Drawing Parallels

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Reminding the people of Kashmir that “It was on this day in 1947 when Indian forces forcibly took control of our mother land,” the United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen  supremo Syed Sallahudin has called upon them to observe complete shutdown on October 27 to express solidarity with the ongoing movement. Drawing parallels between Afghanistan, Iraq and Kashmir, he has also reiterated that “It were the sacrifices of Mujahideen and the freedom loving people that actually forced Russians to quit Afghanistan and Americans to withdraw its forces from Iraq.” While there is distinct sense of unmitigated conviction in his assertion, the only problem is that while one may draw parallels with the greatest of accuracy, the fact remains that that parallels never meet.

Ever since the Kalashnikov first made its entry into Kashmir over two decades ago, there has been much debate on the usefulness of an ‘armed struggle’ in getting us ‘azadi’. However, while one cannot predict its efficacy in the times to come, one thing is certain- it has certainly not worked until now and there are no indications that it would, in the near future. There is no doubt that armed resurrections have succeeded elsewhere, but then, Kashmir is no Afghanistan or Iraq. Readers will recall that the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan primarily because it realised that it was foolish to continue suffering losses for the sake of a country that was not theirs and the Americans felt the same in Iraq. However, since India claims Kashmir to be its ‘integral’ part and despite the UN resolutions, obstinately defends this unilateral view, it has no option but to hold on to J&K at all costs.

Another reason for Russia and America to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq was the mounting domestic opposition to the large number of its military personnel being killed, maimed or injured in what was perceived by the public to be a ‘senseless war’. During its nine years in Afghanistan, Russia lost about 15000 soldiers, while around 35000 of its military personnel were injured and this averages to more than 1500 deaths and 3500 injuries annually.  In Iraq, the American armed forces casualties were more than 4000 personnel killed and 32000 wounded, which averages an annual casualty rate of more than 450 killed and about 3,500 injured. With its present military capability, it is very unlikely that the HM as well as the other constituent members of the UJC would be able inflict such heavy losses on the Indian security forces. Even if they are able to do so, unlike for the Russian and American public which had little love lost for Afghanistan or Iraq, Kashmir is an emotional issue for Indians and for its sake, no ‘sacrifice’ is considered too much. 

The mujahideen succeeded in Afghanistan, as they were armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons that included the deadly ‘stinger’ anti-aircraft missiles. In addition, they also had access to precise military information regarding Soviet troops, thanks to the information acquired through US satellites and advanced military interception facilities, which were freely made available to them by the CIA. In Iraq, the Americans suffered heavily as they were faced with a host of indigenous terrorist outfits with divergent ideological and sectarian backgrounds, as well as foreign groups- with Iran allegedly playing the role of their benefactor, just as America had done during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Therefore, if Syed Sallahudin is determined to take the ‘armed struggle’ to its logical conclusion a la Afghanistan and Iraq, then he has only two options. The first would be to replicate the ‘Afghanistan model’ by getting the wholehearted military support of a nation capable of providing an unlimited supply of modern weapons to his mujahideens and the second, by adopting the ‘Iraq model’ which would entail enlisting the support of foreign militant groups.

While America, on account of its influential position in the international community could disregard world opinion and openly support the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, no ‘lesser’ nation would ever risk international ostracisation by following this example. Thus, Sallaudin has only one option left for waging a ‘meaningful’ armed struggle in Kashmir and that is by inviting foreign terrorist groups to join the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. This is a distinct possibility, as there is precedence of ‘mehmaan mujahideen’ (‘Guest’ fighters) fighting the security forces in Kashmir and with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, there would be no dearth of such mujahideen who would readily be willing to oblige. However, this option will obviously come with ‘strings attached’, as the foreign fighters would be fighting for the cause of establishing their religious ideologies and not for the purpose of giving the Kashmiris their ‘right to self determination’. 

The ‘armed struggle’ has caused numerous deaths and immense destruction while giving New Delhi the much-required justification for its huge military presence in Kashmir. The international community does acknowledge that J&K is the most “militarised zone” in the world and the Amnesty International does regularly issue statements like, “Indian authorities must take responsibility and initiate independent, impartial prompt and efficient investigations into serious allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.”  Yet, the fact of the matter is that besides offering occasional sympathy, no one is taking any concrete measures to resolve the issue, which, as per the European Union’s has converted Kashmir into a “beautiful prison.” 

In light of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “keeping snakes in the backyard” comment and President Obama’s recent refusal for US intervention to resolve the Kashmir issue as requested by Nawaz Sharif, the time has come for serious introspection on use of violence as part of the movement for the ‘right to self determination’. Sallahudin until now has shown no inclination towards calling-off his ‘armed struggle’ and one needs to respect his unwavering conviction and deep sense of commitment towards the Kashmir cause. However, there is also a crying need making major changes in the strategy of the ongoing struggle so as to gain greater international support for this cause and thus it is incumbent on the intelligentsia and civil society to intervene and attempt to persuade the adamant UJC chief and Hizb supremo to reconsider his stand. And if Sallahudin does introspect on the role of his ‘armed struggle’ then he would realise its futility as well as the immense import of his own perceptive observation that, “We are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir!” 

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