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The last round of Indo-Pak fighting over Kashmir in the Himalayan snowlands around Kargil coincided with the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia. On that occasion, Indian jets crossed the border and bombed positions inside Pakistan. If Nato could, why not India?
Now again, as the border tension increases, voices in Delhi are asking a similar question: if the United States can bomb a country and change its government in response to terrorist attacks, why not India? It is an apposite question, as Washington knows. The Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have carried out appalling acts of terrorism in Kashmir. The attack on the Indian parliament was an open provocation, designed to encourage a full-scale war between the two states. Which is one very good reason why it shouldn’t happen.
It’s true that Pakistan’s military intelligence created these groups and infiltrated them into Kashmir, just as they did with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is also true that, like the Taliban, these groups have acquired a relative autonomy and can’t be switched off like a light bulb. Washington knows that well. It couldn’t switch off Osama. London knows that, too; it couldn’t switch off the IRA.
The real question is what to do about Kashmir, and the simple answer is to ask the Kashmiris. Neither Islamabad nor Delhi wants to know, because they already know: Kashmir would like to be independent.
Another reason for the sabre-rattling by Delhi is that it is desperate to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. An Indian friend in Delhi tells me that Tony Blair’s visits only feed this frenzy. Why? Because if the leader of a medium-sized northern European country can prance around and posture in this fashion because his country sits on the Security Council, the only way to stop his visits is for India to join the council.
It’s difficult not to sympathise.
Bad news from Sudan. I’m a bit reluctant to publicise the facts in case they become an excuse for bombing that country again, but help is needed.
Abok Alfa Akok, an 18-year-old Christian from Nyala, in southern Darfur, has been sentenced to death by stoning for the ‘crime of adultery’. The authorities claim that the sentence is legal because it is based on Article 146 of the 1991 Penal Code, under which adultery is punishable with:
1) Execution by stoning when the offender is married (muhsan);
2) One hundred lashes when the offender is not married (non-muhsan);
3) Male, non-married offenders may be punished, in addition to whipping, with expatriation for a year.
This is a version of the sharia, or Koranic law, though disputed by many scholars. It should never be used, and certainly not against those who don’t believe in it in the first place.
Letters of protest against this proposed barbarism should be sent to: His Excellency Lieutenant General Omar Hassan el-Bashir, President of the Republic of Sudan, People’s Palace, PO Box 281, Khartoum, Sudan (telex: 22385 PEPLC SD or 22411 KAID SD; fax: +249 11 771 724).
Some good news. This month, the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican is performing a Peter Sellars collaboration, the opera The Death of Klinghoffer, which became ‘controversial’ after 11 September.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra cancelled its scheduled performances of choruses that re-enact the events that took place on the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985: Palestinian guerrillas took hostages and killed an American Jew. The Boston Symphony said that ‘sensitivity’ dictated that it should not perform this particular work.
The composer, John Adams, and the librettist, Alice Goodman, responded by saying that the opera offered the ‘solace of truth’.
The opera’s critics, who defended the cancellation, included the distinguished musicologist Richard Taruskin. He wrote: ‘ The contrast set the vastly unequal terms on which the conflict of Palestinians and Jews would be perceived throughout the opera. The portrayal of suffering Palestinians in the musical language of myth and ritual was immediately juxtaposed with a musically trivial portrayal of contented, materialistic American Jews.’
In other words, Taruskin was opposed to the politics of the opera, and used 11 September to defend censorship. As news of the Barbican’s decision spreads, tickets are likely to be in short supply. I’ve booked mine.
Back to bad news. Noam Chomsky’s Kurdish publisher in Istanbul, Aram Publishing House, is being prosecuted by the state for including a ferocious essay on the condition of Turkish Kurds in a collection entitled American Interventionism.
As we know, Kurds in Turkey are ‘terrorists’, but Kurds in Iraq are ‘freedom fighters’ and we’re not quite sure about the present status of the Iranian Kurds. As the Turkish government is really keen to be admitted to the EU, it must assume that publishing Chomsky is providing succour to ‘terrorism’ and that it will win wide support.
One hopes that the country closest to Turkey will make its voice heard loud and clear. Step forward Joschka Fischer: pentito extraordinaire and foreign minister of Germany.
Tariq Ali, a frequent CounterPunch contributor, is the author of The Stone Woman, just published in paperback by Verso.