The Reasoned Review

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Rioting in Kashmir

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The Guardian has a pretty good report up on the latest riots in Kashmir. As a prelude to the upcoming Indo-Pakistani peace talks, they demonstrate the power of Kashmir’s perceived injustice, and the meaninglessness of any “peace plan” that fails to redress their grievances.

So the rocks thrown by Mehraan and his friends have a wider resonance. Enemies of India claim the violent demonstrations in the city reveal the iniquity of the “occupation” of Kashmir and the commitment of locals to independence or accession to Pakistan. Enemies of Pakistan dismiss men like Mehraan as being in the pay of politicians and Pakistan’s intelligence services.

“The stone-pelters are being paid and being used by people who want to keep things on the boil and to create the impression that things are not OK [in Kashmir],” said Kuldeep Khoda, who runs the state police force.

Mehraan and his friends tell a different story, however. As he strode through the rundown Nowhatta, collecting fellow stone-pelters as he went, the shopkeeper said he started attacking security forces when his cousin was shot dead two years ago. Then he was arrested and, he claims, tortured. Since then, he says, he has wanted two things: “Azadi” (freedom) and “blood for blood”. Alongside him, a 14-year-old says he started a few weeks ago when his friend was killed, allegedly by security forces. “These things happen and nothing is changed and then they happen again,” he said.

One startling omission from the Guardian article – and, indeed, from most of what you read about this dispute – is UN Security Council Resolution 47, which allows for a plebiscite for Kashmir to decide its fate, and which India and Pakistan have for the most part ignored since 1948. The only fair solution to this dispute is an internationally-monitored plebiscite, wherein Kashmiris can vote for which country they want to belong. After all they have been through, I think “independence” (that is, “neither”) should also be an option. It’s astounding to me that none of the papers are pushing for this, and instead are trying to paint this in a “on one hand… but on the other hand…” style narrative. The solution here should be clear.

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Written by pavanvan

February 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

Talkin’ Taliban

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Kai Eide is the UN “special representative” in Afghanistan, and his former student, Peter Galbraith, has repeatedly accused him of corrupt influence within the Karzai administration, including allegations of vote rigging in last year’s elections (which were widely seen as a fraud). Galbraith was later fired for his accusations.

Now the Times reports Mr. Eide has engaged in high-level talks with Taliban leaders.

Kai Eide, the United Nations’ special representative in Afghanistan, met with a group of Taliban leaders in the days leading to this week’s international conference in London, where President Hamid Karzai invited the Taliban to enter peace talks.

It’s unclear at this point what sort of game Mr. Eide is playing, especially since no details of the meeting (where/when it was held, who represented the Taliban, what was said, etc) are available. But I think it’s pretty clear that the UN – and by extension, the US – are rapidly shifting their strategy from “we don’t negotiate with Terrorists” to “Hey guys, let’s talk about this”.

The plan seems simple enough. To use the overwrought war-as-football metaphor, the US would seem to have “moved the goalposts”. It now appears that we are resigned to some portion of Afghanistan being ruled by the Taliban – perhaps even most of Afghanistan – but at the same time we are unwilling to let go of Hamid Karzai. If I could divine the strategy of our oh-so-wise policy planners, I would think they envision some form of power-sharing arrangement wherein the Karzai government controls Kabul and the heroin-producing regions of Afghanistan and the Taliban take the outlying desert. That way the US can extricate itself with some “credibility” left intact while leaving in place its “stooge” for whatever future plans they have for Afghanistan (permanent military bases, of course, but perhaps a natural-gas pipeline as well).

Eide’s role in all of this is still a bit mysterious. It is clear, from numerous previous statements, that Mr. Eide is very close to the Karzai regime and is willing to invest quite a lot to see it saved. That he fired his subordinate for leaking the Afghan election fraud is further evidence of this. It seems likely Mr. Eide is using his role as a UN envoy to prop up the Karzai regime and shield it from international criticism.

It’s still unclear whether the Taliban will be willing to negotiate a power-sharing agreement. This must be a very difficult decision for them. On one hand, the Americans are on the run and lack the resources to prosecute their effort for more than another year. Just holding out for a few more months can get them a better deal – and if (as our planners fear) the Taliban have the resources to resist indefinitely, control of Afghanistan is almost assured to them. On the other hand, if the Taliban find themselves running low on resources, morale or income, the smart thing to do would be to negotiate now. They might not get a better deal later.

But given the string of audacious attacks on Kabul, I think it safe to say the Taliban’s operations proceed unhindered. So I expect they will reject the offer of negotiation and press on.

The Karzai regime is immensely unpopular, and the only thing between him and an angry mob are American soldiers. Unless he can secure some sort of deal with the Taliban, it looks as though his days are numbered.

Written by pavanvan

January 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm