The Eerie NGO Phenomenon in Kashmir

“Conflicts have always allowed very suitable ecosystems for Non Governmental Organisations or NGOs to flourish in. Embroiled with armed insurgency for about two decades now, Kashmir has attracted a plethora of organizations. But going by the numbers, the region seems to have become a heaven for NGO activity.”

By Parvaiz Bukhari

(This article was first published by The Honour Magazine, April 2010, (pg. 16-20).)

Kashmir as an Integral Part of India.  Cartoon by Mir Suhail Qadiri
Kashmir as an Integral Part of India. Cartoon by Mir Suhail Qadiri

Conflicts have always allowed very suitable ecosystems for Non Governmental Organisations or NGOs to flourish in. Embroiled with armed insurgency for about two decades now, Kashmir has attracted a plethora of organizations. But going by the numbers, the region seems to have become a heaven for NGO activity.

There is no central register for the NGOs operating here, no guidelines or any overt accountability. Various estimates put the figure of existing NGOs up to 16,000. Apart from the office of the Registrar of Societies, NGOs are registered for various non-profit activities as trusts and voluntary groups in the district courts. Besides, many NGOs from across the country operating in Kashmir are not registered here.

All you need is five persons and a draft of bylaws along with a declaration of supposed objectives that is then registered in any district court where no count is maintained.

Just what is this huge mass of NGOs doing and who are the people who run them? What is the real intent and incentive for this NGO boom in a region that is still considered business ‘unfriendly’? Where is the funding coming from? A superficial enquiry reveals a dizzying range of unclear activity bordering on subterfuge.

Government employees, close relatives of bureaucrats, politicians, well-off families and people who have been a part of counter insurgency think tanks, run a number of NGOs in the Valley. Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Developmental Studies (KFPDS) run by a former militant commander, Firdous Sayeed Baba alias Babar Badr, has been on the scene for many years now. Babar and four other former militant commanders were the first to enter into dialogue with New Delhi in 1995. He is also known to be very close to the former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief A S Dullat, who for many years earlier and during NDA regime served as New Delhi’s point man on Kashmir affairs. Continue reading “The Eerie NGO Phenomenon in Kashmir”

How Foreign Aid Sustains Israeli Occupation

A highly informative interview with Nadia Hijab, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies as well as Co-Founder and Director of Al-Shabaka: the Palestinian Policy Network.

In this episode of Palestine Studies TV we sit down with Nadia Hijab, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies as well as Co-Founder and Director of Al-Shabaka: the Palestinian Policy Network, to discuss international aid to the Palestinians and it’s effects on Palestinian society, politics, and Israel’s occupation.

Palestine Studies TV is a project of the Institute for Palestine Studies.

US-Israel Trade: Espionage, Theft and Secrets

http://vimeo.com/22314781
On April 6, Grant F. Smith presented a comprehensive review of the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement to the Finance and Economics Council at the University of Rochester. Using a slide show of declassified documents and charts, Smith revealed how secret agreements and a joint Israeli embassy/AIPAC covert operation undermined US industries and the trade negotiating process.

New quantitative analysis and disclosures reveal the US-Israel trade agreement is actually a $10 billion/year foreign aid program. Smith also discusses how major omissions in Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s 2009 Council on Foreign Relations book Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle undermine their two major findings: that perpetual conflict gives Israel a comparative advantage and that the US should reinstate conscription in order to match Israel’s entrepreneurial output.

J Street and the Middle East War Process

J Street, America’s premier liberal pro-Israel lobbying group, has just wrapped up its third annual conference in Washington.  There have been sessions and panels on “building peace from the ground up,” on “expanding the tent” and even some passionate condemnations of the Occupation.  Amid so much good feeling it’s almost possible to lose sight of one of J Street’s fundamental missions: to promote and guarantee America’s lavish and unconditional military aid to Israel.

J Street wants dialogue, peace, white phosphorus

This may seem like a harsh assessment of the lobbying group.  After all, isn’t J Street routinely attacked by neocon ultras and praised by American liberals?  But hack through J Street’s verbiage about “dialogue” and “conversation” and one bumps into this blandly phrased position statement: “American assistance to Israel, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, is an important anchor for a peace process based on providing Israel with the confidence and assurance to move forward on a solution based on land for peace. J Street consistently advocates for robust US foreign aid to Israel.”  This last sentence is 99% of what one needs to know about J Street.

We Americans aren’t used to talking about the one thing we are most directly responsible for in the Israel-Palestine conflict: our $3bn annual military aid package that goes almost exclusively to one of the two sides.  A bit weirdly, debate about Israel/Palestine among Americans tends to leap immediately to the issue of a one-state versus a two-state solution. Or we presume to give the Palestinians tips and pointers about what degree of violence is morally acceptable, and where’s that Palestinian Gandhi?  Or we vow to redouble our efforts towards a “peace process” which doesn’t quite seem to exist.

Continue reading “J Street and the Middle East War Process”

Haiti: The politics of rebuilding

In the latest edition of Fault Lines, Avi Lewis travels to Port-au-Prince and to the Plateau Central to document the politics of rebuilding in Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. It seems the complusion of Haiti’s former colonial masters to use the country and its people as a vast economic laboratory remains unceasing.

In the meantime, Isabel MacDonald at Huffington Post has compiled a “partial index of the West’s ‘humanitarian efforts’ in Haiti” to date:

  • Amount pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction over the following 18 months at the March 31 UN conference: $5,300,000,000
  • Percentage of this amount that has been paid: 1.9
  • Amount of pledged U.S. bilateral search and rescue assistance to Haiti that was delivered in the wake of the earthquake: $0

Continue reading “Haiti: The politics of rebuilding”

Gaza: 1.5 million people trapped in despair

Khan Younis. Public taps for drinking water,
Khan Younis. Public taps for drinking water, May 2009.

Today the International Red Cross released a report detailing the catastrophic results of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza. As the siege which has crippled Gazans for the past two years continues, the Red Cross found seriously ill patients facing difficulty obtaining the treatment they needed; children suffering from deep psychological problems and people whose homes and belongings were destroyed during the conflict unable to recover.

The report in full reads:

During the 22 days of the Israeli military operation, nowhere in Gaza was safe for civilians. Hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties, including small children, women and elderly people. Medical personnel showed incredible courage and determination, working around the clock to save lives in extremely difficult circumstances. Meanwhile, daily rocket attacks launched from Gaza put thousands of residents at risk in southern Israel. Medical workers in Israel provided care for the traumatized population and treated and evacuated casualties.

Many people in Gaza lost a child, a parent, another relative or a friend. Israel’s military operation left thousands of homes partly or totally destroyed. Whole neighbourhoods were turned into rubble. Schools, kindergartens, hospitals and fire and ambulance stations were damaged by shelling and have to broker deals with financiers for support.

This small coastal strip is cut off from the outside world. Even before the latest hostilities, drastic restrictions on the movement of people and goods imposed by the Israeli authorities, particularly since October 2007, had led to worsening poverty, rising unemployment and deteriorating public services such as health care, water and sanitation. Insufficient cooperation between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas administration in Gaza had also hit the provision of essential services. As a result, the people of Gaza were already experiencing a major crisis affecting all aspects of daily life when hostilities intensified in late December. Continue reading “Gaza: 1.5 million people trapped in despair”