The Kashmir conflict
For a long time, the conflict between India Pakistan, China and Kashmir over Kashmir region has remained unresolved. Each of these countries claims ownership of a part of Kashmir. Kashmir is a region in northwest south Asia found between India and Pakistan and also bordering china and the Russia.
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Kashmir was initially governed by the Pashtun Durrani Empire during the 18th century. The leader of the Sikh overpowered Kashmir in 1819. Later, it was sold to the Raja of Jammu by the treaty of Amritsar.
The raja was consequently known as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite being a Muslim region, Pakistan was under mahaja rulers. In 1947, India acquired her independence from British domination. This led to the formation of India and Pakistan (Schofield, 2000).
According to India, all the previous treaties ceased with the proclamation of independence. This meant that the princely states were free to choose either to join; India or Pakistan or remain sovereign (Indian Independence Act 1947). Pakistan on the other hand hoped that Kashmir would become part of it owing to the fact that the region was predominantly Muslim.
Some Pakistani tribes along with Kashmir radicals invaded Kashmir with the aim of freeing it from the Sikh. The Sikh in return transferred his mandate to India through the Instrument of Accession (Schofield, 2000).
The subsequent radical reactions from Pakistan and India’s counter reactions resulted in wars which have carried on till today. The major wars include the 1947, 1965 and 1999 Indo-Pakistani wars. Hence, the conflict in Kashmir springs from the partition of India into the currently known Pakistan and India with it historical factors and religious connections being the major driving forces.
The current conflict
The ongoing and seemingly endless conflict has raged from 1991. India lays claim to the Jammu and Kashmir states and has recently started controlling almost half of the territories of Jammu, the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and the Siachen Glacier. India’s assertion is however disputed by Pakistan who dominates, “37% of Kashmir area; that is Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan.
China dominates 20% of Kashmir territory” (Schofield, 2000, p. 24). The territories under Chinese influence are Aksai Chin which they took possession of in 1962 during the Sino- Indian war and the Trans- Karakoram tract or the Shaksam valley which Pakistan ceded in 1963 (Schofield, 2000).
On one hand, India proclaims that Kashmir region is part of India while Pakistan states that Kashmir is a region under contention and it is only the Kashmiri people who can ascertain the final position of Kashmir. China argue that they should be given control over Aksai because it is under Tibet.
However, some Kashmiri nationalist groups state that Kashmir ought to be a sovereign state from India and Pakistan. This constant strife threatens to pill into the neighbouring regions.
The conflict has resulted in the killing and wounding of many civilians. The March 2008 violent explosion on the Indian controlled Kashmir highway close to the Civil Secretariat and the high court wounded 17 people. Armed combat between radical militias and Indian troops left scores dead and others wounded.
It all started when the Indian army, which was carrying out a search for radicals, ambushed a home outside Srinagar. In the ensuing melee, thousands were killed though the human right groups and NGOs claim those killed were double the figure provided by Indian Home Ministry.
According to the Indian government, the instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the union of India was legitimate according to the Indian laws and international law and therefore cannot be revoked. The Maharaja’s Instrument of accession had been formally sanctioned by the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and it advocated for the union of Jammu and Kashmir with India.
The constituent assembly then embraced the opinions of the people of Kashmir. The United Nations Security Council acknowledges and supports India’s position regarding unsettled issues between India and Pakistan and prompts them to settle the issues in a peaceful diplomatic manner, not through public opinion.
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However, considering that Pakistan refuses to remove its troops from Kashmir, the UN resolution cannot be put into effect. At the same time, owing to the permanent changes in the demarcation of Kashmir, the UN resolution 47 then becomes meaningless.
India disregards the approach by Pakistan that the nationality of the people of Kashmir should be determined alongside religious lines and that since most of the Kashmiri are Muslims, then their right place is with Pakistan, not India which is predominantly Hindu. According to India, in spite of the fact that Kashmir is mostly Muslim, it remains in other ways a ‘constituent part’ of not overly religious India.
India claims that her constitution made provisions for considerable self governance. The only way to attain a peaceful deal between the two countries would through mutual negotiations they both consented to when they signed the Simia Agreement of 1972 (Schofield, 2000). India has constantly accused Pakistan for supporting violent activities in the territory.
As opposed to India, Pakistan disputes the Instrument of Accession by asserting that maharaja was generally not regarded favorably by many Kashmiris as he employed coercion to repress those who opposed him. According to Pakistan, India is pretentious since it disregarded the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan and the sovereignty of Hyderabad on the basis that the two princely states were mostly Hindu.
India instead had invaded and used unlawful violence to incorporate them to India. The maharaja did not have the mandate to decide the future of Kashmir as he had taken flight during Pakistan’s invasion. The fact that the maharaja was compelled to sign the accession renders his deeds null and illegitimate.
Furthermore, Pakistan states that India was the first to breach the standstill agreement signed between Pakistan and the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir (Wilmot & Hocker, 2010).
According to reports by the human rights groups, Indian troops, military forces and counter revolutionary militias killed almost 5000 innocent citizens in Kashmir in the period ranging from 1990 to 1999. Similarly, human rights groups’ records claim that over 4000 women and children were abused sexually.
In other words, Pakistan retains that Kashmir revolutionary activities indicate that the Kashmiri do not wish to be part of India anymore hence seek merge with Pakistan or be completely autonomous. Since Kashmir is largely Muslim, the region should have been left to Pakistan and not to secular India.
In response to the UN resolution 47, Pakistan holds that India failed to acknowledge the resolutions when it refused to hold opinion polls to decide the inclination of the Kashmiri (Wilmot & Hocker, 2010).
Furthermore, the Kashmiri wish for autonomy has been repressed by India military hence Pakistan merely offers the radicals in the region the much required and appreciated reinforcement to fulfill their wishes.
The largely attended protests happening lately in Kashmir, the violence that marred the Indian Kashmir polls, alongside the negative expressions of some Kashmiri simply indicate that the people are against India domination over the region.
According to the Pakistani media, violent encounters are popular in the region governed by India and the India military carry out unlawful killings under the pretext that they were simply involved to stop the violence propagated by the Kashmir militias.
Most of these killings are never looked into while the perpetrators are left scot free. Pakistan substantiates these claims using the UN reports and those of human rights groups both of which allegedly accuse India of prevalent extrajudicial killings and other forms of violence against innocent citizen, women and children.
Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to term some movements as terror organizations was strongly refuted. The Pakistanis favored using river Chenub to decide the regions to be under Pakistan. India would also have to remove its troops from Kashmir.
Protests and armed resistance from the people of Kashmir characterize the region. Radicals who are opposed to Indian rule have constantly engaged in clashes with the Indian military. A survey carried out in the Kashmir valley by MORI indicates that less than 10% of the Kashmiri would rather be in India, 13 % are more inclined to Pakistan while the largest majority were undecided.
Huge protests took place when it was leaked out that India wished to transfer some land to an institution that administers the Hindu Amarnath shrine in Kashmir valley. The land was to be used to construct a sanctuary for Hindu sojourners who paid yearly pilgrimage to the shrine (Schofield, 2000).
India reacted swiftly and during the clashes, around 40 civilians lost their lives and not less than 3000 were confined. Accounts from the Time Magazine, during one of the major protests in august the same year, slightly over 500,000 civilians were seen brandishing Pakistani flags and demanding for liberation. Their leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq threatened violence if armed suppression of the protest continued.
The political unrest in 2008 gave the nationalist movements strength to carry on with their activities. Protests continued after some incidents of rape and murder. This was suspected to be the work of the police. Inquiries were made into the allegations but their results were altered by the CBI. This proved to be a catalyst for even more aggression against India.
Attempts to put and end to the strife
The United States has been on the forefront in its attempts to create lasting solutions to the crisis. Following the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, the US government asked Pakistan to hold back on warfare. Islamabad was to stop attacking Indian ruled Kashmir region.
However, Islamabad still continues to carry on with the attacks. Both countries have adopted competitive stances with each hoping to take full control of the Kashmir valley (Schofield, 2008).
In 2001 terrorists attacked the Indian parliament which India immediately associated with Pakistan. This led to in clashes between Pakistan and India, warnings about retaliation and large-scale spreading out of military troops along both frontiers.
Other countries brokered peace talks resulting into both countries beginning to remove their military forces from the internationally recognized borders in 2002. After continuous discussions and consultations, in 2003, the two states agreed to a total ceasefire along the international border, the disputed borders and the Siachen glacier. This was the first of its kind in almost over 15 years.
Pakistan put more force on Pakistani militia in Indian Kashmir to uphold ceasefire in 2004. Consequently, India embarked on strategies to boost trust between it and Pakistan for instance, reopening the road between India and Pakistan Kashmir region and more economic cooperation. In recent times, Pakistan has taken a compromising stance in solving the dispute.
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan spoke on a TV channel in India in 2006 and is quoted to have said that Pakistan would put an end to its domination of Kashmir if India would agree to a number of his proposed recommendations.
They included India removing its armed forces from Kashmir; granting total independence for the Kashmiri, not altering the existing boundaries in Kashmir and a collective operation of India, Pakistan and Kashmir in supervising the borders. He also said that he was willing to abandon the UN resolutions on Kashmir (Wilmot & Hocker, 2010).
Criticism of these efforts
The unyielding standoff between India and Pakistan pose the greatest challenge to attempts to successfully settle the conflict. While India is comfortable and willing to defend their influence over Kashmir, Pakistan on the other side consider this not to be a solution and instead insists on UN backed elections to determine the opinion of the majority of the Kashmiris.
Informal reports indicate that majority of the politicians are against the Chenab formula in all ways. However, some like Sajjad Lone have proposed that areas in Kashmir that are not Muslim ought to be partitioned and given to India.
The Chenab formula advocated by Pakistan in which Kashmir would be re-demarcated along communal lines is not acceptable to India. It is also not practical since the people of the Pakistan ruled region of Kashmir are very different from the people under Indian administration.
They are ethnically different; they speak different languages and have varying cultures which ultimately would not be compatible, spurting more conflicts (Folger, Scott &Stutman, 2008).
Many non aligned parties to the Kashmir dispute are of the view that the UN resolution has since lost its meaning while the European Union concurs that the carrying on with the plebiscite will not be of any advantage for Kashmir while the Hurrivat conference in 2003 stated that Pakistan could not meet the conditions set by the UN for the opinion polls anymore so it is out of question.
Even if the polls were to be held, Pakistan would still not get the entire region since there are other third parties to the conflict who wish for independence from India and Pakistan (Freedom in the world report). With this kind of positions over the matter, no permanent solution can be found as previous efforts geared towards the attainment of mutually acceptable solutions have borne no fruits.
The two countries in dispute; India and Pakistan have taken very selfish positions which will never lead to any agreeable settlement unless they change their approach. The conflict has invited the attention of terrorist organizations that wish to use the ongoing conflict to further their political agendas for instance Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda (Folger, Scott &Stutman, 2010).
Resolving the conflict in Kashmir
It should be noted that the conflict in Kashmir is multifaceted involving various parties. On one hand is the conflict between India and Pakistan over which territory should belong where, then there is the armed dispute between Kashmir insurgents and India over rights to self governance and finally the new emerging ‘holy war’ between India and religious factions including terrorist groups for a free religious state of Kashmir.
A negotiation process should be embarked on by India and Pakistan in order to come up with a peacemaking framework that would put into consideration the interests of the three parties and ultimately boost trust, restore normalcy and lead to sovereignty: through a coalition or total independence of the Kashmir region (Schofield, 2008).
There are various proven ways which India and Pakistan can adopt to put an end to the long conflict and coexist peacefully. Holding onto old beliefs and stubborn stands like India will not help the situation. Kashmir has got lots of productive potential which the conflicting parties should unleash when the focus is removed from borders and protests.
A third party involvement could be suggested but this may prove to be a wrong move. According to the US Assistant secretary of state, there is no need to send mediators to broker peace since foreign powers are likely to be regarded by Pakistan as biased towards India (Schofield, 2000).
Assessing the American position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where majority of Palestinians feel left out and unfavoured in the US led peace talks, doing the same in the India Pakistan conflict would bear the same or worse results.
The people of Kashmir and India would be among the first to reject US interference. In the Financial Times, India is quoted to have warned the US president that it would never give up its control over the two regions and any attempts to interfere with the situation would be fruitless (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011).
This is an extremely delicate situation that requires careful measures to forge a mutually beneficial agreement. Otherwise, the subsequent outcomes would be more damaging. Similar conflicts though varying in objectives, magnitude and ranges have ravaged the world and approaches have been employed successfully.
Times have changed and people no longer endure repression. The wave of change is sweeping across the world and sooner than expected, sudden truths will have to be faced. India will have to be more accommodating of the people of Kashmir. While treaties are binding, a time comes when they lose meaning and when the interests of the people become more important than legal outdated documents.
Both countries will have to give in a little bit to the demands of the Kashmiri by at least consenting to a peaceful and free referendum in Kashmir as it was the case in southern Sudan. This will erase doubt by both governments concerning the position of Kashmir; that is whether they really wish for self governance, or wish to be part of India or Pakistan or wish to retain their current status.
After decades of war and killings, the government of Sudan agreed to a referendum for the southern Sudanese people to decide whether they wanted to become independent from Sudan or remain part of mainstream Sudan. Prior to the referendum should be a census of the Kashmir population from both sides of India and Pakistan.
Consultations have to be made with the people of Kashmir on whether or not they wish to vote. Campaigns should aim at peaceful change. The two countries should aim at a win-win situation in which all parties will give their unconditional support to the winning side (Folger, Scott &Stutman, 2008).
Turning a blind eye to the protests and demands of the Kashmiri or use of force to repress them will only lead to a vicious cycle of violence. India is sitting on a time bomb.
With Pakistan continuing to supply weapons to Kashmir, the ever increasing attacks on India from Islamabad, Kashmir and Pakistan, the infiltration and support of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the slow spilling of the conflict into the region is a recipe for disaster.
According to a report by American RAND Corporation in 2001as quoted by Wilmot and Hocker (2010) on Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir insurgency, the conflict has evolved from the original local struggle to a conflict more propagated by foreign militia, the international community ought to boost its efforts in backing these peaceful negations.
With terrorists’ activities ever increasing, this conflict could be used by the mushrooming terror groups to wage war to the rest of the world
Schofield, V. (2000). Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War. London: I. B. Tauris.
Folger, J., Scott, M and Stutman, R. (2008). Working through conflict: strategies for relationships, groups, and organizations. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Wilmot, W. and Hocker, J. (2010). Interpersonal Conflict. 8th ed. New York: McGrawhill,