As we drove from the college to the private home they explained to me that everything is closed in Srinagar today. All shops, even the corporate malls that fear they have to comply with protest movement demands, have shuttered their doors and windows.
The Muslim community is the majority here by about 80%. In Jammu it is about 40%. Thus the entire state is now increasingly Muslim and they are demanding "Azadi" or freedom. The Indian government has long ago promised autonomy for this state but has failed to deliver. People have had enough waiting.
After lunch we loaded into a press car from the Rising Kashmir newspaper and took a long driving tour of the city. We stopped and took a stroll through a beautiful botanical garden, more than 700 years old, that sits at the foot of the jagged mountains that surround the city. As we left the garden I noticed the waxing moon nestled near the top of the mountain range and I told the others that everywhere I go in the world I see the moon. It belongs to everyone I said.
Srinagar is one of the most interesting cities I have ever seen. The very old buildings, many of worn wood, have a real character. We drove around the huge Dal Lake and I heard that tourism, which is Kashmir's biggest industry, is now decimated due to the political unrest. All along the lake are wonderful long wooden houseboats that tourists would normally rent as hotel rooms but they are now largely vacant.
Following the driving tour we stopped at the Rising Kashmir newspaper. Little did I know that our host is the father-in-law of the editor of the newspaper. We visited him in his office and talked about the Global Network's efforts to keep the arms race out of space and the upcoming visit of Obama to India. Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari handed me a recent edition of the paper where he wrote a column about Obama's trip. In the piece he describes that other countries are in competition with the U.S. over the $10.9 billion weapons deal with India. He wrote, "His visit will be followed by Presidents of France and Russia and before that German foreign minister is scheduled to visit New Delhi on October 18. Intense lobbying for the agreement has been on for many years with all the countries putting weight behind their products, which they believe, would fit in the requirements of Delhi."
Bukhari felt that the U.S. was likely to get the weapons deal in the end due to greater political clout. He felt though that the hopes of separatist activists in Kashmir to get Obama involved in the "Azadi" issue was not likely to happen.
In the Rising Kashmir today an Op-Ed by the title "Listen to the stones" has a line in it worthy of note, "Wounded is an inner state of being in Kashmir." As I wrote in an earlier post, Indian military forces have killed 111 people as the resistance has grown during recent months.
The piece also reports, "They [the young stone throwers] are viscerally anti-India but also anti-Pakistan. They are speaking a dogged new language of non-violence but are not above picking up the gun. They threaten to engulf India in a new round of bloody militancy but keep cajoling it not to push them that far. They have a disarming collegiate politeness but are floating on lethal helium of rage. Their talk has an undertow of radicalized Islamic rhetoric, but they are proud of Kashmir's syncretic traditions. They are uncomfortable being typecast."
The Indian government has been slow to respond to the growing cries for independence. The Indian right-wing party (BJP) refuses to even consider any change of status for Kashmir. Instead a multi-party commission was just sent from New Delhi to Kashmir to review the situation but their window-dressing proposals were not taken seriously. The money to create 43,000 make-work jobs for Kashmir has just been announced, likely as a strategy to keep the youth off the streets.
Protest leaders have announced a "black day" on October 27, calling for a complete strike in Kashmir.
The Rising Kashmir also carried a news story today entitled "Obama visit: Indian jet deal may create 27,000 jobs in US". It reads in part:
Two major fighter jet manufacturing companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin are vying for the $10 billion Indian tender; which is expected to be raised by the U.S. officials during the November India visit.
"If either jet wins, we estimate that it could bring 27,000 jobs to the U.S.," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told a Baltimore-based think tank, thus indicating the importance the U.S. attaches in bagging such a deal.
Thus it is clear why Obama is unlikely to intervene in the Kashmir conflict that is a key spark to the already unstable relationship between India and Pakistan. As long as the U.S. keeps arming both sides, as it has done for years, the profits will continue to grow for the American weapons industry and the dangerous trigger for future conflicts in the region will be set.
This is the American global marketing strategy for the U.S. "security export" role in the world under corporate globalization. More weapons more war more profits.