Thread: Kashmir Problem
View Single Post
Old Saturday, July 09, 2005
zohaib's Avatar
zohaib zohaib is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 63
Thanks: 0
Thanked 61 Times in 19 Posts
zohaib is on a distinguished road
Default Cost and gain of Kashmir

Cost and gain of Kashmir
By Shahid Javed Burki (Dawn 28 june,2005)

WITH this article I am returning to the issue of Kashmir on which I began to write three weeks ago. In the first article of this series that appeared in this space on June 7, I suggested that the time has come for both Pakistan and India to move beyond the strategies they have pursued for nearly six decades to produce a result that was satisfactory for them. In the language of economics, Islamabad and Delhi generally followed the “zero-sum game”, a game according to which what one side would gain the other side would necessarily lose. This has not worked.

What is likely to succeed is a “plus-sum” strategy in which both sides lose a bit but gain a great deal more. In the articles that will appear for the next few weeks, I will demonstrate that such an approach is more beneficial for Pakistan since keeping the Kashmir issue alive has cost it considerably more than the social, political and economic costs paid by India.

It is at times useful to deploy the methodology often used by the historians who practise “counter-factual” analytical techniques to gauge the impact of the developments that might have happened differently or not happened at all. This technique is particularly useful in determining both qualitatively and quantitatively the impact on India and Pakistan had they not sustained their dispute over Kashmir for such a long time.

What would have happened to these countries — in fact to all of South Asia — had Kashmir not become an all-consuming problem draining both energy and capital away from the areas that needed the attention of the two governments? An answer to this question requires a rough measure of the various kinds of costs for the two countries associated with the Kashmir dispute.

“The obvious objection to such hypothetical or ‘counterfactual’ questions is simple: why bother to ask them? Why concern ourselves with what didn’t happen? ... It seems we cannot resist imagining the alternative scenarios: what might have happened, if only we had or had not ... We picture ourselves as avoiding past blunders, or committing blunders we narrowly avoided, “ writes Niall Ferguson, one of the most articulate exponents of this form of analysis.

He continues: “Of course, we know that perfectly well that we cannot travel back in time and do things differently. But the business of imagining such counterfactuals is a vital part of the way in which we learn. Because decisions about the future are — usually — based on weighing up the potential consequences of alternative courses of action, it makes sense to compare the actual outcomes of what we did in the past with the conceivable outcomes of what we might have done.”

The long-enduring Kashmir dispute lends itself very well to this kind of analysis. What would have happened had the British treated the princely states the way they treated the provinces they directly administered and partitioned them on the basis of religion as well? That way Kashmir with a vast majority of its population professing the Muslim faith would have automatically become part of Pakistan. The same would have been the case with the state of Hyderabad whose ruler, the Nizam, toyed with the idea of independence until the Indian government sent in its troops and had him change his mind.

It is true that one part of Kashmir — the area of Jammu — had a large Hindu population. This could have been handled as well by partitioning the state into two parts, a Muslim Kashmir and a Hindu Jammu as was done with the provinces of Bengal and Punjab. This way the problem of Kashmir could have been avoided. A more suspicious reading of the intentions of the departing British administration suggests that they deliberately left some unresolved issues in order to be called upon to adjudicate between the successor states of India and Pakistan. That way the British could retain some influence over the area they had controlled for almost 200 years.

Both India and Pakistan have already paid a heavy price for not being able to resolve the problem of Kashmir. Costs were incurred not just in economic terms — the expenditure of resources on the militaries in the two countries that could have been put to better economic and social use. These costs and the amounts of foregone benefits are not too difficult to estimate. What is more difficult to quantify, particularly for Pakistan, is the overall cost to society. There is no doubt that the Kashmir dispute has seriously affected Pakistan’s social and political development.

Islamabad’s policymakers were tempted to use Islamic zeal as one way of putting pressure on India over Kashmir. After the success of the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and after the demonstration that an inspired group of reasonably trained warriors could defeat even a superpower, it was tempting for strategists in Pakistan to allow the same tactics to be used in Kashmir.

Steve Coll, who studied the use of the jihadist approach in Afghanistan and the lessons learned by the Pakistani military establishment from its seeming success has, drawn a number of interesting conclusions about Islamabad’s handling of the Kashmir problem. He maintains in his recent book that the temptation offered for the use of jihad as a weapon against the Indian occupation of Kashmir was difficult to resist for the Pakistani military establishment.

“Every Pakistani general, liberal or religious, believed in the jihadists by 1999 not from personal conviction, in most cases, but because the jihadists had proved themselves over many years as the force able to frighten, flummox, and bog down the Hindu-dominated Indian army. About a dozen Indian divisions had been tied up in Kashmir during the late 1990s to suppress a few thousand well-trained, paradise-seeking Islamist guerrillas. What more could Pakistan ask? The jihadist guerrillas were a more practical day-to-day strategic defence against Indian hegemony than even a nuclear bomb.”

However, the infrastructure needed to produce jihadists proved corrosive for Pakistani society, a development not appreciated at that time by those who developed the strategy. As it turned out, a heavy price was paid for the reliance on groups whose members were deeply committed to Islamic fundamentalism. Often under official patronage, these groups began to penetrate Pakistani society and also its political system. One consequence of this was the political gains made by Islamists in recent years. The unanticipated success of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, (MMA) was a direct product of the support some of their constituent parts had provided to various Islamic causes around the globe and the position they had taken against the United States in the latter’s war against international terrorism.

Not only did the MMA gain at the national level, which was an unprecedented development for Islamic parties in the country, the alliance was also able to form a government led by it in the (the NWFP) and to become a prominent partner in the multi-party government in Balochistan. Both the NWFP and Balochistan border on Afghanistan. It is in this border area that the remnants of the Taliban continue to be active. This has happened in spite of the victory of the American-led coalition in December 2001 over Kabul and its success in installing a government in Afghanistan that is not only sympathetic to Washington but is highly appreciative of the role the United States had played in bringing about regime change in the country.

The political success of the forces of Islam to which the strategy pursued in Kashmir by a succession of administrations in Islamabad was the visible part of the change that occurred. Another development — perhaps even more profound than the electoral success of the MMA — was taking place below the surface as large segments of the Pakistani population came to be converted to an interpretation of Islam with which they were not very familiar. This happened as a result of the series of measures adopted by the administration of President Ziaul Haq. This trend was given impetus by the establishment of hundreds of Saudi funded madressahs that taught the Salafist interpretation of Islam, and was kept alive by the struggle over Kashmir. Another “what if...?” question would help to understand how certain developments and several actions taken in the 1980s and 1990s had unintended consequences. These concern the dominant role played by President Ziaul Haq for 11 years in Pakistan’s political life and the support he provided to various jihadist causes including those in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Had that not happened the austere, Salafist Islam that has penetrated several segments of the Pakistani society would not have arrived in Pakistan with such force and the country would have continued on the path of modernization on which it embarked President Ayub Khan’s 11 years.

Although Pakistan’s first military ruler named the new capital he built Islamabad and added Islamic Republic to Pakistan’s name as was done by the framers of the 1956 Pakistan, he was keen to introduce social change aimed at weaning society away from some of the practices that the Salafists fully endorsed. Ayub Khan’s emphasis on population planning and family laws ordinance went against the grain of the Islamists who had established their sway over the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The full realization of the threat militant Islam posed to Pakistan’s security came in December 2003 when there were two attempts on President Pervez Musharraf’s life in Rawalpindi, the seat of the Pakistani army. That the president was attacked in Rawalpindi suggested that there may have been some involvement at some level by military personnel. The military indicated as much by putting on trial two of its officials and sentencing one of them to death for his involvement in the assassination attempt.

By the early months of 2004, General Musharraf had begun to declare that among the many problems he faced as Pakistan’s president, by far the most important was the threat posed by Islamic extremism. He was also now making the connection between the Kashmir problem and this threat since its continuation provided the Islamic groups with the raison d’etre for their operations.

While Pakistan was to pay a heavy price for allowing Islamic fundamentalism penetrate society, at one point in time reliance on it had become an integral part of the country’s defence strategy. India did not incur this kind of cost. India’s Kashmir war, fought on conventional basis, did not affect its society or the country’s political system. India was not scarred as badly by the long enduring insurrection in Kashmir. The fact that Kashmir is distant from the main population centres of the country has also kept the conflict in Kashmir at some distance from Indian society. That did not happen in Pakistan.
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.
Reply With Quote