‘China Has Never Been Out Of The Situation In Kashmir’

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Naeem Akhtar (Facebook)

‘China has Decided to Become a World Power, India a Hindu Rashtra’

SENIOR PDP leader Naeem Akhtar is one of the fewer mainstream leaders in the Valley who has continued to express his opinion after his release from detention and subsequent eviction from the official residence. In an interview with Kashmir Observer, Akhtar talks about the evolving situation in J&K and the new geopolitical challenges impacting it and India as a whole

Q. How do you look at the current Kashmir situation?

A. It is an emerging situation, one can’t say anything. But Kashmir is under pressure. Everything is being let loose on this place.

Q. Government has issued clarifications about the new law that enables conversion of any place in J&K into a strategic area?

A. They are issuing clarifications about the new law which provides for branding some areas as strategic in nature. Last year too they were making clarifications, saying they were taking security measures for Amarnath Yatra. Then yatra was cancelled half way through its period for the first time in history. The government faces a great credibility crisis among the people of Kashmir.

But in India you have decided to convert a flourishing and inclusive democracy into a Hindu Rashtra. You didn’t need even to change the constitution for that. There has been the Kashmir experiment. Kashmir experiment can now be extended to rest of the country.

Q. What do you think will be the long term fallout of the India-China stand-off along the LAC in Ladakh?

A. It is not specifically about this stand-off. It is about how a new strategic challenge is shaping up for India. South is closed, east is closed, west is closed. Can such a huge country create any strategic influence in the modern world without friendly relations with its neighbours and the consequent access to the wider world through them?

Then new blocks are being created in the neighborhood. You have China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The difference between India and China is what Rahul Gandhi also pointed out in his recent video: China has decided it has to become a world power, that it has to control the world. They have achieved that in 70 years. But India in 2014 decided it has to become a Hindurashtra. That’s their vision.

This has created a huge asymmetry between the two countries. The asymmetry is not between their forces like how many fighter planes each country has. Didn’t Vietnam defeat China in border war? This is about what is your national vision.

China has rediscovered the power of land routes. It was for a long time that sea was used for trade. China thinks big. These land routes are going to reshape the world. This change is happening after 2000 years. India is out of it. There’s a new strategic reality that is shaping up.

But in India you have decided to convert a flourishing and inclusive democracy into a Hindu Rashtra. You didn’t need even to change the constitution for that. There has been the Kashmir experiment. Kashmir experiment can now be extended to rest of the country.

Q. What about India’s relations with Pakistan?

A. Unless this western front is open to India, it will be incomplete. Any national ambition will not fructify. when you are barred from a relationship with the countries in your West with which you have had a long historical relationship like Iran and central Asia. It is an inflection point for India where the country has to decide whether it has to close itself up or open up to the neighborhood in its West.

Q. But India has neighbourhood in the east too?

A. In the neighborhood, if you have any problem with Bangladesh, no issues, Bangladesh ends there, beyond Bangladesh you have no strategic interest. But beyond Pakistan you have all the strategic interest. Here you have been trying to go through Chabahar, go through air to Afghanistan, go by sea to Gulf. The world is there on the west, not on the east, no matter the Look East policy.

Q. Can India now open up without joining BRI?

A. India can open up through Pakistan. And it has to sooner or later. There’s no helping that. That is the reality. This we have to face. Today or hundred years from now.

Q. There have been noises in India about annexing Pakistni side of Kashmir?

A. Is that doable? Pakistan is virtually a province of China. It is commanded by one person called General Bajwa. China has one commander in Tibet, one commander in Pakistan.

Besides, more we alienate Pakistan, more shall we push them into Chinese lap. And we will be allowing ourselves to be encircled by a great wall of China on all the sides – north, east, west.

I think there were two occasions when Modi could have risen to the level of statesman, even greater than Nehru: one was November 7, 2015 rally in Kashmir when he had 30,000 strong Muslim crowd of Kashmir, all wanting to hear one word, peace. But no, he said to his ally who was to die in two months, that I don’t need anybody’s advice on Kashmir.

Q. Isn’t India’s relations with Pakistan at a point of no return because of revocation of the annulment of Article 370 in Kashmir?

A. I think it is a question of statesmanship still. Suddenly the Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided one day he should go and see Nawaz Sharif, who stopped him?

I think there were two occasions when Modi could have risen to the level of statesman, even greater than Nehru: one was November 7, 2015 rally in Kashmir when he had 30,000 strong Muslim crowd of Kashmir, all wanting to hear one word, peace. But no, he said to his ally who was to die in two months, that I don’t need anybody’s advice on Kashmir.

Second was in the CAA protests when thousands of Muslims were at Jamia Masjid in New Delhi, both Muslims and Hindus, holding Indian tricolour. A prime minister could have gone and seized that historic moment. Fundamental problem in India has been integration. The anti-CAA protest had been the highest moment of integration of Indians and they swore by the Indian constitution. At that time, if the prime minister would have gone and reached out to Muslims at Jamia Masjid and told them that what Maulana Azad had told you at the mosque in 1947 was not perhaps right and that I am with you.

Q. Also, if he had taken the process forward with Pakistan?

A. Yes, ultimately we have to do business with Pakistan. Things are not going to move forward otherwise. Besides, Pakistan is the only willing party in this. China has shown, it is not going to deal with India honourably. And it won’t also be possible for Pakistan to open up to India indefinitely.

Q. Because of China factor?

A. I have this belief that China has been sabotaging India, Pakistan relationship. If we go by events that took place at the hands of Jaish-e-Mohammad and the way China protected Masood Azhar, it becomes clear. The way Masood Azhar was got freed from Kashmir jail through hijacking, and how it was managed in Afghanistan. Then see when Narendra Modi went to meet Nawaz Sharif, a week after there was Pathankot. That’s my point, China has never been out of the situation in Kashmir.

I have this belief that China has been sabotaging India, Pakistan relationship.The way Masood Azhar was got freed from Kashmir jail through hijacking, and how it was managed in Afghanistan. Then see when Narendra Modi went to meet Nawaz Sharif, a week after there was Pathankot.

Q. You attribute Pathankot to China?

A. Yes. Why did they (China) adopt Masood Azhar only. Why not Hafiz Saeed and Salahuddin? Unfortunately this country’s strategic community is numbed. They don’t want to see where the reality is. They want to say anything that is in line with the political thinking of the ruling class.

Q. Where do you see the situation in Kashmir going?

A. Geopolitics changes. Kashmiris didn’t own a single marla of land hundred years ago. In Central Asian states who were part of the USSR, religion was banned, mosques were demolished, Russian population was settled there. History took a turn. Now, they are again Muslim states.

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