The UN and Kashmir

The United Nations have never been able to solve any serious conflict. The present crisis over Iraq has exposed it as an empty talking shop. But there is another conflict that has been festering for more than 50 years, that between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir. Lal Khan pints out the shortcomings of the UN on this issue and indicates the class struggle as the only way of finally solving the problem.

The United Nations have never been able to solve any serious conflict. The present crisis over Iraq has exposed it as an empty talking shop. But there is another conflict that has been festering for more than 50 years, that between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir. Lal Khan pints out the shortcomings of the UN on this issue and indicates the class struggle as the only way of finally solving the problem.

By Lal Khan

The Kashmir problem is yet another example of the failure of the UN in resolving a serious conflict. For the last 55 years Kashmir has been like a festering wound on the body of the Indian subcontinent where more than 1/5 of humanity lives. Three and a "half" wars have been fought between India and Pakistan over Kashmir during the second half of the last century. Now both these countries have become "nuclear powers" and they are again on the threshold of yet another conflict.

In the late 1990s former CIA director William Casey described this region as the most dangerous in the world. In the period that lies ahead the scenario of a nuclear holocaust cannot be totally ruled out. And still the UN have been able to do nothing about averting the previous wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971 (and in 1999 during a minor clash in Kargil-Kashmir).

Now it has become abundantly clear that the UN has also been totally incapable of de-escalating tensions between India and Pakistan over the last 18 months. More than a million troops were amassed along the borders and any incident or skirmish could have sparked off a major war - when both sides were armed with nuclear weapons and the missiles for their delivery. The Pakistani dictator Musharraf conceded recently that the possibility of the use of its nuclear weapons was a real one had India moved to the annexation or annihilation of Pakistan. The partial demobilization and withdrawal of the armies only took place when the IBM bosses threatened the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee that they would withdraw their investments in the Indian info-technology and software industry.

During this intense stand off the UN could only muster debilitated appeals for "restraint" and "peace negotiations". These pathetic appeals were not even taken seriously and the main diplomatic activity and pressure to avert this war was carried out by Richard Armitage and officials of the US State Department. Even a partial or cosmetic role of the UN to bring a peaceful settlement was not to be seen throughout this conflict. As things stand today the tensions are still very much there and hot exchanges and diplomatic shelling is still going on. From the experience of the last half century it is clear that the UN is pessimistic about its own role as a peace keeper and that it has even lost its ability to try to prevent a conflict on the South Asian subcontinent.

In the meantime oppression, civil war and genocide have continued throughout the last 55 years in Kashmir. A new wave of protest erupted fiercely in the Kashmir valley in 1988. It has continued unabated. Led by the young militants of the JKLF and other parties, it was supported by hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris who flooded onto the streets in early 1990 to demand a plebiscite on the future of Kashmir. India responded with an even greater brutal force. It called the insurgency a proxy war by Pakistan and sent more battalions of the Indian army into Kashmir.

Pakistan in turn supported the militants. A JKLF brokered ceasefire in 1994, however helped turn the militancy more Islamic, as groups like Lashkar-e-Tayabbah and Hiz-ul-Mujahideen joined in, bringing hardened fighters form the Afghan war. This Islamic fundamentalism was actually sponsored and created by the CIA through the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, during the 1980s. One of the major factors in the thinking of the ISI in imposing these religious fanatics on to the movement was its effort to keep a hold over the movement and to prevent in from moving towards the left. However, in reality it is the general population of Kashmir and its mass struggle through general strikes, demonstrations and rallies for independence from Indian occupation, that the rulers of India and Pakistan are more worried about.

The use of Islamic fundamentalist terror in fact has the effect of weakening the movement and provides the Indian reactionary ruling class with a sort of justification to intensify its state terrorism and brutality. This has further intensified after the events of September 11, since when the Indian rulers have been flagrantly dubbing their repression of the national liberation movement as its own "war against terror". The masses of Kashmir have been subjected to extreme poverty, misery and disease. On top of all this they add insult to injury by using the terribly brutal methods of the massive military machine to oppress the people.

More than 85,000 people, mainly civilians have been killed by the Indian army during the last 12 years. The conflict has created more than half a million orphans with nobody to look after them. In the last 5 years there have been more than 300 reported cases of suicide, 77% of them being victims of rape by the Indian army and the fundamentalists. The plight of the Kashmiri women is particularly desperate. In this last decade more than 30,000 women have been raped of whom 6,000 were mad pregnant and delivered "illegitimate" babies. There are 16,000 young widows alone, with 7,000 youths in jail. Additional misery is brought on to these Muslim women by the brutal methods of the fundamentalist fanatics who throw acid onto their uncovered faces if they do not abide by the strict dress code. Many women have been raped in front of their children. Gang rape, torture, prolonged detentions and execution of innocent Kashmiris by these "combatants" has been the order of the day in Kashmir for decades. There is not a single family in Kashmir which has not been touched in some way by this tyranny nor had causalities in this war.

Each year that the insurgency has continued, fresh graves have been dug in Kashmir. Families across the valley bury their sons and daughters while families in India receive news that their sons too have fallen in the infighting.

There also has been a mass exodus of the Kashmiri population. Hundreds of thousands of families have been forced to flee this "paradise in peril" and are scattered throughout the subcontinent and across the world. About 1.5 million are in Pakistan, 0.4 million in Britain and the U.S. and 0.15 million in different parts of India. The trauma of migration and forced segregation haunts the generation that has been forced to settle abroad. There are more than 600,000 regular Indian troops which amount to one soldier for every 5 people in Kashmir. Yet they have failed to stop the insurgency or quell the mass upsurge. The role of the Pakistani state and the ISI has been to control the movement rather than to let it take its own course towards independence and revolution.

The UN observers stationed in Kashmir for decades have simply continue to observe this brutality as it has lingered on. Historically the UN has proved to be incapable of even starting off the process of peace in Kashmir.

Kashmir was left as a thorn in the Indian subcontinent by the British when they ended their direct colonial rule. It was consciously left unresolved so as to keep the conflict running with the aim of continuing their policy of divide and rule. In a state of confusion, the newly formed states of India and Pakistan scrambled for control of the area after the partition of the subcontinent. This led to the first war over Kashmir in 1948.

However the British high ranking army officers, holding key posts in both the Indian and Pakistani armies, ensured that neither side would be able to gobble up the whole of Kashmir through intrigue and manoeuvre. The case was put before the UN Security Council after the ceasefire. In 1948 two resolutions were passed calling for a "plebiscite" for the Kashmiri people to "decide their own fate".

Fifty four years have passed and those UN resolutions are yet to be implemented. During this period there were more wars over Kashmir and more resolutions were passed by the UN Security Council. All the resolutions still await implementation. The people of Kashmir are now beginning to shed their last remnants of hope in the UN. The Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders have used the UN as a ploy to dupe the Kashmiri people throughout this whole period. The experience of Kashmir shows the complete hypocrisy and bankruptcy of the UN as an institution for peace. The so-called resolutions were not implemented because the main players in the UN did not want them to be implemented.

During the years of the so-called cold war the Indian rulers cleverly manoeuvred between the US and the Soviet Union. In this game they had put immense diplomatic pressure on these big powers to keep the resolutions on Kashmir in cold storage. But it was not just the western imperialists who wanted to keep the Kashmir issue as an instrument of instability and division in the subcontinent. The ruling classes and states of India and Pakistan also needed the Kashmir issue to suppress internal dissent. The army top brass needed Kashmir to justify hefty military budgets extracted from the sweat, blood and tears of an impoverished populace. Hence, how could the UN, the club of mutual interests of the ruling elites, grant the oppressed people of Kashmir their independence?

In the post cold war era, with the US dominating the world, all the UN decisions were subject to the imperialist economic interests and those of the multinational corporations. India being "the largest capitalist democracy", in spite of 800 million of its population living below the poverty line, does have a middle class of around 200 million. This constitutes a relatively big market for the imperialist oligarchies. Hence how can the UN dare to defy them?

The traditional American position on Kashmir has been non committal. But American interests in the region run wider than Kashmir. To that end there has been a subtle shift in America's attitude towards the region. The once lukewarm relations with India have warmed up. Indo-American trade has also developed and economic ties, helped by a productive bilateral relationship, continue to grow. India is a major market and it is not only Indian software that appeals to Western investors. Telecom privatisation and a certain consumer base for luxury imports make India an attractive market for American business. Lust for markets and pursuit for economic conquests ultimately shape the foreign and diplomatic policies of US imperialism. Americans want peace in Kashmir to capture the markets in the subcontinent. Plutarch said long ago that "conquerors were always lovers of peace".

Paradoxically this very imperialist economic intervention creates more joblessness, poverty and exploitation. Hence the resulting social turmoil leads to domestic revolts. And to quell these revolts conflict in Kashmir and the threat of war is posed before the masses. In the words of Clausewitz this is the "continuation of politics by other means". Yet the situation is so complex that the elites of the subcontinent can neither go to war nor can they afford peace. Thus this gimmickry of war and peace has become a vicious circle strangling the already destitute masses.

If the UN cannot hinder the US imperialists in their pursuits in other parts of the world how can it defy US interests in the subcontinent? The farce of the independence of Kashmir through the auspices of the United Nations stands exposed. The masses in Kashmir have paid a heavy price for this deception into which their leaders had led them. Even the bourgeois analysts accept that in the present set up, whether there is a peace process or not, the future of Kashmir looks much the same as it did in the past.

Under capitalist rule the orgy of violence and bloodshed in Kashmir will be aggravated. The only perspective for the subcontinent under this decaying system is one of wars and devastation - perhaps even of nuclear annihilation. The UN can do nothing to avert this scenario. The so-called "international community" and "world public opinion" of the imperialist media are means of deceiving the masses and diverting and confusing the movements of the oppressed in order to stop them from achieving their true destiny of emancipation through a socialist revolution.

Kashmir cannot be fully annexed by India. If it cannot control half of Kashmir, then how can it control the whole of Kashmir? And the demand for the unification of Kashmir with Pakistan is a deception fabricated by its ruling elite to fool the masses there. But things are changing among the masses. This façade that has been maintained over the last 55 years is rapidly losing any credibility and impact amongst the workers, peasants and youth of Pakistan.

For the Kashmiri masses this demand has become totally unacceptable. How could they accept to swapping one form of state oppression for another? India and Pakistan both have imperialist designs over Kashmir.

An independent Kashmir on a capitalist basis, land locked between the Indian and Pakistani states, is also a sheer utopia. The UN which represents the interests of the ruling elites, and more than anything, those of imperialism, can never come to the rescue of the nationally and economically oppressed masses of Kashmir.

Hence the national liberation of Kashmir is also linked to the victory of the class struggle in the subcontinent. The brutalities of the Indian army and its aggression against the Kashmiri masses cannot be defeated by guerillaism. Individual terrorism is too weak to defeat the massive state terrorism being perpetrated by the Indian army in Kashmir in the name of its so-called "war against terror". In reality it plays a counter-productive role and undermines the will and determination of the masses to fight their war themselves.

The Pakistani ruling classes can never tolerate an independent Kashmir on their borders. This would in essence be a fatal blow to the "two nation theory" which is the ideological foundation of this theocratic state.

Hence the only way forward for the liberation of Kashmir is through the class war. Only by linking this struggle for national liberation to the class struggle throughout the subcontinent and around the world can a solution be found. It is only the oppressed who can fight for the oppressed, with their mutual interest in overthrowing the fetters of slavery, oppression, exploitation and poverty.

The working classes of India and Pakistan are the only forces that can decisively overthrow these repressive regimes which perpetuate national oppression in Kashmir and elsewhere. This class war can only be successful through the victory of a socialist revolution. A socialist victory in any country on the subcontinent would spread rapidly across the frontiers and would lead to a voluntary socialist federation of the subcontinent where the oppressed of all nations, including the Kashmiris, would have their fullest cultural, lingual, social and economic rights. The so-called United Nations will be replaced by a unity of the workers of the world. The overthrow of capitalism - that system of "horror without an end", the cause of all wars and destruction - through a socialist revolution is the only guarantee for an everlasting peace, prosperity and the emancipation of the human race.