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The end of a lost campaign

india Updated: Jul 21, 2011 23:07 IST

The arrest of the head of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), Ghulam Nabi Fai, by the US authorities has thrown light on the extent of Pakistan's attempts to influence international opinion on Kashmir. The information provided by the US indicates that the Council and similar satellite groups have been working for over 20 years, spending millions of dollars in propaganda and political contributions. The council also sponsored events to which a number of Indian intellectuals attended. What is striking is how little impact all this effort has had on international opinion on Kashmir - at least in embracing the point of view Islamabad wants the world to take.

New Delhi's own political blunders in the 1980s helped send Kashmir into flames. These were subsequently aggravated by Pakistan's support for Kashmiri secessionist movements. What was most sinister about this support, however, was its evolution from backing secular and genuinely Kashmiri groups like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to fostering groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). This support ensured that Kashmir remained on the boil for much longer than it should have been. But it was exactly this sort of overreach that undermined Pakistan's Kashmir case. After 9/11, groups like LeT could no longer expect to be able to use the freedom fighter label as a mask. After 9/11, any US willingness to countenance an independent Kashmir also disappeared - such an entity would be little more than another safe haven for terrorism. Even before that, the Kashmir plebiscite issue had fallen by the wayside with even the then UN secretary general Kofi Annan declaring the relevant resolutions as being irrelevant.

The KAC is part of a propaganda campaign whose time had come and gone. The period when the Kashmir insurgency had the highest level of insurgency was about 20 years ago. India's shameful reputation for rigged elections in the state, the genuine sense of anger and disenchantment among Kashmiris, and the nationalist character of the original insurgents made the secessionist movement akin to the Palestinians cause or earlier post-colonial independence movements. The coarsening and Islamicisation of the Kashmiri movement, developments that Pakistan contributed to directly, eventually destroyed the cause overseas. People like Fai, however profitably it may have been to them personally, were fighting a losing campaign. It seems clear they were tolerated by the US because of their irrelevance and the larger US-Pakistan relationship. Today, with the latter relationship going sour, the bar was lowered on the KAC. And thus extinguishing a leftover side story of Kashmir's political saga.