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 Kashmir trap: a way out

Kashmir trap: a way out
By Shahid Javed Burki
(Dawn 7 june,2005)

IN spite of the efforts made by India and Pakistan to improve their relations following the pledge made in April 2003 by Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Indian prime minister, to bring lasting peace to South Asia by extending a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan, not much progress has been made in resolving the issue. Several high-level meetings and one more summit have been held since then but the two South Asian countries have failed to define the scope and depth of a new relationship.

In these discussions, as on many previous occasions, India and Pakistan have taken two very different positions in attempting to resolve their differences. The Indians want to focus on improving contacts between the two countries. They want to see an easy movement of people across the borders, not just across the established boundaries but also across the Line of Control that divides the two parts of Kashmir. New Delhi would also like to see more cultural exchanges and has offered to take Pakistani students and Pakistani patients into their admittedly better universities and hospitals.

The Pakistan government has adopted a different approach. It is fearful that these efforts are meant to deflect attention from Kashmir in the “composite dialogue” the two countries have initiated and engaged in with not much consequence. Pakistan, more than India, has to deal with the weight of history. In the earlier attempts to bring lasting peace to South Asia — the attempts made in the 1950s and 1960s — Pakistan found that India was not prepared to yield much ground on the Kashmir issue. Its position has not changed in spite of the enormous amount of grief that has been visited upon the region as a result of the Kashmir dispute.

India remains committed to preserving the status quo in Kashmir. Manmohan Singh, the current Indian prime minister, has stated clearly that he does not have the mandate to make adjustments in the country’s boundaries once again on the basis of religion. Pakistan is equally determined to bring about a change in the current status. President Musharraf has talked about dividing the state into seven parts, each representing a distinct ethnic community. “I am not talking about using religion as a basis for settlement but providing autonomy and self-governance to the state’s many ethnic groups. I can identify seven such groups in the state,” he said to me in a conversation in March. These two very different outlooks have resulted in the adoption of different strategies by the two countries to achieve their very different objectives. There was greater consistency on the Indian side. Notwithstanding Article 370 in its constitution, New Delhi has continued with its efforts to make Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India. That article granted Kashmir a special status within the Indian Union — Kashmir’s own flag, a semi-autonomous executive headed by a prime minister and not a chief minister, and a parliament that could legislate with greater freedom than allowed to state assemblies in other parts of the country. It was the palpable effort by New Delhi to dilute the extent of autonomy granted by the constitution that contributed to the insurgency that began in 1989 and continues to this day.

India has demonstrated that it is prepared to expend large amount of resources, take heavy losses of soldiers and risk its reputation as a peace-loving country to defend its stance. This was done whenever there was a serious challenge to its position in the state. This policy was maintained by governments of different ideological persuasions — by the Congress committed to a secular India and by the Bharatiya Janata Party with interest in moving the country towards a more pronounced Hindu entity. Pakistan, on the other hand, tried a series of different approaches. Four of these are apparent as we go over the history of the dispute.

The first was the path of negotiations. This was attempted by a series of Pakistani leaders, including Liaquat Ali Khan, General Ayub Khan, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and now General Pervez Musharraf. Little came of these attempts for the reason already discussed: the Indian stance against changing the status quo. The second Pakistani approach was to force a military solution. This was attempted twice; in 1948-49 and in 1965, again with not much success.

The third was to involve the United States in putting pressure on New Delhi to relax its posture. The Americans were uneasy about getting involved in the dispute by taking a posture that was not acceptable to India even when the Indians were closer to Moscow than to Washington. There is now even greater reluctance at this time as relations between India and the United States have improved and Washington is prepared to regard India if not quite as yet a global superpower then at least a regional power of considerable significance.

The more recent approach adopted by Washington with respect to India in general and the Kashmir in particular is detailed by Strobe Talbott in his account of his dialogue with India — in particular Jaswant Singh, then India’s foreign minister — following New Delhi’s decision in May 1998 to test five nuclear bombs. One condition that President Bill Clinton placed on his willingness to meet with Nawaz Sharif to diffuse the tension created by the “Kargil incident” was that he would not get directly involved in the Kashmir dispute. Sharif accepted the American position. It is unlikely that Washington would be prepared to change that stance.

The fourth Pakistani approach was to get Islamic “freedom fighters” involved in the dispute. The first attempt to do this was in 1965 when as a part of what was called “Operation Gibraltar” Pakistan infiltrated mujahideen into Kashmir. Some of them were regular Pakistani soldiers who cast off their uniforms before crossing what was then called the Ceasefire Line. This operation led to a full-scale war between the two countries. That operation failed since the citizens of Kashmir were not prepared to rise against the Indian control.

The more recent insurgency in Kashmir has the support of a large segment of the population of the part of the state controlled by India. The jihadi groups, many of whom are the veterans of the war against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan and some of whom have been supported by Pakistan, have added a religious dimension to the problem. This has complicated the situation not just in Kashmir but also, by providing these groups a raison d’etre for their activities, for Pakistan. If President Musharraf wishes to challenge these groups as a part of his programme to modernize Pakistan, he will have to rethink his Kashmir strategy.

In his December 30 address to the nation to explain his decision not to retire from the army but to continue to be the head of the armed forces, President Musharraf spent a fair amount of time on the Kashmir dispute. He asked the Indians to show flexibility in the way they should approach the problem, implying that Pakistan had already done that by its willingness not to insist on the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions that had asked for ascertaining the wishes of the people of Kashmir. What kind of flexibility is the president seeking in light of the well known Indian position that they will not partition Kashmir along religious lines and not change the current boundaries of the state in favour of Pakistan?

At an earlier time, President Musharraf had suggested that in the dialogue between the two countries the two sides should clearly indicate the lines they would not cross. For the Indians this presumably means changing the borders and for Pakistan giving up its claim on Kashmir. Once these lines are drawn, the two sides should attempt to negotiate for the areas that are left between them.

This is a highly pragmatic approach that could lead to the resolution of the problem over the long-term. Pakistan needs to change the timeframe within which it is seeking to find a solution. As already indicated, none of the four approaches it has tried in the past have worked in its favour. The fifth approach would be the outcome of the recognition that Pakistan is now considerably weaker economically as well as militarily to force a solution on India over the short-term. It has already paid a heavy price for keeping the Kashmir issue alive as a dispute about the status of the state. This price was paid in terms of both the cost to the economy and creating an opportunity for radical and militant Islam to assert itself in the country. It would be wrong — perhaps suicidal — to maintain that posture.

At the same time, India has to recognize that this time around the insurgency in the state is based on deep-rooted resentment of the way the Kashmiris feel they have been treated by New Delhi. In this context, it would be useful to quote at length from a book by Tavleen Singh, a well regarded Indian journalist.

“India has compelling reasons for wanting to keep Kashmir Indian. Unfortunately no one seems to know any more how this could be done. In the absence of any other ideas, the only one that Delhi seems to come up with is a military solution. Delhi continues to believe that Kashmir can be taught to recognize that you cannot take on the might of the Indian state and win.

“Most Indians appear to share this view. And most Indians believe that the reason why Kashmiris have been able to get away with their defiance is only because India is a ‘soft state’. Since the press, by and large, cooperates with the government in not telling the truth about what is going on in the Valley, the ‘soft state’ image persists. ...Nine out of ten articles in the Indian press propagate this view. They rarely speak of the very unsoft side of the Indian state that Kashmiris usually get to see.”

India’s unsoft approach in Kashmir and Pakistan’s inability to force a change means that a new approach needs to be found to move the state towards eventual settlement. One possible way of dealing with this seemingly intractable problem is to move along three fronts simultaneously. One, to get India to grant autonomy to the state well beyond that promised in Article 370 of its constitution. Two, India and Pakistan should allow free movement of people, goods and commodities between the part of Kashmir India occupies and Pakistan.

The most appropriate way of achieving this would be in the context of the South Asia Free Trade Area that is expected to be launched on January 1, 2006. Three, India and Pakistan should become partners along with the community of international and bilateral donors and launch a massive programme of economic development and reconstruction on both sides of the border.

In the coming weeks I will elaborate on the cost Pakistan has already incurred in keeping the dispute alive and what kind of sub-regional arrangement it should seek within the context of Safta to bring economic relief to the citizens of Kashmir.
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.
Reply With Quote