By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS
I was very surprised to find a reference to my work while â€œgooglingâ€ to see if a certain academic piece of mine was online, for I wished to make a reference to it, but I discovered, in the internet edition of Outlook India of August 27th 2007 (http://www. outlookindia/article.aspx?23514), I found an unflattering reference to myself. In an interactive comment at the bottom of a travel article on Kashmir, â€œEdenâ€™s Secretâ€ by Parvaz Bukhavi, there was an attack not only on me, but another American academic and three leading progressives in India. To quote the comment by a Mr. Varun Shekkar of Toronto Ontario in Canada:
â€œArticles like this [it happened to be an apolitical travel piece] should give lie to Kashmiri separatists, but to their supporters across the border [i.e., Pakistan], and their vulgar sympathizers in the international media like Eric Margolis and Geoffrey Cook(!)..â€ The interactive commentator goes on to say because of the comparative peacefulness of the region of Gurais in the (Indian, sic.[!]) State, â€œâ€¦theâ€¦Kashmiri movement is not a province-wide struggle against â€˜Indian ruleâ€™â€¦a strong rebuff to the likes of Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai and Nandita Haksar.â€
Thank you, Mr. Shekkar, for including me in such a stellar array of fighters for human rights! I am a great admirer of Mr. Margolis, but the Ms. and Mr. Roy, Bidwai and Haksar are, also, Indian citizens, and they are courageous individuals for speaking criticizing their own countryâ€™s policies when those procedures are wrong! I am afraid my name should not be listed with these brave and learned individuals, but I am glad at least someone is reading my works â€“ even my critics!
For me this insult is praise! From time to time I receive such â€œcomplimentsâ€ in the press and listservs. That is one of the drawbacks for â€œopinion makers,â€ such as journalists politicians and other individuals who expose their necks to the public.
Kashmir, after Palestine, is the most burning political issue within the Islamic world currently, for both sides of the argument are nuclear powers, and they almost came to explosive fisticuffs in 2001-2002 which would have killed and maimed hundreds of millions of human souls if not for the diplomatic skills of Perez Musharaf!
I do not wish to go over the recommendations that I made to the United States State Department through an elected Congressional official with whom I worked with on the conundrum and the United Nations — at their request. Because my scenario depends upon one step following after another, an order which is not the way how negotiations work â€“ which are fraught with compromises, I shall not go into my suggestions as a whole. Kashmir is a resolvable situation, though, but the problem lies within the Government buildings in New Delhi.
The Simla Agreement, where it was agreed that India and Pakistan would work out â€œoutstanding differences bilaterallyâ€ without third party interference, has been unworkable! Third parties (major extra-regional powers?) are needed â€“ especially for shuttle diplomacy.
There is a fair enough chance that Indiaâ€™s right-wing political party, the BJP, who almost brought the region to catastrophe during the first year of this millennium, might be able to form a coalition after the next general election.
Kashmir can be settled, and it must be! The sooner the better because of the changing political landscape in South Asia (Pakistan, too, is in danger that the struggle in the Northwest Frontier Provinces (N.W.P.)will descend into urban regions and their hinterlands there).
The Arabian Sea area, which borders South Asia, portions of the Middle East and East Africa, does not only have a nuclear threat from Southern Asia but from the United States, France and Israel from their nuclear missiles within their submarines which regularly prowl the vastness of that Sea. The quandary lies not only with the Indo-Pak rivalry over Kashmir, but the other powers as well within that wide maritime territory. The goal should be a nuclear-free zone in the expanse of that ocean and its surrounding nations!
The first step, though, is that Islamabad and New Delhi should begin consultations without preconditions!