Hurts the credibility of Kashmiri separatists and India’s left-liberal intellectuals

The filing of a criminal complaint by the FBI against Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council, which is also known as the Kashmir Center, is being dismissed by many Indians because it is the outcome of a souring US-Pakistan relationship. Whatever be the cause of its timing, there are many unintended consequences of the episode; the collateral damage is hurting many others: the Kashmiri separatists, and the Indian Left-liberal intelligentsia which associated with Fai and his Kashmir Center in Washington DC.

Background Reading: ProPublica report on the episode; the Department of Justice Press Release; the Criminal Complaint and the Affidavit filed by the FBI; Praveen Swami profiles Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai; ProPublica profiles Fai’s co-accused, Dr. Zaheer Ahmad; Reactions of some Indian intelligentsia associated with Fai; and the reaction of the Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

First, the Kashmiri separatists. For the last 15 years, the Kashmiri separatist leadership — with different monikers of hardliner, moderate, Gandhian and pro-Azaadi — has thrived on a popular myth created about them being the true representative of the Kashmiris. Although mainstream political leaders like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have won popular elections which have seen more than 60% electoral participation, they have often been dismissed — and often by many well-meaning Indians — as not being representatives of the electorate but merely an outcome of Kashmiris’ yearning for an administrative machinery in the state. Of course, many continue to ignore the recent Panchayat elections in Kashmir where 80% Kashmiris turned up to vote in defiance of a public boycott call given by what Western magazines like The Economist call the tallest Kashmiri leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

With their support in the state being limited to parts of Srinagar and areas like Sopore, the separatists draw their credibility from the international support provided to them. This international support was not generated due to the “moral, diplomatic, and political support” provided by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but an organised intelligence operation run across the globe by its military spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

Herein lies the bigger tragedy. Those claiming to speak for the Kashmiris have taken the Kashmiris for a ride. They are stooges and mouthpieces of the ISI, with their purses provided by their puppeteers at the ISI headquarters in Rawalpindi. It shouldn’t surprise us though because these self-styled Kashmiri leaders have never even spoken a word about the terrible situation in other parts of Kashmir — the one under Pakistani occupation: Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. This also perhaps explains why Mr Geelani continues to favour Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan even while trying to ride on the sentiment of Azaadi among a section of young Kashmiris.

The Geelanis and the Mirwaizs and the Yasin Maliks are not the representative of the Kashmiris. They are the stooges of the ISI. When they start pontificating about talking to India, India’s point-blank reply should be: Take us to your masters.

From the Haqqani network to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, more revelations tell us that the militancy in Kashmir was not started or stoked by Pakistan, but owned, controlled, funded and manned by the Pakistani military-jehadi complex. Kashmir was a handy battleground for Pakistan to hurt India and Kashmiris the unsuspecting victims of Pakistan’s malice. The militancy and violence in the state came down once India was able to put a mechanism in place that reduced the infiltration from across the Line of Control. The drop in violence was possible only because the indigenous Kashmiri component in the militancy is insignificant.

Many commentators have suggested that the stone-pelting incidents witnessed in certain urban areas of Kashmir Valley in the summer of 2010 were an expression of their popular anger against the Indian state, because the militancy had subsided. While there is an element of truth in this contention, reportage from the ground (last year by Samar Halarnkar and this year by Smita Prakash) has highlighted the role of Pakistani money in organising these stone-pelters. The state government did make mistakes in its handling of the situation (and it is a credit to the state government that they have prevented a encore this year) but if it were not for the financial and organisation support provided by the ISI and ISI-backed proxies in Kashmir, the stone-pelting protests would not have been of the magnitude witnessed last year.

It is to the credit of the ISI that it has done its job well. There are some unresolved issues in Kashmir, as they are in nearly half the districts of the country. But where the ISI has succeeded is in hyping the problem in Kashmir out of proportion. It has shaped the popular narrative about Kashmir, not only abroad but also in India.

This brings us to the question of the Left Liberal intelligentsia in India which has, wittingly or unwittingly, helped the ISI in furthering its aim. Despite the vocal pronouncements and actions by some of these people, it would be preposterous to conceive of them as being anti-India. They were, now that the ISI-Fai relationship is in the open, to use that popular Cold War term, “Useful Idiots”. They have been used by the ISI against India and Indians.

The argument that these intellectuals should not be criticised for attending the ISI-sponsored conference but for their views expressed there doesn’t hold much water. The Indian speakers lent credibility and respectability to these partisan events and biased the global narrative against India.

Furthermore, sections of the India media (notably Praveen Swami and Seema Sirohi) have flagged Fai and his events for nearly a decade now. It was evident to most other observers that Fai was an integral component of the Pakistani propaganda machinery on Kashmir. Attending these events raises serious question marks about the judgement and wisdom of these intellectuals and experts. Even if they were useful idiots, they were — and dare I say, are — idiots. It is in our interest to identify, acknowledge and treat them as idiots, whether it is on Kashmir or any other issue of national interest.

This holds a salutary lesson for many Indian media personalities, intellectuals, commentators and experts. They would be well-advised to seek wiser counsel before accepting free junkets in the garb of conferences and seminars, especially when it comes to issues related to Pakistan.

Finally, the Government of India. The FBI charge-sheet has been met with a stony silence by the GoI so far. Perhaps the MEA has been kept busy with the India-US Strategic Meeting this week and will soon take cognisance of this issue before the Pakistani delegation arrives in Delhi next week.

What else should GoI do? GoI must focus on the other two Kashmir Centers — in London and Brussels — and press upon the British government and the EU Parliament to probe them and shut them down. GoI must simultaneously bring to book those Kashmiri leaders who are proved to be on the payroll of the ISI.

The opportunity has presented itself to India to set the narrative about Kashmir right: locally, nationally and internationally. In football parlance, this is like an open goal available to the striker which India cannot afford to miss.

Alas, we in India are used to seeing such open chances being wasted often. One fears that this will be no different now.

Recommended Reading: ANI’s Smita Prakash on the Fai affair – Fait Accompli: Kashmir loses one junket genie.


DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.