Qunfayakoon

Peace within and peace without – Part II The Valley

In South Asia on 30. June 2012 at 15:46

This series of three articles sets the focus on Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and the nation’s internal security threat. The first article will be about the western border, better known as Durand line, followed by an analysis on the Kashmir conflict and the sister nation in east and in the end on the internal security threats.

“Our object should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large. We have no aggressive design against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our full contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service, August 15, 1947

The valley

If Pakistan ever had a case then it is that of Kashmir. But due to dubious involvement and support for militant organizations the whole issue has backfired and come to such dangerous levels that two nuclear powers have had standoffs, reminding of the cold-war era. To find an optimal solution for this unbearable situation we need to go back in time to see the factors which led to this days realities and the optimal future path for peace

When British Raj was coming to an end the more than 600 princely states were given the opportunity to choose either to join India or Pakistan according to Indian independence act of 1947. Most had chosen the side of India, while most of those dominated by Muslims and with Muslim rulers chose Pakistan. Junagadh populated in majority by Hindus with a Muslim ruler chose Pakistan, while Nizam of Hyderabad and Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir decided to remain independent.

The people of Kashmir did initiate a genuine local movement against their Maharaja as did the entire subcontinent against the British. While Quit India was chanted in Delhi, Quit Kashmir was to be heard in Srinagar, and while revolutionaries cried for Azad Hind (free India) the kashmiris chanted Azad Kashmir. India invaded Junagadh and Hyderabad, the latter sought British help, but to no avail. Pakistan supported the local movements against the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and used the Hyderabad incidence as a precursor.

With independence Kashmir rebelled. Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir asked for military help from India, Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru although refused to help as long as the ruler did not accede to the Union of India. The accession was done with the condition of a future plebiscite – a referendum in Kashmir on whom to join – when situation came at ease.

Indian forces entered the region, tribals and Pakistani regular troops were forced to stop their advancements and the borders were set as Line of Control (LoC) when ceasefire was brokered. Till date several conflicts later the border is still at that line, dividing families and people. Pakistan control Gilgit-Baltistan a non-kashmiri region and small strip of western Kashmiri region known as Azad Kashmir. India controls the remaining parts, the Muslim dominated Kashmir valley, Buddhist dominated Ladakh areas and the Hindu dominated Jammu. China took control of some segments of mountain regions in the 60s.

In 1984 the Siachen glacier, a region where LoC was not marked was occupied by India, this provoked Pakistani reactions and since then the hostilities has led to huge military encampments at the glacier site. Recently 124 Pakistani soldiers and 14 civilians died following an avalanche, putting the decades old conflict again on the map. So is the case, India lays claim to whole of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan claims the Kashmir valley including what is under its control and the people of Kashmir is strangled in between.

Kashmiri resistance

The people of Kashmir had originally a non-violent opposition to Maharaja and later the Indian state. Although as the mighty kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah decided to attend elections in Indian administered Kashmir, the people turned towards other more militant movements as they saw the participation in elections as treachery. Especially was the case for nationalistic radicals who fought for independence both against India and Pakistan.

In the 40s and 50s India first under Nehru brought the issue to UN, agreeing to the need for a plebiscite (UNSC resolution 47 under chapter VI, a non-binding resolution), later Indian constituent assembly gave the region limited autonomy where Delhi controlled defense, finance and foreign issues. After the highly controversial elections in 1951 Sheikh Abdullah tried to play his part wishing for autonomy, highly disliked by India he was put in house arrest and replaced by an administration which formalized the accession to India. Till date India uses this legislation as a proof of Kashmir as an integrated part of India.

In the 60s through 70s and late 80s kashmiri nationalism evolved into a committed force. As people felt their voice was not enough for their legal struggle the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) came into formation and launched guerilla and militant tactics in order to fight the Indian forces.

The election of 1987 in the Indian administered Kashmir gave a major shift in internal kashmiri matters. The general feeling was that the election, as those previous was rigged by the state apparatus and the Delhi aligned National Conference. Politicians and groupings previously having accepted that an independent Kashmir will remain a dream and thereby participated in elections became disillusioned.

People started to protest and Indian forces entered the scene to clear up any dissidence and protest. One leader of JKLF Yasin Malik, one of the eagerest fighters turned into non-violence after a sting in Indian prison. His new approach was disliked by some factions, especially those aligned with Pakistan and the grouping got a split. But the scene was to be dominated by another factor as protests grew and retaliation became even harder.

While Yasin Malik turned non-violent, Yusuf Shah turned militant after being a conservative politician trying to contest election for Kashmir legislative election. Shah is today known as Syed Salahuddin and runs the terrorist organizations Hizbul Mujahedeen.

India and Pakistan

In the 80s the situation thereby became more and more that of a proxy war between warring factions of kashmiris themselves. One part agreeing to play by the rules set by previous agreements with India, thereby attending elections and doing legislation, another part wants to be aligned with Pakistan and wants a plebiscite done on that matter while the third is independent of them both and wants home-rule, i.e. independence from both India and Pakistan.

As militancy reached its peak, India implemented Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to conflict regions of Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. The act gives soldiers special powers with license to kill on suspicious of insurgents/rebels and targets. This has also led to local providers of information regarding targets who score points for personal gain. One such is the notorious Ghulam Muhammad Mir. Mir is celebrated by Delhi due to his counter-insurgency in where he tips off suspected target, yet the man is under several charges of murder and extortion without that hindering him being awarded an honor (Padma Shri, fourth highest civilian award).

Indian soldiers are further given promotions and monetary awards for showing results. The result has after two decades of insurgency been the number of ‘kills’ one have on record. Under this law, federal permission is needed in order to launch investigation against soldiers who misuse their power where innocents are killed without proof enough of being militants. In the last two decades more than 50 such requests has been put forth, without even one being permitted.

Charges have varied from rape, plunder and extrajudicial murder. Misuse of power has led the law to be hated in the valley and UN has criticized the act as draconian and one which should be repealed. Federal government has hinted to relax the law, but has at the same time refuted Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers wishes to repeal it.

The increased tension, extrajudicial killings and mysterious disappearances has also led the disillusioned youth to other ways of channeling their frustrations. Stone pelting has become the new resistance and youth gather in streets and town squares to kick back security forces. As pelting becoming increasingly tense, security forces often have to retreat, giving the youth a sense of victory.

The tension and arise of religious extremism has also led to communal violence which groupings like All Parties Hurriet Council (APHC) tries to tone down. Yes, Kashmir valley is Muslim dominant, but it is not the only grouping, Hindus formed a sizeable minority and is a part of the kashmiriyat culture and identity.

Mirvaiz Umar Farooq, leader of one of the factions of APHC and Yasin Malik both want dialogue and have spoken for the right of return for kashmiri Hindus (pundits). This is a major step in order to strengthen the national and cultural legitimate concern rather than one imaginary religious one. Another fraction leader, Syed Ali Gillani wants a plebiscite which in his views will result in an accession to Pakistan.

In any case, the bodies of APHC alongside the elected officials in Muzzafarabad in Azad Kashmir (Pakistan) and those elected in Jammu and Kashmir (India) represent the kashmiri people and their wishes. Militant networks with leaders as the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) led by Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) whose acronym Jamaat-ud-Dawa is led by Hafiz Saeed do not represent the local kashmiri will. Neither does the South-Asian militant network Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen (HuM). The indigenous Hizbul Mujahedeen (HM) might be kashmiri but the way locals are harassed and terrorized it is sure they are not the well-wishers of the people.

The cost

Kashmir insurgency has resulted in between 47.000 to 70.000 civilian deaths since 1989. Since 1948 more than 1, 5 million have fled the valley and crossed the border to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. Between 160 and 300.000 Hindus have been forced to flee the valley to Jammu and elsewhere in India

The military standoff of 2000-2001 where both nations placed a total of about one million soldiers cost India 4, 3 billion dollars and the Pakistani counterpart 1, 4 billion dollars. Not small amounts which alternatively could have nourished the youth which already suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

Just take a look on the budgets of these two countries. Pakistan rationalizes its huge spending on defense because of India’s spending. In terms of percentage, India spends 15-17% on defense. In terms of absolute terms the spending is four to five times higher than that of Pakistan. India can thereby afford budget allocations to other more dire posts which needs attention, in Pakistan’s case about 25-28% is reserved to defense, and that excludes posts as pensions to retired personnel. India’s economy is stable and growing, while Pakistan’s economy is in severe trouble.

In such a scenario, the most optimal is to engage dialogue which gives results. And results are received if the tasks are splintered to smaller step which by time and by compromises end up inevitably to peace. Some major steps is for Pakistan to prosecute and crack down on terrorist outfits at home ground, for India to repeal the AFSPA and both sides to retreat their forces from both parts of Kashmir.

Dialogue

Diplomacy has not been absent. Both India and Pakistan have had several rounds on this issue. But as soon as one agreement is signed another crisis erupts and all effort goes in vain. Fresh to mind is the Sharif-Vajpayee love story only to be quashed by Kargil offensive, and the Musharraf-Manmohan agreement only to be set aside by Delhi parliament and Mumbai attacks.

In the whole bloody mess, if the incentives for peace are lined up those wishing for conflict will reduce dramatically on both sides. When looking at the Indo-Pak trade the numbers has grown over the years, but Pakistan has been the one benefitting the least from this. In 2004-05 Pakistan exported for 288 mill US dollars to India, while India exported 547 mill dollars. In 2008-09 the Pakistani export was 320 mill dollars while India had increased to staggering 1.914 mill dollars. Numbers might sound high but in terms of percentages of the overall Indian export only 1 % goes to Pakistan, the same number is 1, 7% when it comes to Pakistan. Of the imports Pakistan makes, 6 % has its origin from India, while India imports 0, 12% from Pakistan. These numbers are artificially low as black market economy is also present.

Recent meetings with both sister nations have signaled a planned increase in trade to 6 billion dollars in the following years. Further, Pakistan has granted India the status of Most Favored Nation, a position India had granted such a status to Pakistan in 1996. Such a major step from Islamabad could only have happened because the military command agreed to it, and that there has come a major shift in the notion of what national interest really is.

No matter how dear it is for Kashmiri people to have a final plebiscite where they can choose independence seems as it must remain a unrealistic dream. Neither India, nor Pakistan will respect any plebiscite which will grant Kashmir its freedom, for that both nations have integrated their parts too much into their constitutions and state. Kashmiri people themselves do realize it and would be more than happy to be on the dialogue table with India and Pakistan. In the end of the day, the only possible solution is to make the LoC a permanent international border.

Such an approach is not accepted for conservative die hard nationalists in India or Pakistan. But if these voices are cared for, then we are at risk fighting a war for decades still to come, which in turn will have the need for placing military outposts in no-man’s land, where no grass can grow and the risk of a new avalanche is always imminent.

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  1. Usman, i see this as a cute attempt in rationalizing India’s terror in the valley. Having engaged with the Kashmiri people, legitimizing their occupation is simply unacceptable to them. They are open to cross-LOC initiatives which will lessen their burden and move their freedom movement forward. Temporary compulsions are not long-term solutions. The measures of free movement etc. can easily be done pending a final political, and democratic, solution to Kashmir.

    • I will not describe it as any cute attempt to justify occupation. Kashmiris has uffered the most, and will be those who suffer most from a unresolved dispute. Facts on ground for both nations and how in the long term if unresolved it will damage Pakistan even more. Opening trade routes, free movement and demilitarization is part of process to final solution, but solution is not going to be anything other than a permanent settlement of the LOC, sadly.

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