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The Introduction To The Kashmir Conflict History Essay

Info: 5459 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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Demarcating boundaries to create nations has been an onerous exercise that has always been replete with controversies. Conflicts have been prevailing over it across the globe. This conflict has extended towards sea bodies as countries compete to control oil wells and other resources. The conflicts concerning North Korea and South Korea, the US and Mexico and Japan and China are some of the examples that have drawn international attention. The paper will however focus on issues related to the stalemate over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

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Before 1947 India and Pakistan were a part of a Union that was under the control of the British Raj. While leaving, the colonial powers separated the region on the basis of religion giving rise to two nations: India and Pakistan. The transition was mired with incidents that were fraught with bloodshed and consequently the two nations developed an animosity towards each other. Another reason for conflict was over territorial command over Kashmir; an Indian state that lay along the borders of India and Pakistan. In a bid to control the region the two countries have been involved in numerous wars: the war in 1948 and 1965 and the Kargil war of 1999. India opines that Pakistan along with its agencies like the Inter-Services Intelligence or the ISI finances terrorism in the region to create instability while Pakistan claims that they rightfully own Kashmir. The region also has a third group known as separatists who want a separate identity without being a part of either India or Pakistan.

The people of Kashmir have been traumatized by the level of insurgency in the region along with the atrocities committed by the Indian army under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). At one time people had an inclination towards a particular nation but the atrocities perpetrated by these nations have held public opinion against these countries. Some have accepted the fact that they are helpless while the reactive ones resort to activities like mass protest and large scale stone slinging in order to claim their basic rights.

The literature serves to provide a background to the conflict that includes the three major wars fought between them. It will first cover the reasons that led to the three wars (the 1948-1949 war, the 1965 war and the Kargil war) and the perspectives of both the countries will be discussed in relation to these confrontations. Elaborating on historical and contemporary issues, a comprehensive outlook of India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue will be discussed and the disparities will be extrapolated. Finally the paper will discuss the possible solutions to the Kashmir conflict. The solutions will be intensive and would encompass issues such as water sharing, providing autonomy to the people of Kashmir, nurturing trade and commerce and demarcating the boundaries of Kashmir based on communal considerations.

The Battle for Kashmir

a. Immediate post-independence 1948-1949 period

As soon as the states of India and Pakistan were formed in 1947, the controversy over Kashmir arose. The two nations have been involved in four wars since the British left the subcontinent and the 1947-1948 was the first among them in which the rightful command over Kashmir was the contentious issue. [1] When the two countries were first formed, Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu king by the name of Maharaja Hari Singh. He was neutral to India and Pakistan and chose to remain independent. On October 22, 1947 a large number of armed tribesmen [2] , made inroads into Kashmir, plundered the villages and later set fire to these villages. It was at this moment that the king sought the assistance of India and in return decided to make Kashmir a part of the Indian Union. This gave rise to further conflict in the region. In 1947, India and Pakistan went to war over Kashmir. ‘Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru appealed to ask the United Nations to intervene and a UN cease-fire was arranged for December 31, 1948.’ [3] A ceasefire was established through a Line of Control and Kashmir was acknowledged as a disputed territory (Kashmir is still considered to be a disputed territory against the popular belief in India that the region is a part of it).

What needs to be acknowledged is that the war over Kashmir just after Independence had numerous dimensions to it. The Indian contingent claims that the Maharaja of Kashmir was harassed by the constant pillaging of Kashmiri villages by the tribesmen of Pakistan. To protect the interests of the Kashmiri people the Maharaja signed instrument of Accession to India. [4] It was further considered that the terrorist forces were under the patronage of Pakistan and was aimed at destabilizing the region. India further claims that it managed to garner the support from the Kashmiris and under plebiscite rule it became a part of the nation. Pakistan on the other hand held an opinion that was totally different. Pakistan never believed in the Accession agreement signed by India and continued to occupy a third portion of Kashmir. [5] The varied opinion was the main reason that led to the war and it was only after the interruption of the UN that both sides acknowledged the existence of a ceasefire.

India continued to occupy most parts of Kashmir while the international community along with Pakistan refuted such a territorial occupation. Pakistan managed to control a part of the territory and at the same time refuted India’s claim. This was the scenario that prevailed in Kashmir after the war. The endeavors of the UN and the British prevented both the nations from breaking out into a war. Kashmir however was not given the privileges of a democracy by the India Union. India laid down the condition that unless Pakistani troops vacated the remaining portion entirely, democratic rights would be curbed in the region. Through the 1950s [6] , there was a tussle between the State Assembly and the power at the Centre in India for a more autonomous government. The Indian government was however very adamant in tackling the situation and maintained a heavy military presence in the region. It was in this period that the people of Kashmir were subjected to strict military surveillance because the Indian politicians especially Nehru was of the opinion that if the people were given the liberty, it would promote Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in the region.

b. 1965 War

The year 1965 saw a desperate attempt by the Pakistani forces to seize Kashmir from the clasp of India. Between 1956 and 1962 [7] , Pakistan managed to procure a heavy consignment of military equipment and this narrowed down the military prowess of India and Pakistan. America’s assistance to Pakistan could be a retaliatory step considering the fact that India and the Soviet Union had maintained a cordial relationship and this was beyond the comfort level of the US. The procurement emboldened Pakistan and it launched a fresh attack on India. India was however successful in fending off the attack and sought for international intervention in the region in order to settle the dispute. It was for the first time that an international player (other than the UN took part in the Kashmir issue). The Security Council passed Resolution 211 that mandated both the parties to respect the ceasefire and recede back to their respective territories [8] . Even countries like the US stopped providing arms and ammunition to both the countries. This was instrumental in bringing both the parties to the talking table with the Soviet Union as the mediator. A treaty was signed by both parties in Tashkent and as per the treaty the armies of both the nations withdrew from the disputed area.

The 1965 War clearly demonstrated the significance of the Kashmir issue and brought to light the roles played by China, the US and the Soviet in the geopolitics of South Asia. Unfortunately the cease fire that was promulgated by the foreign powers did not have any bearing in the relationship between the two countries. [9] It was only a titular agreement between the two countries that was aimed at preventing any sort of confrontation between the Indian Army and the Pakistani Army. The scenario in Kashmir and the plight of the Kashmiris did not undergo any change after the war.

c. 1999 War

‘A recurrent military-hybrid shift occurred in the 1980s through to the 1990s. After establishing a military regime through a coup in 1977, General Zia-ul-Haq came to rely significantly upon Islamist groups for domestic political legitimacy.’ [10] It was in this era that militancy in the region reached new heights. India blamed the Pakistani intelligence agencies for providing financial and logistical support to these militant groups. While a portion of the blame can be attributed to Pakistan, the Indian Army operating in the region had a role to play in the proliferation of these groups. What needs to be acknowledged is the fact there was widespread infiltration from the Pakistani borders into Indian soil. This was a constant feature in the 1990s and the Indian Army resorted to air attacks in a bid to stop infiltration into the country. It was claimed by India that the infiltrators were backed up by the Pakistani soldiers patrolling the borders. As the air raids to curb the influx heated up, Pakistan troops retaliated. The domino effect continued and this gave rise to the Kargil War in 1999. Constant shelling and airstrikes was a constant feature of the war. According to a Red Cross Report at least 30,000 [11] were rendered homeless and they sought refuge in the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. Like the other two battles mentioned before, this too came to an end after an intervention by a third party. Pakistan and India both celebrated their “victory” in the war but the volatility in the region was never erased. As fallout of the insignificance of the war, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had to pave way for General Musharraf who seemingly focused on economic and social issues.

Issue of the disputes

The Kashmir conflict presents a very diabolical situation owing to the myriad opinions held by the two stakeholders on either side of the border. Both the sides have been steadfast in holding on to their whims and this has been the most serious issue. While numerous arrangements have been organized to tackle the issue, the unwillingness of both the parties has not allowed these talks to proceed in a positive direction. It is also noticeable that there has been a shift in the viewpoints when it comes to taking possession of Kashmir. A look into the perspectives of both the countries so that our understanding of the problem becomes clearer.

a. The Pakistani’s Argument

Pakistan has always considered itself to be the deprived party when it comes to having a stake in Kashmir. In the earlier stages of the struggle, that is, the period just after 1947, Pakistan was over inclined to make Kashmir a part of it because of the higher percentage of Muslims in the region. So when India occupied the region, it was a feeling of deprivation for Pakistan. In retaliation to it, the Army tried to capture Kashmir but did not succeed. Pakistan has very often resorted to ‘cataclysmic religious violence’ [12] in a bid to destabilize the region and win the sympathy of the Kashmiris. This was not the case in the earlier stage when fundamentalism with respect to religion was not tapped to secure Kashmir. During the early stages of the conflict, the Army was the face of Pakistan and it did not budge in revealing its intentions to claim Kashmir. However the brazen steps taken by the Army drew the wrath of international players and so it resorted to hardliners so that a proxy war could be fought. This can be proven from the fact that the number of infiltrations increasing in the period concerned. One would raise one’s eyebrow considering the fact these people managed to cross the border with relative ease and without any sort of hindrance from the Pakistani side.

Pakistan has always supported the UN Security Council resolutions that envisaged the Kashmiri people determining in a plebiscite [13] as opposed to the command over the region by the Indian Union. The recent statement by the president of Pakistan clearly demonstrates the fact that Pakistan is eager to see a Kashmir which is free from the clout of India. Zardari remarked that Pakistan ‘will continue to support the right of the people of Jammu & Kashmir to peacefully choose their destiny in accordance with the UN Security Council’s long-standing resolutions on this matter.’ [14] India on the other hand has been able to ward off international pressure in spite of depriving the people of Kashmir a plebiscite rule. This has been the main concern for Pakistan because it would have preferred a neutral player controlling Kashmir instead of India. Occasionally, the Pakistani contingent has vented their war by making inroads into Kashmir through the coercive path. Pakistan has time and again improved its military might with the help of countries like China and Iran and when it felt that it could capture Kashmir, it instigated a war.

Pakistan has also maintained s firm base in the Line of Control in the form of terrorist groups. Pakistan is now endeavoring to spread the cult of militancy and terrorism in new areas south of the Pir Panjal range in the Jammu region. [15] In this way Pakistan believes that the people of Kashmir would develop a deep sense of animosity towards India and enhance Pakistan’s propaganda of destabilizing the zone. One can even claim that Pakistan has been effective in this front as there have been numerous incidents involving tensions between Kashmir pundits and the majority Muslim population. The area covered by Azad Kashmir has been the nurturing ground for numerous fundamentalist groups namely Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. [16] Pakistan believes that it is their right to fight a battle in the name of religion and to claim Kashmir. Though this perspective is not blatantly endorsed, there has been enough proof to validate this claim. Leaders of militant groups such as Lakhvi and Hafeez Saeed have found safe havens in Pakistan and all attempts to extradite them have failed.

b. India’s Argument

India has always claimed to be the rightful rulers of Kashmir. It does not acknowledge the UN’s opinion of considering Kashmir as a disputed region. Additionally India has meted out special treatment to the region by curbing most of the democratic rights. While India is a democratic region, Kashmir has a military rule. Only recently has the legitimacy of the plebiscite rule been felt. The three wars fought with Pakistan have made the country wary of Pakistan’s intention so it feels justified to ramp up the military operations in the region. Unfortunately the Army and the implementation of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) have given rise to controversies pertaining to human rights. Other moves included detaining suspected terrorists under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, TADA (a controversial Act passed solely for this purpose), clamping unrest in the form of curfews, house to house searches and indiscriminate interrogation of the natives. [17] Through stringent rules India intends to keep the radical elements in check but on paper India establishes Kashmir as a democratic state with all the privileges of an autonomous state in the Indian Union.

Kashmir is also of prime significance as it is the boiling point for the countries surrounding it. So by gaining extra mileage in any form India wants to exert its presence in the region. India considers such momentum important in order to curb the collusion between Pakistan and China against it. The wars in 1960s and the late 1990s were primarily initiated once Pakistan believed that it has the military prowess to defeat India. This confidence did not generate internally. The support extended by the US and China helped Pakistan improve its arsenal. So by maintain a firm base in Kashmir, India believes that it can negate the attacks perpetrated by Pakistan.

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Recent events show that the dispute over Kashmir has been taken to a new level after the increase in the number of infiltrators. India has been a victim of many terrorist activities in the past and the trace of the miscreants trailed up to the terrorist organizations in Kashmir and Pakistan. So India believes that unless it ramps up its military activities in Kashmir and the borders surrounding it the influx of such infiltrants would be in the ascendancy. As a result, the late 1980s witnessed a number of measures that was aimed at stopping the inflow. ‘All men above the age of eighteen were issued identity cards and paramilitary patrols were stepped up in the region.’ [18] In spite of these measures and the increased surveillance across the borders, India has been a victim to the infiltrators who were responsible for carrying out blasts across cities and for carrying out the 26/11 Mumbai bloody drama, which involved attacks in as many as 11 places in the city that left 183 people, including 22 foreigners, dead. [19] 

Facets of Dispute Resolution

There has been diversity in opinions when commentators narrate the current situation in Kashmir. While most are optimistic in their assessment there are many who still believe (especially separatists occupying Kashmir) that there no hope for Kashmir in the near future. This can be remarked from the increased activism by separatist groups. Even ordinary citizens from either side of the border perceive each other as threats. The era from 1947 to 2000 was unproductive as there were no resolute measures in resolving the stalemate. However according to the first school of thought there is a silver lining that seems to have appeared in this century.

‘In the new century, changing trends in all fields of knowledge and the emphasis of people-to-people contact has become important for promoting mutual understanding between India and Pakistan.’ [20] It is fortunate that both the cultures are similar and this could be a basis for a friendly relationship. Both the countries have nuclear capabilities and this has decreased the possibility of a full scale war. Recently there have been talks that have promoted trade between the two nations. India was never in the most favored list of countries for trade with a very narrow positive list of 786 goods. [21] Pakistan has recently considered India’s case and one could soon see a transition in which bilateral trade is conducted between the two countries and this can be a catalyst in the peace talks between the two nations. Kashmir would also be an important region as it could intermediate the high volumes of trade that would ensue once the barriers to trade open up.

On the flip side there has been numerous instances in which the talks to promote peace have failed miserably. The failed talks have been a major bottleneck in the way ahead because once such an event occurs there is a period of sustained inactivity in which both the parties refuse to cooperate in the peace dialogues. Most talks seem to revolve around Kashmir, border disputes and water sharing agreement. Unfortunately most issues remain unsolved for a very long time. Pakistan’s association with China also raises eyebrows in India and this could be a deterrent in the way ahead. India has never accepted China to be a super power in the subcontinent and there have been occasions of territorial dispute between India and China. [22] This has been a critical determinant in the interrelationship between India, Pakistan and China.

The formation of a separatist group has added to the woes of Pakistan and India by adding another dimension to the Kashmir issue. The separatist groups have also started being vocal in demanding greater control through ideological leanings, political strategies, and goals [23] and have therefore started participating in the political agenda of Kashmir. Pakistan have always supposed these groups probably to avenge the 1971 episode in which India supported the creation of Bangladesh which was then a part of Pakistan. The separatists have deep animosity towards the Indian government and they are ruthless in displaying their discontent towards people who favor India.

While the challenges that the stakeholders face is mottled, all the parties (India, Pakistan, Separatist and even China) should look to bring peace in the region. There can be numerous ways of coming out of the quagmire but it will require concerted efforts from every party and at the same time each player should be willing to be more open minded in accepting the credibility of the other party.

Resolving the Kashmir Dispute

The first step would be to demarcate the boundaries of Kashmir in a manner such that all the parties agree to it. It should be noted that the people of Kashmir should have their consensus before any line is drawn. Moreover history has proven that the Line of Control is a very volatile territory and very often the army of one country has a tendency to encroach upon foreign territory. It is therefore advisable that both the countries retract their army to a distance that is of considerable length. Involving a third party in the dispute has rarely paid off but the two countries could have a third party to monitor the activity at the borders. No third party would be willing to provide such support unless the financial assistance is provided by India and Pakistan. This will obviously be a costly affair but it will reconcile the two troops within safe distance from each other. While this is done, the Kashmir people can have their say in deciding their fate.

Mere division of territories also presents numerous problems. Kashmir is home to various religious sects and this aspect of it has to be respected while moving along the lines of a division. It is highly improbable for the Hindu dominated region to accept Pakistan while the Buddhist contingent have always opposed the idea of a separate state. [24] Therefore when a divide is created based on vote structure, the people who will be the minority may face serious threats from the majority population. They would want to reside in a place where they find safety in numbers and the immigration of minority population may not be a smooth process as witnessed in 1947 after the partition took place. ‘The nuclearization of India and Pakistan is thus an extraordinary moment in the narrative of Partition: both its telos, in that it confirms the national jingoism and the bloodthirsty hatreds that propelled the mass slayings and movements of population in 1947.’ [25] Therefore even if Kashmir was to be divided based on religious inclinations, both India and Pakistan must provide a safe environment for the minority groups.

It is the responsibility of the governments on either side to include people in the administrative processes. Both should give more liberty, ‘not merely by granting elections but also by rolling back restrictions on business, terminating governmental monopolies in trade and commerce, and encouraging international investment bodies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.’ [26] This is one area where both the countries have failed miserably. Preoccupying the Kashmir people with trade and commerce could have at least reduced dissatisfaction from the indigenous masses. 80% of the people depend on agriculture while the mineral rich state has not been fully exploited for commercial production. [27] Kashmir is also a very scenic place and has the scope for exploiting the tourism industry that has the potential to provide job opportunities to a lot many Kashmiris. The other facet of facilitating trade and commerce is that Kashmir will be integrated with their respective Unions. It will also provide scope for developing infrastructure like schools, roads and hospitals. With quality education and prosperous job opportunities, hardline groups will not be able to lure the youth into committing radical activities. While sections of the society have been able to lead a life of opulence there are many who have been deprived of basic necessities. [28] It was primarily the children of the latter section of the society who had been hoodwinked into pursuing radical activities. Extensive infrastructure coupled with quality education could be a way of appeasing the unrest among youth who rarely have anything to do.

While control over Kashmir has been the contentious issue for India and Pakistan, both the countries have failed to resolve issues to sharing of water bodies. Even if the territories were to be demarcated aptly in order to suit the likings of the local masses, Kashmir presents another problem that is very significant. The Kashmir imbroglio has always been looked upon as a territorial dispute and water sharing have been given little thought to water sharing treaties. Both have so far managed to uphold a World Bank-mediated Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that provides mechanisms for resolving disputes over water sharing. [29] One cannot rely on the Treaty being a resolute stance taken by both the countries and any form of water scarcity in any country could lead to non-conformant of the agreement. Hostilities over water sharing between India and its more benevolent neighbor Bangladesh has already started and one can only expect the same relationship between India and Pakistan if any scarcity arises. The Indus Water Treaty (1960) [30] that was intermediated by the World Bank has been able to keep both the parties at ease and the issue has not been the mooting point when peace dialogues have taken place. However one should realize the fact that the situation is still volatile. Over the years the issues concerning India and Pakistan have been Kashmir, insurgency, trade etc. Once these issues get resolved it is very likely that the issues related to water sharing may crop up and give rise to hostility between the two nations. As there is a rapid growth in urbanization there is a scarcity of potable water. ‘Waterlogging, salinity, groundwater depletion and irrigation inefficiency continue to threaten agricultural production [31] and the Indus Water Treaty should be strong enough to be insulated from these phenomenon. It is also high time that the two countries looked at each other for support rather than going to international agencies. Both the countries have developed significantly over the years and they have sufficient resources to assess their situation better. Relying on the World Bank implies distrust towards each other and a sense of incapability to solve critical issues.

Finally both the countries should not resort to any means that destabilizes the region. On the Pakistani side there is the Inter-Services Intelligence that is accused of training militants not only in Kashmir but also in regions bounding Afghanistan. People holding responsible positions in Pakistan’s administration along with many retired personnel have hinted on the relationship between the Inter-Services Intelligence and the militant groups.’ [32] On the Indian side there is the Research and Analysis Wing that is accused of spying into Pakistan and involving in secret activities. ‘Throughout the Soviet/Afghan War the Research and Analysis Wing was responsible for the planning and execution of terrorist activities in Pakistan to deter Pakistan from support of Afghan liberation movement against India’s ally, the Soviet Union.’ [33] Both sides accuse each other for facilitating bombing activities and resorting to means that destabilizes the region. This should be stopped immediately if both countries want to look at a brighter future. Sponsoring terrorism can have a retaliatory effect as illustrated by the Al-Qaeda – Pakistan relation today. While Pakistan maintained a cordial relationship with the outfit, the 9/11 episode mandated Pakistan to take steps that would destabilize the group. Pakistan still faces a difficult choice; whether to support the group in order to take advantage of state sponsored terrorism or to completely eradicate the presence of these fundamentalist group from Pakistani soil.

The Kashmir conflict has become more complicated since its inception and requires a thorough analysis of the issue in order to come to any definite solution. Moreover it is cannot be tackled by a one dimens


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