Jun 3, 2002
What is behind this latest threat of war between India and Pakistan for control of Kashmir?
As with all the wars and conflicts between India and Pakistan, this one is not independent of the role played by British colonialism, and afterwards the role played by both British and U.S. imperialism. To maintain its colonial rule over this vast and rich region, Britain played on the divisions between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority. In the years since independence, the Indian and Pakistani regimes have been pawns of the big-power conflicts in the area, with both being armed to the teeth, at different times, by the different imperialisms.
Kashmir, at the center of the current war-mongering, symbolizes the broader situation. Originally characterized as an “independent” country, its population was Muslim, but its ruling family was Hindu, and so tried to link Kashmir to India. Borders have been drawn and redrawn. Between the wars, the “border skirmishes” and more recently the terrorist attacks, its population has lived in a quasi permanent warlike situation.
Underlying the current confrontation over Kashmir is the U.S. war in Afghanistan, with the Indian and Pakistani regimes each trying to exploit their own advantages from the war. On the one hand, the Pakistani regime is trying to take advantage of renewed U.S. support, especially since the U.S. government has depended so much on Pakistan in the Afghanistan war. But this regime, which itself had many ties with the Muslim fundamentalists who made up the Taliban, has at the same time made use of the Al-Qaeda who fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan, and then up into Kashmir. On the other hand, the Indian regime claims that, like the U.S., it is carrying out a fight against terrorism – thus justifying what it does, not only against whatever Al-Qaeda and Taliban troops might be there, but also against the population. Both regimes have massed more and more troops on the borders of the Kashmir region, threatening once again to involve the people of the larger area in a new bloodbath.
Both regimes are run by dictators (whether they happen to have risen to power through formal elections or not) who have little real support from their own peoples, who are forced to live in deep impoverishment and misery. Both regimes are using the current threat of a conflict, just as they did in the past, to divert the discontent of the population and to reinforce their hold over the population. And both regimes have used religious fundamentalists in their own country to help inflame the population against another people, rather than against the regime.
Will the current bellicose posturing lead to a real war, with all the devastation that implies? It certainly could. In the absence of organizations with roots in the population, which aim the people’s anger against their own rulers, these regimes may be able once again to involve their populations in a bloodletting which, the regimes hope, will reinforce their hold for another period.
These wars have never served the interests of the people who live in this vast area, nor will another one.