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The Big Dog In Kashmir

Sunday, 03 February 2002 12:00 AM

Bob wanted to know if I would write an article for SOF on "Taliban John" Walker, the American captured fighting for al-Qaeda in Mazar-e-Sharif. I declined.

"There's nothing to write about," I explained. "We're in a war. He's a traitor, caught willfully fighting with the enemy. You line him up in front of a wall and shoot him. End of story. What more is there to say?"

Some issues are simple, with straightforward solutions. America's War on Moslem Terrorism is one. It is good vs. evil with no shades of gray, and the perpetrators of evil are to be hunted down and liquidated.

There are other issues, however – issues of world-class danger and significance – that are not simple and have no straightforward solution. Premier among them is the world's best chance for full-blown nuclear war: Pakistan and India in Kashmir.

There are no good guys here – except for the Kashmiris trapped in the middle. Kashmir is a geopolitical Gordian knot, interwoven by Indian and Pak perfidy.

At the time of Partition (the British Raj divided Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan in 1947), Kashmir was a semi-independent region, 80 percent Moslem but ruled by a Hindu warlord named Hari Singh.

One hundred and one years earlier, the Brits had sold Kashmir to his great-grandfather, Gulab Singh, for 7.5 million rupees ($170,000 today).

The Kashmiris were to be given a choice: Join India, join Pakistan, become independent. To prevent an election that most likely would choose independence, the Indians sent in armed soldiers and the Paks sent in armed "volunteers."

Hari Singh signed Kashmir over to India, the local Kashmiris revolted, and the first Indo-Pak war was on.

The result was a cease-fire Line of Control cutting the entire region in two, which remains the de facto border today.

India continues to occupy the Kashmir Valley with brutal military force, its soldiers having murdered tens of thousands of Kashmiris. Pakistan continues to send armed "volunteers" to support local guerrilla movements.

The Indian and Pak armies continue to shoot at each other, especially up in the glaciers of the Karakorum Mountains. Neither India nor Pakistan wants to solve the problem.

Kashmir is the rationale for their huge armies, their massive defense budgets – and their nuclear arsenals. These are two nasty little wolves fighting over a bone. There is only one way to get them to stop.

The potential for the fight to go nuclear mandates that the Big Dog pull them apart and force a solution down their throats.

GW has clearly demonstrated in the past few months that he is the biggest, baddest dog on the planetary block. This gives him a window of opportunity to ram through a deal.

The Indians may huff about "American arrogance" – but in fact, there is no one on earth more insufferably arrogant than a Hindu Brahmin, who thinks he is a superior form of human existence sitting on top of his racist caste system.

The Indians must be made to see that their foe of the future is China, that only an alliance with the U.S. gives them any chance of military parity with China, and that they cannot achieve any sort of major world power status without solving Kashmir.

While the Indians exhibit world-class arrogance, the Paks exhibit world-class duplicity. During the 1980s, the Pak intelligence agency, ISI, led the CIA around with a ring through its nose in Afghanistan.

The ISI set up the Taliban, and continues to hoodwink the endlessly naïve CIA, which has enabled Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar to evade capture.

ISI founder Hamid Gul has been funneling al-Qaeda fugitives and Moslem radicals into Kashmir to inflame the situation. His goal is to convert Pakistan into a Taliban-like Islamist state. Gul must be incarcerated and the ISI dismantled.

At a summit meeting in Camp David, GW could explain these necessities to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Primi Minister Atal Vajpayee. Then he could get out a map and give them a geography lesson:

"Let's forget history for a moment and both of your conflicting territorial claims. Let's divide Kashmir into four regions: Ladakh, Kishtwar-Jammu, Baltistan-Hunza, and the Kashmir Valley.

"Ladakh is Tibetan Buddhist. It's in India and there is no doubt its people look upon India as protecting them from China, which has destroyed Tibet. Kishtwar-Jammu is Hindu, with very few Moslems. It's also in India and should remain so. Baltistan-Hunza, together with the small 'Azad' area, is 99 percent Moslem and in Pakistan.

"It's ridiculous that India should claim these regions. So I want you two right now to agree that Ladakh and Kishtwar-Jammu belong to India, that Baltistan-Hunza and Azad belong to Pakistan, and for you to relinquish conflicting claims on them.

"The real problem, as I see it, is with the Vale itself, Srinigar and the Kashmir Valley. It's controlled by India, yet its people are predominately Moslem. I can understand why India would want to keep, and Pakistan would want to have, one of the most famously beautiful places in the world, the fabled ‘Vale of Kashmir.' You two are going to have to work this out together.

"You cannot have war. War will destroy you both, destroy your countries socially, politically and economically. You are neighbors and you are going to learn to get along. Admit that settling Kashmir simply must be done, period. Giving up your conflicting claims on the other regions and focusing on the Vale itself is 80 percent of the solution right there.

"Perhaps some sort of joint power-sharing arrangement between you, with the Kashmiris having autonomy over their local affairs, is the way. Use Kashmir as an opportunity to live and prosper together, instead of a way to spread nuclear radiation across the globe. Make money, not war. That's the way it is, guys – and I'm not letting you out of here until you sign an agreement on it."

I have traveled through most all of Kashmir – visited hidden Tibetan monasteries and rafted the Zanskar River in Ladakh, lived on a houseboat on Srinigar's Dal lake, hunted black bear in the mountains above the Vale, witnessed sunrise on 25,000-foot Rakaposhi in Hunza.

The entire place is impossibly magnificent. It is time for the Big Dog to brush aside Indo-Pak sadomasochistic egos. Peace in Kashmir must be made compulsory – for the alternative is global nuclear rain.

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Bob wanted to know if I would write an article for SOF on Taliban John Walker, the American captured fighting for al-Qaeda in Mazar-e-Sharif. I declined. There's nothing to write about, I explained. We're in a war. He's a traitor, caught willfully fighting with the...
Sunday, 03 February 2002 12:00 AM
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