The western world's eyes were glued on Mumbai last week as Islamic terrorists took over strategic locations within the city and held many of them for several days. Post incident analysis in the west has focused on radical Islam, but not on India's own role in fostering these radicals. Additionally little emphasis has been put on the hypocrisy of many leaders in India who have attacked the west for imperialism and yet conduct its own imperialistic policies in its region.
Many an Indian commentator and political leader have attacked the United States wars in the Middle East, the Balkans and Vietnam as signs of western imperialism. This issue is certainly up for debate, but it should be noted the United States has not tried to blatantly conquer or hold territory since the unfortunate war in the Philippines in the late 1800s.
Yet India's policies in Kashmir can be called nothing but imperialism. The area north of Jammu what I consider Kashmir proper is 95% Muslim and 4% Hindu. (This area excludes Jammu which should remain in India and has not seen much of the insurgency.) India itself is 83% Hindu 11% Muslim and 2% Christian. A typical Indian including most members of my family will retort that Kashmir has always been part of India and then give some convoluted explanation of the 1947 partition. The reality is Kashmir was often part of Muslim kingdoms in India and happened to have a Hindu maharajah who acceded to India in 1947 probably against the wishes of his population.
Whatever the legal case is, the results have been disastrous. Just like American engagement in the Middle East, Indian efforts to quell dissent and separatism in Kashmir have helped to radicalize a generation of young Muslims not only in India but also in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India prides itself on being the world's largest democracy. But this Democracy ends when you arrive in Muslim majority Kashmir where elections are often suspended or fixed. Since the Kashmiri insurgency began in 1989, 47,000 Kashmiris have died. This is a startling number for an area under military occupation, much like the shocking numbers coming from Iraq under American occupation. (a chief difference though is that the US has actually kept its word about when elections would be held in Iraq: India has not in Kashmir.)
Why a country of over one billion people feels the need to control an area of less than 6,000,000 people whose ethnic makeup is not compatible with the rest of the country is mind boggling for the neutral observer. This comes at a time when the BJP, an extremist Hindu nationalist party has incredible powers of persuasion over the Indian media. The BJP who was in power nationally from 1998-2004 have made helped to turn a previously secular democracy into a religious semi-theocracy that marginalizes Muslims and to a lesser extent Christians as "un-Indian." The always secular Congress party has been forced to abandon its Nehruite tradition of tolerance and cow tow to the lowest common denomonator in Indian politics. The leadership of Sonia Gandhi put Congress back in power in 2004, but since the party has been unable to control the winds of intolerance the BJP ushered in the 1990s and are likely to lose the next national election which must be held before May.
India's selfish and irresponsible actions have been exploited by Pakistan, the world's largest supporter of international terrorism. Pakistan, which has always been a rogue state, even when supported by the United States during the Cold War is now the center of international terrorism as it has been since the mid 1990s. The Pakistani Government exists to a large extent in name only as successive leaders have shown an inability or an unwillingness to actually reign in terrorism and disparate factions within the country supporting terrorism. Pakistan is not a nation: it is a hodgepodge of different groups thrown into a nation-state without a distinct identity. Instead of attempting to forge a national identity as Tito did in Yugoslavia, Pakistan's leadership has for sixty years decided to use India and at times Russia/Soviet Union as the enemy to rally the populace. I hear concerns about Pakistan becoming a failed state in the west: it's always been a failed state. The country exists in name only and at this point serves little purpose unless some strong man with a greater will than Pervez Musharaf comes to power.
The actions of India are not under the western microscope the way they should be. When Israel engages in less aggressive actions in the occupied West Bank, half of the west is up in arms. But the Arab-Israeli dispute has less impact on international terrorism than does the Indo-Pakistani dispute. Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden used the Kashmir dispute and targeted India long before Israel or the United States were his targets. Israel and the US were always in the crossfire from Hamas and Hezbollah, but neither group has the logistic capability to pull off large terrorist attacks globally as do the terrorist groups radicalized in South Asia.
India's behavior needs to change. The United States needs to deliver this message loud and clear. Pakistan's behavior will not change, and thus the state needs to be worked around and marginalized as we move forward in a very dangerous time.
Providing Unique Commentary and Insight into Politics, History and Society since 2005
- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.