President Clinton's speech during his recent stopover in Islamabad ignored the fundamental issues of injustice in Kashmir. While rightly asking Pakistan's military leadership to make an early transition to democracy, he failed to condemn the Indian atrocities that have ravaged the people of Kashmir for too long now.
Addressing the people of Pakistan, Clinton called for a return to democracy, resumption of a dialogue with India, renunciation of nuclear program, and action to curb what the U.S. defines as terrorism. Essentially, except for the admonition on nuclear programs, Clinton delivered a speech drafted in New Delhi as he warned Islamabad of being more isolated if it didn't toe the line of the Indian government. No wonder India has wholeheartedly welcomed Clinton's sermon to the people of Pakistan.
Clinton is right to ask the Pakistani junta to make a quick transition to democracy. True, democracy does not have the sole moral high ground as a system of rule of law. Yet, democracy is less imperfect than dictatorship as it allows people to expand their choices of governance and offers much better checks and balances in the rule of law. If democracy begets corruption, the means to fight that corruption could be found over time from within democracy itself. The quick fixes that dictatorial interventions promise have been proven gimmicks.
Clinton was fairly evenhanded in opposing the nuclear policies of Pakistan and India. The U.S. administration, however, does not have the ethos to lecture anybody on nuclear nonproliferation without itself announcing programs to renounce the nuclear option and without agreeing to a fair balance of military power in the world. Sages since the ancient times including Prophet Muhammad have amply demonstrated that you cannot lecture other people on things that you yourself do not live up to. The U.S. used the nuclear option twice during the WWII and has since built a huge nuclear arsenal. Now it is hypocritical, absurd and even racist on the part of the U.S. to ask others to abandon their nuclear defense shields.
Furthermore, Clinton is awfully wrong to parrot India on the issue of "cross-border terrorism." Clinton has failed to understand or, out of expediency, may have chosen to ignore the duplicity with which India equates the freedom struggle of the Kashmiri people with international terrorism. In a blatant disregard of the stated U.S. position on human rights, Clinton has ignored the Kashmiri people's struggle to choose independence or secession with India/Pakistan through a plebiscite mandated by the United Nations and agreed to by the government of India in 1947. More disturbingly, Clinton has turned a totally blind eye to the last 10 years of Indian army atrocities in the valley of Kashmir.
After more than 40 years of dialogue with the Indian administrations, the people Kashmir started an uprising 10 years ago to ask for the U.N.-mandated plebiscite. India used armed forces to brutally suppress that uprising. When peaceful uprising failed, many of the Kashmiri people took up arms to fight for their honor. In the ensuing battle, God knows how many thousands of the Kashmiri people have perished, how many tortured to death, how many women raped by the Indian army, and how homes and properties burned and plundered. Because 500,000-strong Indian armed forces maintain an iron curtain on the traffic of people and information to and from Kashmir, the stories that trickle out to the international media show only the tips of huge horrors that the people of Kashmir are living through.
According many Indian journalists, the scale of atrocities in Kashmir is shockingly humongous. For example, the Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra reported in an article in the New York Times ("Pride and Blood in Kashmir," March 22) that almost every Muslim family in Kashmir has story of Indian army atrocities to share. A commanding Indian police official told Mishra that India's goal was to isolate the Kashmiri Muslims and then deal with them harshly. He boasted that he had never allowed a captured Kashmiri freedom fighter to stay alive.
By categorically ruling out an option to mediate over Kashmir, Clinton has reneged on the U.S. commitment to the decisions and principles of the United Nations, which made Kashmir an international issue 1947. In the absence of the pledged U.N. engagement, more than half a century of Indo-Pak dialogue over Kashmir has produced nothing but the increased suffering for the people of Kashmir.
Clinton is probably right that there is no military solution to the issue of Kashmir. But the replacement of the military option cannot be Indo-Pak dialogue that has proven to be failure for half a century, leaving out the voice of the Kashmiri people themselves from the process.
Obviously, it is out of business expediency that the U.S. is tilting in favor of India. But this erodes the moral ethos of the U.S. The smart allies all over the world will understand how expediently the U.S. betray the issues of justice and human rights that it purports to advocates and how stoically it can betray an ally that served the U.S. well for half a century of Cold War.
Indian atrocities in Kashmir must agonize humanity at large. Many of the Indian atrocities that include rape exceedingly fit the definition of war crimes, as the reports of human rights agencies such the Human Rights Watch claim. The sooner the U.S. administration understands the gravity of these atrocities and speaks to the issues of justice, freedom of choice, and human rights for the people of Kashmir, the earlier the problem will be solved and the more respectable will the U.S. be in the comity of nations.
Mohammad A. Auwal is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and is a regular columnist for iviews.com