Kashmir - Between Hope and Despair
It comes close to being a miracle that the Kashmir conflict did not lead in recent years to the fourth war between Pakistan and India in their short history.
Kashmir is another typical remnant of European colonial power. When Great Britain split former colonial British India into the two independent states of Pakistan and India along religious lines, a stone of contention was created: Kashmir. Another problem was created with East Pakistan that was followed by the creation of an independent Bangladesh in 1971.
Kashmir is divided into three parts – dominated by China, India and Pakistan. The confrontation has mainly been between Pakistan and India – who accuse each other of supporting terrorism. In the Indian part of Kashmir, 60,000 people have been killed since 1989.
A fourth war has been avoided due to the United States engaging in successful and clandestine arm twisting behind the scenes in both countries. Improved relations between the US with Pakistan and India made it easier to avoid the outbreak of a fourth war. Another factor of war prevention is the working mutual nuclear deterrence. Both countries know that any major conflict might escalate into a nuclear war with a so-called “Mutually Assured Destruction.”
In 2003, the newly elected Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee started a new peace initiative that has been responded to positively by Pakistani President Musharraf. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations was a signal for a new phase of détente. The recent historic meeting of 5 leading "freedom fighters" with India's Prime Minister Singh in New Delhi was another remarkable milestone.
Since then, small steps – like reopening air traffic as well as rail and bus lines - created some glimmer of hope in spite of some “minor” incidents.
I asked BrigGen(ret)Makni Khan, member of the International Advisory Board of World Security Network Foundation, to share his views with us. Here is his perception:
“The Kashmir issue is beyond any doubt the tragedy of grave concern, which crystallized in the mid-20th Century and is likely to haunt “peace” on the subcontinent as an intensifying malignant phenomenon…The mere fact that the issue has triggered three wars makes it abundantly clear that unless the conflict resolution is pursued to its logical end, the subcontinent will remain a favorite resort for Zeus to rain his volleys of thunderbolt.”
Our “Editor India,” Siddhart Srivastava, wrote:
“The Kashmir problem can be viewed from two angles – external and internal. The former is a long term one with no immediate solution in sight as it involves Pakistan and India. The politics in both countries will not allow an easy consensus as Pakistan wants a re-drawing of the borders that India will never agree to. The latter, however, is a more amendable way out – it is to ensure that development takes place(both in India and Pakistan Kashmir) and reaches the people thus creating a groundswell of opinion against terrorism as well as making Indian Kashmir a playground to international posturing.
The future has never been brighter. India and Pakistan are talking peace and sticking to the agenda despite intense pressure in the form of cross-border terrorism that India accuses Pakistan of promoting. Free and fair elections have taken place in Indian Kashmir which gives hope. Ultimately, a political solution will have to be found with both India and Pakistan giving up on intransigent positions.”
Interesting views from both countries.
Young academic Rod Latham, at present our “Editor USA”, has done considerable research on Kashmir while at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Bologna, Italy and Washington D.C. He also gained invaluable experience in the field when he worked last year for a development NGO close to the border between Pakistan and India.
Rod elaborates on the history, the presence and the future of this Kashmir conflict.
We support his recommendation that India and Pakistan should solve this conflict peacefully – step by step.
The common fight against violent operations of extremists on the subcontinent could enhance mutual trust and confidence by “confidence building measures” that might provide impetus to tackle the challenging Kashmir problem together.
It would be a relief for the whole world if one of the major conflicts could be struck from the list of crises and conflicts.