Why The Sudden Interest In Kashmir?


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage holds a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar  in Islamabad to discuss Kashmir and other issues.  May 8, 2003.

Saying that he was nearing the end of his career, Prime Minister Vajpayee has declared his intention to make a third attempt at solving the Kashmir problem.  This is quite a change of tune, since he had insisted since the collapse of the Agra Summit that there would be no discussions between the two countries until Pakistan stopped "cross-border terrorism."  Then, the Indian side refused to even recognize Kashmir as the "core issue."   In March, Foreign Minister Sinha said that a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan had stronger justification than the U.S. strike against Iraq.

Thus, Mr. Vajpayee's gesture was immediately flashed around the major Internet portals and picked up by editorial writers worldwide as a break through.   Prime Minister Jamali responded favorably.  But the kudos that came from Colin Powell were reserved for India, since the U.S. chose to show this as an Indian initiative, notwithstanding the fact that President Musharraf had been saying he was ready for talks "any time, any where," for a long time.

Powell's deputy, the indefatigable former Navy seal, Richard Armitage, is in the subcontinent.  Why is there such a sudden interest in resolving the Kashmir conflict?  The post-Iraq war atmospherics in Washington that have encouraged the U.S. to undertake bold moves in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be at work here as well.  Prior to moving into Baghdad, General Garner reportedly said that the U.S. intends to have the Kashmir issue resolved by December 2004.

Does the U.S. wish to reward Pakistan for having delivered on Musharraf's pledge of "unstinted cooperation" in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda?  Does it really expect that one of the world's enduring conflicts will burn out quickly?  Analysts have long argued that it has trapped both countries in a deadly arms-race and brought them at least once to the brink of nuclear war.  The leaders of both countries have given such salience to the Kashmir issue that their citizens have been left far behind in the more fulfilling race for economic development whose results are evident in East Asia.

While idealists have called for disarmament, the realists (i.e., former idealists who kept notes) have said it won't happen.  They cite the work of Mancur Olson, and assert that the perpetuation of the Kashmir conflict can only be explained by the existence of special interest groups who benefit from its continuance.  These groups engage in parasitic rent-seeking behavior, and cannot be pushed aside easily.  The realists question whether Mr. Vajpayee's last attempt at peacemaking will not go the way of his previous two attempts.  How will L. K. Advani and George Fernandes occupy themselves, knowing that they will not be fighting a limited war with Pakistan?

Kashmiri Muslims sit while reciting dusk prayers at Hazratbal shrine

Are we witnessing a fundamental change in Indian policy toward Kashmir?  There may have been a genuine change of heart in the Indian political establishment.  But why?  Foreign Minister Kasuri suggested on the BBC that India had realized that it could not solve the problem militarily.  However, there is no evidence that the Indian army is losing the battle.

Something else must be brewing.  India has long desired to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council (U.N.S.C.), so that it can step up from being a regional Asian hegemon to a great power on the world stage.  It cannot get that position without U.S. support.  Last year, the U.S. gave a blunt message to India that it would have to "solve" the Kashmir conflict as a pre-condition for wining the U.S. nomination.   As Mr. Vajpayee travels to Russia later this month, he knows he has Russian support for the nomination.  By cozying up to China during the past few months, he may be expecting support from Beijing as well.

What type of solution would be acceptable to the U.S.?  First came a terse comment from Ambassador Powel that Pakistan had not done enough to control the flow of militants across the Line-of-Control (LoC).  Then came a fairly direct comment from Richard Haass of the U. S. State Department, that if Pakistan failed to stop infiltration across the LoC, it would place a ceiling on Pakistan-U.S. relations.

Indian analysts have noted that Vajpayee, who leads a Hindu fundamentalist coalition, cannot make any concessions until Pakistan stops cross-border terrorism.  Vajpayee himself has ruled out third-party mediation in the dispute.  Thus, what type of "package deal" will he offer Prime Minister Jamali?

It is likely to involve the following parameters.  First, Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism.  Second, it should accept the LoC as an international border, implicitly conceding that it had wasted lives and resources over the past 55 years.  Third, it should continue fighting the al-Qaida terrorist network, and be prepared to yield a "big fish" terrorist every other month.  Fourth, India will ensure that fair elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir, and begin withdrawing its security forces as conditions improve.  Fifth, India may provide some measure of autonomy to Kashmir.

If Pakistan accepts this deal, it will continue to be the beneficiary of U.S. economic aid.  It will be offered deferment of foreign debt and possibly its outright forgiveness.  However, unlike Egypt, which got back the Sinai and state-of-the-art military hardware with which to safeguard it, only surplus military supplies may come Pakistan's way, with none of the coveted land.

Under the best of circumstances, both countries would freeze the Kashmir dispute, restore cultural and sports exchanges and begin to develop trade ties.  More than likely, they will freeze the Kashmir dispute and nothing else would happen.  Even then, this would be a face saving gesture for both.  India would not have to hold a referendum and risk losing Kashmir.  Pakistan would not be forced to repudiate an article of faith, since it would claim that it had restored the civil rights of Kashmiris.  The special interest groups would be placated through hand-outs.  Those "freedom fighters" that don't fall in line would fall from grace, to be hunted down and killed like common terrorists.

General Musharraf has been called Pakistan's most successful politician in history.  No one else has been able to promote himself or herself after a military debacle.   If he is able to make economic reform a higher priority than Kashmir, he may yet become Pakistan's Deng Xiaoping.  But there is one minor detail.  On January 12 of last year, he said, "Kashmir runs in our blood."  When it comes time to sell Pakistanis on the "package deal," he will have to come up with a clever explanation of how something that is in Pakistani blood will be left to run in Indian veins.

 

Dr Ahmad Faruqui is a fellow of the American Institute of International Studies, San Francisco.


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  14 Comments   Comment

  1. Sardar Taimur Khan from India

    In my opinion Kashmir has been a thorn in the side of both the countries for far too long, the wound is now festering and is smelling bad. No matter what the vested interests may be if we can have peace between both the nations i am all for it. Kasmir certainly does not run in my veins i havent even seen the damn place. do you really believe that people living in punjab or gujrat or sindh or any other place really give a wild gooses ass wether kashmir is in india or pakistan or neutral or belongs to both. This is all hogwash. we talk about the misery of the poor kashmiris what about the miseries of the other poor people. This is just a matter of pride with both the govts and lets face it between hindu govt of india and muslim govt of pakistan. How long are we the people going to allow both the govts to take undue advantage of us like this.

  2. King from UK

    Great article. Hindus need to grow up and take responcibility for the crimes committed against the Kashmiri people. Most of these BJP terrorists belong at the Hague, not only for the atrocities in Kashmir but also for the genocidal policy towards minorities in India.

    "cross border terrorism" did not begin until the Indian military moved into Kashmir and starting its campaign of terror including the rape of over 20000 Kashmiri woman. Its not a surprise really, considering that Gandhi's murderers are today ruling India, the worlds largest terrorist state.

  3. Josh Patel from USA

    I completely disagree with By: Ahmad Faruqui so-called suggestions. Kashmir quagmire has to do with the fact of Pakistan and Bangladash creation. I guess people in America will say the unpopular in order to publish....

  4. Amit

    Just now i read the opinions of other readers. it is strange that few are talking about issues of kahmir, kerla - all i have to say is please get the spelling right before commenting about incidents, issues or making an opinion. It is strange that people/politicians tend to forget that kashmir is a part of india and there is nothing else to discuss about it. Kashmir belongs to india and as i understand the kashmiris will grow and prosper once the cross border terrorism is stopped and they know about it. There are tons of evidence which proves the terrorism aid from pakistan in and around the area. It is just a matter of time that pakistan should be declared terrorist nation.

  5. tima from SA

    i am not sure on what grounds General Musharraf made a comment like "Kashmir runs in our blood" It is not only incorrect but also raises emotions among the innocent pakistani people. it is unfortunate that he he keeps on playing with words and says meaningless things at the most inappropriate times.

  6. David Moon from Canada

    Here we go again. The US meddling has been heightened to another level. Both India and Pakistan should realize that this is nothing but an attempt to further mess up the Kashmiris. The US has no other country or people in mind but themselves. By keeping the two powerful neighbours there fighting, they ensure that the region stays unstable and this slows down econimic progress in both India and Pakistan. The US is the single biggest terrorist country in the world and uses other nations to do its "dirty work", countries like India and Israel.

  7. asif khan from India

    I don't thing Pakistani's will agree to this sort of imaginative agreement. I think best solution is for both the countries to sit and talk sensibly and freeze this issue for 10 years. Otherwise US will keep them fighting like this. Us will be pleased with this situation , because this situation will take bothe the countries on the path of poverty. US doesn't want these countries to prosper economically and militarily.

  8. Bilal Khan from USA

    I strongly disagree with Ahmad Faruqui, that Pakistan must stop what he calls "cross-border terrorism" it is the Indian Army at times staging these horrific crimes...time and again the Kashmir freedom fighters have echoed they will not attack Hindu Worshippers...and coincidentally the Hindu Worshippers are attached whenever a high ranking official is either visiting Pak or Indo or Washington....One point completely missed by Ahmad Faruqui is that India is suddenly talking because USA has given light to Israel for

    sale of AWACS to India is very alarming....Pakistan has also taken Presidency over the UN has something do to with India suddenly to Pakistan as well....

  9. Shuja Syed from Canada

    First, only ground reality will decide the Kashmir factor. Second, US intervention or pressure will yield nothing, unless Pakistani corrupt leaders yields or sell their souls. Indian military is loosing the Kashmiri war. In my opinion, the ball was and is in Pakistani court. If Pakistan wanted to liberate Kahmir from Indian clutches, they have to do nothing but help the mujahideen. Diplomacy, false economical benefits, false promises, negotiations, back door diplomacies are futile and detrimental to Kashmiri cause. Remember, keeping alive the Kashmiri issue is in the Pakistani interest, the minute it backtracks, Pakistan will be history.

    Shuja

  10. anon from United Kingdom

    Is it not strange that the US administration takes its promption from the indians in the Kashmir debacle? By so doing it seems to consider that Pakistan has already lost the war for Kashmir. This is endemic of the policy towards every muslim country by the US administration and the western nations. They are undermining Pakistan's position and putting fear into the Pakistanis whilst reassuring India's position. The war for Kashmir has already been won it would seem.

    This article also shows the so called 'gains' Pakistanis and Kashmiris would attain, that of nothing tangible and all reversible since India would be still have control on paper. So it would seem the US would need to cook up something which would make Pakistan conducive to their outlook on the issue. So it would seem by this article that Pakistanis should beware not only the indians but the wolf in sheeps clothing that is US policy in the region. Now the US needs Pakistan in its war on terror but afterwards whats to say that India's aspiration for world power status in the region is given vent to?

    The US needs to realise that the potential for nuclear exchange in the region is too great to see this issue as being a game and their take on issues is fast diminishing since they used up their chips in convincing a sceptical public on the need for a war on Iraq.

  11. riaz from usa

    the truth is there is no MAN with guts among the indian politicians to say and admit what kushwant singh had written about 17 years ago as i recall in the illustrated weekly of india that "its a matter of time before we give up kashmir, kashmir is long gone as a part of india"

    i say to the indian and pakistani politicians to put themselves in the shoes of ordinary kashmiris and think ponder with rationality and reason, then may be there is hope that thry might arrive at a conclusion that it is fair for both sides to give up claim on this piece of land , so that PEACE can be established in the indian subcontinent and progress and fight against poverty ,illiteracy,health,clean drinking water ,proper roads,electricity to every village and social justice and dignity to all human beings irrespective of color,race,religion,sex can be establihed.

    looks like you might think i am day dreaming, yes i believe in dreams that come true.

  12. Amin from USA

    How silly my understanding is that most Kashmiris don't want to be part of India or Pakistan but rather want their own nation...