Arab Revolutions Lessons for Kashmir and Delhi

What is happening in the Arab world is of huge interest to us if we are able to interpret correctly

The Arab street is rocking with rebellion. Two are down, two are in grip of decisive strife and 13 are worried. Kashmir is debating the trend. India is watching over the fallout. There is hardly anything more than this in form of reaction or reflection from our part of world.

 No one seems interested in taking any lessons or seizing the opportunity which Arabian Peninsula is offering to the world in terms of building new relations or introspecting the existing ones. What is happening in the Arab world is of huge interest to us if we are able to correctly interpret, take the lessons that suite our situation and overhaul, rather reinvent, our policies towards the Muslim world with long term objectives.

Lessons for Kashmir

Notwithstanding the romanticism and excitement over what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and what is happening in Libya and Bahrain, Lal Chowk will always be a different story from Tahrir Square. There is wide array of similarities and dissimilarities between the recent Arab movement, particularly in Egypt, and the events that have been taking place in Kashmir for last three years. However, the dissimilarities and political logics far outnumber the similarities. Tools and approaches employed to revolution are almost the same in both cases but causes and end goals are different. In both cases, it is the youth bulge, the educated, the unemployed and politically awakened generation of the average age of 25 calling shots in streets of Cairo, Tripoli and Srinagar. While the traditional revolutions or resistance movements against the regimes have always involved the conventional small weapons aimed at creating violence, this feature is missing in both the cases. Both, the Arab revolution and recent Kashmir uprising have made use of internet, particularly the social media, instead of arms, though throwing a stone still remains an extreme form of political communication. In strategic thinking use of gun in conflict zones to cause deaths or injuries to forces or civilians is seen as a means of seeking attention, challenging the State and creating awareness among the masses, however bad it may be. But in present two cases under discussion the restless youth have taken to the social media to do that kind of communication. Again, the political as well as the civil rights thinking would endorse that any propaganda that causes or enhances the level of conflict can be and should be tolerated even by States as long as the rebels keep violence out of it. However, States are being seen getting increasingly intolerant of internet use by dissenting groups. That said, the dissimilarities between Kashmir and Arab events are much starker. In Arab countries people have been protesting for change of regimes which have been in place for decades together. In Kashmir, people have changed regimes several times and more legitimately, at least, twice in last one decade. 

Lessons are to be learnt in terms of the end goals. There is lot of romanticism and excitement in Kashmir over what is happening in Arab world but it needs scratching of surface to see what exactly is beneath. The change in Arab has not been complete, not even in Tunisia and Egypt where regimes have fallen, it is just the beginning and the wind is gradually taking off to entire Peninsula. In Kashmir, the separatists and the mainstream political parties have hinted towards an Egypt like revolution. As if nothing like that has happened in Kashmir. I think it would be better to say that Egypt seems to have taken a cue from Kashmir. Weren’t the Kashmir uprisings of 2008 and 2010 any less than the Egypt revolution? Perhaps the Kashmir experiment was much shriller and louder than the Arab one. So, at both places, what are the gains? Nothing is going to change fundamentally in Tunisia or Egypt. There is only a process set in motion for change in regime. The new regime will have some old faces and some new faces. System remains the same. There is more focus on Egypt and not much is seen or studied about post-revolution Tunisia. The change of regime has triggered a bitter political strife there within the opposition parties and other pro-change groups over power structure and role each one of them seeks to play in new scenario, and the new system. Hundreds of thousands of revolutionaries are a disappointed and betrayed lot. Such are the results of movements without agenda and leaders. This may sound contemptuous to the readers I would like to take the risk of saying that there is neither an agenda nor a leader in Kashmir–the key ingredients of any result oriented movement.  Such situations result in more losses and hardly any gains. Is there any gain in Kashmir which can equal the loss of any one of 112 lives that fell down so cheap in 2010? Kashmiris must look deep into Arab revolutions and draw a lesson on how best to avoid loss of lives, energy, time and political credibility. Dissimilar in end goals, the Kashmir and Arab revolutions are yet similar in context of having no agenda or leader to rally behind.

Lessons for India     

Does India have any policy or vision for the Arab world? Perhaps it never had. Today is the time when New Delhi must look beyond oil, Pakistan-connections and workforce remittances and engage creatively in building political, cultural and strategic relationships with Arab world. New Delhi has apparently been wary of Muslim world’s Kashmir view in engaging them. Being Muslims they are seen as natural suspects of collaborators of Pakistan. Which is, at the first place, not a fact and if it is, it can be changed by employing diplomatic strategies. Of most prominent countries of Muslim world, Saudi Arabia has been a supporter of New Delhi on Kashmir. But it was only after five years after Saudi Arabia declared its support that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited there. Saddam Hussein was a long standing friend of India but when America came bullying, Delhi turned the other way round. India believes that it is fast on the way of becoming an economic, political and defence superpower of Asia, something not far from reality but not closer either. Superpowers are known for taking stands which India rarely does. It was not long ago (in 1995) when India conferred Nehru award upon Hosni Mubarak for ‘unique role in providing stability and progress to his country and upholding the Arab cause in promoting peace and understanding in the region’, as the citation read. Red carpets were rolled out in 2008 when Mubarak was in Delhi. So, what went seriously wrong with Mubarak in just two years? One important factor which needs to be underlined here is that the movements going on in Arab world appear indigenous in nature but an external support –obviously from US and Israel – can’t be ruled out. After all Arab nations are not the only place on earth where dictators thrive. Fifty-four of 194 countries in the world are under dictatorship of various degrees.

While Arab revolutions are being hailed across the board as quest for democracy why isn’t the world talking about other dictatorial patches, worst than Arab experience. For example, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, a person of military background, is there since 1979, similarly, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the dictator of Angola is there since 1980. To the question that why pro-democracy revolutions in Arab world only, the answer can be searched in possibility of America controlled or pro-America regimes coming to power in Arab nations where the so called ‘changes through revolutions’ are taking place. Instead of ‘cautiously watching situation’, the pet phrase of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, India must play the role of an Asian giant and not get carried away by its America obsession.

Author is Editor of Epilogue and can be mailed at