August 20, 2019

Kashmir

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

On August 5, “India… revoked the special status of Kashmir, the Himalayan region that has long been a flashpoint in ties with neighboring Pakistan, moving to grasp its only Muslim-majority region more tightly.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support for Hindu nationalism and worries about the rights of Kashmiris.

“Since [Modi’s] 2014 election to the premiership, bigotry has been ennobled as a healthy form of self-assertion. Lynchings of Muslims — breathlessly demonized as jihadists devoted to seducing and converting Hindu women — by aggrieved Hindu mobs have become such a common sport that dozens of videos of grisly murders circulate on WhatsApp groups run by Hindu nationalists. Last summer, a minister in Modi’s cabinet garlanded eight men who had been convicted of lynching a Muslim man. In this universe, Kashmir could never remain autonomous… Kashmir is both a warning and a template: Any state that deviates from this vision can be brought under Delhi’s thumb in the name of ‘unity.’”
Kapil Komireddi, Washington Post

“As if a communications blackout and restrictions on movements were not enough, news reports indicate there have been hundreds of political arrests, and that at least one journalist -- Qazi Shibli, editor of news website The Kashmiriyat -- has been detained… Who else is imprisoned in Kashmir right now? What other tactics are security forces using to suppress information? How else has this blackout impacted the region's population? How do Kashmiris feel about recent developments? Or about the future of their region? We really don't know.”
Michael De Dora and Aliya Iftikhar, CNN

“This is the kind of crackdown on free speech and assembly one expects from authoritarian China, which has set up concentration camps for ethnic Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. But India, which just this week celebrated 72 years of independence as a boisterous, multiethnic and multiconfessional democracy? Mr. Modi might have fulfilled a dream of Hindu nationalists going back to the 1950s, but he also stained that democracy and most likely stoked anger in Kashmir that will fester long into the future.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

India is in danger of becoming what I have called an ‘election-only democracy.’ Once a party has won an election, it is unaccountable for its acts. Parliament barely functions. Large sections of the media are scared or co-opted. The judiciary is overburdened and dysfunctional. The civil service and the police are in the pocket of the [ruling party]. President Trump cannot set the tax authorities and intelligence agencies on his critics, but Modi can, and might. Independent news websites and television channels… have [already] faced intimidation through libel cases, tax raids, etc.”
Ramachandra Guha, Washington Post

Kashmir “had long been exempted from parts of the Indian Constitution and set its own laws, even as it remained under Indian control, an anomalous status that a government under the sway of Hindu nationalism will no longer tolerate. Meanwhile, protesters in the streets of Hong Kong are pushing back against efforts by the Chinese government to chip away at the semi-independent status it has enjoyed—known as ‘one country, two systems’—since the former British colony came under Chinese control in 1997…

“These stories are all signs that national governments are waging a war against ambiguity—of citizenship, of territorial status—to enforce a rigid and uniform vision of statehood… Liberal commentators often fret about the threat that Trump and other right-wing populist leaders pose to the postwar ‘rules-based international order.’ But Trump and his cohort are obsessed with rules and order when it comes to national sovereignty, borders, and who gets to live within those borders. Trump has often argued that ‘If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country!’... This philosophy fails to recognize that a certain amount of ambiguity can be stabilizing in the absence of a political consensus.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right sees the move as a predictable consequence of Pakistan’s support for Islamists.

From the Right

The right sees the move as a predictable consequence of Pakistan’s support for Islamists.

“It’s too early to say whether the prime minister’s audacious gamble, wildly popular
among his supporters and welcomed by many other Indians, will pay off. India’s Supreme Court may well declare the decision unconstitutional. But Pakistan, which has long made Kashmir a central plank of its foreign policy, lacks the wherewithal to force India’s hand. By backing jihadist groups in India and Afghanistan and neglecting its economy, Islamabad has ensured that it lacks the stature to make India take its views on board.… When it comes to the seven-decade-old Kashmir conflict, Pakistan has few cards left to play

“Pakistanis who find [the international] response underwhelming ought to blame their army. Its support for jihadist proxies has made Kashmiri separatism synonymous with Islamist extremism. Pakistan could step up that support, but at the risk of both international censure and Indian military retaliation... Meanwhile, India’s $2.7 trillion economy, more than eight times as large as Pakistan’s, gives it international heft. The Pakistan army’s own shabby treatment of journalists, opposition leaders and ethnic movements representing the minority Baluch and Pashtuns, makes it hard for Islamabad to argue that Kashmiris will be better off in Pakistan.”
Sadanand Dhume, Wall Street Journal

“Historically, Pakistan has used Jammu and Kashmir is a means to end – a strategic pain point where Islamabad can ratchet pressure up or down when it wants to get Delhi’s attention… Modi’s latest move shows that little has changed. And while unexpected, it was not entirely unpredictable. The manifesto of the BJP, Modi’s ruling party, has long called for this. And Pakistan has already done something similar with the portion of Kashmir it administers… So, what role is there for the U.S.? Not much. Indians will consider this an internal matter and resent any outside attempt at intervention or coercion. India has always rejected outside mediation in Kashmir, and the U.S. government considers the Kashmir dispute a bilateral issue to be resolved between India and Pakistan.”
James Jay Carafano, Fox News

“India is thinking strategically and is preparing for what it believes will be an Afghan Taliban takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan, following a peace treaty and substantial U.S. and NATO withdrawal. For decades, the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Pakistani ISI (intelligence service), and the Pakistan Army have collaborated as if joined at the hip, managing Pashtun nationalism as a force against the U.S. and NATO. While the Pakistan Army has waged counterinsurgency against Islamist and insurgent forces, it did just enough to receive continued U.S. military and financial aid, but not enough to prevail against an ethnic group that will be there long after a withdrawal by the West. Of late, the Taliban has expressed concern over the welfare of Kashmiris — operating in the future with the platform of a nation state in concert with the Pakistan Army and ISI, it constitutes an ominous and potentially aggressive threat to India’s national security well beyond the status quo.”
Frank Schell, The American Spectator

Some note that “Modi’s dislike of Muslim influence in India is well known. His party, the BJP, has its origins in thinkers who thought Muslims ‘were not children of [India’s] soil.’ While governor of Gujarat in 2002, Modi was accused of supporting communal riots in the state that saw almost 1,000 Muslims killed. His landslide re-election as prime minister earlier this year was seen by the country’s Muslims as a signal that Hindu nationalism was here to stay. The demotion of Kashmir, India’s only majority Muslim state, into what will effectively be a colony ruled from Delhi, will only reinforce the growing view that in Modi’s India, Muslims are second class citizens.”
Ned Donovan, Spectator USA

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

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