Why isn’t India a pariah state?

The Indian occupation of Kashmir between 1989-2009 has resulted in more than 70,000 deaths but there are no serious moves to delegitimize the country.

Kashmir violence 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Kashmir violence 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Most citizens of this country probably feel they already have quite enough on their plates dealing with Hizbullah and Hamas without pondering what’s happening way off in the Himalayas. Current events in Kashmir do, however, deserve serious consideration, if only because dark and dangerous parallels between that conflict and the Israel-Palestinian one are being drawn by global jihadists, as well as by some influential international opinion-formers who should know better.
An “intifada-style popular revolt” is how The New York Times has portrayed the latest popular uprising against Indian occupation which has swept through this predominantly Muslim province this summer, making the breathtakingly beautiful Kashmir Valley appear even more of a paradise lost. Although not clad in keffiyehs, young Kashmiri teenagers can sometimes resemble their Palestinian peers as they throw stones at army patrols and dodge tear-gas canisters on the streets of the state capital, Srinagar.
But what the world is never told by The New York Times, nor by most other supposedly liberal organs, is that New Delhi’s response to such civil disobedience has been far more savage and brutal than anything authorized in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, leading in the past to serious armed insurrection (often incited by Pakistan).
The Indian essayist Pankaj Mishra justly observed recently: “The killing fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet. In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the valley’s 4 million Muslims are exposed to extrajudicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into the penis.”
A LEADING local NGO, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir, has reported that extrajudicial killings and torture are commonplace there. It claims that the Indian military occupation of that state between 1989-2009 has resulted in more than 70,00 deaths, and many of these killings were deemed “acts of service” by India’s feared Central Reserve Police Force, leading to promotion and financial reward (bounty is paid after claims made by officers are verified, apparently).
Still, there are no serious moves afoot in editorial corridors or academic campuses anywhere in the Western world to transform India into an international pariah. No calls for boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions against the world’s largest democracy.
The deafening silence over Kashmir speaks volumes about the double standards by which different governments around the globe are judged on their human rights records.
Partly this stems from the post-imperial guilt complex which continues to afflict so many citizens of the West.
The atrocities committed by former colonies are endlessly excused by loose-thinking liberals in London and Paris, however flagrant and ugly such abuses might be. On the extremely rare occasions when repugnant regimes are taken to task, the real responsibility for their brutality is usually reported to lie with external agents.
The Pakistani Marxist polemicist Tariq Ali recently regaled readers of the zealously anti-Zionist London Review of Books with the claim that the real cause of Kashmiris’ current suffering is the ever-evil IDF. “It has been open season on Muslims since 9/11, when the liberation struggle in Kashmir was conveniently subsumed under the war on terror,” he wrote. “Israeli military officers were invited to visit Akhnur military base in the province and advise on counter-terrorism measures.”
Ali gleefully quotes the Web site India Defense, which noted in September 2008 that “Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi paid an unscheduled visit to the disputed state of Kashmir last week to get an up-close look at the challenges the Indian military faces in its fight against Islamic insurgents.
Mizrahi was in India for three days of meetings with the country’s military brass, and to discuss a plan the IDF is drafting for Israeli commandos to train Indian counter-terror forces.”
The concern isn’t that such conspiracy theories are recycled on the pages of the LRB – a small, self-important literary journal – but they are also plastered across countless Islamofascist Web sites, reinforcing the dangerously warped worldview of some of the most dangerous people on the planet. In her days as director-general of the British security service MI5, Eliza Mannigham- Buller observed how jihadists are driven by “a powerful narrative that weaves together conflicts from across the globe, [including] long-standing conflicts such as Israel-Palestine and Kashmir.”
What this leading spook didn’t add is that the crazed fury which results from such communal paranoia isn’t directed with equal vehemence and violence against the various alleged perpetrators. The once heavenly Kashmir Valley has become hell on earth for many of its inhabitants, but Indians are unlikely to have to endure the same hellish condemnation as Israelis. The sole Jewish state on the planet is proving a wonderful lightning rod for Islamic militants – and their misguided liberal-leftist allies – in a way that the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir could never be.
Raw economic factors reinforce such inconsistencies.
People may be killed like poultry in Kashmir, as in Tibet, but even “progressive” Western politicians are too chicken to jeopardize their countries’ rapidly expanding commercial connections with either India or China. Of course, little Israel isn’t anywhere near as lucrative a marketplace. Consequently, a Kashmiri (or a Tibetan) life will continue to count for far less than that of a Palestinian.
The writer is a British journalism educator, currently based in Ireland, who has been a visiting professor in India and has personally observed the situation is Kashmir.