Chorus In The Valley: US A 'concerned Superpower'
1 March 2006
The Indian Express
Srinagar: While people across the Muslim world may appear to be increasingly hostile to the United States-unfurling the dreadful prospect of the so-called clash of civilisations-the reality is the opposite in India's only Muslim majority state. People in Kashmir generally view the US as a benign superpower, concerned about peace in the state. The proof: The rare occurrence of protests against Washington; no demonisation of the superpower in the ideology of any J&K political party and virtually no anti-US rhetoric, even from the hardcore separatist parties.Sociologist A G Madhosh sees it as the result of Indian democracy, which provides an easy outlet to the anger which otherwise remains pent up in the predominantly autocratic Muslim world. 'I believe democracy has a definite role. By providing a ready outlet to public rage, it often dissipates it,' says Madhosh. 'Besides, over the years, Kashmiris have subconsciously linked up with the national political discourse, which, in turn, has not encouraged tendencies unfriendly to US.' To back his contention, Madhosh cites the example of the thousands of Kashmiri youth who prefer to pursue their studies in educational establishments outside the state and thereby get a grounding in more culturally diverse environments. 'This decision is taken by Kashmiri youth and even their parents irrespective of political leanings or political environment prevailing in Kashmir,' says Madhosh. Though there were protests recently against the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad and the blast at the Shia shrine in Iraq, they were by no means as shrill and violent as elsewhere in the Muslim world. Vouching for this is the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, K Rajendra. 'The protests in Kashmir were a natural reaction of any Muslim society. But they were very mature and peaceful,' Rajendra told The Indian Express. After the break-up of the former Soviet Union, when static Cold War power equations unravelled to shape a unipolar, US-led world, spawning a new Islam-versus-West dynamic, Kashmiris have stayed well short of aligning against the US. Even during the invasion of Iraq in 1991 and when the post-9-11 campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq roiled the Muslim world, dissent in Kashmir was limited to closed door murmurs and never spilled onto the streets. The US fixation here has another dimension too: a long held belief that only the US with its clout can help resolve the Kashmir issue and bring peace to the region. Leading this opinion is none other than Hurriyat hawk, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the face of Kashmir's fundamentalism to the outside world. 'I think the US, as the only superpower, has an obligation to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Left to themselves, the two countries will never be in a position to find a solution,' says Geelani. 'Kashmiris are sympathetic towards the US because the country has always considered the state as disputed to be settled according to the wishes of the Kashmiris.' Giving another angle to the Valley's soft-corner for the US, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, says: 'Kashmiris are shy of joining any protest against the superpower. There is a hope that only the US has the clout to persuade the two countries to resolve the dispute.'