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GC JAGADISH of New Socialist Alternative (CWI, India), in this edited version, examines the prospects for regional war and puts forward a socialist programme for the Left to stop the conflict.
War Clouds Hang Over India And Pakistan
Only the workers and poor can stop this conflict
INDIA'S RULING elite is making full-scale preparations for war. Troops have been mobilised and the navy has moved five warships from the coast of Andhra Pradesh to the Western coast.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee speaking to the soldiers in the forward post of Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir sector, has exhorted the Jawans (soldiers) to 'be prepared for extreme sacrifices and make history with a decisive victory over the terrorism of Pakistan'.
In Pakistan, General Musharraf has met with his National Defence Council and issued a warning to India that he will meet any military challenge.
Pakistan's former ISI (Inter Services Intelligence agency) chief, Javed Ashraf Qazi, a cabinet minister, has stated: "If Pakistan is being destroyed through conventional means, we will destroy them [India] using the nuclear options..."
After the attack on the Indian army camp in Jammu and Kashmir - allegedly by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba separatist guerrillas, which killed 30 people - US president George Bush called Vajpayee five times in 48 hours to restrain the Indian administration.
The fear of Western powers that the present confrontational situation could escalate into an all-out war is underlined by the long list of European, British and US officials and representatives lining up for visits to the sub-continent.
Although the military build up is nothing new, (both countries were on the verge of war last December) it is the extreme language on both sides that has created fear among the people of Pakistan and India.
Nearly 70 villages on the Indian side of the border have been affected by the current low-scale war. Scores of people have fled from these villages to safety from the cross-border firing. An equal number of villages have been ravaged on the Pakistan side.
This sudden escalation of tensions between these two nuclear countries is a direct consequence of the very weakness of these regimes internally.
In India, the outcry against the sectarian Gujarat massacres (see The Socialist 8/3/02) - which exposed the ruling Hindu chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) culpability - has put the regime increasingly on the defensive.
Even prior to the Gujarat incidents the BJP's electoral popularity was on the wane. Of the 22 State Assembly and one Union territory elections held since 1998, the BJP and its allies lost in all, except four. One of the very reasons for the BJP to beat the nationalist drum is because it was losing its traditional hard core Hindu votes.
Although a rigged referendum has made Pakistan's General Musharraf President for the next five years, he is holding on to power through the barrel of the gun. But it is only a matter of time before another internal military squabble will break out under the behest of unemployed former ISI chiefs backed by Islamic fundamentalists who are displeased with Musharraf's support for the USA's 'war on terrorism'.
For both Musharraf and the BJP a diversion from day-to-day domestic problems is a necessity. Both regimes have played with such fire in the past but it is entirely a different ball game now, as both have stockpiled nuclear weapons.
The recent attack on the Indian army camp and the assassination of the 'moderate' Kashmiri nationalist Abdul Gani Lone of Hurriat Conference has come in very handy for BJP and its allies to blame Pakistan and the ISI for what they call "cross-border terrorism". While the Indian administration is weighing its options, a full-scale war is unlikely given the nuclear angle and US imperialism's pressure on them.
A commando 'Rambo' style operation crossing the border is being suggested to save face in the situation. But such an adventure could escalate into a full-scale war.
The Parliamentary opposition to the BJP in India is hopelessly ineffectual. Sonia Gandhi's Congress has switched from 'anti-BJP' mode to 'national unity against Pakistan-aggression' jingoistic mode. The Left, i.e. the two 'communist' parties CPI(M) and the CPI, have advised the government to urge the US to act against Musharraf and terrorist groups. So much for their anti-imperialism!
Though this opportunity may be useful for the BJP to solve its sullied image problems in the short term, if the war is on, it will be a disaster, as the Hindu communal forces emboldened by recent events will attack the Muslim minority accusing them of 'extra-territorial loyalty' and of being 'Pakistani agents'.
Even a small scale war or war-like operation will bring the entire sub-continent to the precipice of nuclear holocaust. Only the working class and youth of these countries can stop the war-mongering regimes of India and Pakistan.
The CWI in the region will be actively participate along with other Left forces in anti-war protests and movements.
The New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) says:
- No to war. Yes to class unity.
- Stop the internal war on Muslims and other minorities in India.
- Fight against the designs of India and Pakistan and the US to sideline the democratic demands of the Kashmiri people for an independent state.
- Stop the nuclear arms race.
- Reverse the huge defence expenditure. For the creation of socially productive civilian jobs, employment and education.
- Oppose the so-called 'war on terrorism' by the US.
Kashmir: A History Of Conflict
August 1947. India gains independence after strikes, mutinies and hunger strikes forced British imperialism out of the subcontinent. But divisions between Hindus and Muslims, a legacy of British imperialism's divide and rule tactics, led to the partition into India and Pakistan and numerous skirmishes over disputed areas.
October 1947. Kashmir, then ruled by a maharajah (prince) was invaded by Pakistan and then India. War lasted until 1949 when the "line of control" - the border between Indian-occupied (IOK) and Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (POK) - was established. Pakistan gains one-third of Kashmir.
1962. India's war with China leaves China in control of part of Kashmir claimed by India.
1965. War after new border exchanges in Kashmir and Punjab.
1971. India and Pakistan's war over the secession of Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) sees heavy fighting in Kashmir, ended by new ceasefire and new line of control.
1989-90. Troops fire on independence protesters in IOK which came under direct rule from the Delhi government. India and Pakistan come close to a nuclear "exchange" over Kashmir.
1999. The Kargil mountain war. Tensions escalated over the long disputed 'line of control' as crisis-racked nationalist governments in India and Pakistan - both now nuclear powers - came to the brink of all-out war again.
2001. A devastating suicide bombing outside the state legislature in Srinigar followed by an attack on the Indian parliament in December by Kashmiri separatists, in which 13 were killed including the attackers, led to Pakistan and India again going onto a war footing and triggering a mass exodus from villages along the line of control.
In The Socialist 31 May 2002: