India Insight

Afridi’s remarks create ripples off cricket pitch

Maverick Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi is best known for his “boom boom” batting and for scoring the fastest hundred in the 50-over version of the game.

Pakistan's captain Shahid Afridi catches a ball during a practice session in Pallekele March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-ReynoldsHowever, he is now creating ripples off the cricket pitch for his remarks against India, at a time when the two countries, who have been to war three times since independence, attempt to resume dialogue at the highest level.

Speaking to Pakistan-based Samaa TV, Afridi, the joint highest wicket-taker in the recently concluded cricket World Cup, said on Tuesday it was difficult to maintain good long-term relations with India.

The remarks come a week after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart to watch the arch-rivals battle it out in the semi-final of the showpiece event at Mohali.

“If I have to tell the truth, Indians cannot have the kind of hearts that Pakistani Muslims have,” Afridi said a week after Pakistan were knocked out by India. “They cannot have the big and clean hearts that Allah has given to Pakistanis,” Afridi told the TV channel amid raucous applause from the studio audience.

Should forces responsible for over 100 killings be praised for restraint?

India’s Prime Minister praised the work of security forces in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, in a show of support for troops that killed over 100 separatist protesters last year that risks angering those that resent India’s large military presence in the state.

Indian policemen stand guard during a curfew in Srinagar September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The remarks represent a seal of approval for security forces that are cited by many Kashmiris as an element of the violence, rather than the preventers of it, and come as a team of interlocutors enters its fifth month of talks in the troubled region, and almost two months after Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that a political solution to the troubles was likely to emerge “in the next few months.”

But can Manmohan Singh’s praise for the “tremendous restraint” of Indian forces in Kashmir be applauded considering they have been responsible for the death of over 100 separatist protesters in months of violent clashes since last summer?

Why is Kashmir upset over choice of new interlocutors?

Shadows of policemen are seen on a road as they signal an approaching car to stop at a security barricade during curfew in Srinagar October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files

Last week, New Delhi appointed three new mediators to find a solution to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent months.

The appointment of the three-member non-political team of interlocutors – journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and government official M. M. Ansari – is also aimed at defusing simmering anger in the disputed region.

More than 110 people were killed, most of them by police bullets, in months of deadly protests.

Is Kashmir’s protest leader gaining popularity?

Separatist militancy has waned over the years in Kashmir, but now a radicalised young generation which has grown up in over two decades of violence and strife is driving the massive anti-India demonstrations across the disputed region.

Senior communist leader Sitaram Yechury (R) prepares to shake hands with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardline faction of Kashmir's Hurriyat Conference, during their meeting at Geelani's residence in Srinagar September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailWho is leading months of freedom demonstrations in Kashmir, a fresh unarmed uprising that is proving a huge political challenge for the Indian government?

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the 80-year-old hardline Kashmiri politician who is hated by India and backed by Pakistan, has emerged as the leading face of the present separatist campaign in the region.

Tony Blair says India to be ‘one of the key leading powers of the world’

Forced to cancel book-signing events in his own country due to the threat of being pelted by eggs by anti-war protestors, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair took the publicity tour for his newly-released memoirs to India with an interview with the Times of India on Saturday.

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a joint news conference in New Delhi, September 8, 2005. REUTERS/Kamal Kishore

In A Journey, which has caused a great deal of interest and controversy in the UK, Blair writes: “India remains , still developing, that manages to be genuinely democratic,” and this sentiment continues in the interview:

“I was very keen to move beyond the old-fashioned relationship… My view was India was going to be one of the key leading powers of the world in the times to come. The west in the 21st century, including countries like mine will have to get used to the fact that we’re going to have partners who will be equals, sometimes more than equals,” he says.

Is New Delhi working on Kashmir solution?

At least 64 people have been killed across Kashmir during anti-India demonstrations, one of the worst outbreaks of unrest since a separatist revolt against New Delhi broke out in 1989.

A Kashmiri protester throws a stone towards police during an anti-India protest in Srinagar August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailFrequent curfews, security lockdown and separatist strikes have kept the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley on the boil, shutting down much of the region for the past two and a half months.

New Delhi has been criticised for failing to respond to violence that has wounded hundreds, closed down schools and colleges also.

U.N. concerned over Kashmir unrest

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed concern over the weeks of violent anti-government protests in Kashmir which have killed more than 30 people, dragged in more troops and locked down the disputed Himalayan region.

Policemen stand guard at a barricade set up to stop Kashmiri protesters during a curfew in Srinagar August 2, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliA separatist strike and security lockdown has dragged on for nearly a month-and-a-half in Muslim-majority Kashmir, a region at the core of a dispute between India and Pakistan.

“In relation to recent developments in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Secretary-General is concerned over the prevailing security situation there over the past month,” Farhan Haq, Ban Ki-Moon’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Is Lashkar-e-Taiba behind Kashmir protests?

India has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group for violent anti-India demonstrations sweeping across the Muslim-majority valley in which 11 people have been killed so far.

Policemen stand guard in front of closed shops during a curfew in Srinagar July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Danish IsmailIn Indian Kashmir, authorities extended a curfew on Friday and deployed thousands of troops to quell fresh protests that have spread to other parts of the disputed region.

“We think it is the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) which is active in Sopore (in north Kashmir),” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

Put Kashmiris first, says Crisis Group

Any dialogue between India and Pakistan aimed at a solution to the decades-old Kashmir problem will fail if the two rivals do not first include people living on both sides of Line of Control (LoC) that divides the region, the International Crisis Group says.

A policeman stands guard after a grenade blast in Srinagar October, 6 2009. REUTERS/Danish Ismail/FilesNew Delhi and Islamabad appeared willing to allow more interaction across the LoC but failed to engage Kashmiris in the process, the Crisis Group said in a report titled, “Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First.”

The latest briefing from the Crisis Group identifies the key political, social and economic needs of Kashmiris that should be addressed on both sides of the divided state.

Afghan endgame and fears of rise in Kashmir violence

The Indian army says rebel violence will escalate in Kashmir in summer as hundreds of militants are waiting in the Pakistani part of Kashmir to infiltrate into the Indian side and step up attacks.

Seized bullets are displayed by the Indian army during a news conference after a gun battle with militants, in Srinagar March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliEven an internal assessment of the Home Ministry says the summer of 2010 will be as bloodier as or even worse than the mid-nineties.

In Kashmir, violence involving Muslim rebels and Indian troops was on the decline since India and Pakistan, who dispute the region, began a peace process in 2004.

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