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FACED WITH a potential nuclear war between regional rivals Pakistan and India over their Kashmir conflict, the Western powers, Russia and China are attempting to de-escalate tensions. But as a Kashmiri socialist explains, the impoverished and oppressed masses of the region cannot put their faith in the hands of the capitalist ruling classes either in the region or in the rest of the world.
On The Brink Of A Catastrophe
THE FIVE month-long stand-off between the two regional nuclear powers, arising from the 13 December 2001 attack on the national Indian parliament in New Delhi, has led to the amassing of nearly one million soldiers on the international borders between India and Pakistan, and on the dividing Line of Control (LoC) in occupied Kashmir.
The almost continuous shelling across the LoC - vastly under-reported by the Western press - has led to the displacement of over 100,000 people on both sides of the LoC.
The present stand-off between the two nuclear rivals occurred after the 14 May attack on an Indian army camp in Jammu, the winter capital of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK). Over 30 people were killed and several injured.
This assault took place the day Christina Rocca, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, was due to meet Indian prime minister AB Vajpayee to discuss ways of reducing the escalating military tensions between Indian and Pakistan.
The Hindu-nationalist BJP government expelled Pakistan's ambassador to India following another attack on 19 May. It then deployed five missile-carrying nuclear warships in the Arabian Sea on 21 May.
Vajpayee, while addressing Indian troops during a three-day visit to IoK on 22 May, increased his warmongering rhetoric and called for a "decisive fight" and "sacrifices for the victory".
He also announced a package of $1.3 billion for the IoK 'government', which is led by the nationalist Farooq Abdullah. Vajpayee's visit coincided with a three-day strike, which was particularly solid in Srinigar.
During the first day of Vajpayee's visit, Abdul Gani Lone, a "moderate" leader of the Peoples' Conference (a component part of the APHC - All Parties Hyuirriat Conference, a grouping of 23 political organisations with a pro-Pakistan stand), was assassinated during a public rally.
Since then the number of casualties around the LoC has climbed rapidly. In PoK there has been no official confirmation of the deaths and the displacement of thousands of families that occurred after very heavy artillery duels, including heavy mortar and machine gun fire, on both sides of the LoC.
The PoK government is run by the right-wing Muslim Conference which is a staunch supporter of 'accession to Pakistan'. The president, Sardar Anwar Khan, is a serving Major General in the Pakistani army.
THE TESTING of three missiles and Musharraf's bellicose speech on 27 May further fuelled war hysteria.
On the diplomatic level pressure is being exerted to 'de-escalate' the situation, and Musharraf is being cajoled by US imperialism in particular, and the EU and Russia, to show 'concrete' results.
There has also been a downgrading of diplomatic staff, after a terrorist attack against a church in Islamabad and later, in Karachi, the killing of eleven French citizens who were working with the Pakistan navy on a submarine project. A few days ago, German diplomatic staff numbers were curtailed drastically.
The visits of the EU commissioner, Chris Patten, British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and the coming visit of Donald Rumsfeld the US defence secretary, are attempts to 'defuse' the situation.
But on the ground every passing day has witnessed clashes between the two nuclear rivals, with the nightmare of the possibility of the first nuclear war.
The horrific prospect of the total destruction of millions of people now looms over the heads of the workers, peasants and poor masses of Asia.
The masses - who are paying dearly for this military build up - already face chronic poverty, hunger, and disease. They also lack basic needs, like clean drinking water and sanitation facilitates.
Capitalism has failed
THE MILITARY escalation demonstrates the complete failure of capitalism to solve the national question in Kashmir.
The only way forward is the forcible overthrow of capitalism and feudalism by youth, workers, peasants and the poor of all the countries of this region, including Kashmir, Pakistan and India.
It means linking the struggle for an independent, democratic, socialist Kashmir with the struggle for a voluntary federation of south Asian socialist states.
CWI supporters in Kashmir are campaigning around the following demands:
- No to war! No to sectarianism! No to terrorism!
- For all refugees in PoK to be rehoused and given Rs1,000 a month grant!
- For all displaced students to be provided with free education!
- For a mass movement by Kashmiri, Indian and Pakistan trade unions against the war!
- Build links between workers and youth from all backgrounds, as part of the struggle for a socialist federation of South East Asian states!
In The Socialist 7 June 2002: