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    Thinking about Kashmir

    by Shariq
    5th December, 2008 at 4:48 pm    

    After the Mumbai attacks, several people including William Dalrymple have argued for the need to ‘solve’ Kashmir. Before the attacks, even Barack Obama hinted at trying to achieve something there. Since then, reports suggest Richard Holbrooke will be the new envoy to South Asia. Given the difficulties, I’m trying to look at what should be aimed for and what isn’t possible. Sumantra Bose is possibly the best authority on the subject so if you want to read more check out this set of seminars or better than that his book.

    The BBC has an excellent set of slides outlining possible solutions to the Kashmir problem. Out of the 7 outcomes Numbers 2 and 7 give Pakistan more territory and number 3 gives India more territory. These can be ruled out straight away.

    Pakistan ‘winning’ would serve to justify a lot of the terrorism the ISI has created and probably topple the Hindu-Muslim tensions within India over the edge. India gaining all of Kashmir wouldn’t do it any good either. Not only would it fuel further resentment, leading to more extremism but India can barely manage to keep a hold on the part of Kashmir it already has and it would be impossible for them to administrate.

    Numbers 4 and 5 would create an Independent Kashmir. This would probably be ideal and most in line with the wishes of Kashmiris. Unfortunately it seems to have been written off for a number of reasons. That the economy wouldn’t be able to survive and more problematically that there’s nothing to suggest that both India and Pakistan would continue to fight a proxy war there. Finally, its important not to forget that both countries would oppose this because it would make their water supplies dependent on the Kashmiri Govt.

    This leaves the only option being making the line of control permanent. The only question is whether to do this formally or to continue as things are.

    The Framework of a Solution

    Given these parameters any deal between India and Pakistan would focus around India easing up its human rights violations in Kashmir in exchange for Pakistan agreeing to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba and other militant organisations. Given the fact that militants are also attacking Pakistan now, hopefully the top political and military people see that its in Pakistan’s best interests to try and disable the jihadist infrastructure irrespective of who they are planning to attack. This wouldn’t end terrorism but it would be a start.

    What’s Preventing This From Happening?

    Jeevan Deol points the way;

    Pakistan’s government would face an entrenched military resistance to lowering defence expenditure and reducing the military’s hold over the country, as well as having to deal with disillusionment and anger from jihadi groups and Islamist political parties; India would have to accept that its economic and political stability are fundamentally dependent on its links with its neighbour and would have to face up to bearing the costs of a concerted economic and political initiative to bond Kashmiri “hearts and minds” to the Indian republic.

    Also, I fear that a lot of Pakistani’s would also be against this given that they see it as them having to do a lot of the work without getting anything in return. Deol talks about the benefits of increasing economic co-operation on issues including solving irrigation problems to increasing trade. Unfortunately these things aren’t the most exciting and it would take time for the country to see its benefits.

    Should America Intervene?

    Daniel Larison thinks that this is crazy. He argues that given its seemingly intractable nature, a failure to come up with anything would not only be counter-productive but also dangerous and damage America’s relationship with India. Given that India has always been against foreign involvement in resolving Kashmir and Pakistan also agreed to this in Simla n 1972, this is probably true if one is thinking about a grand Oslo Accords type gesture.

    Having said that, reportedly Richard Holbrooke is being considered as South Asian envoy. As Ezra Klein notes, despite faltering over Iraq he is an extremely talented negotiator and diplomat and could be the ideal person for that position. Again, rather than trying for some grand proposal, maybe if he could get India and Pakistan to agree to some confidence-building measures it could pave the way for future development.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Current affairs,India,Pakistan,South Asia

    23 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Imran Khan — on 5th December, 2008 at 5:45 pm  

      It should be an independent country, let the people decide.

      If the USA wants to bring democracy to the Middle East why can’t it bring it here?

    2. kELvi — on 5th December, 2008 at 8:25 pm  

      You can’t be serious Shariq? India’s human rights violations in Kashmir? That’s a big joke. The assumption here seems to be that India is looking for someone’s help with respect to “Kashmir”. Actually India isn’t interested in anyone’s advice, help or assistance. And can we stop talking about “Kashmir”? There is Jammu & Kashmir the Indian state, of which the Kashmir Valley is a small part. Then there is Hindu-majority Jammu, and Ladakh. All these are within the current borders of India and are in that sense no different from any other part of India, be it TN or Gujarat or Assam. Then there is Aksai Chin originally a part of the historic princely state of J&K, never fully controlled, and Glgit and Northern Areas where in 1948, the local garrison mutinied, killed their officers and invited Pakistan to take over their lands. And then there is Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir which is now all but overrun by plainsmen, has no democratic rights whatsoever. And then not to forget the territory beyond the Norhtern Areas ceded by Pakistan to China. The so-called “Kashmir” dispute concerns the pampered residents of the Valley only. The rest of J&K doesn’t give a da*n about it. There are no spurious complaints about human rights violations or any such thing from Jammu or Ladakh. There are of course several other problems within J&K all of which can be traced to the ininquitous Constitution of J&K. The Kashmir Valley receives a disproportionate share of Central funding and the Jammu region although it generates more revenue by itself, receives suffers the insult of having to subsidise the lazy folk of the Valley. All the terrorist sympathising thugs of the Valley (the media mavens from the alphabet soup of political formations) are paid an allowance and provided full time security by the Central government. The summer protests first in Jammu and then in the Valley broke out after the Valley thugs having already ethnically cleansed the place of Hindus in 1989 now wanted to control access to the Amarnath Mandir. Naturally Jammu residents would have none of this nonsense and were not about to pay an extortion tax to the Valley folks to visit their own mandirs. When the Jammu protests grew the appeasers and apologists in Delhi quickly got together and came up with some bizarre suggestions including that traffic to the Amarnath Mandir be regulated - all classic “Blame the Victim” formulations. Subsequently the Congress-PDP alliance fell apart and fresh elections were ordered. The turnout this time has defied expectations crossing 68%, prompting the usual suspects in BBC (militants/gunmen/assailants/anything-but-terrorists) and elsewhere to hastily conjure up explanations about how this election is about governance and not accession. All of which are as convincing as the current Republican talking point in the US - We are still a Center-Right Nation! Yeah, right!

    3. Ashik — on 5th December, 2008 at 8:26 pm  

      Kashmir should be an independent country which is absolutely neutral with regards neighbours India & Pak, like Austria and Finland during the cold war.

      Kashmir could follow the Kosovo example. A decade of UN control and the building up of durable institutions and time for reconciliation between the different groups and economic reconstruction. The toirism sector and potential for growth is huge. The country would receive massive financial and political support from the one million-odd Kashniris living in the UK. If Nepal and Bhutan can be independent countries then so can Kashmir.

      One thing I note from the large numbers of Kashmiri Mirpuris here in the UK is that similar to us Sylhetis they are strongly family and clan orientated, traditionalist and follow an Islam which is influenced heavily by saints and pirs and Sufism; conservative but apolitical and wary of rule from Islamabad and the centre and the Punjabis. Intermarriage with non-Mirpuris is not common. They do not seem like a peoples who would give a toss about the nationalistic and religious competition which India and Pak have engaged in since 1948, of which Kashmir has beeen a victim and pawn.

    4. kELvi — on 5th December, 2008 at 9:49 pm  

      Kasmiris of the Valley want independence? Laugh!!!

    5. sonia — on 6th December, 2008 at 1:11 am  

      what about china’s involvement?

      do we know what the people of kashmir want and do they want one thing.

      let’s leave america out of it -seen what a mess they like to create ha!

    6. Kulvinder — on 6th December, 2008 at 4:08 am  

      The problem is an independant Kashmir wouldn’t provide any stability; Kashmir is ‘governed’ by three different states (India and Pakistan are the obvious ones, as Sonia pointed out people often overlook Chinese controlled Kashmir).

      Its difficult to get agreement from Kashmiris within those three regions let alone cross-border agreement between them. There isn’t any unifying philosophy that encompasses the independence movement and the political landscape covers everything from those advocating a theocracy to those advocating marxism. In many ways the issues surrounding Kashmiris are similar to those surrounding the Kurds. They’re both trying to form the nucleus of an independant state based on an ethnic background, whilst the people of that ethnic background are living in more than one country. On top of that there isn’t any unifying movement.

    7. platinum786 — on 6th December, 2008 at 12:55 pm  

      Why not just let everyone from Kammu and Kashmir, have a vote, as the UN suggested more than 60 yers ago?

    8. Ashik — on 6th December, 2008 at 1:04 pm  


      ‘There isn’t any unifying philosophy that encompasses the independence movement and the political landscape covers everything from those advocating a theocracy to those advocating marxism’

      Kind of like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, no?

      These are artificial countries, significant parts of the citizenry of which would like to change their relationship to the central govt through autonomy or outright independence. Indian Kashmir, ‘Azad’ Pakistani Kashmir, Balochistan, Assam, Bengal, Sylhet, the Chittagong Hill Tracts. There are dozens of liberation groups in the three countries motivated by anything from Islamism to Maoism. These countries seem to get on and so would an independent Kashmir, if freed from the brutal greed of India and Punjabistan.

    9. shariq_g — on 6th December, 2008 at 2:40 pm  

      Platinum, as Sumantra Bose says the problem with a Referendum is that it is a winner takes all/loser takes nothing solution which will invariably leave someone extremely unhappy.

      Besides, different parts have different religious majorities who would want different outcomes. Having one referendum would be too crude. Sonia, I think this answers your question as well.

    10. soru — on 6th December, 2008 at 2:44 pm  

      Is there such a thing as a non-artificial country?

      If so, is there some test you could apply to distinguish between such an authentic natural country and a mere man-made political institution?

    11. Kulvinder — on 6th December, 2008 at 10:27 pm  

      Kind of like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, no?

      Ultimately, yes (or yes in agreement to your ‘no’). I don’t support the existence of any state simply for the sake of existing and am more than happy for any group of people to define who they are.

      It wouldn’t bother me if India, Pakistan or Bangladesh split up into seperate states.

    12. El Cid — on 7th December, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

      You’d think a high-profile progressive British Asian political blog would attract more than just 11 comments on this issue! Seriously, it’s a little disappointing. One could be forgiven for thinking the issue was as hopeless as I/P. Is it?

    13. Sunny — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:35 pm  

      Well, yup the situation is pretty hopeless and will require a big change from the current environment to be resolved.

      The Pakistani President has little support right now in Pakistan and any change that makes him lose face may trigger a coup or parliamentary protests. The same goes in India, where the BJP is slightly resurgent and snapping on the heels of the ruling Congress.

      An Azad Kashmir is also difficult for the reason that the Indian constitution doesn’t currently allow the Indian govt to officially give away any territory.

      The LOC being permanent is perhaps the best long-term solution, but the Indian govt will have to do a lot to placate the people on its side of Kashmir to ensure the place doesn’t get badly destabilised.

    14. s — on 7th December, 2008 at 11:41 pm  

      Are Kashmiris a Nationality or have they devoloped into a Nation. To rally understand this Question from the Marxist prespect you must read Stalin’s theory on the National question. The concept of Nationhood is a Western idea and we should not use it lightly to discribe any tribe, ethincity or religon as Nation, without knowing its correct meaning.

    15. Parvinder — on 8th December, 2008 at 9:44 pm  

      Like El Cid in #12, I am also astounded by the response rate considering Kashmir is the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan.

      A little history lesson perhaps? (my subjective view entirely)

      Lays claim to it because it sees it, being a majority Muslim state, ‘naturally’ theirs. This plays along with the two-nation theory – Muslims stick together and sod the rest. Unfortunately for them, firstly the Hindu raja opted for India and secondly, the tribesman sent to capture it in 1947, too busy raping and pillaging, were unable to reach Srinagar. They were easily repelled both by Indian troops and volunteers of Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference, who remained the dominant political force.
      For the next 50 years, Kashmir was used by the Pakistan state as a sort of safety valve, turned on when things got heated in the country in order to deflect its own problems.

      Holding onto Kashmir would strengthen the secular ideals the country is based on. Without it and other states like Punjab, the country would have disintegrated. Having a plebiscite after independence would have been good but allowing the same now would be catastrophic. India has mucked up big time in the last 50 years. Toppling various secular government lead by the Abdullahs, imposing rule from Delhi and turning a blind eye while the Indian Army committed gross human rights violations against the people while trying to smash the insurgency.

    16. Parvinder — on 8th December, 2008 at 9:51 pm  

      The Solution

      Both nations should drop their claims to the Kashmir across the border and as others have said, make the LoC the border. Pakistan may feel hard done as India would retain the majority of the valley. But I feel keeping it within a secular state would in the long run be in the best interests of the people. At the same time, India should allow independent human rights bodies access to the state to catalogue the endless human rights abuses and start to bring the guilty to book. The state should also been given more autonomy and the democratic institutions strengthened.

      “It’s my job to tell the people what I believe is in their interest and I sincerely believe that it is not in their interest. It is not a viable alternative to suggest azadi or even accession to Pakistan”.
      Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference

    17. Desi Italiana — on 9th December, 2008 at 7:15 am  

      El Cid:

      “One could be forgiven for thinking the issue was as hopeless as I/P. Is it?”

      No way. Kashmir and I/P differ on several points (the latter a full out military occupation, reserving land for some of a chosen religion and not for others, full backing of major western powers which helps facilitates the occupation, the majority of the indigenous inhabitants living in the diaspora) and I/P is that wonderful little exception that evades all norms of human rights, international law, etc in the eyes of major western powers, which often leaves one thinking that the situation is hopeless for those who are critical of the state of Israel.

      The Kashmir situation, though, can be solved if both countries WANT to, and there’s not that many other major powers that would meddle in that, like with I/P. It is not “hopeless”, as Sunny says (I/P is). And there have been some significant moves (which are then backtracked shortly thereafter)- trying to open up the border, facilitate commerce and trade between Azad Kashmir and J&K, and so on. These efforts- however stinted in some cases- differ drastically from what the Israeli state imposes on the OPT.

      And obviously, Indian security forces need to stop occupation, human rights violations, unlawful killings, and state terrorism that is carried out in J&K in the name of “security,” and the resultant actions which often mean that the inhabitants feel like THEY have no security. Something must be done to address justice for those persecuted for their religion- like the so-called “Pandit” refugees, but bypassing the communialist and Hinduvavadi rhetoric that plagues the discussion of the Pandit refugees- as well as those innocent Kashmiris who are also overwhelmingly Muslim. The Indian state cannot preach about being a “democracy, etc while behaving the way it does in J&K. And it is wrong to use J&K as the catalyst for arms build-up, huge defense spending, border saturation, etc.

      Same goes for Pakistan: the government needs to seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY, re-evaluate the Kashmir situation. I am unsure as to how much longer India and Pakistan can endure ongoing partitions, continuously shifting lines on the map, useless wars fought over land grabs, and so on. Do both these countries REALLY need this?

      Also, there are still those Kashmiris who believe that whether they are living in Azad Kashmir, or in J&K, and are either Muslim or Hindu, they are still “Kashmiri.” That is radically different from the I/P situation, and I believe that however small these numbers in Kashmir are, they are the hope.

      In the end, I wish both nation-states would stop using Kashmirs on both sides of the border as their fucking pawns to illustrate their flexing muscles and attempting to out-do one another. Yeah, we know you Indians and Pakistanis can build bombs, but cannot implement a goddamn sanitation system for each country. We also know that rather than deal with serious issues that affect so many lives at the most basic level, such as potable water, you’d rather focus on Kashmir-which oddly, some denizens of J&K and Azad either don’t really want to have anything to do with either India or Pakistan, or have lost their faith in the governance of either country. On the Kashmir issue, Indian and Pakistani governments show how pathetic they are.

    18. Desi Italiana — on 9th December, 2008 at 7:23 am  

      Sometimes I think whether Indian and Pakistani governments don’t WANT to solve the Kashmir issue because then they’d have 1) no excuse to argue with one another anymore/go to war with each other; 2) their relations would be radically altered were the Kashmir situation resolved which would 3) put into question their own histories and reasons for being, or at least change its meaning. Sure, various gov’t officials pay lip service, and from time to time, some promising itty bitty steps have taken place, but neither government- and at the same time, at that- seems truly committed to the idea of doing anything substantial.

    19. Desi Italiana — on 9th December, 2008 at 7:45 am  

      And while we are thinking about Kashmir, let’s think about Gujarat and Orissa. I don’t think I could ever erase the images from my mind of the innocent Gujaratis who were massacred simply because they were Muslim, the wanton killing of children, men, and women, the sexual violence targeted towards women of a Muslim background, and the persecution of Hindu-Muslim couples who married despite the odds. And IF I have my numbers correct, there are thousands languishing in refugee camps due to the 2002 pogrom.

      ALERT, this is a rant of mine, but god help us if India becomes the next superpower. Here is a country where life is shit, people live in shit, life is worthless, and every once in a while, there’s a fresh orgy of violence against the demonized group at the time. Can you imagine? There are bubbles of IT prosperity and advancement that rivals that of the first worlds, surrounded by shit and violence? Hoodlums like the VHP, RSS have major strongholds throughout the country and killing Muslims and Christians? People stressing out that the upcoming American administration might change the dynamics of the economy because CALL CENTERS might be going down- how pathetic can this dependent economy be? Millions dying like flies because of dirty water? People relieving themselves near train tracks? Polluted, stinking rivers which are called “holy”? Almost half of the population is illiterate and public schools are a joke? India as a world superpower would be like a futuristic science fiction farce coming true, not unlike Back II the Future part II, where trash, crap, criminality are commonplace admist advanced flying cars and Michael Jackson holograms.

    20. agendogs — on 18th December, 2008 at 3:46 pm  

      the solution to the situation should be simplified: the Kashmir Valley should be governed by India like Puerto Rico is governed by the USA.

      jammu and ladakh do not have a problem with indian control and there is little to no unrest in those two areas. they should remain as one or two states within india.

      the parts currently under pakistani control also do not have any problems with pakistani control and they too should remain as pakistan. also, it should be clear that the people from mirpur are not ethnic kashmiris. they do not speak kashmiri and do not have kashmiri customs. they may be called kashmiris, but they have more in common with people on the pakistan side then they do with the people in the Kashmir Valley itself.

      The Kashmir Valley is THE hot spot. It is where nearly all of the Indian army is. Indians that deny the atrocities and draconian measures of the army and the indian rule are either extremely ill-informed or simply in denial. Likewise, Pakistanis that claim that pakistani funded militants have been good for kashmiris and have not committed any acts of human rights abuse again the local kashmiri population (hindu and muslim alike) are also in a state of denial.

      It is also true that the current Kashmiri Valley leadership is poor and the only leaders that have survived have a vested interest in surviving only.

      However the solution is for the Kashmir Valley to be governed like Puerto Rico is by the USA. It solves the far majority of problems that all three sides are (or should) be concerned about. Pakistan doesn’t gain any territory. India does not lose any territory to Pakistan.

      The Kashmiris are given the level of autonomy and self-governance that they are seeking.

      Kashmir does not gain full independance. They would be a part of a greater India. Kashmir would follow india’s democratic and secular example.

      What do others think?

    21. Refresh — on 18th December, 2008 at 3:51 pm  

      Excellent contributions Desi!

    22. googly — on 29th December, 2008 at 3:21 am  

      Guys and especiallu Shariq,

      I propose a different kind of referendum. The UN needs to have boots on the ground administering the elections on both sides and each SIDE is given 3 options.
      This referendum will solve the issue of winner takes all. POK could vote for pakistan, india or azaadi. and same options are available to Kashmir on the Indian side of the LOC. The only problem would be if POK voted for india and Indian Kashmir voted for pakistan. however, that is a chance i think we should be willing to take given the chances of that happening are almost nil. And this is no worse than the present referendum because neither side would agree to reduce its territory.
      Only if the majority on both sides votes for azaadi will the question of a new state arise. If not, the LOC becomes the border. for instance, POK voting for pakistan and Indian Kashmir voting for azaadi won’t create a new state.

      Lastly, Kelvi, it’s fine to disagree with someone and make your point prodigiously, but to not recognize that the Indian Army is guilty of human rights violations in Kashmir will automatically paint you as someone who is either ignorant of the facts or is purposely choosing to be blind to them. Either way, people who really want to solve the issue will no longer take you seriously.

    23. kashmiri — on 4th February, 2009 at 9:07 pm  

      Why doesn’t anyone just ask us what we the kashmirs want and not what we want pak/india to do

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