[Reader-list] After Obama is gone

Aalok Aima aalok.aima at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 3 19:35:48 IST 2010

i like this piece
the political ideology of the author is not thrust in our face ....... which is rare when it comes to kashmir
it presumes a future scenario but quite realistically ....... more resigned than cynical or pessimistic
........ aalok aima
After Obama is gone
US President has only made a passing mention of Kashmir in his India tour, and Kashmir is shocked
Let us assume it is October 9, and US president Barack Obama has left Indian shores for his next stop in Indonesia. He has had a roaring four day visit, evoking memories of the former US president Bill Clinton who fundamentally transformed the Indo-US relations during his 2000 visit. He doesn't, however, sign anything as groundbreaking as Bush's nuclear deal. Obama even doesn't go the whole hog on the Security Council seat for India. He, however, sounds positive on the issue, saying US is open-minded about India 's candidature for a permanent UNSC membership. However, the centre piece of his visit, the address to the parliament mesmerizes the nation and of course outlines the broad US policy for the South Asia with implications for China too. Obama also talks at great length about Afghanistan and the need to stabilize the country and for India and Pakistan to contribute to this international effort. Does he discuss Kashmir? Yes, he does. But he merely
 skirts the issue, reiterating the stock US line on the dispute. That is, India and Pakistan should resolve the issue between themselves and US at best can be a facilitator and a well-wisher. That is it.

 This lackluster talk on Kashmir disappoints the people in the state. The opinion being heard quite often is that US hasn't been moved by the five month long protests in the state. More so, the string of strict hartals in the run up to the Obama visit. Kashmir isn't what the US is interested in its dealings with New Delhi, common people in the state start debating. “US and the world aren't bothered what happens in Kashmir, they have their own interests,” some say. More informed people talk about India's rising economic clout and the country’s enhanced significance for the recession-hit west. Some talk about the country's importance as a countervailing force to rising China . And others talk about India's democracy, secularism and inclusiveness, the country's calling cards in today's world. Something that for the west sets India redeemingly apart from the Muslim world where democracy, it is argued, has no place.

The sum of the Obama visit is that India and US are again at the best of terms. Obama's great charm offensive has wowed the country as a whole. But Kashmir slips into a slough of despond with Obama leaving Kashmir as it is. There is an increasing chorus of a large number of I Told You Sos in the state, who declare their vindication from the rooftops. They go all out against Hurriyat strategy to draw Obama attention. That self infliction like endless hartals might articulate a message and win some media attention for a brief time but it doesn't change geo-politics. That a cause can take the loss of life but it cannot take job losses, that too in thousands. That the struggles have no short-cuts and those who try to do so lead themselves smack into a blind alley. And that in doing so, they harm the very cause they champion. For a moment I Told You Sos seem to be winning. There is a growing public opinion that echoes their take on the situation. "What did we
 get for five months of shutdowns,” a murmur rises across the Valley, first in hushed tones and then loudly.

Hartal strategy seems to be reeling. Its advocates, for a while, fumble for answers. But, in no way, are they apologetic.  They soon change the goalpost. Obama's support is not the essential purpose of the strikes, they argue. It is about re-invigorating the freedom struggle as a whole. It is about drawing the entire world's attention to Kashmir. And it is about challenging New Delhi's control in the state. They also enumerate benefits of the five month agitation. ''It brought Kashmir back into global spotlight and brought pressure to bear on India,'' they say. They also, and justifiably, blame the government for bringing the situation to this pass by killing 111 youth, most of them teenagers - some of them boys under the age of ten.

However, they don't think Obama visit is a lost cause. They either overlook it or play up a small oblique reference to Kashmir in his speech as their glorious triumph. Or they say US is silently pushing Kashmir resolution and meaningfully staying short of making it public so as not to alienate New Delhi. However, the baiters of the unending hartal strategy refuse to take any of this. They say, immediate US’ Kashmir interest is the result of the war in Afghanistan where solution to Kashmir is now seen as one of the ways to stabilize the Taliban country. It is also the result of Pakistan whose support Washington needs to defeat Taliban and al Qaeda, they say and argue that Kashmir protests play but a small part in this. And hartals? Hartals, they say, aren’t even noticed. And those supporting them need to get some minimum education in how world operates before inflicting themselves on the hapless people.

The matter, however, doesn’t stop here. There is the future to look forward to. With Obama gone, and leaving us out in the cold, there is apparently no big event in sight to peg the strike calendar on. Or is it. Of course, there is the visit of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, sometime in the winter. The visit, in a sense, is more interesting than US from the separatist point of view. In recent months, China has carved for itself a distinct role in Kashmir debate by terming the state as disputed and issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris. So, to weave some strategy around the visit might be thought by some a worthwhile effort. Or it could be back to the demand for the acceptance of five point proposals. In that case, there will be again a case for shutdowns while the people against them condemn the extension of this failed strategy. The argument goes on.


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