In appeasing India, Obama betrays the Kashmiris
SOURCE: Crescent Magazine Online
Washington DC, Crescent-online
November 19, 2010, 12:00 DST
India was undoubtedly the centerpiece of Barack Obama’s current Asia tour. While Obama’s criticism of Israel in Indonesia generated headlines, the three-day stop in India sparked the most media coverage, most of it congratulatory. Newspapers and TV stations took note of Obama’s support for India’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which would cement India’s aspirations for great power status.
However, as activists such as Arundhati Roy have observed, it also foreclosed the possibility of the US recognizing the rising tide of Kashmiri resistance. In the past few months, the Kashmiri populace have exploded in resistance against India’s brutal oppression. Inspired by the Palestinian intifada, stone throwing youth have taken to the streets, pelting military officials and other representatives of state terror. India was forced to send some high-ranking state officials to the region in order to quiet it down enough to avoid embarrassment during the Commonwealth games.
In state-manufactured propaganda, indigenous Kashmiri resistance is often cast as Pakistan sponsored terrorism. With India’s growing political closeness to the US, Washington has adopted India’s sloganeering. In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama declared that terrorist networks, including Lashkar e-Taiba, must be defeated and called for Pakistan “to bring to justice” the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attack.
Obama and Singh also declared close collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and its Indian counterpart, the Ministry of Home Affairs, particularly with respect to “counter-terrorism” technology and “capacity building.”
This is a distinct departure from Obama’s earlier position during the presidential campaign, when he declared resolution of the Kashmir dispute would be one of his administration’s most critical tasks.
As Arundhati Roy notes in a recent, beautifully written NYT op-ed, the Indian army admits that there are less than 500 Pakistani militants in the Valley today. Instead, the Indian occupation has left 70,000 dead and thousands maimed and debilitated by torture.
India has long been angling for a coveted seat on the UN Security Council. While it has been elected as a 2-year temporary member, Obama’s endorsement signals a political coup for the country that has made no secret of its great power designs. In a particularly grim note, Indian commentators note that this gesture may make Obama more popular than George W. Bush, who was the architect of the nuclear fuel sharing deal.
While conservative factions in the US were incensed over the expenditure during Obama’s India trip—he booked out the entire Taj Mahal hotel, and was accompanied by thousands of security officials, 250 businessmen, drone aircraft and a fleet of US warships patrolling the Mumbai coast—the Democrats countered by marketing the visit as a job-raising expedition that would ultimately help the US.
White House aide Michael Froman told reporters that Obama’s visit was poised to raise $10 billion for the economy, including an engine contract for General Electric, a $2.7bn commission for passenger aircraft from Boeing for one of India’s fast-expanding private airlines, and a hotly debated $4.5bn Boeing sale of C-17 military transport planes.