Article: Extremism in Kashmir and elsewhere

Taliban-killed-in-Afghan-operationsAn article by Laura Schuurmans:

Thursday, July 24, 2014 – AFTER Iraq and Syria slid into a civil war, a vacuum has been created and these regions have become a safe haven for extremist forces, including foreign militants who are a sham for the true meaning of the Islamic term mujahideen – fighters for a just cause. These so-called jihadists are from predominantly Sunni Muslim countries, Uighurs from West China, and even include Europeans. On their return home to roost, these militants not only became increasingly radicalized, but also established an extensive network for further assistance, training and logistics for expanding militant activities in their countries and elsewhere. This pattern holds true for Kashmir and elsewhere.

Besides the ongoing battlefield in Afghanistan, a fresh wave of extremist groups has firmly established in Syria and Iraq in recent years. The potential dangers and the impact this will have on global security issues remains yet to be seen. After all, there is no denying that the aspirations of the militant ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) which finds its roots in Iraq, and which has extended its activities to Syria, has gradually been expanding into the region to establish an Islamic Caliphate throughout the wider Middle East. ISIS, however, is not the only extremist threat the world has to deal with. There is also second security vacuum that is being created. This year, US forces have planned its withdrawal from Afghanistan, of which the faith and future battlegrounds of the Afghan extremist forces has also been a focal point of discussion.

Against this backdrop, could we speak of a déjà vu? Could we rightfully speak of a repetition of the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989) when Muslims from all over the world were recruited to join hands and fight ‘in the name of God’ against the infidels and occupying forces just like what has been happening in Syria and Iraq today? In 1989 when this war ended and the mujahedeen returned home, Muslim fellows from around the globe declared them heroes for defeating the Red Army. Many so-called mujahedeen felt empowered as such that they continued searching for new and fresh battle grounds ranging from Algeria, to Kashmir and the Philippines, and which ultimately also resulted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Recently Al-Qaida uploaded a video “New Afghanistan being created in Syria” in which it urges Muslims to fight against Indian occupation in the disputed Kashmir Region. It also invites Kashmiri Muslims to join the global jihad. This is the first time in recent years that Islamic extremist forces have directly aimed at Kashmir. In 1989 a similar scenario was put in place when the Afghan-Soviet War ended and the Islamic mercenaries and vigilantes expanded their activities into Jammu and Kashmir where earlier an indigenous uprising against Indian occupation had set the disputed region on fire. The possible arrival of foreign extremist groups into Kashmir, however, is a threat that could have been tackled much earlier. For more than six decades, the Kashmir dispute has been left unresolved with no vision of a resolution to the conflict in sight. Human rights against innocent civilians have been violated on gross scale. In other words, Kashmir has reached a deadlock.

Recently, the Srinagar based “Rising Kashmir” published “A Stark Reality” in which was emphasized on the increasingly dissatisfied youth in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region who could be ready to support an indigenous armed uprising against Indian occupation. This is a third potential threat that could jeopardize peace and security in the region and beyond. Although the Kashmiris are peaceful by nature, the people of Kashmir have been living under the shadow of the gun in what is often considered “the world’s most beautiful prison”. Oppression, systematic torture, and even extra-judicial killings do occur regularly. This has left the people of Kashmir often disillusioned with no hopes for a prosperous future, and which, in recent years, has increasingly led to dissatisfaction among the Kashmiri youth, including the elders, who have started to sympathize, once again, with the armed militants who have been active in the region for the past few decades.

This is an alarming situation. Moreover, this danger, together with the possible arrival of extremist forces from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, could ultimately stir an armed uprising against Indian occupation in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. Therefore, it may be time that the newly elected Indian P.M. Narendra Modi, together with his Pakistani counter part Nawaz Sharif should go one step beyond shaking hands and smiles in front of the camera. They should start taking firm action, act jointly, and move one concrete step ahead into resolving the Kashmir conflict. Both leaders should make use of this narrow window of opportunity to engage with the Kashmiris and alleviate some of their suffering to reduce the possibility of militant forces entering and settling down in the disputed region.