Forget Libya or Syria. Worry About Kashmir!
by Eric Margolis: Take
Up the White Man’s Burden
remember Kashmir? Well, we certainly should. If nuclear war ever
breaks out, the most likely place would be in Kashmir.
state of Kashmir lies in majestic isolation amid the towering mountain
ranges of the Himalayas and Karakoram that separate the torrid plains
of north India from the steppes and deserts of Central Asia.
Century geopoliticians called Kashmir one of the world’s primary
strategic pivots. My book War
at the Top of the World was written to help warn of the
manifest dangers coming from this complex, little-known confrontation
which is the world’s longest running border conflict.
The state human
rights commission of the Indian-ruled portion of divided Kashmir
just reported its investigators had found 2,156 bodies buried in
unmarked graves in 38 different locations. Most were young men.
Many bore bullets wounds.
horrifying as this discovery was, there was hardly a peep from India’s
allies, notably the United States and Britain, who have raised such
a hue and cry over alleged civilian deaths in Libya, Iran and Syria.
India shrugged off the report.
There may be
many more bodies to be found. Most, or all, were the product of
the decades-old uprising by Kashmir’s Muslim majority against often
brutal Indian rule that the outside world has largely ignored.
with its distinctive Indo-European and Tibetan-Mongol peoples, has
ended up divided between three nations: India, Pakistan, and China.
Some nine million
Kashmiris live in the Indian-ruled two thirds of Kashmir; over three
million in the Pakistani portion, known as "Azad Kashmir,"
or in Pakistan proper, and small numbers in the frigid, 15,000-20,000
ft high Aksai Chin plateau which is controlled by China.
people mostly live in Indian-controlled Ladakh, long called "Little
Tibet." There, Tibetan culture has fared far better under Indian
rule than in Chinese-ruled Tibet.
Britain divided India in 1947, the Hindu maharaja of Kashmir opted
to join the new Indian Union. But 77% of his people were Muslim
(20% were Hindu, 3% Sikh and Buddhist). Muslim Kashmiris wanted
to join newly-created Pakistan. Fighting erupted. India and Pakistan
rushed in troops.
line that ended the fighting has become the de facto border between
the Indian and Pakistani ruled parts of Kashmir. India claims all
of Kashmir, including Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin. Pakistan also
claims all of Kashmir. In 1948, the United Nations called for a
plebiscite in Kashmir to decide this issue. Pakistan accepted; India
refused the UN resolution.
and Pakistan have fought three full-scale wars over Kashmir and
innumerable border clashes, some of which I have witnessed. Last
week, three Pakistani soldiers were killed on Kashmir’s de facto
border (called the Line of Control) by Indian fire.
of thousands of Pakistani and Indian troops confront one another
on Kashmir’s cease-fire line, and further south in the plains of
Punjab. They are backed by growing numbers of tactical nuclear weapons
that are on a three-minute hair-trigger alert, making Kashmir the
world’s most dangerous border.
have resisted Indian rule since 1947. In the early 1990’s, massive
uprisings erupted against Indian rule, which was enforced by 500,000
troops and ill-disciplined paramilitary police. Pakistan’s intelligence
service, ISI, began training Kashmir "mujahidin" and sending
them across the border to reinforce the uprising. But Pakistan’s
covert support waned after 9/11.
blamed the uprising on "cross-border terrorism." Indian
security forces struck back with maximum brutality, leading India’s
human rights groups to denounce the repression.
were burned; suspects were tortured; Muslim women were gang-raped
by Indian border police; large numbers of young Muslim men were
taken from villages and simply disappeared.
Now we know
where they went - filling many of the unmarked graves discovered
80,000 Kashmiris have so far died in the uprising, the majority
Muslims. Muslims also committed bloody atrocities against Hindus
and Sikhs. Now, Indian rights groups are demanding that India’s
high courts investigate the crimes that have been committed in Kashmir,
put an end to them, and punish the guilty parties.
moral outrage on our part is unacceptable. India’s allies must encourage
Delhi to face this ugly issue and end this blight on India’s democracy
and good name. The outside world has to tell Delhi that if it wants
to be a respected world power and have a seat on the UN Security
Council, it must end the killing and torture in Kashmir. Pakistan
must be reminded to stop stirring the pot.
the Kashmir dispute will eliminate the gravest danger faced by mankind:
an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange that could kill an estimated
2 million initially, 100 million thereafter, and spread clouds of
radioactive dust around the globe.
poisoned relations between sister nations Pakistan and India who
are hopelessly locked in this sterile conflict. Desperately poor
India and Pakistan waste tens of billions on military spending because
of Kashmir. Clever Indian diplomacy has long kept the Kashmir conflict
in the shadows.
Time now for
the world to get involved. The solution: let all the borders fade
away. Turn Kashmir into an autonomous, demilitarized free trade
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
Best of Eric Margolis