Kashmir’s festering wounds

The killing of five Indian military personnel in firing across the line-of-control (LOC)  in Kashmir has once again laid bare the underlying tensions and the ongoing crisis that have become a festering wound for the people of Kashmir for the last sixty six years.

It also shows the futility of the notion of resolving the hostilities through a negotiated settlement to bring peace and prosperity to Kashmir and the rest of the South Asian subcontinent within the confines of the prevalent obsolete and rotting socio-economic system. This incident also exposes the shallowness of the gestures of the Pakistani and Indian political leaders, of their so -called will to end this conflict. The other dark forces of reaction behind the scenes, that really call the shots, are perhaps more dominant and decisive in the crucial policy decisions than the politicians that are formally in power in both countries.

After every such incident there are accusations and denials as counter-allegations are traded between the diplomats of the two sides. It has become a monotonous routine and the masses of the region are disinterested and bored by this rhetoric. India's army accused Pakistan over the incident, saying troops had "entered the Indian area and ambushed" an army patrol in the Poonch area. The Prime Minister of Pakistani controlled Kashmir accused the Indian army of abducting four of its citizens in the Mirpur area of Kashmir. In January, several deadly cross-border attacks plunged the neighbours into the worst crisis since the 2003 ceasefire across the line.

The latest incident comes as the two sides are preparing for peace talks, the first since the new Pakistani government took office. The chief minister of the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir state, Omar Abdullah, said such incidents "don't help efforts to normalize or even improve relations with Pakistan and called in to question the Pakistan government's recent overtures". Indian Defence Minister, AK Antony told the parliament that the government "has lodged a strong protest with the government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels".

A top Indian army officer told the BBC that a group of "elite commandos" from the Pakistani army breached the LOC on Tuesday morning and ambushed an Indian army patrol in the Poonch sector of Jammu region. The officer said one Indian soldier was injured in "unprovoked firing" by Pakistani soldiers in a separate incident in Udhampur region on Monday. A Pakistani military official described the Indian allegations as "baseless" and said there was no firing from the Pakistani side.

India and Pakistan agreed a ceasefire along the line-of-control, which divides the region, in November 2003.But both sides have blamed each other for occasional cross-border fire, as a result of which several soldiers and civilians have been killed or wounded on both sides. After the January incidents – three Pakistani and two Indian soldiers were killed in hostile exchanges between troops stationed along the LOC– relations between the sides deteriorated so sharply that there were fears that the fledgling peace process, under way since February last year, could unravel. Although both sides denied provoking the clashes along the border, eventually both India and Pakistan agreed to de-escalate tensions.

There have been three and a half major wars between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue since partition and independence, with the continuation of the system imposed by the British took, place in August 1947. After a hurried and cowardly exit of the Raj, primarily to derail the gathering revolt, there was ethnic cleansing and bloodshed on both sides of the divide in which almost 2.7 million perished in the religious and communal frenzy. However, Kashmir’s division didn’t come through an agreement but through a war. The divide and the present LOC is based on the position where the Indian and the Pakistani forces stood at the time of the ceasefire introduced by the United Nations after the 1948 war.

But despite three wars, dozens of UN resolutions and innumerable negotiations between the rulers of the two countries, the situation has hardly changed nor has the plight of the oppressed masses of Kashmir diminished. Despite the claims of support and sacrifices for the people of Kashmir by the ruling elites of India and Pakistan, the lives of the Kashmiri masses have been subject to poverty, misery and repression. The Kashmiri people have not only been denied their fundamental rights from the outset by both India and Pakistan, but have also been denied a say in the ongoing debate. This has led to several eruptions of revolt. Today the Kashmir valley is undoubtedly the most densely militarised zone in the world, where half a million Indian soldiers are stationed (one to every four civilians) and since 1989, when an armed revolt against Indian rule erupted, 68,000 people have died, 10,000 have disappeared and at least 100,000 have been tortured.

Ironically the establishment and the military hierarchy of both countries have used and abused the Kashmir issue for their mammoth military budgets, arms spending and the perks and privileges of the military top brass. The imperialists have also used this issue in a multipurpose manner for their own vested interests. On the one hand they do not want this contentious issue to fade away or be resolved because this is the basis on which the Indian and Pakistani military establishments keep on buying the weaponry at exorbitant prices from the imperialist military industrial complexes that extract astronomical profits from these arms deals.

It is not an accident that India and Pakistan comprise 22 percent of the world’s population, host more than 44 percent of the world’s poor and yet they are amongst the top five buyers of military hardware and sophisticated arms. At the same time with the excuse of national security and threats of war they have acquired nuclear arms of unimaginable power of destruction, costing billions of dollars made from the sweat, blood and tears of the toiling masses impoverished by exploitation.

On the other hand at this stage the imperialists and the ruling classes cannot afford an all out war between the two nuclear South Asian states, as the destruction it would unleash would be so harrowing that the investments and the assets of the imperialists and the local elites would be at stake. Hence, the reality is that neither can they go to war nor can they sustain a durable peace in the subcontinent. This vicious cycle of empty gestures of peace and talks, alternating with periods of threats and hysteria of war without an actual war, will continue to mar the consciousness of the working classes as long as the present crisis ridden capitalism exists.

The current firing incident across the LOC is one of the many arsenals in the armoury of the ruling classes that they use to curb class struggles and mass revolts against the oppression of the masses. The Hindu and Islamic fundamentalists play upon these hostile attitudes and prejudices to perpetuate their reactionary role in the politics of the subcontinent.

Meanwhile, the Kashmiri masses continue to suffer. Their dream of national liberation is further away today than it was half a century ago. In the recent movements on both sides of the LOC, however, there have been significant signs of the socio-economic issues and the class struggle coming to the surface. The national liberation of the oppressed masses of Kashmir can only be realized by the overthrow of this system and its states that carry out the national and class oppression in the subcontinent. This is also true for the other oppressed nationalities of the region.

What has been proved in the last seven decades is that the capitalism and the ruling elites of India and Pakistan have failed to complete any of the historical tasks of the national democratic revolution. These tasks can only be completed by overthrowing capitalism under a socialist regime that can generate enough resources and development through a planned economy to carry out the revolution. The road to national liberation is through class struggle.