August 1, 2010

India Knows Kashmir Is "Very Big Problem"

The reason for our intensive focus on Kashmir is twofold. By no means will resolving Kashmir’s dispute magically cure the region, but there’s no evidence that Kashmir has a limited influence either. Kashmir is a major clog in South Asia and extremely divisive, and Pakistanis aren’t alone in this belief. India’s actions suggest that it too considers Kashmir a very big problem.

Coupled with the mainstream US media, even the counter media and international media, having little appetite for Kashmir and we’re left without options. The few must keep attention on the conflict, lest there be none. Last week, when the Kashmiri American Council and Kashmir Centre and Association of Humanitarian Lawyers recently hosted an international conference in Washington, Indian media reported that organizers miraculously “roped in a few US Congressmen to plug the Pakistani line.”

The US Congressional/lobby/media relationship with India and Kashmir mirrors Israeli-Palestinian policy. It’s a dark world.

Whether in speeches from Pakistani officials or media editorials, average Pakistani opinion or militant groups, evidence of Pakistani spite in Kashmir is abundant. A recent Pew Research poll manifested these feelings when two Pakistanis listed India as the greatest national threat for every one who picked the Taliban. 70% considered Kashmir a “very big problem,” a landslide too clear-cut to discount.

These feelings have affected Pakistani officials as much as direct relations with India and America, whose officials and supporters accuse Islamabad of hiding its support for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) behind Kashmir. But Mumbai trials and Wikileaks don’t negate Kashmir’s legitimacy, and Pakistanis demand that their leaders to stand up for Kashmir’s determination. How else will they gain the support to follow America in Afghanistan or compromise with India?

“For us the most important thing is the rights of the Kashmiri people - we are committed to finding a resolution to the Kashmir dispute,” US-Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani told the conference in Washington. “We look forward to a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with India on Kashmir.”

He added that Kashmir is not a territorial dispute between two nations, but an international conflict: “It is about 12 to 14 million people of Kashmir, it is about Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, about killings, rapes, torture and mass graves.”

A deep-rooted paradox, India needs assurances from Pakistan that it will cease funding separatists groups, while Pakistan has no reason to believe India will negotiate Kashmir’s status. Kashmiris generally seek independence, which Pakistan likely hopes to exploit as a proxy state. India, fearful of that outcome, absolutely rejects parting with the contested Jammu and Kashmir. The two poles came to a head when the latest Pakistan-Indian dialogue shut down after one wanted to talk Kashmir and the other Mumbai.

Most Indian and US commentators criticized Pakistan for taking the easy way out, but India is doing the same by accusing Pakistan of duplicity with LeT rather than addressing Kashmir’s untenable status. Many assume that Pakistan’s double games sit on the wrong side of history, which may be true, but so does any modern occupation. India’s grip on Kashmir loosens the harder it squeezes. Defiance to addressing the issue confirms that India does believe Kashmir is a major obstacle to regional peace, that New Delhi knows it’s losing control and expects to lose control were it ever to negotiate Kashmir’s status with Pakistan or the UN.

And so it keeps silent, pushing its geopolitical weight on Washington to do the same while also containing Pakistan’s activities in Kashmir.

But within India’s government rages a contentious debate on Kashmir’s response and outlook. Back-channels between New Delhi and separatist political parties, already active before Kashmir’s latest violence, have tried inching the parties closer together. These talks were pursued as the temperature rose in Srinagar, the region's capital. Unfortunately, as the situation spiraled further out of control amid the breakdown between Pakistan and India, these channels held faint hope of producing a cease-fire.

Going on two months of spirited protests, strikes, and riots, India recently declared Srinagar calm after a momentary lull. But yesterday four civilians including a teenager were killed in various clashes with Indian security forces. India justified firing live rounds into thousands of people by accusing protesters of throwing rocks. Having seemingly learned nothing, the next day security forces killed two more protesters including another teenager.

Mohammad Dilawar Mir, general secretary of the People’s Democratic Party, remarked after the latest incidents, “This government seems to have become a man eater.”

And because India refuses to translate its private reservations into public action, Kashmir has come under increasing control of separatist authorities. The arrangement is conducive to new fits of political strife and violence which, in the absence of progress between parties, necessitates further security crackdowns, which in turn spawn new protests and violence. Clearly an unsustainable environment.

Now the hot topic in India is whether Kashmir remains under state control, a sign that Kashmir has already seized partial sovereignty. The last two months ran on the Hurriyat (Geelani) calendar, a line-up of shutdowns and protests created by Kashmir’s political umbrella. State offices and schools opened an estimated five days in July. The Hurriyat has explicitly advertised its calendar with the message that India’s government “does not run in the Valley.”

“The Omar Abdullah government seems to have been reduced to a mute spectator,” The Economic Times wrote of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.

Several days ago Home Minister P. Chidambaram rejected the notion that India has lost control of Kashmir, as the regional government had reaffirmed control of the territory. "May be in Srinagar or some other parts, they may be able to mobilize support and call bandhs,” Chidambaram said before qualifying, “according to the Jammu and Kashmir government, the situation is near normal.”

For starters the Jammu and Kashmir government doesn’t have its fingers on Kashmir’s pulse, and near normal makes for overt political speak. India’s Congress is also reportedly upset over the state's "handling of the situation,” which has "failed to break the cycle of violence.” A senior Congress functionary said the Jammu and Kashmir administration, "failed in containing the influence of separatists whose writ runs large. The separatists are calling the shots. They are virtually running a parallel administration. It's a matter of serious concern."

As of this moment Kashmiris’ own actions represent the best chance of altering the status quo, however high the price in blood. Washington will presumably stay out of the conflict unless it gets particularly nasty; silence greeted the latest killings. And while elements within India demand negotiations with Kashmir’s political parties, the only actions taken continue to be security-related. After appealing for calm Abdullah hinted at continual security measures to break up protests.

Meanwhile security forces are hunting Masrat Alam, the hard line Hurriyat leader who designs the calendar, as if catching him will resolve the factors of Kashmir’s instability.

India’s singular problem is a lack of credibility; few Kashmiris give it the benefit of the doubt. Any crackdown will be perceived as oppression, any political feelers treated as disingenuous. India’s actions have eliminated popular support for a dialogue with New Delhi, making negotiating that much harder.

And Kashmiris surely laugh at Abdullah’s suggestion that, “Lock-outs and strikes only lead to public discomfort and badly tell upon the education of our children. These tactics are in no way in anybody’s interest. These only mar the livelihood opportunities of the poor and hamper the process of economic growth.”

To Kashmiris only India does these things. Their tactics favor their interests plenty, boiling the issue and creating division within New Delhi and with Kashmir’s regional government. Though their short-term interests may be inhibited, shutting down the territory could be Kashmiris’ only means of achieving freedom in the long-term.

India can keep cracking down - at its own peril. But with the Naxalite rebellion killing increasing numbers of Indian security forces, the moment has finally come to address and resolve Kashmir’s status. Such a long process needs to start sooner than later. Preliminary measures should focus on restoring confidence, including a freeze on oxymoronic security crackdowns, and build into negotiations between Kashmiris, New Delhi, and Islamabad.

India knows Kashmir is a “very big problem” just like Pakistanis do. Time to treat it like one.


  1. IMO:
    It is very simple.
    The West including Israel has aligned themselves with India. Pakistan and Kashmir are a tool for them. Afghanistan is a proxy war for India, and Pakistan.
    Kashmir is a reserve target for all concerned.
    Kashmir is a ticking time bomb.
    When maps are redrawn by the victors they never think of the human consequences of those lines.
    They treat it as if it is an etch-a-sketch.

  2. That is all very true.

    It's always interesting how different Kashmir and Palestine are covered. At least Palestinians enjoy media coverage, whereas Kashmiris live in a black hole of information. Kashmir may be cracking India's authority though. Hard to say given that violent cycles repeat, but this time Kashmir authorities have especially seized control. Treat people with silence and they will yell that much louder.

  3. Excellent analysis of the things......

    India is at a big fault at kashmir.Six decades is not a small time to understand that kashmir doesn't belong to india.India has tried every possible thing to curb the wishes of kashmir,From turning down the promises that were given in the 50's to mass killing and massacare going on from the past 20 years.As a common kashmiri i can tell you that we never belonged to india.All my life i have never considered myself as an indian.
    How can i forget the killing of 150000 people by the indian army?
    How can i forget the mass rape of 32 women by indian army on single day in one village in kashmir and numerous rapes like these?
    How can i forget the killing of 25 innocent men in last 5 days?Most of them were shot in head while they were peaceful protesting.
    And just yesterday a 9 year boy was beaten to death by indian army in srinagar.How can i forget that.
    i thing world community is also responsible for whatever is happening in kashmir.I thing US has a strong role in resolving kashmir because UN is just a mouthpeice of Us and the international community repeats whatever the US says in terms of world affairs.
    If Kashmir is not resolved according to the wishes of its people it will have Impact on everybody.

  4. The conflict appears unlikely to bloom as an international issue - notice how quickly India criticized relatively harmless UN remarks. US State Department officials remain silent while the US media neutralizes the issue completely, and the international media, for reasons less understood, also has no appetite. But this oversensitivity cannot disguise the reservations within Indian leadership that Kashmir’s status is unsustainable, which may be the most important factor in determining Kashmir’s real endgame. India can try covering up the latest cycle of violence, but this tactic won’t last long in the 21st century. Israel is learning the hard way.

    While we sympathize with the Kashmiris’ plight, especially the hidden nature of it, what we say is as much for India’s benefit. New Delhi is losing control of the Naxalite rebellion and doesn’t have the time or resources to kill in Kashmir. India realizes, under the hot glare of the information age, that a solution must be found. Will that generate political movement between India, Pakistan, and Kashmiris? It seems now is a better opportunity than recent years.

  5. @James:I understand that International community is not going to say anything about Kashmir because of their interests in India.I think US and the European countries are projecting india as next superpower to counter the threat from China.Looking at the situation in india you can hardly say that india is even a developed country and projecting india as superpower is quite absurd.According to a survey naxals are going to take over whole of india by 2050.Look at the corruption here,look at the standard of living,the slums here, the regionalism here ,etc..........I hardly see india to be fully developed.
    And coming back to kashmir,i thing its high time for india to accept kashmir as a disputed region and start steps towards solving this issue.If india is going to continue with oppression in kashmir,i am afraid people here are giong to choose the path of violence once again which people here have rejected after the 90's insurgency but that will all depend on how india deals in kashmir.

  6. Kashmir is not about the 12 to 14 million people of Kashmir only, nor is it about Kashmiris' right to self-determination. Kashmir joined the Indian Union when the king of Kashmir signed accession to India long ago. There are no two ways about it, regardless of Pakistani ploys via the United Nations.

    The author should know that geopolitics is not about any region that has a 60% Muslim population which starts throwing stones for the sake of self-determination. Even Haqqani knows that this is not just about the 13 million people of Kashmir, but it is central to the future of the entire subcontinent with billions of lives that depends on Kashmir's water resources. Given that Pakistan has conceded parts of the disputed / occupied regions to China, any Pakistani claim over Kashmir would be akin to handing over Kashmir to China over the long-term -- an event which would be a historical disaster.

  7. @Anonymous : Whosoever you are, i guess u are quite unaware of the kashmir cannot justify india's occupation over kashmir by reffering to so called signed accession which never existed.Why hasn't india able to produce that paper of accession to the world?The reason is that it never existed.
    And for your kind information it was indian PM jawahar lal nehru who took kashmir dispute to Un.