India threatening to take US’ Iraq war as a model for action against Pakistan

Yashwant Sinha, India’s external affairs minister, has joined the fire-breathing Indian home minister L K Advani in threatening a “pre-emptive strike” against Pakistan over Kashmir. In an interview published in the Hindustan Times on April 6, Sinha repeated the threat which had first been carried by the French news agency, Agence France Presse (AFP), three days earlier.

The Indian threat, equating America’s attack on Iraq with Delhi’s intention to attack Pakistan, provoked an immediate reaction from the US: state department spokesperson Joanne Prokopowicz discounted such a comparison. In diplomatic language, Prokopowicz made it clear that the two situations were widely different. Even while recognizing the “very serious nature” of the situation in Kashmir, the state department spokesperson said that “Indian officials have recently speculated that the US pre-emptive action in Iraq could be seen as a justification of similar action by India against Pakistan over Kashmir. Any attempts to draw parallels between the Iraq and the Kashmir situations are wrong and overwhelmed by the differences between them.”

It is interesting to note that while India has expressed opposition to the US attack on Iraq, it nevertheless wants to use the same “doctrine” to attack Pakistan. Indian hysteria is based on its complete failure to subdue the 13-year uprising in Kashmir, where an estimated 85,000 people, mostly civilians, have been murdered by the 700,000-strong Indian army of occupation. The anger of the Kasmiris again spilled onto the streets of Srinagar on April 4, to protest the killing of Saiful Islam, chief of operations and deputy commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, by Indian troops two days earlier. The strike call, given by the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) and Hizbul Mujahideen, led to a complete shutdown of the city. All shops, schools and businesses were closed, while there was little traffic on the streets of Srinagar and other towns; most government and semi-government offices were also closed. K. Rajendra, inspector-general of police in Indian-occupied Kashmir, claimed that the killing of Saiful Islam near Pohru locality on the outskirts of Srinagar was a major boost to India’s anti-militancy operations.

Although the death of a senior commander is undoubtedly a setback to the resistance struggle, the Indians can draw little comfort from it. The day after Saiful Islam was killed, the Hizbul Mujahideen announced that Naseeruddin would replace him as the new commander. “Ghazi Naseeruddin will be Hizb’s new chief commander of operations in Kashmir,” the group said in a statement issued in Srinagar on April 3. Meanwhile Hizb’s command council, led by Syed Salahudin, met in Azad Kashmir on April 3 and vowed to continue the armed struggle, according to a statement carried by the AFP. A great many Kashmiri mujahideen leaders and commanders have been martyred during the last 13 years, but such losses have only strengthened the resolve of the Kashmiri people.

Saiful Islam’s death on April 2 (his real name is Ghulam Hassan Khan) once again highlights Kashmiris’ struggle under Indian occupation. Barely ten days earlier Abdul-Majid Dar, the former area commander, had been gunned down in his brother’s home in Sopore. Dar was sacked from his post last May because he violated the collective decision-making process of the Hizb Command Council. Dar had declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Indian occupation forces in July 2000 without authorization from central command. When he was relieved of his responsibilities, Dar immediately set up a rival branch of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

There is widespread feeling among the Kashmiris that Dar was gunned down by Indian agents in order to increase dissension in the ranks of the mujahideen. This was further reinforced when, a day after his killing, 24 Hindu Pundits were gunned down in the small village of Nadimarg, in the Shopian area of Pulwama district. The Indian army immediately blamed Kashmiri mujahideen for the massacre, an allegation vigorously denied by the mujahideen as well as the APHC, several of whose leaders visited the victims’ families in Nadimarg the next day.

Indian army strength has varied from 600,000 to 700,000 in Kashmir, of whom an estimated 300,000 are stationed in Srinagar – one soldier for every three civilians. There have been widespread human-rights abuses, including the rape of an estimated 10,000 Kashmiri women. To date not a single Indian soldier has been punished for these heinous crimes.

India has illegally occupied the state of Jammu and Kashmir since October 1947, when it fraudulently claimed that the Hindu maharaja (ruler) had decided to join India. Even so, India admitted that this was a “conditional” accession, and pledged that the matter would be resolved with reference to the people of Kashmir, by referendum. Delhi has produced no proof that the maharaja really had chosen to join India; besides, he had no right to do so on behalf of the people of Kashmir, whose overwhelming majority were and remain Muslim.

There are at least two UN Security Council resolutions-dated 1948 and 1949 – pertaining to the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. Initially, Indian rulers accepted these resolutions and reiterated that the pledge given to the people of Kashmir, as well as the world, would be honoured. But from 1954 onward India started to backslide. Now it refuses even to discuss the issue, stubbornly claiming that Kashmir is an “integral” part of India.

The people of Kashmir naturally see the situation very differently. Interestingly, in the one third of Kashmir – called Azad (Free) Kashmir – that is with Pakistan, the people are quite happy and there is neither an uprising nor any demand for separation from Pakistan. It is India’s brutal occupation that the people of Kashmir want to bring to an end, for which they have struggled since 1947.