Kashmir conflict: India, Pakistan must resume dialogue, engaging all stakeholders
Kashmiris a zone of chaos, with distinction of being the highest militarised zones in the world. It’s also a bone of contention between two nuclear-powers.
The independence of India and Pakistan in August 1947 also gave birth to conflicts and confrontations. Princely States of the British Raj were technically free to accede to either of the two dominions or to remain independent. The idea of independence, according to Lord Mountbatten, the first and last British Governor General of free India, was merely a “theoretical option”. He urged the Princely States to merge either with India or Pakistan. Except for Junagarh, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir, all other chose their dominions. Later, Junagarh and Hyderabad were annexed in the Indian Union. For two months, Jammu and Kashmir was independent, but not beyond October 1947. The idea to remain independent by Maharaja Hari Singh put the future of the state at stake. Till date the state remains hostage to the bilaeral relations of India and Pakistan, who over a period of time have become nuclear powers. The enmity between te two has put millions of live in jeopardy. Countless number of people have died including unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs.
For over 70 years, unarmed Kashmiri men, women, school-going boys and girls and aged have continued to witness mental, psychological as well as physical humiliations and tortures. Everyday, there are incidents of gushing of eyes, use of ever-new methods during unending curfews, torching of villages along with destruction of crops and business. Violation of human rights and international laws have become order of the day.
The Kashmir conflict is a legacy of the past. The international community has given India as well as Pakistan many chances to resolve their outstanding issues. Right from partition, apart from UN resolutions, various agreements, mediations and talks have been articulated between the two nations. Tashkent Agreement, Shimla Agreement, Lahore Declaration, Agra Summit, Peace Process and Confidence Building Measures are some of the examples. Bilaterally, the leadership of both the countries have failed because prior to every new initiative, politically motivated, opportunistic preconditions are placed which are not acceptable to one or the other stakeholders to the dispute. Also, the stakeholders incorporate the political interests of their ruling parties with the choice of inclusion of stakeholders to the dispute and at one time accept different elements as the stakeholders but on other instance refuse to recognise them as a party to dispute which undermines the spirit of an unconditional dialogue. In the last three years there have not been any productive and substantive talks between India and Pakistan.
In international politics, there are two basic strategic options: (a) Defensive posture (b) Offensive posture.
Both offensive and defensive behaviours can involve the use of force and aggression. In the prevailing geopolitical scenario of South Asia, India-Pakistan animosity is the major subject which has played a decisive role. The geopolitical and strategic importance of Jammu and Kashmir has put India and Pakistan on formidable wars, hostility, and low intensity conflicts. Beside being nuclear powers, they are rivals in non-military issues including economy and politics.
Regional forum like SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) remains defunct, thanks to the unresolved issues of its key members. SAARC Summits have been postponed on five occasions: 1991 (6th Summit in Colombo) 1999 (11th Summit in Kathmandu), 2003 (12th Summit in Islamabad), 2005 (13th Summit in Dhaka), 2016 (19th Summit in Islamabad) and recently 2018 (also in Islamabad). All regional powers are aware of the fact that the blame game of two nations spoils the geopolitical landscape of South Asia instead of making things better domestically. If India and Pakistan really want to make South Asia a peaceful and prosperous region, they must do some serious thinking.
Kashmir bleeds. For the past seven decades, the people of Kashmir remain trapped in the rivalry between India and Pakistan. The baggage of history weighs heavy on us and the change in this shift is possible only through sustained and unconditional dialogue. As we all understand, dialogue is currently the most civilised and humane way to resolve conflicts. There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice to the people of Kashmir.
They have been suffering for too long. Any resolution to the Kashmir conflict should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and unaccountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redress for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that also includes the people of Kashmir.
Indiaand Pakistan should resume the dialogue process and engage all the stakeholders including the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In order to move forward, there should be a proper mechanism.
Indiaand Pakistan should deal with Kashmir in such a way that future generation should not take up arms. The two should learn a lesson from Germany and France who were once bitter neighbours. They fought against each other in the Two World Wars. Today, they are part of a strong European Union, sharing free borders and using the same currency, euro. India and Pakistan should repair the damage they have done to Kashmir and pledge to cooperate in economic, technological as well as social arena. This can be achieved by soft hand, making Line of Control as Line of Cooperation to diminish and eliminate their mistrust and stubbornness.
(The author is a human rights activist and a political observer. He can be reached at jaan.aalam[at]gmail.com.)