"Midnight's Bastards" by Tariq Ali
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.
July 07, 2002
by Tariq Ali
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.