“History repeats itself, that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history.” -Clarence Darrow

Recovering Pluralism and Citizenship in Kashmir: Possible Solutions

Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D.

14 April 2005

Remarks delivered at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at The Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, in a joint program with the Henry L. Stimson Center, the only Washington D.C. think tank with an active program for Confidence Building Measures in South Asia.

  • Defining the Challenge:

– Focus : Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK), Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK), IAK plus Pakistan’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), or the entire former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)?
– Issue : Aspirations of people and its attendant consequences as expressed through local constituents with very diverse opinions, and/or views of other collateral stake-holders (Indian viewpoint, Pakistani viewpoint, separatist viewpoints, Jihadi/terrorist viewpoints, elected politician viewpoints, minority viewpoints)?
– Solutions: Land-centric solutions (J&K unification, division or integration), people-centric solutions (democratization, prosperity and human development), process driven initiatives, status quo?
– Guarantors: India-Pakistan, India-Pakistan-J&K, India-Pakistan-UN, India-Pakistan-USA?

  • Recognizing historical key mileposts that accentuated the problem:

– Indian inability to assess true consequences of “British sell” to India to take the Kashmir issue to the UN (Lord Mountbatten was the Chairman of the Cabinet Defense Committee after India’s independence and Pakistani invasion of J&K in 1947 was handled by this Committee of which Mr. Nehru was a member).
– Indian PM’s weakness for completely misreading true intentions of an opportunistic politician named Sheikh Abdullah who covertly used Indian goodwill to plan for his “Sheikhdom”.
– Pakistan’s waffling on implementing the UN Resolutions – it called for Pakistan to reduce its military presence substantially in occupied J&K before India was obligated to initiate the process of plebiscite.
– Pakistani annexation of the Northern Areas (NA) of J&K that did not even register a blip on the radar of global indignation.
– India’s repeated efforts to find political accommodation with Sheikh Abdullah even to the point of alienating its own “pro-India” constituency in J&K.
– Sheikh Abdullah’s return to power in 1975 which turned into a despotic rule that destroyed multi-religious, multi-ethnic, pluralistic balance in J&K and exposed J&K to externally driven vulnerabilities.
– The “Operation Meghdoot” in 1984 when India occupied the Siachen Glacier, which according to Brig. Gen. Feroz  Khan formerly a senior officer in Pakistani Joint Services Headquarters, prompted Pakistani military command to authorize insurgency in Indian administered Kashmir, and first batches of young male recruits from J&K started  crossing the border to receive terrorist training in Pakistan.
– Massive communal riots in early 1986 that took place in Southern Kashmir (Anantnag district) targeting the minority community which resulted in looting and arson of nearly 300 homes belonging to Pandits and destruction of a few temples. Not only was the incident hushed up by the J&K government, but the entire Indian civil society ignored the tragedy (this phenomenon of “institutional silence” was repeated in 1989-1990 when nearly 95% of the Pandit community became internally displaced). The 1986 incident emboldened Jihadis to try to legitimize their authority and influence by joining the State polity.
– The indifference shown by inept political leadership in New Delhi that was blissfully in a slumber to be woken up only after massive insurgent demonstrations that took place all over Kashmir valley in 1989-1990. Initial Indian response was woefully misdirected – too much force in too many wrong places. The problem caught the world attention (again).
– Enter the new “American duo” in early 1992 committed to “finally” solving the Kashmir problem. The time appeared to be just right as President Clinton had reached out to insurgents in Northern Ireland and Israel (they are terrorists by today’s definition but “9/11” was still far away). The American team consisted of Ms. Robin Raphel (US State Department) and Ambassador Robert Oakley (subsequently replaced by Ambassador Sam Lewis) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), who set to implement their own Track-II process to resolve the problem. The 1992-1993 USIP initiative like many before and after it went nowhere, but Kashmir again became a featured story in the American media and among South Asia policy experts and Think Tanks in Washington, DC.

  • Where do we go from here?

– In 1994, I was invited by Prof. Bob Wirsing (University of South Carolina) to speak at a symposium arranged by him. I made two points: sanctity of the Line of Control (LOC) dividing J&K, and unique demographics that placed the Sunni insurgency in IAK in the smallest “geographical pocket” when viewed with respect to other regions and ethnic identities within the State. My bottom line was that there will not likely be a resolution of the Kashmir issue unless we move away from land-centric solutions to people-centric solutions. Sadly, no one listened then. Today, I believe there is an evolving consensus – having discussed this issue in detail with Dr. Michael Krepon, Prof. Steve Cohen and others – that the analysis I presented 11 years back has withstood the test of time.
– Today we are finally seeing a change in the subcontinent. India, Pakistan and even some separatists agree that the immediate focus of engagement should be on people-centric confidence building measures (CBM’s). For some others (including a sizeable number of people in Pakistan and India) Kashmir continues to be a land-centric issue. And yet many feel that there is no urgency in closure until the “trust deficit” between India and Pakistan is eliminated or reduced substantially. For countries that were trading war slogans until just a couple of years back, it will take a very long time to rebuild such trust and faith.
– Dr. Fai took upon a major challenge by reshaping the future discourse on the Kashmir issue and contributing to the reduction of the “trust deficit” by organizing the Peace Conference in New York on 24-25th February 2005. The Final Declaration from that conference, I believe, paves the way for a people-centric approach to resolve the Kashmir issue.
– The solution, in effect, is the process of normalization which puts premium on four (4) key building blocks: peace, prosperity, democratization and human development. The first two goals will require CBM’s between India and Pakistan to facilitate elimination of violence and growth in commerce. On the other hand, democratization and human development will involve considerable inter and intra community dialogue to restore composite nature of the Kashmiri identity and make all people of Jammu and Kashmir “equity partners” in their own destiny. This has to be done on both sides of the LOC and involve all five regions of the formerly princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.
– There is nothing that says Kashmiri identity can not be preserved even when land-centric solutions are not feasible. Kashmir is neither the first nor the last former princely kingdom that has been split by rival larger powers. The main emphasis must be on what really matters to people in any part of Jammu and Kashmir.
– The last fifteen (15) years of turmoil have been brutal to Kashmiris in general and to Kashmiri minorities in particular. It has been a civil war of the sorts as the debate in Kashmir has pitted secular minded people of all faiths against rivals deeply driven by religious beliefs. The insurgency has taken its toll on public psyche and most Kashmiris are in a state of poor mental and physical health. The only lesson one can draw is that violence begets violence and terrorism is no substitute for civil discourse and dialogue. People are finally weary and except for those who materially gain during such turmoil, most are longing for peace and normalcy. – Ten (10) years from now, I see great improvement in ties between India and Pakistan, and increased trade and commerce between AJK and IAK. But the process of democratization and human development on both sides of the LOC would not have achieved its full potential. Thus, the Kashmir issue will still be unresolved, though the degree of impasse would have greatly diminished. But I also believe that ten years from now, the world would be engrossed in dire environmental challenges and students of the South Asia Studies Department will be debating on latest theories of Jared Diamond and others related to impeding collapse of mighty Asian powers under the burden of ecological disasters.

Article can be viewed on the Stimson Center website


About Me

Dr. Vijay Sazawal is a policy analyst and a commentator who specializes in local governance and intra-community issues affecting political dynamics within the Kashmir valley. He has written extensively on the current political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir (commonly referred to as Kashmir), arguing for new and innovative approaches in understanding and resolving the simmering discontent in all communities and regions of the State.


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