Moving beyond 1947

Article originally published in Weekly Pulse on 23rd March 2015

ArticleYAAYasmeen Aftab Ali

Trains upon trains pulled in the Lahore Railways Station with mutilated bodies of old men and women, children, women pregnant and young men and girls. No one was spared. A few lucky ones who were spared were those who were taken as dead; bathed in blood of those killed around them, buried in the pile of dead bodies, pretending to be as dead as their fellow passengers.  This was the standard scene of post Pakistan creation trains heading from India. Unfortunately, instead of moving forward beyond this hatred in 1947, India has chosen to stay stuck in this familiar zone. How has this choice been made, one may ask? Firstly, by illegally occupying Kashmir.  This disputed area holds great strategic importance for both India and Pakistan. The Indus and the tributaries flowing from Indus are the source of fresh water for a largely agricultural economy of Pakistan.  Controlling water by increasing or decreasing the flow can damage crops in Pakistan. This is exactly what happened soon after Independence, India had shut off the canals of Central Bari Doab. The result was damage to crops it being the sowing season. Historian Naveed Tajammal  in an article states, “The article lll of the Indus Water Treaty  binds the Government of India not to hinder the flow of the western rivers, i.e. Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, to Pakistan, and India cannot store any water or construct any storage works, on the above cited rivers, having been given total rights since march 1973, of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. We get flood surplus of these rivers which is released in case of excessive rains, which helps in recharging our ground waters levels, but that too will cease after the second Ravi-Beas Link is made. Today while we slumber,  India has started works on, the following projects; Pakal Dul 1000MW, Kiru 600 MW,Karwar 520 MW, Baglihar (eventual 900 MW),Sawalkot 1200MW (two 600mw units),Salal 390 MW, Sewa-ll 120 MW, and finally the Bursur project on the Marusudar river, which, is a major tributary of Chenab river, here the Foxland intends to build a massive water storage dam, which will control and regulate the flow to maintain levels of Pakal dul, Dul Hasti, Rattle, Baglihar, Sawalkot and Salal Hydro-projects, on the Chenab. Jhelum will be blessed by the foxland with Kishanganga 330 MW and Uri-ll 240 MW.” (Published March 6, 2012)

Kashmir has another significance for both countries and this is the existence of Silk Route. The main land connection between Pakistan and China that passes through Kashmir.   Kashmir has led both countries to war. It represents the main bone of contention between both.  No amount of superficial handling of relationships between both and by both nations can lead to continuing peace between both nations. Only an intelligent settlement of the dispute can deliver this result. In light of the existing government in India, any such settlement is unlikely. In fact, to expect any government togive away a territory it has occupied, albeit illegally will be political suicide.

Perhaps Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, gave the solution to this issue in his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7th August, 1952; “Pandit Nehru said, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.” (Arundhati Roy inThe Hindu November 28, 2010) And this by the way was neither the first nor the last time he opined on the issue.

This main cause has led to a cascading fountain of negativity that has given birth to more actions and reactions that one can recount. A deep distrust of each other, nurtured and watered by the continuing existence of the dispute has stopped both India and Pakistan to move forward confidently into the future developing programmes that focus on their people not upon fear of each other.

This very fear has led India to fear that “with the “official end” of war in terror in Afghanistan heralded by the departure of US combat forces, Pakistan shall launch the jihadists in India-occupied Kashmir. Nothing can be further from the truth. One; Pakistan does not “own” the jihadists as claimed by India and two; Pakistan is facing terrorism within its borders.” (My op-ed September 24, 2013) This very fear has led to focus on the Ayni Air Base also called as ‘Gissar Air Base’ located 10 km west of the capital of Tajikistan-Dushanbe. Between years 2002-2010, India invested approximately $70 million in renovations, installing state-of-the-art air defense navigational facilities. The runway was further extended. This access offers immediate strategic depth in the region to India. This very fear has also led to India’s decision to maintain a strong foothold at the Farkhor Air Base; a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan. To be noted; aircrafts taking off from Farkhor could be over the Pakistani skies within minutes.

This very fear has led to spending of funds from both sides in equipping their armies, their fleets and air forces with bigger, better machines and equipment in case needed against each other. If not anything else; to be viewed as a deterrent towards each other.  The question here would be; why must this money be spent based on the fear of each other? Why should not this money be spent on the development of facilities, healthcare and education of its people?  According to a U.N research study, “Far more people in India have access to a cell phone than to a toilet and improved sanitation. Says Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University’s Canada-based think-tank for water, the Institute for Water, Environment and Health: “It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet.” (United Nations University 2010)

India being the one occupying Kashmir must bear greater responsibility for this climate of distrust and hostility between both nations. It has been sixty-eight years to the birth of both nations being free from the yolk of their colonial masters. Yet they continue to live with the legacy that has only created hatred. Is that wise?

Time to take stock.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

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