Indian action in Jammu and Kashmir and Option of Azad Kashmir Forces

By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani


Government of India has taken two main actions on 5 August and 31 October 2019 against the habitat and the people placed under her temporary administration. We seem to have overplayed (as a genuine concern) the action of 5 August 2019 of placing the people under curfew and disconnecting them from rest of the world and have missed the severity of the second action of 31 October 2019, when India dismembered the State into Union Territories, annexed them with the Union of India and decided to savage the politics, history, culture and demography of Kashmir for the first time in the last 174 years of the struggle of the people.

Curfews have remained a regular feature in the lives of the people. But the action of 31 October 2019, is unprecedented. India has turned her back on the work carried out under UNCIP resolutions of 13 August 1948, which laid down three stages in the settlement of the dispute: cessation of hostilities, organization of the truce by demilitarization of all the territories concerned, and organization of the plebiscite. It has turned her back on its bilateral and multi-lateral engagements with Pakistan, on the agreed solution of the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

The issue is not the CURFEW but the DISMEMEBERMENT of the State and breaking the pledge made at the 242nd meeting of the Security Council held on 6 February 1948, when the Indian representative reiterated, “What India had said : was, Kashmir offered her accession at a time of peril to her, and we shall not hold her to this offer. We shall accept it now, but shall leave it to her and her people to change their minds and ask to withdraw from the accession to India and to accede to Pakistan or remain independent. If Kashmir does change her mind, then we commit ourselves to the position that we shall give our consent to her withdrawal from accession to India. That, in effect, is the position involved.”

The Government, its various departments, mainly the foreign office, Kashmir Committee, Parliament, Army and the people of Pakistan, have been addressing the loss of liberty and length of curfew. The second most important action of a ‘near war’ against people of Kashmir and Pakistan somehow has not received the due attention. It has not been explained to people at home and the United Nations, which continues to supervise the cease fire line since January 1949.

We have a response from the Government of Pakistan. Prime Minister of Pakistan has made a very strong case against the fascist agenda of RSS and has very ably stripped Modi nude of all his assumed ‘dignity’ as head of a democratic State. It has been done with method and deep passion as a leader. However, his two visits to Muzaffarabad and Mirpur and advice to Azad Kashmir Government and the Hurriet to sit with foreign office and come up with recommendations, may not be the perfect answer.

Azad Kashmir Government should have a plan, ever ready, for any such situations. If not it has to burn mid-night oil for an emergency plan. In addition Hurriet in Pakistan does not represent the character and style, listed in the Hurriet Constitution adopted on 31 July 1993. It was a united alliance at one point and had brought India on her knees. Unfortunately, it did not have any arrangement for any expert and non-party inputs at any point in its history. All Hurriet representatives in Pakistan have remained engaged in the struggle in one form or the other, but all of them may not be tailored to come up with an answer to the challenge. Hurriet Pakistan chapter has the Hurriet Constitution as a guide and would need to reach out to experts, Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri, living in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan and all over the world for a counter strategy.

It is a good advice and the constituent elements in the struggle and the experts shall have to keep on engagement and structuring a policy. But we may still be holding the lamp upside down. We shall have to revert back to remedial measures approved at the United Nations. The UN Security Council involvement of August 2019 and January 2020, is a good beginning.

We need to revert back to UN Security Council and seek remedies as provided under the UN Package on Kashmir and UN Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir. Government of Pakistan shall have to inform the United Nations that Government of Azad Kashmir, has decided to re-organise the Azad Kashmir Forces, which according to Indian statement made at the 234th meeting of UN Security Council held on 23 January 1948, were 65,000 soldiers and according to the statement made by Pakistan at the 235th meeting of the Security Council held on 24 January 1948 were between 60,000 to 70,000 in number. These soldiers had fought on the side of the United Nations during the war.

United Nations Security Council has been told during the 610th meeting held on 23 December 1952, that, “30,000Azad Kashmir Forces, were fully armed, equipped and trained.” Today Azad Kashmir Forces should be enough to neutralise Indian number in Kashmir. Azad Kashmir Forces had recruited even foreign nationals in their fold. Mr. Haight an ex sergeant of the United States of America, was recruited in these forces, and he rose to the rank of a brigadier general under the Azad Kashmir, Government. In addition 400,000 ‘Maliks’ were ready from northern territories to rush to help the civilians in Jammu and Kashmir, against the repression of Maharaja Forces and occupation by Indian forces.

Azad Kashmir Forces and these Maliks were frozen into a non-action by the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. And if India backs out of the arrangements agreed at the UN Security Council, Azad Kashmir Forces, Maliks and five out of six other elements identified by the United Kingdom at the UN Security Council would be free to organise themselves, as a military force against the Indian action of 31 October 2019. Government of Pakistan would not be in a position, to strip the people of Jammu and Kashmir, of this credible source of defence against Indian military invasion.

It is important to point out that Government of India has accepted the legitimacy of Azad Kashmir Forces at the 608th meeting of the UN Security Council held on 8 December 1952. It has said, “India is prepared to the retention in this area (Azad Kashmir) by the Azad authorities of a civil armed force.” Since India has reneged on her military character and arrangement in Kashmir, Azad Kashmir Forces are free to mount an offensive against Indian forces currently occupying the habitat. Government of Pakistan should find itself free of all restraints and consider appropriate military action directly or by supporting the Azad Kashmir Forces.

According to Document III submitted by the Government of Pakistan at the UN Security Council as “Particulars of Pakistan’s Case” in reply to Indian petition to UN on the question of Kashmir, Pakistan has admitted that 65,000 soldiers from Poonch (Azad Kashmir) fought for the United Nations during the II World War. Pakistan has stated “The Azad Kashmir forces are almost wholly composed of the sons of the soil, and even foreign observers have testified that, wherever they have gone, they have been welcomed as forces of liberation. We are ready to exercise aIl our influence on the Azad Kashmir forces to stop fighting and to see that any tribesmen with them are not only stopped from fighting, but are made to leave Kashmir. These tribesmen, it should be remembered, are the kith and kin of those for whom they are fighting.” The 31 October 2019 action by India, sets Pakistan free of all its pledges of restraint on Azad Kashmir Forces.

Government of India has reneged on her statement made at the 533 meeting of UN Security Council held on 1 March 1951, informing the United Nations, that “Para31.In connexion with the last recommendation I may mention that India has already reduced its forces by 20 to 25 percent, without waiting for any corresponding reduction by Pakistan. May I point out that under the resolutions of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan adopted in August 1948 and January1949, which both parties accepted, it was for Pakistan to begin to withdraw its army first and only thereafter was India to begin to reduce its own forces. Nevertheless, as l have said India has begun the process without waiting for Pakistan, and India is prepared to continue the process if Pakistan, on its part, will withdraw its army from the State.”Pakistan has to help Azad Kashmir in re-organizing Azad Forces and inform the UN Security Council accordingly.

Indian troops intensify CASOs in IOK


Lockdown continues on 195th day

Srinagar, February 15 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, Indian troops have intensified cordon and search operations to harass and intimidate the masses for showing resistance to its illegal hold on the territory.

The troops in the cordon and search operations in Srinagar, Badgam, Islamabad, Pulwama and other areas have arrested several youth during last few days. The residents told media that the troops have made their lives a hell. They said the forces’ personnel barge into the houses, harass the inmates and ransack household goods.

The people of the Kashmir Valley continued to face tremendous hardships due to unrelenting military lockdown and suspension of broadband and high speed mobile internet on 195th consecutive day, today.

Meanwhile, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference sources have said that the occupation authorities have increased the deployment of Indian troops and police personnel around the residence of the ailing Hurriyat Chairman, Syed Ali Gilani, in Hyderpora area of Srinagar. The sources said that the police and troops were not allowing people to visit the veteran leader and even preventing his family members to enter or leave the house. The Secretary General of Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, and the Convener of APHC-AJK chapter, Syed Abdullah Gilani, in their statements appealed to the Kashmiris in general and Muslims in particular to pray for the early recovery of Syed Ali Gilani.

The occupation authorities booked former officer of Indian Administrative Service and Kashmiri politician, Shah Faesal, under draconian law, Public Safety Act. Shah Faesal has been under detention since August 14, last year.

Kashmir Tehreek-e-Khawateen in a statement in Srinagar strongly condemned the cold-blooded murder of prominent leader of Kashmir freedom struggle, Abdul Ghani Dar alias Abdullah Ghazali. Ghazali was found dead in a mosque in Maisuma area of Srinagar and locals said that his assassination was the handiwork of Indian intelligence agencies.

Senior Hurriyat leader, Ghulam Muhammad Khan Sopori, addressing a gathering in Sopore and the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Freedom League, Muhammad Farooq Rehmani, in a statement issued in Islamabad paid rich tributes to noted freedom leader, Ghulam Muhammad Bulla, on his martyrdom anniversary, today. Ghulam Muhammad Bulla was arrested by Indian police and killed in custody on this day in 1975 for leading a protest rally in Sopore against Indra-Abdullah Accord.

The Delhi-based foreign envoys, who visited occupied Kashmir, have urged the Indian government to swiftly lift the restrictions on communications still imposed in the territory. Virginie Battu-Henriksson, European Union Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told media that the EU would want to see the swift lifting of restrictions on communications in the territory.

Shutdown paralyses normal life in IOK


Speakers urge trade sanctions on India

Srinagar, February 09 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, normal life was paralyzed due to complete shutdown on the occasion of the seventh martyrdom anniversary of Kashmiri leader, Muhammad Afzal Guru, today.

Call for the strike was given by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman, Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat forum, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and other pro-freedom leaders and organizations. All shops and business establishments were closed while traffic was off the road. Stringent measures in the name of security were taken to prevent anti-India protests. Hundreds of personnel of Indian army, police and paramilitary forces were patrolling deserted streets in the territory, which already continues to remain under military lockdown and gag on internet on 189th consecutive day, today.

Hurriyat leaders and organizations have also called for complete shutdown on Tuesday to mourn the martyrdom anniversary of another prominent liberation leader, Muhammad Maqbool Butt. India had hanged Muhammad Afzal Guru in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail on 9th February, 2013 and Muhammad Maqbool Butt in the same jail on 11th February, 1984. Their bodies remain buried in the premises of the jail.

Indian police registered a case against Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front over calling for shutdown in the Kashmir Valley on the martyrdom anniversaries of Muhammad Maqbool Butt and Muhammad Afzal Guru. A JKLF spokesman in a statement in Srinagar condemned the registration of the case, saying that India would never be able to suppress the Kashmiris’ freedom struggle by the dint of force.

Police arrested five youth during cordon and search operations in Badgam and Bandipora districts.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in a tweet said that the BJP government has made a prison out of the beautiful land of Jammu and Kashmir. She said continued internet blackout, illegal detentions and archaic laws were slapped on popular politicians in order to keep them silent.

In Toronto, the speakers at a seminar urged India to immediately lift the inhuman military siege on the eight million people in the occupied territory. The seminar was organized by the Friends of Kashmir, Canada. The speakers called upon the Indian government to withdraw all its troops from Kashmir to create conducive environment for the plebiscite enshrined in the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir. They also urged the United Nations and other relevant forums to investigate all massacres, gang-rapes, fake-encounters, forced disappearances, and willful blinding with pellet guns by the Indian forces. They appealed to the world powers to impose trade sanctions on India for its crimes against humanity in Kashmir. Among those who addressed the seminar included Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto, Abdul Hameed, and prominent Muslim scholar, Zafar Bangash.

Holding a Plebiscite on 1st Nov 1950 to Kashmir Solidarity Day on 5th Feb 2020

By Dr Syed Nazir Gilani


Although the United Kingdom had proposed a timetable to hold a free, fair and secure plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir in October 1948, arguing that after October Kashmir would have a snowfall and voters would find it difficult to participate, the actual resolution for scheduling a date came on 14th March 1950. The resolution gave India and Pakistan five months to cooperate with the UN Representative for India and Pakistan (the agenda title had been changed from Jammu and Kashmir Question to India-Pakistan Question), so that he could prepare the environment for UN Plebiscite Administrator Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz to conduct the plebiscite.

The secret telegram sent by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai of Indian Embassy in Washington to Delhi reveals that he had found in his first courtesy call made on Admiral Nimitz that he had set first November 1950 as the date for holding a plebiscite. The Indian Embassy official had found that the Plebiscite Administrator had started working on “whether existing electoral rolls should be used for plebiscite. He had the precedent of NWFP referendum of 1947 in mind.”

If Kashmiris and their support constituency had used the compass of their wisdom well, we should have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of the realisation of right to self-determination on 5th February 2020. It is an irony that we shall be observing it as a ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’, as a condemnation of India’s continued occupation of the habitat and oppression of the people.

This year the solidarity day has graduated to a next higher level, because India has re-occupied and annexed a part of the territory. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Parliamentary Kashmir Committee, Government of Azad Kashmir and all others have decided to send a special message of support to the people placed under a lockdown and a message of sharp rebuke to Modi government that their action is artificial, has no merit and would not be allowed to endure. Prime Minister Imran Khan has used his ability to engage the opposition (not Pakistani) and he does not run out of vocabulary, which is the main tool to engage the various constituencies on Kashmir.

The Prime Minister has set a new trend by using social media, to keep the dignity of his promise, that he would be the Ambassador of Kashmir. To be truly so, the Prime Minister has to be patient, humble and available to Kashmiris during these difficult times for their families, friends and neighbours, placed under the lockdown. We have failed to twist Modi’s wrist or fracture it so far, except the Prime Minister’s scathing rebuke, the merits of which have been noticed around the world. They have started to join in and endorse Pakistan’s position and effort to let peace survive. The situation has made Kashmiris living in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan and as Diaspora, very jittery and angry.

It was well in time and need of the hour, that the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir convened its 9th in-camera meeting on 31st January in the Constitution Room, with two agenda items, namely the “Jurisprudence of the UN resolutions and Kashmir case” and “the latest situation in Indian held Kashmir”. The meeting was chaired by Chairman, Syed Fakhar Imam, and was participated by Director General (KC) Nasim Khalid, Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Director General for South Asia Affairs, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry, senior officials dealing with Kashmir and senior parliamentarians – members of the committee. The new Director General for South Asia Affairs has been deputy ambassador in the Pakistan mission in London and brings a rich experience of contact with the Kashmiri Diaspora.

Kashmir Committees have failed in the past, just because the successive governments (with one exception) used it as a means to engage its members in political tourism and their visits abroad were just symbolic and an escape from Islamabad. No one was there to scrutinise the reports submitted, if any, on their return. So much so that even the President Musharraf’s Kashmir Committee, headed by late Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, a fatherly figure in Kashmiri ‘power politics’, failed to put an end to this ‘political tourism’. The leadership of these committees was also unconvincing and mediocre.

The present government seems to have succeeded in finding the right leadership for the Kashmir Committee. The chairman invited and encouraged a Kashmiri input at the in-camera meeting. I am sure the members of the committee would have benefitted from the three Kashmiri presentations. Good results of the meeting depend on the interest and manner of engagement between the two sides.

The chairman had made a wise decision to have an input on the “Jurisprudence of the UN resolutions and Kashmir case” from the President of JKCHR and “the latest situation in Indian held Kashmir” from the two conveners of APHC Syed Abdullah Gilani and Syed Faiz Naqshbandi. All the three hail from the occupied Kashmir and have families, friends and neighbours imprisoned by Indian forces from 5th August 2019. These three Kashmiri inputs are very important but would not complete the constituency of inputs. There are 2.5m Kashmiri refugees living in various provinces of Pakistan.

Members of the committee made good attempts to engage the three special guests. However, the chairman did not lose his interest and energy in keeping the two sides at it. He had his questions right from the beginning and kept on enquiring more from the speaker on jurisprudence. People in all disciplines in the society (and parliament is part of our society), usually misdirect themselves and fail to differentiate between ‘jurisprudence’ and ‘history’ and the relation between the two in Kashmir case. Jurisprudence on Kashmir has evolved in the company of history of meetings held at the UN Security Council. If we did not have an acceptance and a jurisprudence of the Kashmir case at the UN Security Council, China would not have been able to seek two in camera meetings on 16th August 2019 and 15th January 2020. If there were no ‘jurisprudence’ PTI government would not have claimed that it revived Kashmir after 54 years of neglect in the Security Council.

It needs to be made clear that other governments in the past referred to Kashmir at the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly but failed to touch it in the Security Council. It was for the first time since 1251st meeting of Security Council held on 5th November 1965 that Kashmir found an entry in August 2019 and January 2020 into the Security Council chambers. Credit goes to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and all forces in Pakistan for their combined efforts at the General Assembly and Security Council.

I would be failing in my honesty to my readers and in my duty to my family, friends, neighbours and other people of Kashmir, if I fail to tell their story and point out how best the people and Government of Pakistan could help the people and the Kashmir case. First and foremost, challenge is to look around and seek credible Kashmiri, Pakistani and other inputs on challenging the Indian political vandalism, military aggression and cultural invasion. Ceasefire is between the two armies and not between Kashmiris. In addition the ceasefire has taken away from the people of Kashmir their right to defend themselves. They continue to reserve their right to undo Indian occupation by the use of force.

Para 3 of UN Security Council resolution 80 of 14th March 1950 , confirms the agreement on the appointment of Plebiscite Administrator and adds, “Considering that the resolution of the outstanding difficulties should be based upon the substantial measure of agreement of fundamental principles already reached, and that steps should be taken forthwith for demilitarization of the State and for the expeditious determination of its future in accordance with the freely expressed will of the inhabitants.”

It is time that Pakistan revisits its demand made on 16th January 1957 for a United Nations Force in Kashmir. Pakistan’s proposal was supported by Australia, Cuba, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland and United States of America, in their sponsored resolution dated 14th February 1957 (S/3787). India has surrendered its accession at the UN Security Council on 15th January 1948, a ceasefire has been accepted in January 1949 and there are UNMOGIP in Kashmir. Therefore, the situation claimed on 26th October 1947 has been reversed and Indian army has no right to be in Kashmir. To make any headway, a credible Kashmiri input is paramount.

Will the Israel-GCC alliance prop up Hindu nationalist India?

Agha Hussain

Posted originally to American Herald Tribune on 17 December 2019.

Indo-Israeli ties have always been deep and underscored by ideological affinity, with Israel even in the years prior to having full diplomatic ties with New Delhi assisting India in its wars with Pakistan and China in the 1960s onwards. India’s trade ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have also boomed, both before and after India ceased importing oil from Iran due to US sanctions and thus removed the economic underpinning of its relations with the prime target of the Israel-GCC bloc.

As reported by Sputnik New Delhi on 9 December 2019, Israel recently invited India to become part of a regional trade corridor would connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf by spanning across Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iraq. Israel has proposed developing greater connectivity between the Gulf of Oman and India’s…

View original post 2,401 more words

APHC urges world to settle Kashmir dispute


Locals protest against troops’ brutalities in IOK

Srinagar, February 02 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has called upon the international community to play its role in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute as per aspirations of the Kashmiri people and in line with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

A statement issued after a meeting in Jammu said that the people of the territory were being subjected to the worst kind of human rights violations, particularly after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by the Indian government in August, last year. The meeting was attended among others by Hurriyat leaders and activists including Ghulam Nabi Sumjhi, Mir Shahid Saleem and Narendra Singh Khalsa. They affirmed the Kashmiris’ resolve to continue their liberation movement till it reaches its logical conclusion.

Residents of Damhal Hanjipora and adjacent areas of Kulgam district staged a protest demonstration against the brutalities by Indian troops. As many as six shopkeepers were injured after they were ruthlessly beaten by the troops in the area. Eyewitnesses told media that on seeing pro-freedom posters pasted on the walls and streets in Damhal area, the troops went berserk and started beating whosoever came in their way. The incident triggered anti-India protests in the area. The protesters blocked traffic for several hours.

The sleuths of India’s National Investigation Agency conducted raids at several places in South Kashmir. They carried out searches at residences and private offices and harassed inmates and workers.

Four people including two personnel of Central Reserve Police Force were injured in a grenade attack in Srinagar, today. Unknown persons lobbed the grenade at CRPF personnel deployed at Partap Park in Lal Chowk, Srinagar.

Meanwhile, as the gag on high speed mobile internet of all cellular companies remains in force in the occupied territory, the people of the Kashmir Valley continue to face immense hardships due to military lockdown and siege on the 182nd consecutive day, today.

Former Indian Finance Minister, P Chidambaram talking to reporters in New Delhi said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir need freedom and restoration of their human rights. He said the Indian rulers are completely wrong if they think that they can take away freedom from the Kashmiris and substitute it with money.

Why the New Silk Roads are a ‘threat’ to US bloc

Modern day traders on the ancient Silk Road track in Central Asia. Photo: Facebook

The Middle East is the key to wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration, and peace


Under the cascading roar of the 24/7 news cycle cum Twitter eruptions, it’s easy for most of the West, especially the US, to forget the basics about the interaction of Eurasia with its western peninsula, Europe.

Asia and Europe have been trading goods and ideas since at least 3,500 BC. Historically, the flux may have suffered some occasional bumps – for instance, with the irruption of 5th-century nomad horsemen in the Eurasian plains. But it was essentially steady up to the end of the 15th century. We can essentially describe it as a millennium-old axis – from Greece to Persia, from the Roman empire to China.

A land route with myriad ramifications, through Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, linking India and China to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, ended up coalescing into what we came to know as the Ancient Silk Roads.

By the 7th century, land routes and sea trade routes were in direct competition. And the Iranian plateau always played a key role in this process.

The Iranian plateau historically includes Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia linking it to Xinjiang to the east, and to the west all the way to Anatolia. The Persian empire was all about land trade – the key node between India and China and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Persians engaged the Phoenicians in the Syrian coastline as their partners to manage sea trade in the Mediterranean. Enterprising people in Tyre established Carthage as a node between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Because of the partnership with the Phoenicians, the Persians would inevitably be antagonized by the Greeks – a sea trading power.

When the Chinese, promoting the New Silk Roads, emphasize “people to people exchange” as one of its main traits, they mean the millenary Euro-Asia dialogue. History may even have aborted two massive, direct encounters.

The first was after Alexander The Great defeated Darius III of Persia. But then Alexander’s Seleucid successors had to fight the rising power in Central Asia: the Parthians – who ended up taking over Persia and Mesopotamia and made the Euphrates the limes between them and the Seleucids.

The second encounter was when emperor Trajan, in 116 AD, after defeating the Parthians, reached the Persian Gulf. But Hadrian backed off – so history did not register what would have been a direct encounter between Rome, via Persia, with India and China, or the Mediterranean meeting with the Pacific.

Mongol globalization

The last western stretch of the Ancient Silk Roads was, in fact, a Maritime Silk Road. From the Black Sea to the Nile delta, we had a string of pearls in the form of Italian city/emporia, a mix of end journey for caravans and naval bases, which then moved Asian products to Italian ports.

Commercial centers between Constantinople and Crimea configured another Silk Road branch through Russia all the way to Novgorod, which was very close culturally to the Byzantine world. From Novgorod, merchants from Hamburg and other cities of the Hanseatic League distributed Asian products to markets in the Baltics, northern Europe and all the way to England – in parallel to the southern routes followed by the maritime Italian republics.

Between the Mediterranean and China, the Ancient Silk Roads were of course mostly overland. But there were a few maritime routes as well. The major civilization poles involved were peasant and artisanal, not maritime. Up to the 15th century, no one was really thinking about turbulent, interminable oceanic navigation.

The main players were China and India in Asia, and Italy and Germany in Europe. Germany was the prime consumer of goods imported by the Italians. That explains, in a nutshell, the structural marriage of the Holy Roman Empire.

At the geographic heart of the Ancient Silk Roads, we had deserts and the vast steppes, trespassed by sparse tribes of shepherds and nomad hunters. All across those vast lands north of the Himalayas, the Silk Road network served mostly the four main players. One can imagine how the emergence of a huge political power uniting all those nomads would be in fact the main beneficiary of Silk Road trade.

Well, that actually happened. Things started to change when the nomad shepherds of Central-South Asia started to have their tribes regimented as horseback archers by politico-military leaders such as Genghis Khan.

Welcome to the Mongol globalization. That was actually the fourth globalization in history, after the Syrian, the Persian and the Arab.    Under the Mongolian Ilkhanate, the Iranian plateau – once again playing a major role – linked China to the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia in the Mediterranean.

The Mongols didn’t go for a Silk Road monopoly. On the contrary: during Kublai Khan – and Marco Polo’s travels – the Silk Road was free and open. The Mongols only wanted caravans to pay a toll.

With the Turks, it was a completely different story. They consolidated Turkestan, from Central Asia to northwest China. The only reason Tamerlan did not annex India is that he died beforehand. But even the Turks did not want to shut down the Silk Road. They wanted to control it.

Venice lost its last direct Silk Road access in 1461, with the fall of Trebizond, which was still clinging to the Byzantine empire. With the Silk Road closed to the Europeans, the Turks – with an empire ranging from Central-South Asia to the Mediterranean – were convinced they now controlled trade between Europe and Asia.

Not so fast. Because that was when European kingdoms facing the Atlantic came up with the ultimate Plan B: a new maritime road to India.

And the rest – North Atlantic hegemony – is history.

Enlightened arrogance

The Enlightenment could not possibly box Asia inside its own rigid geometries. Europe ceased to understand Asia, proclaimed it was some sort of proteiform historical detritus and turned its undivided attention to “virgin,” or “promised” lands elsewhere on the planet.

We all know how England, from the 18th century onwards, took control of the entire trans-oceanic routes and turned North Atlantic supremacy into a lone superpower game – till the mantle was usurped by the US.

Yet all the time there has been counter-pressure from the Eurasian Heartland powers. That’s the stuff of international relations for the past two centuries – peaking in the young 21st century into what could be simplified as The Revenge of the Heartland against Sea Power. But still, that does not tell the whole story.

Rationalist hegemony in Europe progressively led to an incapacity to understand diversity – or The Other, as in Asia. Real Euro-Asia dialogue – the de facto true engine of history – had been dwindling for most of the past two centuries.

Europe owes its DNA not only to much-hailed Athens and Rome – but to Byzantium as well. But for too long not only the East but also the European East, heir to Byzantium, became incomprehensible, quasi incommunicado with Western Europe, or submerged by pathetic clichés.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as in the Chinese-led New Silk Roads, are a historical game-changer in infinite ways. Slowly and surely, we are evolving towards the configuration of an economically interlinked group of top Eurasian land powers, from Shanghai to the Ruhr valley, profiting in a coordinated manner from the huge technological know-how of Germany and China and the enormous energy resources of Russia.

The Raging 2020s may signify the historical juncture when this bloc surpasses the current, hegemonic Atlanticist bloc.

Now compare it with the prime US strategic objective at all times, for decades: to establish, via myriad forms of divide and rule, that relations between Germany, Russia and China must be the worst possible.

No wonder strategic fear was glaringly visible at the NATO summit in London last month, which called for ratcheting up pressure on Russia-China. Call it the late Zbigniew “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski’s ultimate, recurrent nightmare.

Germany soon will have a larger than life decision to make. It’s like this was a renewal – in way more dramatic terms – of the Atlanticist vs Ostpolitik debate. German business knows that the only way for a sovereign Germany to consolidate its role as a global export powerhouse is to become a close business partner of Eurasia.

In parallel, Moscow and Beijing have come to the conclusion that the  US trans-oceanic strategic ring can only be broken through the actions of a concerted block: BRI, Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS+ and the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB), the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Middle East pacifier

The Ancient Silk Road was not a single camel caravan route but an inter-communicating maze. Since the mid-1990s I’ve had the privilege to travel almost every important stretch – and then, one day, you see the complete puzzle. The New Silk Roads, if they fulfill their potential, pledge to do the same.

Maritime trade may be eventually imposed – or controlled – by a global naval superpower. But overland trade can only prosper in peace. Thus the New Silk Roads potential as The Great Pacifier in Southwest Asia – what the Western-centric view calls the Middle East.

The Middle East (remember Palmyra) was always a key hub of the Ancient Silk Roads, the great overland axis of Euro-Asia trade going all the way to the Mediterranean.

For centuries, a quartet of regional powers – Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran) – have been fighting for hegemony over the whole area from the Nile delta to the Persian Gulf. More recently, it has been a case of external hegemony: Ottoman Turk, British and American.

So delicate, so fragile, so immensely rich in culture, no other region in the world has been, continually, since the dawn of history, an absolutely key zone. Of course, the Middle East was also a crisis zone even before oil was found (the Babylonians, by the way, already knew about it).

The Middle East is a key stop in the 21st century, trans-oceanic supply chain routes – thus its geopolitical importance for the current superpower, among other geoeconomic, energy-related reasons. But its best and brightest know the Middle East does not need to remain a center of war, or intimations of war, which, incidentally, affect three of those historical, regional powers of the quartet (Syria, Iraq and Iran).

What the New Silk Roads are proposing is wide-ranging, economic, interlinked integration from East Asia, through Central Asia, to Iran, Iraq and Syria all the way to the Eastern Mediterranean. Just like the Ancient Silk Roads. No wonder vested War Party interests are so uncomfortable with this real peace “threat.”

%d bloggers like this: