Stirring the Pot in Kashmir

Ahmed Rashid is stirring the pot in his interview on NPR All Things Considered yesterday.

While there is no doubt that Kashmir is in flames, the theory of “strategic depth”, explaining Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan and Kashmir through Islamist proxies such as the Taliban and Kashmiri jihad as a quest for balance against Indian dominance isn’t convincing. Pakistani foreign and military policies are not simply a negative corollary of India’s, and the notion that Pakistan is trying to compete with India for influence inside Afghanistan doesn’t explain India’s complete lack of involvement in NATO or the security situation in Afghanistan.

Rashid’s implicit plea for international involvement, just months after Kashmir has returned to perhaps its worst state in fifteen years, seems somewhat clever given his oustanding scholarship and perspective on South Asia (his Taliban remains the single most valuable book on the rise of the students). Following the cack-handed repsonse of the Indian Government to the Amarnath land dispute making a pitch for US mediation in resolving the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan couldn’t be more poorly times. As for the rumours that Obama may send Bill Clinton as special envoy, he did broker an end to the Kargil War. Whatever Indian nationalists may say, the logical outcome of becoming a nuclear state was an acceptance of international mediation when things get out of hand between India and Pakistan.

What of the Simla Agreement and the famous Indian rejection of third-party mediation? It hit the dustbin of history sometime in the late nineties when Clinton had Nawaz Sharif pull back from nuclear war with India, and Strobe Talbott and Jaswant Singh had their famous strolls in the Mughal Gardens to bring India to the high table of the great powers. After the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, not only does India get to keep its bombs, it can be assured of a pro-US tilt in any mediation, which will most likely strictly behind the scenes, protestations from the Indian Foreign Office notwithstanding.

Filed under: main — Tags: , , — Shekhar @ 22 November 2008 3.00 pm

Obama’s Desi Geek

The Obama transition team this week announced that Sonal Shah has been selected to work on technology policy for the new administration (CNet News). Shah, an investment banker and public policy professional, is prominent within the Indian-American community not only for her work in Goldman-Sachs and the Google Foundation, but as a fund-raiser and community organizer for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, a well-known Hindu Right hate group in India which propagates violent pogroms and genocide against minority communities in India.

See these pieces raising alarm bells in the past few weeks in the Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Hindu.

As an Indian-American who has worked with social movements “back home” and against the organised disinformation of the Hindu Right within the diaspora, this is highly alarming, and another huge goof for Obama, whom I voted for as I bought the line that he was a fellow desi. Homeboy, this ain’t right. For a deep exploration of Shah’s many faces in her role as Obama’s Indian, read Vijay Prashad’s piece in Counterpunch. You may also want to see and sign this petition by Progressive Women of Color to give Sonal Shah’s job to someone with stronger democratic and humanitarian commitments back in the old country.

Filed under: main — Tags: , — Shekhar @ 20 November 2008 9.14 am