money for hotels or return trips, so they simply remain on the
commission grounds until their interview date arrives.

"I was told to come back on June 17, but I don't have any place to go,"
Abdul Kadeer, 37, who sells used clothing in Karachi, said last week. An
uncle died recently in Delhi, and he wants to pay his respects to the

Resting on a cloth mat beside his small satchel, Abdul Kadeer said he had
applied for a visa last year but it was denied. He speculated
half-jokingly that this was because his name is similar to that of Abdul
Qadeer Khan, the scientist most closely associated with Pakistan's nuclear
weapons development. "On the 17th, I will go and explain to them who I
really am," he said.

By day, the encampment outside the Indian diplomatic compound swells to
hundreds of people. Vendors offer rice and lentil stew from metal pots.
Urdu language newspapers are perused and passed on. A baby wails; a cow
wanders over to investigate a pile of garbage. There is nothing to do but
wait, and some people grow angry and impatient.

"My mother is sick, and my husband can't get a visa to go with me to see
her," fumed a 34-year-old woman from India who was waiting with her
Pakistani husband. "We have been coming here for 15 days and they are
disgracing us. I would cook meals and say prayers for everyone if they
would just give him a visa."

A number of people complained that there is no Indian consulate in
Karachi, forcing them to travel 1,000 miles to Islamabad for a visa and
then another 250 miles to Lahore to catch a train or bus. There is one
daily flight between the two countries, but few Pakistanis can afford to
fly. Several waiting applicants also said they had heard that "fixers"
circulate in the area, offering to help desperate people obtain visas for
a fee. This week, the grounds were swarming with plainclothes Pakistani
police agents, but the campers said the police usually leave them alone.

Officials at the Indian High Commission could not be reached for comment;
none of the listed telephone lines appeared to be working. An official at
India's Foreign Ministry in New Delhi said there are few restrictions on
Pakistanis obtaining visas for family visits, but that often there are
delays because of a staff shortage at the commission in Islamabad. He said
Pakistan has severely limited the number of Indians who can work on the
commission staff.

By far the most frequent gripe among the waiting applicants was that no
latrines or portable bathrooms had been installed outside the building,
forcing people to hide behind bushes and walls. "There are women and
children here, and we have some honor," complained Khairun Nisa, a Karachi
sack stitcher and mother of 11 who has been sleeping at the compound for
several days. "I would rather set fire to my visa than go through this."

CAPTION: A Pakistani man brews tea outside the Indian mission in
Islamabad as he waits to apply for a visa.

:: # 3 ::
[A recent paper by the prominent Indian Journalist Teesta Seetalvad;
Unfortunately no exact date or publication source is available. The below
paper was written just before the June 12, 1999 visit by Pakistan Foreign
minister for talks with the Indian govt.].


By Teesta Setalvad

Real battles are fought and won in the mind. For both Pakistan and India,
with equally rigid mind-sets, the current conflict along the LOC offers
another fortuitous occasion to bombard their people with mutually hardened
positions on the one issue that begs urgent resolution -- the Kashmir
dispute. The opening of a war front in Kargil could not have come at a more
opportune time for the political leadership in both countries. In Pakistan,
Nawaz Sharif's government, that has faced world censure for blatant human
rights' violations over the past few months, Kargil provides a welcome
diversion. For the Indian caretaker Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee
and his party, nationalism plus Sonia's [Sonia Gandhi] foreign origins will
be the potent magic potion to be dished out to the nation before the
forthcoming polls. For Pakistan, responsible for this provocation, the
commitment to support Kashmiri 'freedom fighters' in their revolt against
Indian repression, runs deep - it stems from the Pakistani establishment's
ideological resolve to complete the 'unfinished agenda of Partition'.

 The very basis of the two-nation theory has been seriously challenged
within Pakistan itself and what we have today is a thoroughly dismembered
state, but Kashmir still manages to recapture much of this lost sentiment.
The Qaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah's derision for the Kashmiri people (he
had dubbed the Quit Kashmir movement of the Muslim-majority Kashmiris
against Maharaja Hari Singh as a movement of goondas!) is conveniently
forgotten. What is being pursued with single-minded devotion is not just a
territorial proxy war but also an attempt to impose the highly regimental
Wahabi Islam on a valley renowned for its Rishism (Sufism). Schools and
madarsas run by the local Jamaat-e-Islami have been systematically used in
a continuing attempt to transform the local struggle for Kashmiriyat to
visions of life under Nizam-e-Mustafa (The Order of the Prophet). For
India, too, the discourse in the past week has cynically charted familiar
territory. The emphatic assertions about the territorial sovereignty and
integrity of the Indian nation resound with a hollow arrogance, echoing
through the perceptible absence of any Kashmiri voice in the present
discourse. The government's, the mainstream print media's and television
channels' black out of the voices of the young leader of the Jammu and
Kashmir Liberation Front, Yasin Mallik and senior Kashmiri leader, Shabbir
Shah from available public spaces is predictable given the surge of
patriotic fervour that such conflicts engender. But also absent are the
views of a Balraj Puri (a senior citizen of Jammu and an ardent advocate of
sanity and dialogue) or a Saifuddin Soz, senior MP representing the
National Conference. The absence of a wide spectrum of other local opinion
from the region, and in that category I would include representatives of
ousted Kashmiri Pandits, is a sorry comment on the dearth of democratic
space available here. Why would India be at all committed, morally or
otherwise, to promises made to the Kashmiri people in 1947, 1950, 1953 and
1975 when it cannot trust the state with even the bare trappings of
democratic governance? The only free and fair elections to that state were
in 1977, results of which aroused a Valley-wide euphoria.

 This legally elected government was yet again, cynically dismissed by the
Centre. Going back even further, even the 'Lion of Kashmir', Sheikh
Abdullah, was humiliated by his most trusted friend and India's first Prime
Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Despite a personal commitment to the region,
even Nehru could not overcome his suspicions about the Kashmiri Muslims'
allegiance to India. How much of these suspicions that have only hardened
over the last 50 years have to do with the fact that the avowedly secular
Indian state, under both Congress and non-Congress governments, barely
trusts the people of a sensitively located region, basically because they
are overwhelmingly Muslim? A failure to confront this history has been
reflected in the past and continuing conduct of both the government and our
troops deployed in the Valley. What comes to mind is more than just the
enormity of the human loss, tragedies that have gone un-mourned by the rest
of India. The cynical disregard for both the local people and their beliefs
can be particularly observed from the Indian state's apparent equanimity
despite the systematic destruction, since 1989, of over 16 revered local
shrines dedicated to Rishis, symbolic of inherently Kashmiri, Sufi Islam.
The Amarnath yatra has become for all Indians, not just the pilgrims who
dare to make it there, an annual test of our military control over the
Valley. Television images of Hindu pilgrims braving the militants' fire in
defence of their faith are both soothing and reassuring. But when
Charar-e-Sharif, a glorious, all-wood shrine en route to Yusmarg in the
Valley was gutted, the Indian government did not even order an official
enquiry. Folklore in the Valley, however, still revolves around the
relationship between Sheikh Noor Adam and a Shaivite priestess, Rishi
Laleshwari, though the bitterness against an unfeeling government simmers.
Another 14th century shrine, Khanqah at Tral, 39 kilometers south of
Srinagar, very dear to the local people apart from being a symbol of the
Valley's composite culture was similarly gutted by a mysterious fire on
December 18, 1997. The list of betrayals appears endless. There has been
not even superficial effort at healing bitter wounds. When Pakistan's
foreign minister steps on Indian soil, the 'dialogue' will chart familiar
territory. Both the Pakistanis and their Indian counterparts appear united
in one resolve -- keeping the talks at a bilateral level, excluding any
representative from the region, despite their lip-service to tripartite
talks in the last two years. Whether this exercise remains an exercise in
utter futility and formality, or whether the meeting actually signals a
greater maturity in tackling issues between prickly neighbours, depends
critically on whether representatives of Kashmiris and also Jammu and
Ladhakh are heard over the gunfire.

(The writer edits Communalism Combat and is a core group member of the
Pak-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy writing in her individual