Silk Route—Kashmir, Afghanistan & Central Asia

Silk route shows a revival of sorts with trans-Karakorum highway linking China and Pakistan.

STRATEGY

DR. JAVID IQBAL

Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid enunciated Central Asian Policy (CAP) of Ministry of External Affairs [MEA] in a three-day international conference--Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in Central Asia, Challenges and Prospects- at the University of Kashmir. The minister while addressing the gathering of politicians, diplomats and academics hoped that one day there would be a revival of the traditional silk route, the offshoot of which passes through Kashmir. “The route is of great importance to all of us. It was only through this route that the rich Sufi culture and great civilization descended in Kashmir,” he said. What the minister stated is true as Amir-e-Kabir—Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamdani [RA] descended from mountainous heights surrounding the vale of Kashmir into the bowl shaped vale with seven hundred Syeds. Thus the new reality—Islam came to fore. The stress on Kashmiri’s Sufi culture, otherwise highly desirable and pleasing, by so many and so overwhelmingly in recent past makes many think that there is more to it than meets the eye. Former governor Sinha related it often. His attempted social engineering disturbed the very fabric that held Kashmir together. Even the desirable ‘Institute of Kashmir Studies’ became suspect, by the manner of defining its goals.  If Sufism is taken to be a softer, politically detached, hence acceptable form of Islam, then the take of Maulana Rumi [RA] an iconic Sufi should clear the misunderstanding, if any:
Guft Rumi Har Banayai Khunah Ki Abadan Kunand
 Mi Na Dunee Awal Un’n Buniyad Ra Vayran Kunand!
So, said Rumi; were ye to construct anew on old
Knoweth ye not; destroy it up to depth of the old!
This is a revolutionary concept far removed from non-political stance, associated with Sufis. This is political activism on a war path. A new construction cannot survive on an old foundation; it has to be built up on new one. Even with their presumed Sufi trait, Kashmiris never ceased agitating for political rights. The great civilization descending on Kashmir, as related by Salman did not entail submission to the powers that be. Discourses, narrations, oratorical flow dipped in honey, meant to convey sweet tunes cannot be a balm to the wounded soul of Kashmir.    
Vis-à-vis the silk route, it may be stated that the ancient route linking Kashmir with central Asia, onwards to west Asia’s trade center—Damascus, where the caravans starting from Himalayan heights met the ones from coastal Yemen [on red sea coast] and deserts of Najad and cities in the desert--Hejaz [Najad & Hejaz form present day Saudi Arabia] though a historical fact is hardly a viable proportion.  Several factors had silk route withering away. One, central Asia and Kashmir getting enslaved with czarist Russia diverting central Asian trade to cold water Russian ports,  silk route thus ceased to be its link to outside world. These Russian ports were thousands of miles away from central Asian mainlands. Kashmir with loss of independence faced south Asian diversion though there are scholars holding the belief that Kashmir is more central than south Asian.  Two—preponderance of maritime trade, with European powers finding sea routes to new world—America, easing and shortening the sea route to India via ‘Cape of Good Hope’ knocked out silk route out of contention in global trading terms.  
Given the raging conflict in Afghanistan, with potential outfall on Kashmir, silk route cannot be actualized without conflict resolution in the region. It is desirable though given that landlocked Kashmir, Afghanistan and Central Asia have no access to maritime trade. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah complains that Pakistan stands as a barrier to operationilizing Srinagar airport’s international status. Pakistan might have the fear of diluting its stand on ‘K’ issue by allowing over-flights from Srinagar. However, were India to open Ladakh route to Central Asia, Pakistan would cease to be a factor. Given the present status of Indo-China relationship, that is a long way away.  India’s CAP is not jammed because of Pakistan’s refusal to fall in line. It is because of inherent contradictions in Indian geopolitical workout. Silk route shows a revival of sorts with trans-Karakorum highway linking China and Pakistan. The windfall would remain restricted to Pakistan Administered Kashmir, until ‘K’ issue resolution, buck stops there.
On the Afghanistan situation, external affairs minister—Salman Khurshid said India is not interested to meddle in the proposed talks between United States and Taliban. “We want dialogue within Afghanistan that should be led by Afghans. They must choose their own destiny,” adding “We want Afghanistan to be controlled by Afghans. What we can do is we can share our experiences. India despite having received repeated invitations to help talks has decided not to indulge.” The minister’s statement runs counter to national stand on India having a role in Afghan situation, and insistence on being a part of any international panel on Afghanistan. The grapevine has it that Afghan Taliban’s Qatar office is Kyani-Kerry brainchild, to the exclusion of everyone else, even the other ‘K’ Karzai. Inspired write-ups have started appearing in American press by likes of Husain Haqani—Pakistan’s expelled diplomat. In a New York Times article, Haqani tirelessly pleads: Don’t talk with the Taliban. The call is unlikely to be heeded, given America’s eagerness not to stay beyond 2014.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival] 
Feedback on: Iqbal. javidl46@gmail.com               

Lastupdate on : Sat, 13 Jul 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 13 Jul 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 14 Jul 2013 00:00:00 IST




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