Kashmir Conflict and Prospects of Peace in South Asia

Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst, peace activist and a freelance journalist. His area of expertise is International Peace and Conflict Resolution.
Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst, peace activist and a freelance journalist. His area of expertise is International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

An Analysis of the Geo Political Situation and Way Forward To a Permanent Solution and Lasting Peace in South Asia

By: Nayyar N Khan

Background and controversial claims:

The long awaiting Kashmir conflict is a mixture of theoretical and hypothetical assumptions miss communicated, supported and propagated by both Indian and Pakistani ruling elites since six decades. Pakistani ruling elites, feudal lords, establishment, civil and military bureaucracy has been propagating to own the entire State of Jammu Kashmir on the basis of so called TWO NATIONS theory due to the fact that majority of population of the State of Jammu Kashmir is the follower of Islam.

While Indian state apparatus has been claiming its ownership due to de facto instrument of accession (Oct. 26,1947) signed by the then ruler of the State of Jammu Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh amid uncertain circumstances to seek the military help from India. These two exclusively contradictory claims by the state apparatuses of Pakistan and India have been misleading to the populace of both the countries and they took each other as their enemies. And the reality is that the State of Jammu Kashmir is neither a part of Indian Union nor Pakistan has any legal, moral and constitutional right to claim its ownership over Kashmir. For instance, the article 257 of the constitution of Pakistan does not include the State of Jammu Kashmir as its part. And the fact that India took the case of Kashmir to United Nations (1948), and the resolutions of United Nations Security Council (38, 39, 47 and 51 of 1948) and then subsequent resolutions of United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP resolutions dated Aug. 13, 1948) declared the State of Jammu Kashmir as a disputed territory and proposed its final settlement through free and fair plebiscite under the supervision of United Nations, rules out Indian claim over Kashmir.

The State of Jammu Kashmir has been at the fore fronts in India-Pakistan relations since the abrupt withdrawal of Great Britain from sub-continent (1947) and formation of two States (India and Pakistan). Since 1947 Pakistan and India have gone to war thrice, Kashmir being the main dispute. First in 1948, then in 1965 due to Kashmir, in 1971 the Bangladesh war in which Kashmir was again the main sticking point in the Western front. In 1999 due to Kargal crisis both newly nuclear rivals in South Asian sub-continent were again at the brink of war. The then US administration and President Clinton acted promptly and intervened timely to deescalate the tense situation between India and Pakistan when both were at fighting an impromptu war at the peaks of Kargal in Kashmir. After US led war against terrorism in Afghanistan (2001), the mode of global politics has entirely changed and it has certain affects on the regional politics as well in South Asia and anywhere else in the world. Due to the changing global political scenario and new fronts of confrontation after the end of cold war, both India and Pakistan advanced their bilateral relations during the Musharraf and Vajpayee’s regimes in their respective countries. Back door diplomacy led them to take some sort of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in their bilateral relations including a direct bus service across the Line of Control (LOC), dividing the State of Jammu Kashmir. South Asian politics of Guns and arsenals was replaced by composite dialogues, negotiations, reconciliations, sports and exchanges of cultural, intellectual, academic and music groups. But all this could not last long due to absence of a strong democratic system in Pakistan. Musharraf regime, which was already fragile and lacking public support, became weaker due to his confrontation with judiciary in Pakistan in the first quarter of 2007. First time in the history of Pakistan lawyers and civil society stood firmly against a powerful dictator, while so called politicians (except a few) were hesitating to extend their support to the lawyers and civil society openly. The unfortunate and untimely death of Benazir Bhutto (former PM of Pakistan), was a blow in the forthcoming regional politics of South Asia. As a result of February 2008 general elections new government could not show mature judgments on various key issues regarding the future of South Asia including the resolution of Kashmir conflict. The coward terrorist attack on the Indian commercial hubs on 26 November 2008 has again fueled the fragile relations between the two nuclear rivals in the region.

The extensive wave of extremism and militancy particularly, in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and elsewhere in the entire country is exposing the poor infrastructure of various states’ institutions and lack of co-ordination and commitment in tackling extremism. Although the present day extremism has evolved from the series of events and wars in the neighboring Afghanistan, yet possibilities of connections between secret services of Pakistan and extremists cannot be ruled out as pointed out by United States and other countries on several occasions. The war in Afghanistan against the socialist empires, invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and trend of Jihadism supported by the West and Pakistan played a significant role in the present day terrorist movements in Pakistan. The pan Islamic elements became unemployed after the withdrawal of former Soviet Union from Afghanistan and they were in need of another battle field. Pashtoon nationalism and other factors drove the inhabitants of the tribal areas of North West Pakistan to reactivate their war practices due to their inherited characteristics. Lawlessness in the tribal areas of Pakistan, failed and dual polices of the ruling elites of Pakistan since 1947 are the major causes in the present day fragile situation in the areas bordering Afghanistan.

However, it will be unfortunate to create or find any link between the situation in Pakistan and Kashmiris people’s demand for international attention and intervention. Because Kashmir was declared disputed by the United Nations in 1948 and both India and Pakistan agreed to give Kashmiri people a chance to determine their political future through free and fair plebiscite under the UN patronage.

Prospects of Peace in South Asia

We are in 21st century. The first decade of 21st century has no name yet. We are still in the post cold war era. It is still an era of war mongers. Though democracy, trade and peace are the slogans of 21st century. Yet the peace lover souls of this planet need to fight hard to glorify the dreams of innocent human beings all over the globe. Talk about possible global transformation continues to frenzied proportions, sustained by the hope that the peace between the states and rising prosperity, and democratization within them will persist, alongside that terrorism and civil wars might prove to be the new millennium’s dominant characteristics. Many nations set their sights on the promise of a stable global future – and many others on the dread of chronic global instability. We are passing through the transition period of political transformation. A transformation from war to peace, monarchy to democracy, colonialism to freedom and destruction to construction. Our ideals do not have any perfect shape. We are shadowed by the apprehension of any unusual mishap that can grasp the orientation of our future set up. Beside all these qualms, we are hoping for a peaceful and prosperous future of coming generations.

Expectations of peace can be abruptly shattered by the clashes going on between the civilizations. The fault lines among various civilizations on the globe are posing a serious threat to the “Peace Dream” of innocent human beings with a high magnitude and a strong degree of disintegration. Our age is still waiting for a proper name to be given. An ultimate solution to the problems faced by human beings in different demographics. Global actors are still not doing sufficient exertions to lay a foundation for the future generations, what to name the first decade of twenty first century? In this scenario, we can still see a sporadic light in South Asia.

South Asia is a turbulent, complex region with a prominent place in the global map of ethnic conflict. It is characterized by multi-ethnic societies with striking internal divisions along linguistic, regional, communal and sectarian lines, externally linked to one another across national boundaries. Even though it has a common cultural background and shared political experience, many groups have been fiercely fighting with each other, challenging the national governments and frustrating their nation-building efforts. All these conflicts and violence are occurring in South Asia despite the fact that the Gandhian principles of non-violence originate from this region, teachings and preaching of suffis, sadhos and saints based on communal harmony and world’s largest democracy, India, has a central place in South Asia. Then, what is the missing link to achieve peace in this most volatile region, despite interest from all sides and the long-term engagement from the international community?

The struggle over Kashmir is enduringly rooted in national identity, religion, and human rights. It has also influenced the politicization of Pakistan’s army, religious radicalism in both the countries, and nuclearization in both countries. The governments in Delhi and Islamabad have their own contradictory agenda over Kashmir dispute and rest of the bilateral issues. But these are the people of South Asia paying the price in form of extreme poverty, uncertain future, diseases, fear of any possible military confrontation and absence of peace and security in their daily life matters. With the growing paradigm of regional integration and disintegration on political and social parameters and increasing interdependence of nations for their economic developments in the modern era of globalization, people living in different administrative set ups in the South Asian region need to redefine their cultural, political, social and societal identities in accordance with the modern concepts of economic development and shared values of contemporary world system in a democratic way. One can argue that after the end of Cold War and triumph of Western Liberal Democracy as the most accepted form of governance around the globe is in its transitional phase. We can find the examples of economic integration and political disintegration in the last decade of 20th century. Former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia disintegrated politically and at the same time the fall of Berlin wall reunited the German Nation. Economic Integration of nations in Europe by the name of European Union (EU), in Africa, African Union (AU), Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and a growing unity among the Latin American nations around the new paradigm of Democratic Socialism are the hallmarks of the present day world. At the same time the economic miracle of Peoples Republic of China in a globalized world opens new chapters in the historical evolutionary journey of human race. Prior to 1990, the global system was run by the balance of power between two blocs, each led by two super powers of the time i.e. USSR and the United States. This balance of power due to rivalry between two blocs opened the gates for national liberation and independence for many nations present on the map of contemporary world. Between the end of WWII (1945) and end of cold war (1990¢s), more than 130 nations emerged as independent and sovereign nations by dumping colonialism out of their lands.

Disintegration of USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia sent a strong message to the international community that nations desire to live independently without oppressive and forcible gear of slavery. Fall of iron curtain (Berlin wall), was not an abrupt step, rather a strong and deep desire of historically well developed nation to be reunited. What used to be the blocs in Europe and Asia were characterized by divergent tendencies and were influenced by opposing forces, which can be traced into the past and remain part of the tumultuous present of the post-cold war world. Empires formed and collapsed, ideologies were embraced, imposed, and rejected, boundaries shifted and identities redefined, solidarities broke and new commitments were made, policies were implemented and challenged together with the governments that put them into practice. If the problems of the South Asian region are to be addressed, and the successes to be understood, it is necessary to improve our understanding of this dynamic region through an interdisciplinary approach. The problems of the South Asian region are ethno-nationalist centered coated and painted with religious induction in many spheres of life ranging from an individual to society and then engulfing the whole region in a variety of stereotypes. Being part of this volatile region the struggle of Kashmiri people has always been manipulated, diverted and exploited in unrealistic fashions. Realistic approach towards understanding the real issue has never been exercised through logical means and champions and self claimed leaders of this unfortunate nation have always disillusioned the innocent masses with their fake slogans and impractical commitments. And the suffering of the entire South Asian region and ordinary people is getting worse with each passing electronic moment. The people living in India and Pakistan need to understand the ground realities and urge their respective governments to end their so called rivalry due to their baseless claims over the ownership of the State of Jammu Kashmir by accepting the norms, principles and values of human freedoms, international law and factors necessary for the lasting peace because the international community and civilized world has recognized the geographical boundaries of the former princely State in 1948. All the ethnic groups, cultural entities, religious factions and linguistic groups living in the area declared disputed by the United Nations is part of one geographical and political unit, whose future is yet to be decided.

The real solution lies in addressing the real issues. For decades people in Kashmir, India and Pakistan have suffered due to unrealistic approach of Delhi and Islamabad. This is the time when civil society actors, human right activists, political, democratic, secular and progressive forces of Kashmir, India and Pakistan should stand shoulder to shoulder with each other and demand for the restoration of permanent peace in the region by urging Delhi and Islamabad to accept the fundamental right of the Kashmiri nation. There is an imminent need for the people living across the South Asian region to stand for social justice, equality and fairness, rule of law, democracy and ultimately bridge the gaps of religious and communal divide, shatter the barriers and obstacles and achieve the goal of human freedoms and peace by accepting the political independence of Kashmiri people by removing the iron curtain of so called LOC.

The ongoing strife, will lead Kashmiri people in particular and the entire South Asians in general to nowhere but self destruction, division, divergence, deviation and finally hatred. Till the stalemate and impasse is going on between the two nuclear rivals of South Asia, the progressive and secular democrats in all the South Asian region should facilitate and urge their governments to focus on the eradication of poverty, hunger, disease and extremism, the common and major threats of 21st century. The forces of integration and disintegration are at parallels in all the regions of South Asia as they are in entire globe. This is the era of resolution of conflicts through negotiations and popular will of the people living in a conflict zone has still a big and democratic say to convince the nation states to resolution of the conflicts. There is no doubt that the nation states are the centre of power in decision making processes in the present day system of governance, but it is also the reality that struggle for the basic human rights, political and civil rights and cultural rights including the right to self determination are universally accepted and recognized values respected by all the International Covenants and International Law. The question is whether the people of South Asia are conveying it to the nation states and International Institutions in a democratic, unified and convincing way or not?

At the crucial juncture of history, when the regional and international powers are showing flexibility towards ending the tense environment between the two nuclear rivals of sub-continent. The so called peace process between Delhi and Islamabad is paving a path for peace and the poor populaces of both the countries are bearing in mind a ray of hope and a faded light at the end of the tunnel. Peace in sub-continent will not be lesser than any blessing after the decades of stress, strain and destruction. The poor masses of both the rival countries must demand for some solid measures taken by their rulers to bring dawn on the dusk of sub-continent. No matter, as a Kashmiri, one can still doubt the transparency and sincerity of the debating actors. Because both are fragile regimes with their own domestic problems and contradictory claims over the future of the state of Jammu Kashmir. Our commitment to a sustainable and durable solution to Kashmir issue during these composite dialogues should be crystal clear that there can be no bilateral solution imposed on Kashmiris. The only one solution can open the doors of peace, prosperity and democracy in sub-continent and that is to accept the Kashmiris living in all the three regions as one nation and to accept their basic right to be a free nation. A secular, democratic and peaceful Kashmir can guarantee the peace in the region. The entryway leading towards the solution of all the problems passes through the Himalayan region of Kashmir and any oversight at this sensitive brink of history can alter the corridor of future of South Asia. .

A peaceful Kashmir will be the key factor in promoting the noble values of democracy, human rights, rule of law, prosperity and human friendship in sub-continent and elsewhere in South Asia.. And the peace in Kashmir can only be restored by the overall commitment of masses living in Kashmir, India and Pakistan to urge Delhi and Islamabad a fact based withdrawal of their baseless claims over the State of Jammu Kashmir with a final goodbye to their sixty years old colonial rule. The reunion of all the divided parts of Kashmir and recurrence of an independent, secular and democratic Kashmir will beautify the colorful culture having the followers of different faiths living in harmony. It may set a splendid example for the rest of the countries in the region and set forth a transformation of political philosophy in South Asia and a glorified name for the 1st decade of 21st century.

(Author is a US based Kashmiri political and human rights activist associated with rights groups in Asia. His major focus is International Peace and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached on globalpeace2002@hotmail.com)

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13 thoughts on “Kashmir Conflict and Prospects of Peace in South Asia”

  1. i think that the issue of kashmir is not only the problem between two countries but this is the missions of english people’s during the times of separation of two countries i.e (Pakistan and indea ) just like a proverb in pushtoon language is a bone between two dogs.these people are ignored himself from us issueing kashmir but inshallah kashmir anyone can’t separated from Pakistan it’s will be the part of Pakistan on giving to kashmir there own rights of humanity at independent level because the majority of peoples in kashmir is Muslim.

  2. kashmir issue is not only the isue of kashmiri people but this dispute is relating to the peace of world particularly south Asians. Pakistani and Indian Governments are not fighting for the lives, prosperity, humanity, fotune, Mortality, or any other good deed of kashmiri people but only for the resources of kashmir. i am a kashmiri and i know there is no solution of kashmir dispute but only the complete independence. the free idealogy of kashmir issue may only leed us to the way of peace and success. Indian and Pakistani Governments are destroying the kashmiries future and we want our right to participate for third option that is not the third one but prime one for complete free kashmir.

  3. kashmir issue is the major threat for the peace of south Asia.
    independence Kashmir is the only one solution of this issue.

  4. I think that quit Kashmir movement in all the parts of Kashmir against indian and Pakistani occupation is a better step and it seems an echo of Nayyar Khan’s above article. Writer made his best effort and produced a fine piece of political analysis for the sake of Kashmiri,s rights movement. I agree with Mr, Khan’s arguments that both India and Pakistan should quit Kashmir, only then real peace could sustain in South Asia. Thanks Rashid, Islamabad

  5. Unfortunately politicians rarely listen to reason and get caught up in their own ego’s, their own desire to be powerful and wealthy. In Ireland, through dialogue between bitter enemy’s, and because the majority of people in Ireland voted for peace, a resolution was found to end the troubles in Northern Ireland. I hope that the peoples of India, Pakistan and Kashmir unite to tell the Politicians to give them the peace they want and deserve.

  6. A sterling effort at a comprehensive analysis of global cum regional politics of the 20th century.

    The writer makes an impassioned plea for sanity in political decision-making amongst stakeholders in the Indian sub-continent. I feel the argument for Kashmir’s independence – though rigorous and just – requires the indispensable feature of ‘neutrality’, which should not only make Kashmir immune to armed conflict in it’s volatile neighbourhood, it will positively act as a conflict resolution hub for Asia, if not beyond. A bridge (breathing space perhaps) between China and Hindustan (Indo-Pak) or even a civilisational/commercial link between Central and South Asia. The opportunities seem almost infinite: a mammoth contrast to the illogical rut that Kashmir was swamped in when the ill-fated two-nation theory brutally emerged in 1947.

  7. Following a very insightful article in the regional and global context by Mr Khan i would like to offer some specific suggestions to address the Kashmir conflict for peoples’ consideration and critical feedback. Thanks for your time.

    1. Open all of the traditional travel routes between all regions of the divided state namely Gilgit, Hunza, Yasin,Baltistan, Ladakh, ‘Azad’ Kashmir, Jammu, and Kashmir Valley. In terms of travelling documents, the State Subject to be issued in a card form by the regional or district officers seems the best option available. Alternatively, the regional or district offices perhaps could be authorised to issue other agreed documents.

    2. Release all political prisoners in all parts of the State.
    3. Withdraw armies away from the populated areas across the division line and in case of India from the towns and cities of the Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) or Indians officially call it “The Jammu and Kashmir”.

    4. Lift all restrictions currently imposed on the freedom of press and association in the Indian and Pakistani administered Kashmir, followed by necessary constitutional amendments in existing regional assemvlies in Gilgit, Muzzafarabad and Srinagar-Jammu to make these assemblies fully inclusive and democratic by lifting restrictions on Pro independence parties and politics.
    5. Recognise the demands by Jammu and Ladakhi people for regional assemblies.
    6. Withdraw all personnel deputed or appointed by the Indian and Pakistani governments (also commonly called lent officers) in Kashmiri administrations.
    7. Lift all restrictions on International Human Rights organisations and media in all parts of the state.
    8. Elections for local municipalities should be announced spontaneously across the state.
    9. The local municipalities should carry out a comprehensive survey and analysis of local needs;
    10. International observers and media should be requested to monitor the process of forthcoming election of regional and State assemblies.

    11. Date for the elections of all regional assemblies should be announced simultaneously with inclusive right of all peoples of the State to participate in elections. The regional assemblies should have mandate for formulating policies and strategies on regional affairs including local resources, development, trade and investment etc.
    12. If any of the regional assemblies wish to join with neighbouring regional assembly of the state they should have the right to do so.

    13. After an agreed period an inclusive, democratic, fair and free election should be held to elect an Interim and representative Government for the entire state. In order to make this assembly to reflect the diversity of the state, representation should be allocated to all five regions according to the population of each region. One way of electing the representations from Kashmir diaspora in India and Pakistan and in USA, Europe, Britain and Middle East can be to allocate certain percentage of representation for diaspora according to their population.

    14. All armies of India and Pakistan should be withdrawn from the territory of Kashmir State.
    15. This interim government should be recognised by the international community including India, Pakistan and China as the representative government of the State with the mandate to represent Kashmiris in all negotiations regarding the future status of Kashmir.
    16. After an agreed period all state subjects should be given an opportunity to decide the future status of the Kashmir state through a fair and free referendum.

  8. Hi

    Reunification of Kashmiris is more a humane concern than political one. Mr. Khan very artfully combined the historical events of 20th century and related them with situation in south asia. If india and pakistan would have cared for the issues to be resolved sincerely, i am sure Kashmiris would have become independent. But it seems that both these countries dont care even for that own people. Nice contribution. May peace prevail in south asia and across the globe.

  9. Yes we do need a peaceful South Asia but in presence of nuclear india and pakistan there will always be shadows of war. I agree that entire Kashmir should be independent if it is democratic and peacefull. Mr. Khan article is an intellectual and thoughtful contrinution. Alas all the intellectuals in South Asia think on the same patern.

  10. Kashmir issue has been nicely adressed in this article and viable solutions discussed. We hope for change.

  11. History is fine, but digging too much into the history is not going to help, because how far can you go back into the history…………. ?

    Let there be some plain pragmatic talking.

    Kashmir conflict is a result of Bangladesh breaking out of Pakistan. After the 1971 war debacle, Pakistani establishment took-up the revange project of breaking Kashmir away from India . Its intelligence apparatus started to set up training camps and systematically train and indoctrinate muslims of different origine in the name of fighting religious war in Kashmir, while inciting and training a section of the Kashmiri youth to prepare them for a full blown insurgency.

    The insurgency in Kashmir started in 1989 with the fall of the Soviets in Afghanistan.

    Indian authority responded by sending Military to neutralize the armed insurgents that already entered Kashmir and to stop infiltration of trained terrorists from across the border.

    The armed conflict is continuing since then.

    The state of Jammu and Kashmir, as it stands today has three different regions with muslim majority in the Kashmir valley alone. The others have no issue with the Indian constitution.

    The Hindu Pandit population from Kashmir have been ethnically cleansed by the muslim terrorists, who are uprooted from their homes of generations, waiting to go back.

    Amongst the Kashmiri muslim population, a large number participated in the recently held polls in the state, which clearly reflects that those in league with Pakistan are a minority.

    Keeping the above in consideration, it would be simplistic to suggest that Pakistan and India end sixty years of colonial rule and Kashmir is restored to pre-1947 status.

    After three wars, only viable first step will be to convert the line of control as a de-facto border between India and Pakistan. The second step would be to (a) Rehabilitate the displaced Kashmiri Hindus and
    (b) facilitate free flow of trade and culture between the two sides of Kashmir.

    This can be the starting point of creating favourable conditions for eventual re-union of both sides of Kashmir in the decades ahead.

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