Is COVID-19 a “perfect cover” for political opportunities? According to CJ Werleman, journalist, author, and analyst on conflict and terrorism, India and Israel are using the pandemic to divert attention from the international community and expand its territorial settler projects.
Historically, there have been several times when such a diversion was used by expansionist states like Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 when the world was focusing on the Beijing Olympic Games.
The author believes that world leaders often use foreign policy as a means to divert attention from political problems at home like the US’s assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani which was likely carried out to divert attention from President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing.
The author further wrote about Israel’s decision to formalise its annexation of the occupied West Bank by advancing a bill to be passed by the Knesset, which is the unicameral national legislature of Israel. The US’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has supported the decision claiming it is “an Israeli decision.”
No doubt, Israel’s sudden haste to annex Palestinian land is driven by a belief that the international community is too distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic to care or protest. Additionally, there are genuine concerns that Joe Biden could defeat Donald Trump in US presidential elections, which could further endanger Jerusalem’s policies, writes the author.
On the other side of the world, India is replicating this Israel’s model in Kashmir by passing laws that would give domicile rights for Indian citizens, paving the way for soldiers and their families, or specifically those who have lived in the territory for 15 years or longer, to purchase and own property.
“Giving land, homes and jobs to Indian soldiers and their families is how India will try to change the demographics here – no different to what Israel has done with its settlers in the West Bank,” said Mr Shifat, a school teacher in Srinagar.
Werleman claims that New Delhi’s motive is to “facilitate and encourage “demographic flooding”, or rather make the Muslim majority a minority in their land – and kill any chance of a future independent Kashmiri state.” He further added that this is the same way that Israel migrated one million Jewish settlers in the Palestinian state since 1967.
“India has been upping the ante in Kashmir by escalating its military activities in the territory since the Covid-19 pandemic began, including moving heavy artillery into residential neighbourhoods and villages, to use as a base from which to target Pakistani military locations tens of thousands of kilometres from its own bunkered positions,” wrote Werleman.
Nitin J Ticku, an expert on J&K affairs talking to EurAsian Times rubbishes the author’s claims. He has not uttered a single word about over 500,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were forced into exodus by Islamic radicals. Prominent personalities were brutally killed, houses burned down, women raped and an entire community uprooted but that probably is not important to his anti-India and anti-Israel narrative, says Ticku.