Kashmir: What Next? – By DJ Phukan

The article evaluates likely scenarios, strategy and future options for Kashmir Solution.

India: POK is AOK? 
Despite its official position India does not want the areas under Pakistan. In 1948 Nehru went to the United Nations just when the Indian Army had turned back the tide and a cease-fire was declared. In both 1965 and 1971, India handed territory won in Kashmir back to Pakistan. Even Indira Gandhi did not try to reclaim Pakistan controlled Kashmir after her victory in Bangladesh. India current strategy appears muddled. From 1971 to 1989, Kashmir was peaceful. Pakistan was either too demoralized or occupied with Afghanistan. India could have used this golden opportunity to win the Kashmiris for good and integrate them using democracy, generosity and fairness. However, India’s folly driven by Indira and later Rajiv Gandhi’s small minds and even smaller hearts put paid to this golden opportunity. Kashmiri alienation from India appears complete. Yet global ambitions will force India to settling the Kashmir imbroglio.

Pakistan: Catch-22

Despite its official position of wanting UN resolutions for Kashmir, Pakistan cannot entertain independence for the Kashmiris. Pakistan has been flexible when necessary as it ceded parts of Kashmir to China. Yet in the recent polls in its Kashmir, Pakistan required all candidates to swear allegiance to Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) led by Ammanullah Khan have not contested the elections. At the same time, Pakistan is in the horns of dilemma. She knows that she cannot militarily win Kashmir from India. 1965 was the last best chance for Pakistan. After 1971 the balance continues to tilt more and more towards India. The balance in the future is likely to even tilt further given Pakistan’s weak economy. At the same time she now cannot dismount the Jehadi tiger without domestic upheaval.

Insurgency- A short feel good pay hell later option

Hence Pakistan insurgency strategy while initially low cost has become increasingly prohibitive to Pakistan with diminishing yields. While the insurgent groups can bleed India they cannot succeed where Pakistan’s military failed. Rising sectarian conflict, lawlessness, have scare away foreign investment. The 1990s are being called Pakistan’s Lost Decade as they reversed Pakistan’s relative prosperity over India even as India made economic strides. The Jihadi child has grown big may devour its parent. Any International intervention or mediation options are limited and unlikely to be favorable for Pakistan. It is possible that behind the scenes American pressure has led to the Agra summit.

UN Resolution and International Intervention

The UN Resolutions are a double-edged sword for Pakistan. As per the resolutions Pakistan has to vacate the J&K areas it controls and hand over to India to conduct the plebiscite. India must then reduce its forces to a bare minimum required for a UN supervised plebiscite. Hence even Pakistan’s best international option require temporarily handing over charge of Kashmir to India for conducting of the plebiscite. International mediation is likely to even less helpful for Pakistan. Pakistan frittered a golden opportunity in 1998 just after the Indian nuclear tests. She could have insisted on the UN Security Council led by the US to force a speedy resolution of Kashmir (and financial relief) as a price of not testing its nuclear weapons. It is believed that the cerebral Pakistan COAS General Jehangir Karamat unsuccessfully advised Nawaz Sharif to pursue this strategy. While such a step may not have handed Kashmir overnight to Pakistan it had the potential for the following strategic victories:

1) Raised the Kashmir in international forums up with the likes of Bosnia, East Timor with US support
2) India would be in the doghouse as an aggressive outlaw nation. Foreign investment would dry up causing an Indian recession and throwing the BJP government out.
3) Western financial relief and military aid would completely changed Pakistan’s economy and military
4) India’s human rights abuses would be highlighted while jehadi abuses would have been ignored

The Kargil debacle made matters worse for Pakistan’s. The world considers Pakistan’s case on Kashmir weak due to the following causes:

1) Weak democracy- a nation where the Army periodically throws out the duly elected government can hardly argue for Kashmiri self-determination against what the world considers to the world’s if somewhat imperfect largest democracy. General Musharraf can shed his khakis but his khakis do not shed him evident from the international reaction to his taking over as President.
2) Pakistan’s weak human rights and minority persecution. Even the OIC has tepidly supported Pakistan as the creation of Bangladesh weakened Pakistan claim as a homeland for Indian Muslims.
3) Pakistan’s weak economy limit its sovereignty and puts it on IMF life support
4) The Jehadis ethnic cleansing and persecution of Kashmiri Pandits and other minorities from Kashmir and attacks against civilians have rightly destroyed any international goodwill or sympathy.
5) Had Pakistan aided only home grown native Kashmiris rather than whole sale export Afghan, Sudanese and Pakistani religious zealots irregulars the insurgency may have acquired the international legitimacy that the Mukti Bahini, PLO, East Timorese have earned for their respective causes.
6) The pernicious links to Chechnya, Central Asia and ties to terrorists like Osama Bin Laden have further alienated the world especially Russia and the United States

As a result Pakistan’s strategy is not bearing fruit and also becoming unsustainable. A clear change is likely as Pakistan’s strategy and plans are becoming more and more painful without any gain.

Kashmiris: – Between A Rock and a Hard Place 

By the Kashmiris I refer to the silent but suffering Kashmiri majority. The Kashmiris are the weakest party and have the plight akin to the suffering grass in a battle between elephants. Two Kashmiri families the Abdullahs and the Nehru/Gandhis’ have contributed much to Kashmiri misery. The main Azadi champions like the JKLF have been used by Pakistan against India and then discarded. The JKLF cannot even contest elections in Pakistan’s Kashmir without swearing allegiance to Pakistan. The Hurriyat is now getting all but marginalized. As per press reports, Pakistan’s Kashmir continues to be backward and even worse a demographic influx from the plains may make them a minority in the future. While, Article 370 has protected demographic balance in Indian Kashmir, the Kashmiris remain alienated from India. The Kashmiriyat culture is also under threat from the Jihadi groups. The Kashmiris may lose everything their culture, ethos given the present conditions. Their need and desire for peace is the most acute.

The Future: Best Strategy for each party

The summit offers each of the three parties a chance to change the status quo and has its risk and rewards. The party that has most foresight will succeed. The muddled actions of the past will be a greater handicap in the future. I would like to offer some future strategic options of each party.

India

India’s goal is autonomy for peace and conversion of the LOC International border. India is banking on Kashmiri fatigue. India’s hope is with time its position gets stronger against a weakened Pakistan ceasing as a threat in Kashmir. India knows that it has to placate the Kashmiris and will then negotiate them down. There is the old carrot and stick approach. The stick that India will continue the war of attrition. The other implied stick is that Pakistan with its tottering economy and its Jihadi groups, sectarian conflict is a bigger threat to Kashmiris and Kashmiriyat than Indian misrule. The carrot is peace, stability, and economic aid under autonomy short of independence and protection of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. Time is on India side to only to a point as Pakistan gets weaker and the Kashmiris wear out. But, a collapsed rump Pakistan controlled by Taliban Afghanistan becomes an even deadlier enemy in India’s back yard. Hence the summit. Politics makes strange bedfellows- the Jihadi can only be would have to be contained by an alliance of India with moderate Pakistanis (who would otherwise be the first Jehadi victims) that includes its nationalists, its military and the United States. The other time constraint is India’s rising global profile is stained by misrule in Kashmir needs to be washed away.

India may get the initial goal of peace in Kashmir but cannot hold to Kashmir without winning the hearts of minds of Kashmiris. Democracy, Rule of Law that India is rightfully proud of must cross the Banihal Pass into Kashmir. India must accept that pettiness, misrule and neglect of Kashmir and North East states created the atmosphere for insurgency. India must then make amends by demonstrating an unprecedented generosity, flexibility, sagacity and wisdom towards Kashmiris and other alienated groups in India. Only then will India rise above being just a large economic power into becoming a great nation. Nations become great when they can meet the aspirations and needs of diverse plural people. Kashmir is one such test case for India. If Vajpayee can start such a move the Kashmiris, all other Indians as well as Pakistanis and other south Asians will be the beneficiary. Vajpayee may then go down as India’s greatest Prime Minister.

Pakistan

Since Pakistan faces risks to its very existence, President Musharraf has no easy choices. He must lower the temperature with India for a semi-normal relationship. If he makes radical concession, domestic opposition or a coup by his subordinates will overthrow and possibly assassinate him. Success for the devolution plan and deweaponization is critical for Pakistan’s and the current regime’s survival. While the General has been tactically smart he has strategically been weak evident from the Kargil debacle and the October 1999 coup. True to his commando roots needs radical action but now must act strategically rather than tactically. The LOC as the international border option may be hard for Pakistan’s domestic audience to accept imprisoning Pakistan with its rhetoric. Yet international opinion and the precarious economy may force Pakistan to accept this outcome as a cost of surviving. In that event the military will face domestic upheaval and armed violence from the angry Jehadi groups.

Another radical option -Independence for Pakistan’s Kashmir with Pakistan and the UN guaranteeing its security packaged as freedom for its Kashmiris. America gains substantial influence on this independent Kashmir as price for their support. This quasi-independent secular state demonstrates the viability of Kashmir and highlights the issue globally in an unprecedented manner. While a rapid departure from traditional Pakistani desire, this state would be a live grenade hurled into India’s Kashmir position. Even Kashmiris reconciled to a secular India might desire union with this state should it be freed from Pakistan’s embrace. Then India’s future high global profile will severely curtail the mailed fist to hold on to Kashmir.

The Pakistani plan would hope would be that an independent Kashmir (heavily dependent if not controlled by Pakistan) would ultimately force India to also give up its Kashmir to this new nation. Then over time all of Kashmir falls like a ripe plum into Pakistan’s lap without firing a shot. This plan would require a national patience, skill, strategy, foresight and diplomacy unmatched in Pakistan’s turbulent history. At the same time Pakistan would have to reform itself, deweaponize, relive the national debt and economically restructure. A less hostile relationship with India will also help Pakistan regain its footing. Otherwise it will not be able to attract the Kashmiris. If General Musharraf is able to achieve some of these goals, Pakistan can develop into a leader of the Islamic world as a prosperous, stable, liberal state. General Musharraf will have become a statesman second only to Jinnah in Pakistan’s history.

Kashmiris

The Kashmiris have a tiny window of opportunity to protect Kashmiriyat and their future and need bold selfless leaders. The Hurriyat has failed to provide this leadership and also has ignored the plight and rights of the Kashmiri Pandits and other Kashmiri groups. Leadership failure and disunity at this crucial juncture will cause Kashmir’s future to be decided in Islamabad and New Delhi. The Kashmiris must first unite as people. Then they must make the foreign Jehadis leave and simultaneously negotiate the best deal if separately if needed with India and Pakistan. A proper autonomy deal with India may secure peace, prosperity and protection of Kashmir’s unique ethos and culture. Over time it could also lead to nation hood if India gains confidence that Kashmir will not damage its secularism. If the Kashmiris can obtain an Independent or quasi-independent state in Pakistan’s Kashmir they would have another major victory. Even a highly autonomous state in Pakistan could lead to independence if Pakistan falters as state in the future while also protecting their culture and traditions.

Conclusion

The subcontinent will see major changes accelerated by the summit. The status quo is untenable for all three parties and most for Pakistan and its war-maker General turned peacemaker. He has nothing to lose without bold action risks irrelevance and survival. I am betting President Musharraf will launch a commando style bold move soon. The next few years will bring lasting changes in the subcontinent. As the Chinese saying goes “May You Live in Interesting Times”.

 

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