US indifference to human rights violations…in some parts of the world

“The US shows its hypocrisy by accusing “tyrants” of human rights abuses while not owning up to supporting dictators,” says Ted Rall in an article on Al Jazeera English. Rall questions the US administration’s commitment to supporting human rights in the light of recent events in Libya. He suggests that the US picks and chooses what tyrants it supports and which ones it opposes based on its own strategic interests. This aspect of the foreign policy has led to anti-Americanism in many parts of the world.

“In yet another display that exposes US foreign policy on human rights as hypocritical and self-serving,” writes Rall, “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Uzbekistan to establish closer ties with the Central Asian republic’s president-for-life, Islam Karimov. Even as her State Department was ballyhooing the bloody conclusion of Gaddafi’s 42-year reign as a victory for freedom and decency, the former First Lady was engaged in the cynical Cold War-style of one of the worst human rights abusers in the world.”

In my opinion, this argument can be extended to other parts of the world such as Kashmir, where the United States has allowed human rights violations to continue. Despite having much influence over both India and Pakistan, the United States has failed to question either country on their actions in the valley of Kashmir where thousands of people suffer at the hands of Pakistan backed Islamic militants and the occupying Indian military forces. Kashmir, which has been the major source of animosity between India and Pakistan, and is the main reason Pakistan is paranoid about India’s growing influence in Afghanistan, has been surprisingly ignored by the American governments both past and current. In fact, Kashmiri voices and narratives are not given much space in the US media either.

Pankaj Mishra is among the very few people who has questioned this silence over Kashmir in the Western media. Writing in The Guardian last year, Mishra said, “Intellectuals preoccupied by transcendent, nearly mystical, battles between civilization and barbarism tend to assume that “democratic” India, a natural ally of the “liberal” west, must be doing the right thing in Kashmir, ie fighting “Islamofascism”. However, it is not just India that the West is hesitant to critique, Pakistan plays and equal role in exacerbating the conflict in Kashmir.

The conflict in Kashmir is always framed in the media as the tug of war between Pakistan and India. In an interview to Time Magazine’s Joe Klein in 2008, President Obama said, “Working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve, and Kashmir, crisis in a serious way. Those are all critical tasks for the next administration. Kashmir in particular is an interesting situation where that is obviously a potential tar pit diplomatically.” Work with Pakistan and India to resolve the conflict in Kashmir Mr. Obama? But what about the people of Kashmir? What do they want? And why don’t we hear their voices? And has Obama actually done anything since this interview in 2008 to get Pakistan and India to resolve this issue?

The situation of instability in South Asia will not go away until all these crises are taken care of, and picking and choosing which crisis to focus on and which one to ignore is actually quite counter-productive since they are all interconnected. As the US and Afghan governments pressurize Pakistan to push the Taliban to negotiations in time for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, it will be interesting to see whether or not the US government will push India and Pakistan to be accountable for the gross human rights violations in Kashmir.

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