There is a general perception among
the South Asians that peace has been held hostage in the region due
to the continued animosity between India and Pakistan. History
suggests that no matter much the consensus for peace and development
gains momentum in the region, the Kashmir question vitiates the
atmosphere of the subcontinent. The two countries are unable to find
an amicable solution and the issue that remains deadlocked even
about 60 years of its inception.
The quest for peace in South Asia makes it imperative to explore
options for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. This is to reduce
tension at various levels; first between India and Pakistan, second,
between the Indian Union and the state of Jammu and Kashmir and
third between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the people i.e.
common man in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The executive summery is to suggest that India, Pakistan and along
with a broad spectrum of people of Jammu and Kashmir should make a
joint declaration to make the flashpoint the ‘Kashmir valley’ a
“Zone of Peace.” Then India and Pakistan should thrash out the
issues they disagree and after that bring on board the people of
Jammu and Kashmir to shape the contours of governance. Such move
alone can find an amicable solution to this long standing problem.
Since independence, India and Pakistan, several times, have entered
into armed conflict over Kashmir. The first was in 1948 when armed
raiders swooped upon the Valley from the Pakistani side, but India
somehow managed to push them back. The matter was referred to the
UN, and it resulted in a ceasefire, and the establishment of the
Line of Control that exists today. The second was a full scale war
in 1965 that resulted in ceasefire and the Tashkent pact. The third
was the 1971 war though fought in eastern front but enflamed the
borders across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
The tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir continues to
mount in the decades following 1971. Its Kashmir issue played a
major role for the two countries o become nuclear weapon States in
1998. In post nuclear scenario, the Kargil skirmishes in 1999 was a
major confrontation between the two countries. The Kashmir problem
also started an era of terror attack and the attack on Indian
Parliament on December 13, 2001, brought the two countries once the
brink of war. The Mumbai terror attack in 2008 too owes its origin
to the Kashmir problem.
Even as India and Pakistan confronted each other over the years over
Kashmir, they also held discussions at the level of Heads of
Government and Foreign Secretary level to address the Kashmir
problem. In 1965, Kashmir issue figured prominently during the Ayub
Khan–Lal Bahadur Shastri talks at Tashkent. According India’s
foreign office, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto and Indian
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi talked about Kashmir issue at the
Shimla conference in 1972. Then Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto, I.K
Gujral- Nawaz Sharif and A.B Vajpayee-Nawaz Sharif held talks on
The Agra summit held in 2001 between Indian Prime Minister A.B
Vajpayee and Pakistan President, Pervez Musharaf was the last effort
made to resolve differences over Kashmir issue.
The history of the India and Pakistan foreign Secretary level talks
over Kashmir is longer and suffice would be to say that two sides
have held more than eight rounds of talks and one in Islamabad in
February 1999, resulted in the idea of a composite and comprehensive
dialogue. Its highlight was the two sides agreed to remain engaged
in parleys on a rotation basis, even while agreeing to disagree on
several issues. The Kargil incursion in May 1999 derailed this
dialogue process and the terror attack on Parliament on December
13th 2001, prolonged the break. The talks resumed once again in 2003
to be snapped in 2008, due to terror attack on Mumbai.
The Mohali world cup semifinal cricket match between India and
Pakistan in March 2011 is believed to have provided momentum for the
resumption of India Pakistan dialogue but it remains to be seem
whether it will be composite and comprehensive.
The factor in the India- Pakistan dialogue towards the resolution of
Kashmir problem is the lack of seriousness and consistent leadership
in both the countries to carry forward the dialogue process. Talks
on Kashmir could not be sustained as L.B Shastri died immediately
after the Tashkent pact. Z.A Bhutto was ousted after signing the
Shimla agreement. Rajiv Gandhi died and Benazir Bhutto was replaced.
Gujral’s government fell even before the Indo-Pak dialogue could
begin. Nawaz Sharif was removed soon after Vajpayee took the
historic bus ride to Lahore.
The slow progress on the issue of the resolution of Kashmir is
attributed to the absence of a similar minded leadership on the both
sides of the divide. It is also blamed that even after sixty years
or so the two countries have not been evolved a mechanism on which
the dialogue could be sustained irrespective of the individuals
heading the government.
The Indian position is that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of
the Union of India. The periodic elections held in state have given
it the right of territorial sovereignty over the province of Jammu
and Kashmir. India holds the view that the citizen of Jammu and
Kashmir, by participating in the electoral process, has accepted
India’s sovereignty. Indian view is that the areas in control of
Pakistan and those acceded to China alone is a matter of dispute and
a resolution to that has to be found.
Also India do not subscribe to the idea of plebiscite under the
relevant UN resolution, saying it requires vacation of the area
controlled by Pakistan and China and wants these two countries to
vacate the area a pre requisite for a plebiscite. India also rejects
Pakistan’s attempts to internationalize Kashmir dispute as a nuclear
flash-point, saying there is no linkage between nuclear
confidence-building measures and the Kashmir situation. India on the
contrary accuses Pakistan of abetting terrorism in Jammu and
Kashmir, and wants international community to help it in its war of
terror. India insists that cross-border infiltration must first end,
for any meaningful talks to resume.
Pakistan’s position on Kashmir is that it’s an unfinished agenda of
the Partition of India in 1947. It does not subscribe to its
integration with India that was signed as instrument of accession by
the Princely ruler of that state, citing the case of the Princely
state of Hyderabad and Junagarh whose rulers signed the instrument
accession in favor of Pakistan. India integrated the two states to
its Union on the claim they are contagious regions had majority
Hindu population. On the similar ground Pakistan lay claim to
Kashmir. Pakistan insists on a plebiscite under UN supervision, as
India did to amalgamate Junagarh in 1948.
Pakistan also likes to internationalize the Kashmir issue as the
conflict has all the potential to burst into nuclear flames.
Pakistan as harps that since bilateralism has not served any purpose
so far, third-party mediation is essential to adjudicate in this
matter. It continues to appeals to the international community to
get actively involved in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
Pakistan denies India’s charges of instigating terrorism and says,
has done all it can to stop infiltration across LOC, and any stray
incidents are beyond its control. It suggests that international
observers to be stationed along the LOC to verify India’s
allegations. Pakistan reiterates it only provide moral and
diplomatic support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their
struggle for freedom. Pakistan insists that the ‘uprising’ in Jammu
and Kashmir is indigenous, and more as a result of ‘repression’ by
the Indian security forces.
The story of the engagement of the Union of India and the state of
Jammu and Kashmir and that of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is
another interesting tale. India’s approach to Jammu and Kashmir is
two fold; first integration, governance and development. Second, to
curb militancy, maintain law and order and check separatism.
India has adopted various steps for the integration of the State.
First it did away with the ‘special flag’ and the nomenclature of
Prime Minister was changed to Chief Minister, when the Shiekh
Abdullah’s Government was dismissed in 1953. Thereafter, India
dismissed Pakistan’s claim of Kashmir being a territorial dispute
and rejected its plea of plebiscite. The Indian Parliament also
passed a resolution that Kashmir is the core of India’s nationhood
and demanded vacation of the areas which Pakistan holds as Azad
As part of the integration process, an accord was signed between
Indira Gandhi and Shiekh Abdullah in 1975 which mooted greater
autonomy for the State. This was further reinforced by the Rajiv
Gandhi - Farooq Abdullah accord of 1986. However, the autonomy
proposal, which was unanimously approved by the Jammu and Kashmir
State Legislature in 2002, was summarily rejected by the Indian
Currently, New Delhi’s position is to consider devolution of power
for the State under the federal structure of the Indian
constitution. India wants to open talks with the dissenting voices
in Jammu and Kashmir but within its constitutional framework. India
has appointed several Kashmir committees to co-opt the Kashmiri
separatist forces into the political mainstream but so far has been
unable to make any headway
As far as people of Jammu and Kashmir are concerned, they have been
trying to find the solution to the problem through both peaceful and
non peaceful means. Their main voice is through the All Party
Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of several political parties.
The Hurriyat has rejected the proposal for talks within the
framework of Indian constitution. It wants tripartite talks
involving India and Pakistan and the voices representing the people
of Jammu and Kashmir. In first stage Hurriyat wants the negotiations
to be held between the voices of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of
India. It suggests that once a settlement is reached between then
and the Union of India and the Pakistan can be brought on board for
a joint deceleration.
Some efforts have been made in this direction by the BJP led NDA
government headed by A B Vajapayee that had hinted at readiness to
hold talks with the conglomerate. However, such promises remain mere
promise and no tangible talks ever started. The Congress led UPA
government now its second term has kept this proposal afloat. Like
its predecessor, it has appointed Kashmir committee that’s making
regular holiday trips to Kashmir in an effort to kick start the
dialogue process, but nothing has happened so far. Meanwhile, there
consensus eludes the conglomerate on the issue of talking with the
government of India. The parties are divided n their goals that
range from independence, to greater autonomy, to plebiscite, to
merger with Pakistan.
The charade of peace talks between the people of Jammu and Kashmir
and government of India bred separatism in the state and has taken a
militant since 1989. There are several militant groups which are
waging, an ‘armed rebellion’ against the Indian state. India sees
the militancy as being perpetrated from across the border and says
it has been waging a lonely battle against a war on terror. New Deli
is appealing to the international community to put pressure on
Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism.
India also treats militancy as a law and order problem and has
stationed a large number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
The abnormally large number of security forces has made the Kashmir
valley an open prison, causing much concern to human rights
In an effort to seek peace in the year 2000, India took cognizance
of the growing militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and recognized Hizbul
Mujahideen as the dominant militant group in the valley. This group
and the Union Government decided on a ceasefire, and agreed to
negotiate on the issues involved. The talks could not make any
headway as the militant group insisted on certain preconditions,
unacceptable to India. However, the recognition of militant groups
and the beginning of negotiations with them underscored the point
that peace cannot be achieved by sidelining the militant groups in
India realizes that economic discontentment has created conditions
that breed militancy and is giving full cooperation to the State
Government to accelerate the developmental process. It feels by ding
so, the general frustration among the disgruntled youth may be
relieved. However, in spite of India’s best efforts terror related
violence continues unabated in Jammu and Kashmir. Official figures
say more than 38,000 lives have been lost since 1989 when the
militancy related violence began; the separatist groups put the toll
to over 100,000.
It’s a fact that in spite of a democratically-elected Government,
political dissent and militancy are twin features in Jammu and
Kashmir. It is felt that an agreement between India and Pakistan and
the people of Jammu and Kashmir on some peace model has to be worked
out to bring peace in that beleaguered state.
Another interesting observation is Kashmir finds an important place
in the jingoistic nationalism that’s heard during the electoral
process in the Indian mainland. The perception of common Indians
towards Kashmir is being colored by communal-thinking. Come every
election, the talk of abrogation of article 370 of the federal
constitution, which gives special concessions to Jammu and Kashmir,
gains crescendo. Politicians rake up the Kashmir issue to gain
Separatism in Kashmir is played up as a bid for further scissoring
India. Some even attempt to inject a sense of fear in the Muslim
minority that they would be purged in case if Kashmir is sliced out
of India. Politicians claim that Kashmir is integral part of India
and they link it to India’s commitment to secularism.
The politics over Kashmir in Indian mainland may provide political
dividends for those who press such views, but it further vitiates
the communal atmosphere in the country and provides fuel to the
separatist forces in Kashmir. Further, the periodic communal clashes
and the targeting Muslim minorities in India, have repercussions in
Kashmir. The blind eye that the Indian Government turns towards
perpetrators of riots after riots against the Muslims, gives
Kashmiri militants a handle to carry out mayhem against the
minorities in their state. The purging of Kashmiri Hindus from the
Valley is often seen as a reflection of the anti-minority politics
being played in rest of India.
The solution to this could be a self imposed election- related
political moratorium on raking up the Kashmir issue during
electioneering in Indian mainland. It will not only bridge
inter-community relations in Kashmir but also ease the communal
pressure on the Indian Muslims. In the long run it may help the
cause of peace in the sub-continent.
In the chequered history of India and Pakistan, there have been
several attempts being made to solve the Kashmir issue, but none has
shown any results so far. The history suggests that both India and
Pakistan do not want to forfeit their claim over Kashmir. It is also
seen that neither war, nor sweet talks, have resolved the Kashmir
issue. Meanwhile, both countries becoming nuclear weapons countries
have further vitiated the problem.
The voices of sanity suggest that the only way to solve the problem
is to reject the hardened stand and look for a course that may be
accepted to both the countries as well as people of Kashmir. This
could be done by converting the troubled region into a “zone of
peace.” As a first measure all the three parties, India, Pakistan
and voices from Kashmir, should make a joint declaration that they
would not breach the security of this “special zone,” till they
resolved all their outstanding differences.
As a follow, India should consider reducing the number of force
deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. It can even consider deploying women
security force in the populated areas of the state to build a
climate of peace. Indian women security forces have successfully
assisted the UN forces manning the theaters of conflict in Africa
like Sierra Leone and Rwanda. If such efforts are being made in
Kashmir as well, it will go a long way in the restoration of peace.
Adding to the credibility to such idea is the perception that the
creation of the ‘special zone’ will not only reduces tension between
India and Pakistan but also provides a model to other separatists
groups operating elsewhere in India. The concept of ‘special zone’
also funnels the idea of the integration of the entire region, into
a greater confederation of South Asian States. This would not only
remove the irritants between India and Pakistan, but also between
India and other neighboring countries. It also fulfills the
democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, again fresh initiatives are being made to create an atmosphere
of peace. The buzz word is the resumption of dialogue between India
and Pakistan. It is only a matter of time the two countries start
talking again. However, will they address such a knotty issue like
Kashmir that remains to be seen? It is common wisdom that there is
no easy solution to the Kashmir problem.
The starting point could be the two countries along with the people
of Jammu and Kashmir should agree to a formula that may convert the
entire region into a zone of peace. The concept of special zone
seems to be the best bet to address such a case. This exercise may
give a direction to the resolution of the problem and as the time
elapse, the problem may finds its way to play itself out.
The fingers, however, remain crossed will the two countries approach
the Kashmir issue in such framework? This will be something
interesting to watch if and when serious dialogue between India and
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai.
He can be
contacted at email@example.com