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"Midnight's Bastards" by Tariq Ali

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  • The Muslim Chronicle
    Friends, Pakistan-born, British activist Tariq Ali will appear on Toronto based Muslim Chronicle TV Show this Saturday at 10PM. During the interview, Tariq Ali
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2002

      Pakistan-born, British activist Tariq Ali will appear on Toronto based
      Muslim Chronicle TV Show this Saturday at 10PM. During the interview, Tariq
      Ali will read a passage from his book, Saladin.

      To get you in the mood, here is one of his recent articles written for Red
      Pepper magazine and reproduced by ZNet on-line. In the article Tariq Ali
      touches on the Kashmir dispute, taking his title from Salman Rushdie's
      Midnight's Children about India-Pakistan.

      Tarek Fatah
      July 07, 2002

      Midnight's Bastards
      by Tariq Ali

      Red Pepper

      The military response of the American Empire to September 11 has made the
      world more dangerous and insecure. Its political strategy has led to the
      promotion of Ariel Sharon and Vladimir Putin as key allies in the 'war
      against terror' and 'Islamo-fascism'. Palestinian and Chechen lives have
      become insignificant in the eyes of the Bush administration and have reduced
      the liberal belligeratti to near-silence on these issues. Hacks in sections
      of the liberal press have become part of a propaganda campaign to destroy
      the regime in Iraq and replace it with a puppet administration.

      Meanwhile, the level of ignorance on the volatile situation in South Asia is
      disturbing. The monthly casualty rate in Kashmir is higher than in
      Palestine, but the world does not seem to care. Its population, exhausted by
      decades of violence, has become passive and listless, unconcerned with the
      wars being waged in its name.

      In Pakistan, the armed jihadi groups which have been attempting to provoke a
      war with India by bombing the Indian Parliament and targetting civilians in
      Kashmir were creations of Pakistani military intelligence. Are they out of
      control? Or, do they reflect the opinion of hawkish sections of the Army who
      are angry and bitter?

      The Indians, for their part, argue that if the United States could bomb a
      country and change its government while searching for terrorists, why not
      India. If Sharon can occupy Palestinian territories, kill civilians, why not
      India? If Putin can raise Grozny to the ground and supervise the deaths of
      over 10,000 Chechens, why not India? The logic is impeccable, but it is
      foolish to expect consistency from Empires.

      Imperial fundamentalism is far more ruthless and single-minded than the
      other variety. What always comes first is the economic and strategic
      interests of the America Empire. The reason Mr Vajpayee of India cannot be
      permitted to emulate the war-criminal who rules Israel is because Pakistan
      is a valued ally. That's why there never was a danger of an all-out war
      between India and Pakistan.

      It would have meant the bombing of Pakistan's military and air bases. Since
      a number of these are currently being used by the Empire to fight in
      Afghanistan, it would have led to US casualties which no regime in New Delhi
      could risk. The nuclear sabre-rattling provided a substitute for a real war
      and an opportunity for visiting statesmen like Blair, Cheney and Rumsfeld to
      hawk their military wares to both sides.

      A few years ago, the hope that a negotiated settlement in Kashmir might be
      possible was raised. It was not to be. The American response to September 11
      made this impossible. The province itself has become a football, badly
      fouled by both sides. Pakistan's secret services blatantly manipulate the
      terrorist attacks. India responds with state terror. Behind this tragedy
      lurks an obvious solution. Kashmir is the unfinished business of the
      Partition of 1947. It has been disputed territory since India and Pakistan
      became independent states in 1947.

      The simplest solution would have been to permit a referendum so that the
      population could decide which of the two states it wanted to join. India,
      first agreed and then sabotaged all attempts by the Kashmiris to determine
      their own future. Is there a way out of this crisis? There is, but it
      requires a leap of the imagination on the part of the politicians and
      Generals who rule South Asia.

      The dispute can not be resolved if our gaze concentrates exclusively on
      Kashmir. What is needed is a wide-ranging economic and political settlement,
      whose benefits would include a shared sovereignty for Kashmir. A South Asian
      Union, modelled partially on the EU and including India, Pakistan,
      Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka could help the region as a whole. While the
      founding states would preserve their sovereignty, a soft-border between them
      could provide genuine autonomy for Kashmir, which could be extended to the
      Tamil regions of Sri Lanka.

      The Kashmiris would be prepared to forego their own army and foreign policy
      if a shared sovereignty within a broader framework was possible. Most
      citizens of South Asia want a durable peace. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
      alone have a combined population of well over a billion. Linguistically
      diverse, the entire region shares cultures and histories in common. A
      massive reduction in military expenditure could be one beneficial result.
      Neither India nor Pakistan can afford this weaponry. Both countries would
      benefit enormously if the billions spent on nuclear weapons were used to
      subsidise health and education. As the two states confront each other, such
      a solution appears utopian. In fact, it is the only realistic way forward.
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