Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kashmir: a new Gaza?

Abdus Satar Ghazali, executive editor of the American Muslim Perspective, has an essay in Al-Ahram about how the United States is reshaping the Middle East and South Asia.

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman writes that Arab Palestinians were shuffled between Syria and Lebanon following World War II. The PLO evolved and became a symbol not just of the Muslim voice, but of a growing (international) sense of Muslim disenfranchisement. He has been criticized for it, but that's probably why Columbia University scholar Rashid Khalidi wrote that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is central to the Arab identity.

Today, the Hindu carries a short story called "Pakistan invokes the K word."  The K-word is "Kashmir," the contested borderland between India and Pakistan.  Originally granted to India by international convention, Pakistanis believe Kashmir should belong to them and refer to it as "Indian-occupied."  Military clashes are common along the border.

The question is: is Kashmir turning into a new Gaza Strip?  A central stalemate and a romanticized ideal for both sides?  A built-up store of resentments that no geographical boundary will ever be able to resolve?  (It's already gone a long way in this direction - terrorism has made the region almost uninhabitable.)

And what role do journalists have in the creation and maintenance of such a dispute?

Ponder this: the Hindu article is titled "Pakistan invokes the K Word." In fact, Pakistan invoked the K word after agreeing to ban a militant group, and the delegate only pushed for a "resolution."  On the surface, this was not intolerant.

Meanwhile, Ghazali blames the US for reshaping Pakistan.  In fact, it's the Pushtu tribes along the Pakistan-Afghan border who are pushing for more territory, and might in future get it.

The point is, neither of these articles seems completely honest, but both contribute to a sense of a 'threatened' Pakistan, territory beset on all sides.  This is exactly how resentments and fears breed monsters.  We've already seen it happen to a greater extent in the Middle East.

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