Politicians cannot keep on ignoring Kashmiri voices

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged last week that the issue of autonomy would be considered once peace and calm is restored.

So what do the people of Kashmir want? Kashmiris demand the right of self-determination as guaranteed to them under the UN Security Council resolutions

Jammu and Kashmir has been popping up in the news quite regularly lately. And it’s not been good news. A spate of violence in recent times threatens to throw the whole region into an unmanageable quandary of chaos. More than 55 civilians have lost their lives, and confidence in the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah appears to be plummeting. The fate of this state mimics a ping pong game between politicians.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged last week that the issue of autonomy would be considered once peace and calm is restored. “If there is consensus among political parties on autonomy for the state, then it can be considered within the ambit of the Constitution,” Singh had said during a meeting of representatives of different political parties from Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi.

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to pounce on the prime minister’s remarks on autonomy.
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu stated, “Whatever is possible within the Constitution of India without compromising the sovereignty of India and without compromising on Kashmir being a part of India, BJP is open to discussion on any other issue.”

The party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad added, “We are not in favour of giving independence to Kashmir under the garb of autonomy. We are against disintegration of Kashmir from India. Do you think autonomy is a step in the right direction?”

Old wounds

Sometime back, speaking before a Georgetown University audience, Dr Gulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council stated: “October 27th, 1948, is forever scarred in the collective minds of the Kashmiri people as the day they became occupied.”

Historically, the Kashmir dispute is a fallout of the partition of India. The Muslim-majority parts of British India became Pakistan, and the Hindu-majority regions became the Dominion of India. There were, at that time, some 575 princely states in India under indirect British rule.

Lord Mountbatten gave them the choice of joining either India or Pakistan, and instructed that their choice must be guided by the religious composition of their populace as well as by the borders they might share with either India or Pakistan.

On October 26, 1947, the Hindu ruler of Kashmir said his Muslim-majority kingdom would accede to India and not join the newly created Islamic Pakistan. Kashmir has since been claimed by both India and Pakistan, and roiled with violence, involving Indian and Pakistani troops and Kashmiri separatists. So far some 90,000 have been killed in the uprising.

Resolution of conflict

India itself took the issue of Kashmir to the Untied Nations, which passed some 18 resolutions on Kashmir, recognising the status of the state as disputed and calling for a resolution of the conflict based on the will of the people of the state, which the first Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself also publicly promised.
Voices in India in recent years have been calling for the same. A Hindustan Times survey discovered that 87 per cent of the Kashmiris want azadi (freedom). Swaminathan Aiyar of The Times of India wrote in one of his columns, “We promised Kashmiris a plebiscite six decades ago. Let us hold one now”.

And Vir Sanghvi of the Hindustan Times stated, “So, here’s my question: why are we still hanging on to Kashmir if the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with us?”

So what do the people of Kashmir want? Kashmiris demand the right of self-determination as guaranteed to them under the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Both India and Pakistan have much to gain if there is peace, stability and economic cooperation in South Asia. Economic interests and other internal and external forces are pushing both countries towards a common goal and that is to have peace and economic cooperation in South Asia.

But the unsettled situation in Kashmir remains a constant fuse to the flurry of un-neighbourly actions between the two countries.

Whether the Kashmiris choose to align themselves with Pakistan, maintain the status quo or form an independent state should be best left for them to decide.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Renowned UAE photographer Noor Ali Rashid dies

Noor Ali Rashid, 80, the renowned photographer who has documented the UAE’s history, passed away on August 18, 2010. Thousands of his works have been showcased in several books

Rashid was born in the Gwadar (Baluchistan) Pakistan in December, 1929. He was sent to the UAE by his father “as punishment” for his obsession with photography and in the hope a change of scenery would inspire a more ‘respectable’ career.

“I learnt how to take good pictures from studio photographers. I was so crazy about photography I would tell people that if they invited me to their functions I would take pictures free of charge,” he had told Gulf News in an interview.

Rashid was named the ‘Royal Photographer’ by the late Shaikh Zayed and was the official photographer for the Al Nahyan family as well as the ruling families of the seven emirates.

His son, Naushad Noor Ali Rashid, is the president of the Dubai-based Ismaili Council of the UAE.

Rashid had undergone heart bypass surgery a few years ago after a cardiac attack.
Rashid had amassed more than three million photographs of members of the UAE’s Ruling Family, statesmen, celebrities and sports personalities – Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi, Jimmy Carter, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton, to name a few.

Courtesy: Gulf News

Tel Aviv’s worst kept secret

Nuclear arsenal makes it hard for Obama to press for non-proliferation in Middle East

Americans of all walks of life have lately been mesmerised by the drama launched by WikiLeaks, which published on its website a major portion of 92,000 classified and embarrassing US documents on the Afghan war, now in its ninth year and the longest US military intervention.

The documents claimed that Pakistan, or actually its spy agency known as Inter-Services Intelligence, had been arming, training and funding the Taliban for years.

Whatever these revelations would precipitate remains to be seen. But it is interesting to note that the focus of US (and international) attention dwarfs another “amazing” but little noticed revelation last May when the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) partially declassified another secret document held behind closed doors for 32 years “in spite of the best efforts of researchers to dislodge it”.

Notwithstanding the ‘tantalising’ title of the revealed document — ‘Nuclear Diversion in the US? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion’, Grant F. Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep), asserted that the “quest for more information about the US-Israel nuclear relationship is far from over”.
IRmep followed up with holding a panel discussion on this sensitive issue publicly and boldly under the heading, ‘Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal: Espionage, Opacity and Future’, at, of all places, the impressive International Spy Museum in Washington.

Smith detailed “how coerced ‘ambiguity’ about Israel’s nuclear weapons undermines accountability here in the United States”. Disappointingly, IRmep’s panel discussion received little press attention in the US or in the Arab world despite the shocking details which merit full exposure.

Military edge
A week later, the Brookings Institution invited (coincidentally?) Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, to detail the Obama administration’s generous approach to “preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge”.

Smith acknowledged at the outset that “few Americans are aware of how heavily Israel relied on weapons stolen and smuggled from the US in the past.”

He proceeded to identify how many American Jewish leaders were involved in the scam, and sometimes with help from some American presidents.

The 62-page GAO investigation and correspondence, according to Smith, “confirms the US refusal to mount credible investigations that would enable warranted prosecutions of the perpetrators.”

To cite but one example, the report reveals that the “opaque” relationship started when the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), established in 1957, had then received “more than 22 tonnes of taxpayer-funded, highly enriched Uranium-235, the key material used for manufacturing nuclear weapons”.

It turned out that David Lowenthal, then head of Israeli intelligence, had helped in launching NUMEC. Its co-founder was Dr. Leonard P. Pepkowitz, who later moved to the famed Los Alamos (National) Laboratory in New Mexico.

In the early 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission, according to the GAO report, began documenting suspicious lapses in NUMEC’s security, inexplicably lax record-keeping and the ongoing presence of large numbers of Israelis at the plant. In 1965, NUMEC could not account for another 220 pounds of highly enriched uranium, and a year later the FBI began monitoring NUMEC’s management and Israeli visitors.

A CIA official, Carl Duckett, reported Smith, came to the conclusion that “NUMEC material had been diverted by the Israelis and used in fabricating weapons.”

Smith protested that “few perpetrators of highly illegal conventional and nuclear smuggling activities for Israel have never faced any meaningful consequences.” He added that “the drive to extend the cover-up has now extended beyond the CIA and FBI right into the US Senate” where, for example, Senator Arlen Specter had tried but failed, to clear Zalman Shapiro, a former head of NUMEC.

Anyhow, today’s worst kept secret is that Israel is now recognised as the world’s sixth nuclear power, possessing anywhere between 100 to 400 nuclear bombs. (Former US president Jimmy Carter believes that Israel has at least 150 nuclear weapons, the first time a US president publicly acknowledged Israel’s nuclear arsenal).
John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy, a New York Times best-seller, argued at IRmep’s seminar that “the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons is making it very difficult for the US to stem the tide on proliferation and to move to a nuclear-free Middle East.

This should give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an opportunity to get Israel to agree to a nuclear-free Middle East as part of a final Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

Go for it, Abu Mazen! And then we all can tell whether Netanyahu is anxious for peace.

By George S. Hishmeh, Special to Gulf News
Published: 00:00 August 5, 2010
George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted by emailing ghishmeh@gulfnews.com