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Kashmir, a prison

Snow-covered houses and houseboats are pictured in Srinagar on January 5. Kashmir’s road links with the rest of India were cut off as heavy snowfall closed the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.  — Agence France-Presse/Tauseef Mustafa
AG Noorani
 
IT IS accepted by all that Kashmiris feel a deep sense of alienation and oppression, which they resent intensely. But there is another aspect that is often overlooked: Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred save one, to India, which is also not without peril. Kashmiris are distrusted and treated poorly in many parts of India, whether as students or as traders.
Now, even one other solitary opening — trade across the Line of Control with Azad Kashmir — is facing a slow death. It has seen many ups and downs in the decade since it was begun. It always operated on barter; banking and telecommunication facilities were always denied.
Full Story
Snow-covered houses and houseboats are pictured in Srinagar on January 5. Kashmir’s road links with the rest of India were cut off as heavy snowfall closed the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.  — Agence France-Presse/Tauseef Mustafa
AG Noorani
 
IT IS accepted by all that Kashmiris feel a deep sense of alienation and oppression, which they resent intensely. But there is another aspect that is often overlooked: Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred save one, to India, which is also not without peril. Kashmiris are distrusted and treated poorly in many parts of India, whether as students or as traders.
Now, even one other solitary opening — trade across the Line of Control with Azad Kashmir — is facing a slow death. It has seen many ups and downs in the decade since it was begun. It always operated on barter; banking and telecommunication facilities were always denied.
Initially, it was proposed as a confidence-building measure by Atal Behari Vajpayee. His successor, Manmohan Singh, pursued it in earnest until the LoC trade was set going. Its political impact was considerable. 
The LoC trade was as popular in Jammu as it was in the valley, and its popularity cut across political and religious divides. Despite this, no effort was made to improve the arrangements by providing banking facilities and telecommunications. Matters reached a ludicrous stage a few years ago when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed first became chief minister. In one sector of the Kanchenjunga River, the divide is very narrow. Divided families discovered that they could easily throw boxes of gifts to each other. It flourished only for a short time. The security forces put an end to it. Security was a false excuse. The crowds could well have been managed and the gift boxes properly searched. It was the opening to ‘the other side’ — which was unacceptable. Even this small opening was ended.
It is this mentality that inspired the ‘slow poisoning’ of the LoC trade. As a Kashmiri correspondent, Ishfaqul Hassan, reported from Srinagar very recently, ‘[T]he cross-LoC trade is showing signs of stagnation sending shivers through the traders’ community across J&K. Started in October 2008, the cross-LoC trade was considered as the mother of all confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan.’
One has heard of many protests at New Delhi’s calculated indifference to LoC trade. Rakesh Gupta, president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, worded his protest with admirable precision. ‘It is unfortunate that one of the most important confidence-building measures initiated by the then prime ministers of India and Pakistan 10 years ago was dying a slow death due to the absence of proper follow-up action.’
The effect of its closure on the minds of the people of Kashmir — already feeling suffocated, and forcibly contained and controlled — can well be imagined. This one avenue offered some hope of other and more promising openings. Now, all the doors will be shut in their face.
In no part of the subcontinent does history matter as much as it does in Kashmir. Equally, no other part has had such roaring exchanges with foreign powers, defying the British rulers, as did the maharaja and people of Kashmir. Emperor Akbar is admired throughout the subcontinent. But Kashmiris hate him for destroying their independence by invading and annexing their land in 1586. He lured its last ruler, Yusuf Chak, to India and had him killed. He is buried in Bihar. Mughal armies were pelted with stones, a time-hallowed weapon against oppressors.
Likewise, Kashmiris can still recall the times, even during the rule of the tyrannical Dogras and their British overlords, when Russian and Central Asian merchants came to the region for its world-famous shawls. Movement of men and materials like pilgrims, books, shawls, gold tillas, Russian textiles, Kokandi silk, Bukharan rumals and coral formed an essential ingredient of the interaction between Central Asia and Kashmir.
The British imposed on the maharaja their resident in Kashmir to detect his dealings with other countries. Trade from British India would flow through Kulu via the Chang Chenmo route to Yarkand, bypassing the maharaja’s customs officials in Leh. This idea was so attractive that, in 1870, a special treaty signed in Sialkot in 1870 by the viceroy Lord Mayo and Maharaja Ranbir Singh, which would elevate this route to the status of a ‘free highway’, to be dotted with supply depots and rest houses jointly supervised by British and Kashmir officials. It became known as the ‘treaty route’. Haj pilgrims from Central Asia would pass through Kashmir to board ships at Karachi or Bombay.
To this day, Kashmiris fondly recall that history. In 1970, this writer went for a walk in the interiors of Srinagar with the editor of a prestigious weekly. All of a sudden, he exclaimed, ‘This is not India. It is Central Asia.’ Constitutional oppression apart, Kashmiris must also be freed from physical restraints and allowed to breathe freely. That will facilitate a political solution. Begin with the Jammu-Sialkot road.
Courtesy: Dawn.com, January 12. AG Noorani is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.

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Why Brazil should shun the Israeli model

Ramzy Baroud
 
Israel should not be seen as the model to follow, but rather the example to avoid, writes Ramzy Baroud.
Newly-inaugurated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is set to be the arch-enemy of the environment and of indigenous and disadvantaged communities in his country. He also promises to be a friend of like-minded far-right leaders the world over.
It is, therefore, not surprising to see a special kind of friendship blossoming between Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We need good brothers like Netanyahu,” Bolsonaro said on January 1, the day of his inauguration in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro is a “great ally (and) a brother,” Netanyahu replied.
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Ramzy Baroud
 
Israel should not be seen as the model to follow, but rather the example to avoid, writes Ramzy Baroud.
Newly-inaugurated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is set to be the arch-enemy of the environment and of indigenous and disadvantaged communities in his country. He also promises to be a friend of like-minded far-right leaders the world over.
It is, therefore, not surprising to see a special kind of friendship blossoming between Bolsonaro and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We need good brothers like Netanyahu,” Bolsonaro said on January 1, the day of his inauguration in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro is a “great ally (and) a brother,” Netanyahu replied.
But while Bolsoaro sees in Netanyahu a role model - for reasons that should worry many Brazilians - the country certainly does not need ‘brothers’ like the Israeli leader.
Netanyahu’s militancy, oppression of the indigenous Palestinian people, his racially motivated targeting of Black African immigrants and his persistent violations of international law are not at all what a country like Brazil needs to escape corruption, bring about communal harmony and usher in an era of regional integration and economic prosperity.
 
An Infamous Day
Netanyahu, of course, was keen on attending Bolsonaro’s inauguration, which is likely to go down in Brazilian history as an infamous day, where democracy and human rights came under their most serious threat since Brazil launched its democratic transition in the early 1980s.
In recent years, Brazil has emerged as a sensible regional power that defended Palestinian human rights and championed the integration of the ‘State of Palestine’ into the larger international community.
Frustrated by Brazil’s record on Palestine and Israel, Netanyahu, a shrewd politician, saw an opportunity in the populist discourse parroted by Bolsonaro during his campaign.
The new Brazilian president wants to reverse Brazil’s foreign policy on Palestine and Israel, the same way he wants to reverse all the policies of his predecessors regarding Indigenous rights and protection of the rainforest, among other pressing matters. 
What is truly worrying is that Bolsonaro, who has been likened to Donald Trump - least because of his vow to “make Brazil great again” - is likely to keep his promises. Indeed, only hours after his inauguration, he issued an executive order targeting land rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil, to the delight of the agricultural lobbies, which are eager to cut down much of the country’s forests.
Confiscating Indigenous peoples’ territories, as Bolsonaro plans to do, is something that Netanyahu, his government and their predecessors have done without remorse for many years. Yes, it is clear that the claim of ‘brotherhood’ is based on very solid ground.
 
Other Dimensions
But there are other dimensions to the love affair between the two leaders. Much work has been invested in turning Brazil from having an arguably pro-Palestinian government, to a Trump-like foreign policy.
In his campaign, Bolsonaro reached out to conservative political groups, the never truly tamed military and Evangelical churches, all with powerful lobbies, sinister agendas and unmistakable influence. Such groups have historically, not only in South America but also in the United States and other countries, conditioned their political support for any candidate on the unconditional and blind support of Israel.
This is how the United States has become the main benefactor for Israel, and that is precisely how Tel Aviv aims to conquer new political grounds.
The Western world, in particular, is turning towards far-right demagogues for simple answers to complicated and convoluted problems. Brazil, thanks to Bolsonaro and his supporters, is now joining the disturbing trend.
Israel is unabashedly exploiting the unmitigated rise of global neo-fascism and populism. Worse, the once perceived to be anti-Semitic trends are now wholly embraced by the ‘Jewish State’, which is seeking to broaden its political influence and also its weapons market.
 
Past & Present Sins
Politically, far-right parties understand that in order for Israel to help them whitewash their past and present sins, they would have to submit completely to Israel’s agenda in the Middle East. And that is precisely what is taking place from Washington to Rome to Budapest to Vienna … And, as of late, Brasilia.
But another, perhaps more compelling reason is money. Israel has much to offer by way of its destructive war and ‘security’ technology, a massive product line that has been used with lethal consequences against Palestinians.
The border control industry is thriving in the United States and Europe. In both cases, Israel is serving the task of the successful role model and the technology supplier. And Israeli ‘security’ technology, thanks to the newfound sympathy for Israel’s alleged security problems, is now invading European borders as well.
According to the Israeli Ynetnews, Israel is the seventh-largest arms exporter in the world and is emerging as a leader in the global export of aerial drones.
Europe’s excitement for Israel’s drone technology is related to mostly unfounded fears of migrants and refugees. In the case of Brazil, Israeli drone technology will be used to fight against criminal gangs and for other internal reasons.
For the record, Israeli drones manufactured by Elbit Systems have been purchased and used by the former Brazilian government just before the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
 
Sudden Affinity
What makes future deals between the two countries more alarming is the sudden affinity of their far-right politicians. Expectedly, Bolsonaro and Netanyahu discussed the drones at length during the latter’s visit to Brazil.
Israel has used extreme violence to counter Palestinian demands for human rights, including lethal violence against ongoing peaceful protests at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel. If Bolsonaro thinks that he will successfully counter local crimes through unhinged violence - as opposed to addressing social and economic inequality and unfair distribution of wealth in his country - then he can only expect to exasperate an already horrific death toll.
Israeli security obsessions should not be duplicated, neither in Brazil nor anywhere else, and Brazilians, many of whom rightly worry about the state of democracy in their country, should not succumb to the Israeli militant mindset which has wrought no peace, but much violence.
Israel exports wars to its neighbors, and war technology to the rest of the world. As many countries are plagued by conflict, often resulting from massive income inequalities, Israel should not be seen as the model to follow, but rather the example to avoid.
[Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle.]

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Grim Middle East reality: Permanent US occupation

Stephen Lendman
 
Between 400,000 and 500,000 protesters gathered to oppose the invasion of Iraq in New York City on Feb. 15, 2003
US forces will stay indefinitely – on the phony pretext of combating the scourge of ISIS Washington created and supports, along with protecting Kurds in northern parts of the country the US doesn’t give a hoot about.
They’re used as US proxy forces, to be abandoned when no longer needed. Pompeo saying “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over” is code language for permanent occupation where US forces are deployed, notably in the Middle East.
Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar said on January 11 that preparations are continuing “intensely” for attacking Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria, adding, Ankara is determined to combat them wherever they’re located, while pretending opposition to jihadists in Syria the Erdogan regime supports.
Full Story
Stephen Lendman
 
Between 400,000 and 500,000 protesters gathered to oppose the invasion of Iraq in New York City on Feb. 15, 2003
US forces will stay indefinitely – on the phony pretext of combating the scourge of ISIS Washington created and supports, along with protecting Kurds in northern parts of the country the US doesn’t give a hoot about.
They’re used as US proxy forces, to be abandoned when no longer needed. Pompeo saying “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over” is code language for permanent occupation where US forces are deployed, notably in the Middle East.
Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar said on January 11 that preparations are continuing “intensely” for attacking Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria, adding, Ankara is determined to combat them wherever they’re located, while pretending opposition to jihadists in Syria the Erdogan regime supports.
The country faces no cross-border terrorist threats from Syria or Iraq. No “terrorist corridor” exists along its southern border with these countries.
Last week, Erdogan said he’ll order a cross-border incursion into Syria “very soon” to combat YPG fighters and ISIS he earlier supported and likely still does.
The SouthFront reported that Turkish-backed Jaysh al-Ahrar Salafi jihadists “handed over (the) Taftanaz airbase in the eastern Idlib countryside (and its heavy weapons) to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” – al-Nusra terrorists, more evidence of Erdogan’s support for jihadists he claims to oppose.
 
“Expel every last Iranian boot”
Pompeo vowed to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, indicating US aggression in the country will continue endlessly, including terror-bombing of vital infrastructure, continuing to massacre civilians on the phony pretext of combatting ISIS.
 
Trump U-Turning on Syria Pullout?
It’s unclear how many US troops are in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon is highly secretive. Virtually all its public statements lack credibility.
According to the Arabic-language al-Maaloumeh news website, over 20,000 US troops are based in al-Anbar, Erbil and Kirkuk, Iraq. The Pentagon earlier claimed 5,200, another 2,000 in Syria, the true numbers likely multiples greater.
According to the Military Times (MT), quarterly, Pentagon reports on numbers of troops serving overseas ceased including data on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
“The Defense Department has also now scrubbed years worth of the previous quarterly reports from the website,” MT added.
Declared troop strength abroad by countries is highly suspect. Scrubbing previously reported data has nothing to do with protecting the safety military personnel in certain countries, as the Pentagon claimed – everything to do with secrecy and lack of transparency.
A 20,000-US force contingent in Iraq would indicate the country is the Pentagon’s main platform for regional wars. Bordering Syria means US troops can move cross-border between both countries, depending on what missions are ordered.
 
Trump’s  trip to Iraq shrouded in secrecy
Trump’s unannounced December trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy, landing at a US airbase, not Baghdad, visiting Pentagon forces, not puppet Iraqi officials.
Pompeo flew to Iraq on a military plane, his visit and DLT’s indicating the country is US-occupied territory – whatever the numbers of US troops there.
Reportedly, the Pentagon is reinforcing its military bases in Syria’s northeastern Aleppo and Raqqa provinces – more evidence of Washington’s intention to stay in the country.
Claims otherwise appear to be head-fake deception. The US doesn’t wage wars to quit or deploy troops abroad to pull out.
Previous articles explained that thousands more US forces were deployed to Iraq’s Kirkuk province, new US bases being built in the country and neighboring Syria.
Hundreds of US truckloads of weapons, munitions, and equipment were sent to Pentagon bases in Deir Ezzor, Syria.
Bolton, Pompeo, and Pentagon Joint Chiefs oppose Trump’s pullout announcement. US forces are in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to stay indefinitely, not leave.
[Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”]

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