India Insight

The spectre of climate change in Kashmir

Its striking beauty is not the only thing that hits you when you visit Kashmir valley.

Though it was the kind of paradise I had imagined, I didn’t know there would be so many shanty towns set in such picturesque locales.

As I travelled through Kashmir, the breathtaking views did make me breathless but so did the smoke and dust. 

An article by Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Associate Professor with Kashmir University, says the valley has been experiencing erratic snowfall and hotter summers for the last decade or so.

A report on ‘Climate Change in Kashmir’ by ActionAid, an international anti-poverty agency, says the Pampore-Khrew belt, famous for its saffron production, has been witnessing an unusual phenomenon over the last two decades — receiving the least snowfall in Kashmir.

Has Omar Abdullah taken on more than he can handle?

When Omar Abdullah took over as Kashmir’s youngest Chief Minister in January 2009, his coronation befitted a king.

Backed by a resurgent Congress party at the centre, 38-year-old Abdullah’s appointment was seen as a positive step towards bringing a fresh perspective to the troubled state’s political logjams.

That Abdullah came from a family of Kashmir’s best known politicians and was the third generation member to ascend to the post of CM made it imperative that he live up to the expectations of many who wanted an immediate solution to Jammu and Kashmir’s complex problems.

Kashmir — blocked road to Paradise?

A few days ago, a friend called to share plans for a week-long holiday. She had convinced her family to take the vacation in Kashmir, the perfect opportunity to escape the scorching heat of New Delhi.

It was a good time to visit the Valley. The uproar over the May 29 Shopian case — in which locals blamed the death and rape of two women on Indian security forces — had died down.

Or so it seemed.

Then my friend called again. She sounded glum and I soon knew why. The trip had been cancelled.

Frequent strikes a crippling blow to Kashmir’s economy

During two decades of anti-India revolt, Kashmir has lost tens of thousands of people, property worth billions of dollars and much more.

But the disputed Himalayan Valley has also lost over 1,500 working days (more than four years) to separatists’ shutdown calls in the past 20 years, dealing a crippling blow to its ailing economy.

The tourism industry of the scenic Valley, ringed by Himalayan peaks and dotted with mirror-calm lakes, shimmering streams and dense pine and conifer forests, is frequently disrupted by strikes and violent protests over the separatist cause.

And now, Pakistan’s militants strike in its Kashmir region

A suicide bomber has struck in Pakistani Kashmir killing two soldiers in what is said to be the first such attack in the Himalayan region. The attacker targeted military barracks, which raises the question whether Pakistan’s Islamist militants are opening a new front just as they come under pressure in the northwest.

A suicide attack in Muzaffarabad, eerily identical to the scores that have taken place on the Indian side of the scenic region in the past, will trigger interest in New Delhi for likely clues to which way the war in Pakistan is headed.

Nobody yet has claimed responsibility, but if it is the Pakistan Taliban what signal is it sending? Is it going to fight the Pakistani army everywhere including Kashmir, which really has been at the core of Pakistan’s policy towards India.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and India; breaking the logjam

President Barack Obama chose his words carefully when asked in an interview with Dawn earlier this week why the United States has been silent on Kashmir in recent months:

 

"I don’t think that we’ve been silent on the fact that India is a great friend of the United States and Pakistan is a great friend of the United States, and it always grieves us to see friends fighting. And we can’t dictate to Pakistan or India how they should resolve their differences, but we know that both countries would prosper if those differences are resolved," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

 

"And I believe that there are opportunities, maybe not starting with Kashmir but starting with other issues, that Pakistan and India can be in a dialogue together and over time to try to reduce tensions and find areas of common interest," he said. "And we want to be helpful in that process, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be the mediators in that process. I think that this is something that the Pakistanis and Indians can take leadership on."

Do Kashmir separatists seek to revive dialogue with new Indian government?

After India’s ruling Congress party won a decisive victory, Kashmir’s main separatist alliance urged New Delhi to resolve the decades-old dispute over the Himalayan region.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, said India has a strong government after a long gap and it is time for a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Are Kashmir separatists seeking to revive a stalled dialogue?

Talks between New Delhi and moderate separatists broke down in 2007 after three years, and the failure, which separatists say further alienated the people of the region from India, was partly attributed to the country’s “weak” government.

from Photographers' Blog:

The most difficult thing to shoot in Kashmir…

During nearly two decades of violent Kashmir conflict, I have covered fierce gun battles, between Indian soldiers and Muslim militants, suicide bombings, rebel attacks, massacres, protests, mayhem, violent elections and disasters.

But the question that always comes to mind is "what is the hardest to shoot?'

I always remember protests or riots, clashes between stone throwing protesters and gun-toting Indian troops. Stress levels quickly rise as me and my text colleague, Sheikh Mushtaq, realize that our assignment will not be easy whenever we go out, mostly on Fridays, the day when Muslims offer congregational weekly prayers, which turn into weekly protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.

There is literally no place to hide and shooting is nearly impossible when angry protesters take to the streets and rocks rain down; Indian troops retaliate with tear gas shells, rubber bullets and many times with live ammunition. Most of the time we, with protective gear and camera equipment strapped to our shoulders in backpacks, are stuck in the narrow streets of downtown Srinagar as impatient crowds and ruthless troops battle for hours.

Holbrooke, an unseasonal visitor?

Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, is visiting India for a second time in seven weeks. But what has surprised many is the timing of the trip, coming as it does at a time when India is preparing for a general election and most government business is virtually on hold.Though India is not part of Holbrooke’s remit, New Delhi’s engagement is imperative for any effort to stabilise the so-called Af-Pak region.But that hardly explains the visit now, considering that he could expect to do little business with a “lame duck government” in New Delhi.So why is he coming now?Many Indian analysts believe that keeping India and Kashmir out of Holbrooke’s brief was a way of Washington massaging New Delhi’s ego.In reality, though, they say India is very much part of Holbrooke’s mandate because Pakistan wants a solution to disputed Kashmir as an element of any regional peace efforts — a demand Washington can hardly ignore if it expects Pakistan’s cooperation.An Indian analyst here says Holbrooke is using the interregnum to show his turf includes India.So if it is impossible to disentangle Kashmir from any effort to win Pakistani cooperation to stabilise Afghanistan, where does that leave India-U.S relations?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India not the enemy, U.S. tells Pakistan

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reports from Washington that the United States is seeking fundamental change in Pakistan: it wants Pakistan, presumably the military most of all,  to stop thinking of India as the enemy.

And linked with this, it wants Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, accused of sponsoring militant groups to advance its security interests in the region, brought under effective civilian control.

Dawn says the Americans are offering Pakistan a new enemy as replacement : the militants operating along the border with Afghanistan who are increasingly striking deeper within Pakistan.

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