India, Pakistan enjoy theatrical proxy war
December 25, 2001 9:31 AM   Subscribe

India, Pakistan enjoy theatrical proxy war A ceremony to lower the flags of the two perennially hostile neighbours at Wagah, their only rail and road crossing point, has been transformed into a show of highly stylised aggression, and one which draws huge and noisy crowds to taunt each other. Better than the real thing, I suppose.
posted by Rastafari (26 comments total)
Oh, and Merry Christmas to all Mefi's out there, both regular and visitors as well.
posted by Rastafari at 9:32 AM on December 25, 2001

Academic feuds, it is said, are the most vicious -- because the stakes are so low.

Kashmir, of course, is one of the more inhospitable places on the planet. It's like the parts of Afghanistan where they hid Tora Bora. There are no exportable natural resources to speak of. It's mainly highland valleys with marginal agriculture. For fighting over this -- as in Palestine, what Thomas Friedman calls the same olive tree over and over -- both countries have to be at least a little bit nuts.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 PM on December 25, 2001

Kashmir is beautiful, a huge tourist attraction prior to the terrorists attacks. Some of the best apples on the planet grow there. It's not a worthless piece of land, and even if it is a worthless piece of land, it is a part of India, and that makes it worth fighting for.
posted by riffola at 10:36 PM on December 25, 2001

In a perfect world, Kashmir would be removed from the planet and sent into orbit around Mercury.
posted by aramaic at 10:46 PM on December 25, 2001

Logically, the Kashmir conflict should be one of the most discussed issues and should be on everyone's mind because of fact that this dispute could result in a nuclear war.

I think part of the problem is that there seems to me to be no left/right wing view on the conflict, neither side is communist, neither side is a client of the U.S. One country is a democracy and one is a dictatorship, but then India has used much violence in the mostly Muslim Kashmir and has opposed foreign involvement in resolving the conflict.

People and the media should be more concerned with this issue than, say, John Walker.
posted by bobo123 at 11:13 PM on December 25, 2001

India and Pakistan border each other and both have nuclear arms, to the east you have China who funds Pakistan's end of the arms race, to the west you have Iran neighboring Pakistan (relations between these countries have always been iffy), and if you go far enough north, there's our old friend Russia. Sounds like a party waiting to happen. Is the US invited?
posted by Aikido at 11:27 PM on December 25, 2001

bobo- I completely agreed. I have researched this ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan since the beginning of this year. It scares me that the general public knows nothing about the harsh conflict between these two countries has been going on for years... and has been continually fueled by guerillas on both sides....

Bout time the American public wakes the hell up and becomes aware of all the shit going on in the world, and let little local matters like John Walker take a back seat.
posted by Aikido at 11:35 PM on December 25, 2001

If only peace work were as headline-worthy as are war preparations.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:33 AM on December 26, 2001

Count me among those who don't know enough about the Kashmir situation. I know the basic history of India and Pakistan (well, at least going back to independence)... but I know very little of the subtleties involved in the Kashmir conflict.

Does anyone have some good links for more in depth info? (preferably attempting to be objective, presenting both sides).
posted by malphigian at 8:08 AM on December 26, 2001

Canadian journalist Eric Margolis has written a book on the conflict and he usually tries to bring up Kashmir whenever he appears on CNN. He wrote a good summary back in October of the situation here, focusing on the current situation and how it is being effected by the Afganistan conflict.
posted by bobo123 at 9:26 AM on December 26, 2001

India vs. Pakistan scares me, and it should scare a lot more people. A report on Fox News earlier today covered the story, but ended with the premise that the Pakistan's massing of troops along the border may pull troops away from the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, allowing Usama bin-Laden a chance to slip away. I would hope that the possibility of "limited" (if there is such a thing) nuclear war would weigh heavily upon the minds of people.

However, I'm sure that the first thoughts many people will have on this will come after the first reports of combat come in...
posted by Wildcat3 at 10:25 AM on December 26, 2001

"Kashmiris were to have decided in a UN plebiscite whether they wanted to join India or Pakistan. But India never allowed a vote in the two-thirds of Kashmir it controlled."

Um, which country is the democracy and which is the dictatorship again?

Serious question: have the Kashmiris ever expressed any desire to become an independent nation?
posted by homunculus at 11:00 AM on December 26, 2001

I know that India/Pakistan/Kashmir is curraint affiar, much in the news, and much going on in the region, but does anyone have any comments on the article? Just asking....
posted by Rastafari at 11:20 AM on December 26, 2001

Margolis has a pretty large set of biases. The Indian perspective is pretty compelling as well, you might want to check out the Guardian's website to see a somewhat more evenhanded approach.

Kashmir does have a sizable Hindu and Buddhist population that vehemently do not wish to join Pakistan (after all, Pakistan is not known for it's religious diversity or tolerance). There are far more Muslims in India than there are Hindus in Pakistan.
posted by rks404 at 11:28 AM on December 26, 2001

The land was ruled by a Hindu king and he opted to join India. That is India's basis of not allowing Kashmir to vote in the UN, it is a part of the nation and India has no intention of going through another seperation.
posted by riffola at 11:37 AM on December 26, 2001

i saw this on tv one time, it looked really funny only it's kinda not being so serious and all. i'm reminded of that nirvana song, um, territorial pissings.

also reminds me of highschool history where i remember my teacher saying that some indian tribes only engaged in ritualistic war, which involved displays of bravery rather than actual combat.

btw, there was a good thread about kashmir and nukes last month.
posted by kliuless at 11:47 AM on December 26, 2001

More about the ceremony here and, interestingly, here on the Pakistani government site (scroll to the bottom paragraph), where it reads:

"When there is no audience, the same guards chat, share food and other items ... "

The latter article is from July, however, so things may well have been friendlier then.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:49 AM on December 26, 2001

For some reason, I found the whole notion that the respective countries had to deploy their tallest troops and put on turbans to increase their stature incredibly comical. I wonder if they'll start deploying troops in high-heeled boots to further increase the psychological intimidation.
posted by rks404 at 12:34 PM on December 26, 2001

In a perfect world, Kashmir would be removed from the planet and sent into orbit around Mercury.

Aramaic, how exactly would this make it a perfect world? Wouldn't you have to get rid of the Middle East [especially the Israel/Palestine area] to get a perfect world since there is more violence there than in the Kashmir region, if that's what you're basing you're opinion on?

Or, would a better idea be to rid the world of terrorists and those who perpetuate violence, rather than removing land, since it is man who is responsible for violence?
posted by Rastafari at 12:46 PM on December 26, 2001

An article in the latest issue of American Prospect may offer some comfort. Ramindar Singh writes that "There is a good deal of circumstantial evidence that Americans have taken charge of the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and fissionable material." [note: the issue is incorectly dated January 1 - 14, 2001. I expect I will make that mistake a couple times in the next few weeks, but American Prospect?]
posted by ferris at 5:09 PM on December 26, 2001

For those of you who wanted a backgrounder on the Kashmir dispute, here is my take. It is rather difficult for an Indian to be dispassionate about Kashmir. I would try.

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) used to be an independent Kingdom under the British sphere of influence and ruled by Raja Hari Singh. In 1947, the king kept vacillating about which country to accede to. Both India and Pakistan kept courting him. Finally in 1948, Pakistan lost patience and there was an incursion from across the Pakistani border of armed guerrillas. We Indians claim that they were Pakistani soldiers in disguise. Pakis claim those were tribal freedom fighters. To cut a long story short, by the time Hari Singh signed a treaty acceding J&K to India so that Indian troops could intervene, Pakistani troops have occupied quite a bit of Kashmir.. Nehru – the then prime minister of India, in his infinite wisdom decided to bring in UN to broker a peace. The peace came at the price of a ‘Line of Control’. So the state is now divided between what is called ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’ (POK) and Jammu and Kashmir that is a part of India. (For those who are interested, there is a fairly objective history of the dispute in the book ‘Freedom at Midnight’ by Lapierre and Collins. The book is about Indian freedom struggle and partition. But it is very well written, rich in humor and covers the background that you need to understand the enmity between India and Pakistan).

Since then, India and Pakistan have fought two major wars – not entirely over Kashmir. As a result of the last war- fought in 1971, Bangladesh was created out of what was then East Pakistan. Indian Army eventually retreated from pars of West Pakistan into which it had incurred and gave Pakistan back the 40,000 troops that it has taken prisoner in Bangladesh (It is said that there was a fair amount of arm twisting of India by both US and then USSR who did not really want to face each other off over this South Asian dispute. Those were the cold war days…). It is my opinion that the Pakistani elite continues to feel humiliated over that old stupidity of theirs and wants to even the score. But that’s just an opinion.

To get back to the issue of Kashmir - If I remember correctly, Jammu and Kashmir has three districts. Jammu – which is predominantly Hindu, Kashmir – which is predominantly Muslim and Ladakh - which is predominantly Buddhist. I think a significant percentage of the ‘Kashmir’ population would prefer not to have anything to do with India. The majority of J&K would probably prefer to stay with India. But that again is an opinion. But what the people of Kashmir would probably want more than anything else is to be left in peace by the Mujahids who have taken their land hostage. The Kashmiris are mostly poor, ill-educated, exploited by generations of Kashmiri politicians who have always siphoned off the Central government assistance to line their own pockets. These people primarily subsisted on the revenue that used to come from tourism. They have been the worst hit by the terrorism that really is financed, sponsored and abetted by ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency and those mad Mullahs from Pakistan). At some time in the distant past it used to be a homegrown movement. Now it is no longer so.

I don’t think either India nor Pakistan wants a conflict right now. Indian economy is making a painful and slow migration to a market economy. The ruling elite knows that a war and war related expenses will set their efforts back. They simply want to use the Parliament assault to make the menace of terrorism more visible. They have been trying for decades to focus the world’s attention on the dirty war that we are being forced to fight in India. They also want to focus the attention on the funding, the training and the sanctuary that these terrorists get in Pakistan.

Neither does Pakistan want a war. In spite of my initial impressions to the contrary, General Mussarraf seems to want to rebuild his country. They junta there doesnt want to jeopardize their new found legitimacy. My friends back home tell me that they also don’t appear to have the bandwidth to manage both the India and Afghanistan borders simultaneously. Pakistan is also almost bankrupt. There is an enormous amount of help that is going into Kashmir from Pakistan. The Pakistan government is simply scrambling to put the whole mess under the carpet until the fickle attention of world media shifts somewhere else. Then they can go back to business. What we are witnessing on the border is a huge charade being played by two countries. One wants to focus attention on the ‘Kashmir problem’. The other wants to focus attention on the terrorism problem.

So, can there be a war? Of course there can be. There is a tremendous build up along the border. All it takes is a series of hostilities across the border for it to go out of control. To keep face both the ‘leaders’ will have to match rhetoric, deed and sabre rattling word by word. A few miscalculations can send all these carefully calculated orchestrations out of control. To me and to most Indians – Nwaz Sharif seemed a more trustworthy guy. He was corrupt. But he was a businessman. He understood the value of peace. He had an open smile. He and Vajpeyee hit it off. We trusted him. We can never forget that General Musharraf was the architect of the Kargil misadventures of 1998. It is him who put Nawaz Sharif away. The general is a tight lipped representative of the Pakistani army. There is only one way he can justify the failure of the state of Pakistan. By physical defeat of India. And like most masochistic guys from that part of the word he thinks that he is the dude.
posted by justlooking at 9:58 PM on December 26, 2001 [1 favorite]

...General Musharraf was the architect of the Kargil misadventures of 1998.

I've just spent 20 minutes with Google, trying to find out what happened in Kargil. Indian and Pakistani sources assumed I knew the basics; Western media was mostly missing. Thank goodness for the BBC!
posted by Carol Anne at 4:44 AM on December 27, 2001

Mad Pakistani Dictator vs. Belligerent Hindu Fundamentalist Politicians...
and how close are we to a nuclear war, it's not about why they won't, it's about how close they are to justifying it's use...
posted by bittennails at 5:31 AM on December 27, 2001

Kaushik, thanks muchly for that post, very helpful.
posted by malphigian at 6:37 AM on December 27, 2001

From Margolis' article, dated October 15 2001:

US troops are about to go into action in Afghanistan between feuding India and Pakistan

Err, huh? Last I checked, Afghanistan's on the other side of Pakistan.... That said, India's recalling of its ambassador is a bad sign. And given the number of US troops in Pakistan right now, I don't think that Bush/Cheney/Powell/Rumsfeld (heck Gen. Franks for that matter) would look too kindly upon the situation.

I liked Kaushik's post; I'd really like to see a similar post from an equally informed Pakistani (with the same effort to remain as objective as possible)...

posted by elvolio at 2:26 PM on December 27, 2001

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