Hypocrisy and Silence in the Most Militarized Place on Earth

It is neither difficult nor uncommon for Western governments to criticize authoritarian regimes which violently suppress protest, perpetrate extra-judicial killings, and engage in widespread and systematic torture of civilians. Such recriminations are being heard today against governments such as Libya and Syria, and they are certainly just and called for in light of the barbarity of these regimes towards their own citizens. It is perhaps more difficult, and rarer, to hear criticism of a country which is regularly lauded as the world’s largest democracy and is widely seen as an emerging economic powerhouse but which perpetrates human rights abuses and democratic suppression on a scale which often dwarfs the worst atrocities of Middle Eastern dictators. The recent arrest of the head of the Kashmiri-American Council on charges of funnelling cash from Pakistan in influence U.S. policy to the region is an opportunity to reflect on why this issue, largely neglected in the Western media, resonates so strongly among the people of that region.

Indian administered Kashmir is the site of one of the most brutal and prolonged military occupations in the world today. The territory is home to over half a million Indian troops,  a number put into clearer context when considering that at the height of the Iraq War the peak number of U.S. troops in the country was 165,000. This occupation makes Kashmir the most militarized place on the planet and the scene of grotesque human rights abuses against the civilian population. Since 1989 an estimated 60,000-70,000 people have been killed in the territory and additional thousands have disappeared, either to be found in mass graves or simply never seen again. Widespread, systematic torture by Indian security forces has been documented by the Red Cross and other agencies, who have communicated these findings to the international community for years.  Wikileaks cables show that in 2005 ICRC officials briefed U.S. diplomats on abuses being carried about on thousands of Kashmiri civilians held in Indian military prisons, and a Medicines Sans Frontiers report in 2006 described Kashmiri women as being the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world, with nearly 26% of women having either been witnesses to or victims of rape. Brutal suppression of the Kashmiri population continues on a regular basis, and pro-independence protests in the summer of 2010 were met with live bullets from Indian military units, resulting in an estimated 112 deaths and scores more wounded.

These figures are cited not to denigrate India (indeed, many prominent Indians have been targeted by the state for raising the plight of Kashmir) or to cast a pall over the great economic achievements of the Indian state in recent years but to bring attention to an oft neglected issue and to highlight a perceived hypocrisy in U.S. policy from the perspective of the Muslim world. While the crimes of Moammar Gaddafi and the Ba’ath regime in Syria draw fierce condemnations, and indeed military intervention justified on humanitarian grounds, even more egregious crimes committed by U.S. allies such as India barely receive recognition let alone condemnation. As such, claims of moral authority by the United States ring hollow in the ears of millions of people looking for a modicum of consistency or integrity in U.S. foreign policy and this disillusionment often gives rise to anti-American sentiment and in some cases, militancy. Popular grievances over events in Kashmir have indeed bred support for terrorist groups trained and armed by the security services of neighbouring Pakistan who have carried out appalling acts of terrorism against India, and who are widely viewed as a potential future threat to American interests as well.

While the Obama administration continues to press a war against Libya for the stated goal of protecting Libyan civilians, much of the world wonders why his admirable command that “All attacks against civilians must stop” is applied in such a seemingly selective manner. In the realm of aggressive foreign policy, the purportedly benevolent and humanitarian intentions of the United States often appear to be fixated on areas of the world such as Iraq and Libya where there exist valuable natural resources, giving rise to further suspicions of U.S. intentions and claims to moral authority.

The occupation of Kashmir has been a humanitarian catastrophe for Kashmiri civilians as well as a useful recruitment tool for militant groups and terrorist organizations. For all its diplomatic efforts, the oft claimed premise that U.S. foreign policy is based on moral principles will never be viewed credibly as long as there exists near silence on war crimes committed by U.S. allies. While the United States engages in open warfare against Tripoli in the name of defending  Libyan civilians and condemns the crimes of Bashar Al-Assad while calling for democracy in Syria, in the eyes of millions of people whose  “hearts and minds” the American government claims to be trying to win, U.S. silence over the plight of people in places such as Kashmir is perceived as damning proof of a fundamental hypocrisy which governs American foreign policy, especially towards the Muslim world. Until and unless this is alleviated U.S. foreign policy goals in South Asia and the Middle East will always be undercut by the credibility gap which is perceived in both word and action.


6 Responses to Hypocrisy and Silence in the Most Militarized Place on Earth

  1. Muhammed El-Hasan says:

    I learned about you through Glenn Greenwald’s blog. I’ll definitely be a regular reader. I couldn’t find your bio on your site? I’m curious about your background. You sound like a lawyer or college professor. Also you need a better URL that’s easier to remember.

    • mazmhussain says:

      Thanks. I’m actually neither of the two, I’m an MBA student I just have an interest in these types of issues. I’ll put a bio up, I’m on Twitter as well so there’s some info about there @mazmhussain

  2. Debbie(aussie) says:

    How very true. The hypocrisy burns!

  3. Ethan Lee Vita says:

    I also found you through your Greenwald guest blogging. Definitely outshown your fellow guest bloggers and I’d say, nearly on par with Greenwald himself.

    Would you be interested in moving to your own domain? You could keep the wordpress platform, but have a more marketable site. I can’t promise anything, but I know a few web developers who could probably do something for you. I’d love to help you out and get you promoted a bit more. You deserve to get your columns to a wider audience. 🙂

  4. Ethan Lee Vita says:

    your site is difficult to find via search, so some SEO would be rather helpful too. 🙂

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