This statement by Manav Kumar summarizes the fate of all efforts at any Confidence Building Measures on part of India and Pakistan. CBM’s barely capture the imagination of average Kashmiris who have always been treated as outsiders to any deliberations about their political fate. Political posturing by the two nations of Indian and Pakistan, and all CBMs have been nothing more than posturing, have little bearing on the everyday life of Kashmiris. Kashmir currently is, as Kamal Chenoy puts it, hostage to the two “bitterly contending nationalisms” (Chenoy,2006) of India and Pakistan both making a claim over Kashmir, one using the faith of the majority community as a claim to its territory and the other using the fear of crack in their national secularism were they to let go of the Muslim majority Kashmir.
Add to the contending nationalisms, obsession with historical memories, namely the bitterness over the partition of the country, deep rooted fear and suspicion of each other, every step forward tends to stall. Since both India and Pakistan consider the issue of Kashmir a bi-lateral issue, and interference by any outsiders who could help the process along anytime they get stuck in the past, or their trust in each other dwindles, seems to be bleak. Kashmiris often pin hopes in the West or the Middle East to use their influence in impressing upon the Indian and Pakistani authorities to resolve the issue of Kashmir in consultation with Kashmiris, unfortunately no one has come forward strongly enough to advocate the desires and wishes of the people of Kashmir.
If there was any outside support or pressure to get the Kashmir issue resolved, it has dramatically diminished in the post 9/11 world of the so-called “global war on terror”. In order to gain sympathy and support for its policies in Kashmir, India has conveniently labelled the popular uprising in Kashmir as a terrorist movement. In the post 9/11 world a shift occurred in approach to the Kashmir dispute. In the name of fighting terrorism in Kashmir, India succeeded in convincing the world that Kashmir was a problem that they had to deal with internally just as America has to deal with terrorists elsewhere. As a result, India’s claims on all of Kashmir became more popular and denial of plebiscite gained strength.
Given that both India and Pakistan consider Kashmir a bi-lateral issue, they have resisted outside intervention and help in resolving the issue of Kashmir. The US government could not actively engage in the issue of Kashmir as it would appear hypocritical to be supporting “terrorism” while they were engaged in uprooting terrorism elsewhere in the world.
With President Obama, the hope of change for many around the world, there may or may not be any change in the US policy towards Kashmir. President Obama has appointed a seasoned diplomat, Richard Holbrooke as a special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, “yet his public description of responsibilities has been carefully worded to avoid mention of Kashmir, because India’s government has long rejected outside mediation of the conflict… (Coll, 2009). This attitude was affirmed by the statements of Secretary Clinton on her recent visit to India when talking to reporters in Mumbai, she sated that. “the US is very supportive of al efforts in the fight against terrorism. At the same time, we are not going to in any way pressurize to restart (Indo-Pak) dialogue as it is for these sovereign governments to decide”. (Outlook India, July 18,2009 ). In an interview with Dawn News, Secretary Clinton mentioned that “disputes between India and Pakistan, which are historical and long standing, should be looked at with fresh eyes, and there should be an effort to build some mutual trust”. (Outlook India, July 18, 2009)
No where in these statements is there a mention of the wishes of either the people of Kashmir or any word about their misery and pain. There was also no mention in Secretary Clinton’s remarks regarding the alienation that has been created in the Kashmiri psyche through repeated violation of basic human rights in Kashmir. The US approach can be summarized on the sidelines approach. The advice given by US political advisers during the time of back channel negotiations was to “keep hands off” as is related to Steve Coll by Ashley Tellis, a political adviser in the US embassy. Will this approach change in anyway in the Obama administration, only tiem will tell.
The most dramatic shift in Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir was demonstrated in Musharraf’s proposed solution in which, for the first time, he mentioned that Pakistan would give up its claim on Kashmir as long as India accepted some of its proposals for peace which involved
a. phased withdrawal of troops
b. demilitarizing all or parts of Kashmir
c. dividing Kashmir into seven geographical areas (five of which are under Pak control and two under Indian control)
d. self-governance for locals
e. considering a new approach of perhaps joint supervision involving Pak, India, Kashmir and a UN mandate.
Musharraf defended his proposal as something that would benefit both India and Pakistan and as he says, “I wasn’t just giving concessions—I was taking from India as well”. (Coll, 2009)
While this proposal which caused a great deal of uproar in many quarters, we now know was not merely a figment of Musharraf’s imagination, rather it was a result of looking at the Kashmir issue from a realistic point of view, with “fresh eyes” and striking a compromise, and the participants of this proposal were representatives of both governments of Pakistan and India. It is the “paradigm shift” that the two countries secretly arrived at after years of negotiations and numerous meeting in secret locations outside of the subcontinent in what was called “the back channel”. A detailed analysis providing an insight into the nature and subject of these negotiations is documented by Steve Coll in his New Yorker article of March 2009. Both Indian and Pakistani officials, whom Steve Coll interviewed, confirmed that the back channel talks were close to an agreement on Kashmir only to be thwarted by fall of the Musharraf government. What we also find out from his report is that both Prime Minister Singh and Musharraf held discussions with Hurriyat and other separatist groups. Omar Farooq of Hurriyet tells Steve Coll that he found “Musharraf was someone who was willing to think out of the box”. One wonders if this out of the box solution was in reference to the proposals made public by Musharraf. If so, how much of this proposal was shared by the Kashmiri leaders with their people. Did they also keep them in the dark and just assumed that one more time the people would accept whatever was imposed on them? Did these leaders have a strategy to make the Kashmiri public accept this proposal? In the same vein, did the leaders of India and Pakistan have a plan for making their people buy into the proposal?
When one refers to the separatist leadership in Kashmir, there is no one speaking with one voice, there are multiple voices, although the majority of people in both factions of Hurriyet have maintained the centrality of right of self-determination in resolving the issue. A unified leadership with a single vision and a concrete proposal for resolution in accordance with the wishes of the people has yet to emerge. A document that could clearly state the goals of the Kashmiri struggle with signatories from various factions has yet to surface. The state of leadership is well summarized by Manav Kumar as a group of people “struggling for influence”. The Kashmiri leadership has been marginalized within Kashmir to a large degree. People’s faith in them, in my estimation, has dwindled and there is no single group that can claim that they represent the interests of Kashmiris, especially the new generation. If the cause of Kashmir as an issue of justice is to advance, Kashmiri leaders, irrespective of their differences, as true representatives of their people must speak with one voice and involve the civil society from all sections and regions in order to come up with a proposal that they can present to the governments of India and Pakistan as well as the world. This has to be an open consultative process if people’s faith in leadership is to be restored and exploitation of one person or group over another by various interest groups is to end.
Now that the new administration is in power in Pakistan and there are signs that talks have resumed, we will have to wait and see how the “back channel” negotiations and proposals will figure. Will they start afresh or modify what was begun?
The purpose of CBM’s is to create confidence, a change in attitude, end mistrust and engender cooperation between rivals. CBMs are recourse to finding a way out, exploring the dispute with an open mind and an approach where one is willing to lose some and gain some. At the same time there has to be a common goal, which in this case is peace and stability in the subcontinent, a dangerous nuclear flashpoint. In the reconciliation work I do with individuals, recognizing that there is a problem is a first and essential step, and it is no different between nations. Mutual trust and transparency and cooperation can never be built overnight which is why it has to be an ongoing process that continues in spite of who comes to power in both India and Pakistan. A framework for peace building that is derived out of consultations with all parties, who acknowledge that there is a problem and which includes the aggrieved, meaning the people of Kashmir, will be the only long lasting peaceful solution. The benefit of continuing this conversation with agreed upon goal of peace and security of the region, and supported by all nations and people that care for peace and justice should be obvious to leaders of both India and Pakistan. India, an emerging super power in the South Asian region cannot afford to have an illiterate population more than that of Sub Saharan Africa nor can it afford in this 21st century to have more than half its population malnourished. Nor can Pakistan continue to have mounting foreign debt and a severe shortage of basic amenities for its population. (Hilali, A.Z. 2005). Eradication of poverty ought to be the primary goal of both nations—let them feed their poor, not the arms race. If the Kashmir issue is left unresolved and Kashmiris are treated as irrelevant and superfluous to the efforts of confidence building, constant turmoil will keep both countries on edge and South Asia will continue as the most militarized zone on earth and continuing hostilities may bring the nations to the brink of a nuclear war.
Kashmir is not normal, despite the efforts of the Indian government to hide the facts from the world. As long as India continues to portray a façade of normalcy in Kashmir to the international community and the Indian media plays a complicit role by covering the governments record of torture and extrajudicial killings and disappearances, Kashmir, as Meenakshi Ganguly, a Human Right’s Watch senior researcher puts it, “is going to be where justice failed the promises of Indian democracy.” (Coll, 2009)
None of the band aid solutions will aid a long term peace process. Symbolic gestures such as opening the Muzaffarabad Srinagar bus service, or opening the trade route are all steps towards bringing a bit of normalcy to the lives of Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC, something that is needed for families to end their decades long cruel and abnormal separation, and for traders to promote their goods with their own people but they can never be a replacement for the ultimate issue, which is solving the problem of Kashmir according to the wishes of its people. Assuming that with economic resurgence, the problem of Kashmir will disappear is a delusion. Socio-economic measures and development efforts have to follow, not precede, the political efforts at settlement. Trade cannot be used as a bribe to overshadow the political issue. Trade is good for normalization after the political settlement has occurred, or at least alongside initiation of the political process. Nor will fake elections in Kashmir become a substitute for plebiscite, the right to decide through democratic means the political future of Kashmir. The scars of the Kashmiri people are too deep to heal with the balm of economic prosperity alone. No Kashmiri, save the opportunists, is ready to forget the sacrifices of their brothers and sisters who were murdered, molested, tortured or those that vanished in thin air. The “Zulum parast” (worshippers of tyrants,) a Sir Walter Lawrence described Kashmiris, have now transformed into “Azadi pasand”. Kashmir power brokers will have to seek their power from the people, the millions of people who last year marched on the streets of Kashmir peacefully. These are people not interested in shedding blood to earn their freedom to live in dignity, but people who will not accept humiliation and subjugation. Intransigence on part of all parties, whether it concerns unwillingness to redraw the maps, indisposition towards plebiscite or aversion to nonviolent struggle will all be hurdles in the path of reconciliation and peace building. Hence all three parties must give a little to see this intractable conflict brought to a speedy resolution, I hope and pray sooner than later, may be in my lifetime.
Chenoy, Kamal. "Contending nationalisms: Kashmir and the prospects for peace. " Harvard International Review. 28.3 (Fall 2006): 24(4). Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 18 July 2009
Coll, Steve. "The Back Channel. " The New Yorker. 85.3 (March 2, 2009): 38. Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 20 July 2009
Hilali, A.Z. "Confidence- and security-building measures for India and Pakistan. " Alternatives: Global, Local, Political. 30.2 (April-June 2005): 191(32). Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 18 July 2009
Kumar, Manav. "The hidden conflict: false optimism and silent strategy in Kashmir. " Harvard International Review. 26.4 (Wntr 2005): 36(4). Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 18 July 2009
Outlook India, No pressure for Indo-Pak Talks: newsoutlookindia.com.