FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kashmir on the Brink

There is something dreamlike about our contemplation of the drift to war in Kashmir. While India and Pakistan move their missiles into position, in Britain our concerns are focused on the evacuation of our own citizens, the destination of the likely refugees, and the possibility that the Indian cricket team might be prevented from visiting England at the end of this month. That 12 million people could be vaporised if the war begins in earnest is viewed as regrettable, but nothing to do with us.

In the United States, the sense of detachment is even more palpable. On Sunday, President Bush told the nation that “we cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systematically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialise, we will have waited too long.” But he was talking not about India or Pakistan, but about rogue states which might one day attack the US. He mentioned “South Asia” once, but only as an example of a region whose leaders had been recruited to his cause.

In waging war, Bush and Blair were tumid with moral leadership and purpose. In waging peace, they display only vapidity and irresolution. Deputies are dispatched on half-hearted missions to ask the two governments to negotiate, but no one is proposing the measures necessary to prevent what could become the most lethal conflict since the second world war. The “moral imperatives” so often invoked during the bombing of Afghanistan turn out to be nothing more than old-fashioned power politics. Now, with few clearly formulated domestic interests at stake, the new world order’s moral leaders are looking the other way.

Even if Britain, the US and the other western powers had no prior involvement in this conflict, our moral duty to help develop an effective international response would be unquestionable. But we are up to our necks in it. The subcontinent’s dispute is our dispute, and to turn away from it could constitute the greatest collective dereliction since the failure of both the German people and the allied powers to intervene in the Holocaust.

In 1947, the Maharajah of Kashmir, a Hindu installed by the British, decided neither to seek independence nor to join Pakistan, despite the fact that the majority of his people were Muslims, but to surrender the territory to India. The British governor-general, Lord Mountbatten, insisted only that a referendum or plebiscite of the Kashmiri people be conducted. This never happened, and Britain, which could have asked the UN to demand that the promise was kept, left India and Pakistan to tear the place apart.

More recently, both states have drawn strength from the effective licence granted to them by the US. In 1998, President Clinton announced a “quantum leap” in US relations with India, which the government there interpreted as a permit to resume nuclear testing. Last year, the nuclear sanctions levied on Pakistan were lifted in return for its cooperation in the war on terror. President Bush described General Musharraf (who enjoys the same degree of democratic legitimacy as Saddam Hussein) as a “man of great courage and vision”, and promised a new $200m aid package. Musharraf relaxed his grip on the militants slipping into India.

But at least the US has blocked new arms sales to India and Pakistan. The United Kingdom, by contrast, has done everything in its power to promote them. Blair, who refuses to dirty his own hands, has sent the defence secretary and the deputy prime minister to Delhi to sell Hawk aircraft. The UK has continued to supply the spare parts for the Jaguar jets (built under licence from the British company BAE), which India may use to drop the bomb. Our moral leader deputes his officials to explain that if we don’t do it, someone else will.

More pertinent still, the nuclear weapons programmes in both India and Pakistan were initiated with the help of the west. As the Nuclear Control Institute has documented, both programmes emerged from the civilian industry, which was kickstarted with the help of the US “Atoms for Peace” scheme. India’s first nuclear device used plutonium produced by a Canadian research reactor and extracted in a reprocessing plant built with the help of the US. Germany supplied tritium, beryllium, heavy water plants and reprocessing components; France delivered uranium and fast-breeder technology; Norway sold heavy water; the US provided enriched uranium and several commercial reactors; and the UK distributed fuel, furnaces and the country’s first research reactor.

Pakistan’s heavy water plants came from Canada and Belgium; its uranium enrichment technology, beryllium, tritium, furnaces and milling machines from Germany; its research reactor from the US; and its reprocessing technology from France and the UK. All of these components have potential uses in nuclear weapons programmes; most appear to have been deployed for this purpose by India and Pakistan.

Britain and the US point out that much of the new nuclear material the enemies are using comes from China. This is true, but China also appears to believe it has a licence to operate. In 1998, Clinton approved a US-China nuclear cooperation agreement, despite intelligence briefings showing that China was supplying both Iran and Pakistan with nuclear components, in direct contravention of this treaty. Within a month of the signing of the agreement, China began shipping heavy water to Pakistan, in far greater quantities than its civilian programme could have used. The agreement stood.

There are plenty of instruments the international community could use to prevent a nuclear war. It could explain to India and Pakistan that if either nation escalates even the conventional conflict, its leaders could expect to face a war crimes tribunal. It could not only discontinue all arms sales but also apply punitive sanctions to any company assisting the weapons industry in either nation. Most importantly, it could send peacekeepers to hold the lines apart and supervise disarmament. Blair and Bush should both be in Kazakhstan right now, helping Putin to knock heads together.

But there is no peace industry commensurate with the world’s war industry. There are no vested interests to appease, no campaign contributions to be gained from preventing rather than encouraging the use of weapons. As a result the hundreds of thousands of peacekeepers whose deployment is required in Kashmir do not exist. While wars are plotted in loving detail, there is no global peace plan for the territory, despite 55 years of conflict.

In the new world order of which Bush and Blair have spoken, international support for a war pursued for domestic purposes is a moral imperative. Preventing two nations from vaporising each other’s civilians is a moral luxury, rather less pressing than the jubilee tea parties or the next visit by the Indian cricket team. Faced with the frightening and complicated task of waging peace rather than war, moral leadership turns to moral flight.

George Monbiot writes for the The Guardian. Visit his website at http://www.monbiot.com

 

 

More articles by:

November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
Ron Jacobs
Impeach!
Lawrence Davidson
A Tale of Two Massacres
José Tirado
A World Off Balance
Jonah Raskin
Something Has Gone Very Wrong: An Interview With Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán
J.P. Linstroth
Myths on Race and Invasion of the ‘Caravan Horde’
Dean Baker
Good News, the Stock Market is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth
David Rosen
It’s Time to Decriminalize Sex Work
Dan Glazebrook
US Calls for a Yemen Ceasefire is a Cynical Piece of Political Theatre
Jérôme Duval
Forced Marriage Between Argentina and the IMF Turns into a Fiasco
Jill Richardson
Getting Past Gingrich
Dave Lindorff
Not a Blue Wave, But Perhaps a Foreshock
Martha Rosenberg
Dangerous, Expensive Drugs Aggressively Pushed? You Have These Medical Conflicts of Interest to Thank
Will Solomon
Not Much of a Wave
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Yemeni War Deaths are Five Times Higher Than You’ve Been Led to Believe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail