The Solution to the Kashmir Conflict -I

By Rohan Bedi. Dated: 8/6/2018 3:23:00 PM

The reality on the ground in Indian-administered Kashmir is that India has deployed one soldier for every 12 Kashmiri (Jammu and Kashmir) civilians - an estimated 700,000 security forces consisting of the army, paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir police and other security agencies - to fight around 250 to 300 freedom fighters.

Let's take the example of two landlords, A and B (India and Pakistan), first cousins, both very powerful, with large families who cause confusion because everyone has a different opinion. In between their lands live two farmers, C and D (Kashmir), whose land has been respectively claimed by both A and B. In fact, they have divided C and D's land with a fence. C and D are brothers who are not allowed to cross over this fence or talk to each other and are told that they have no real rights to their land; if they want to stay there, they better shut up and do as they are told.
Both A and B don't really talk to each other because of their oversized egos, and they occasionally put up an act of trying to sort out the problem without any real intention. They sometimes fire their guns at each other to keep the issue alive.
The question to be answered is: If we really want to solve the problem of these two landlords, what do we need to do?
The first solution is for A or B to kill each other and take over the land of C and D completely. This is very difficult to do because both sides have guns and bombs, and it is likely that both A and B, along with their families, would be completely annihilated.
The second solution is for A and B to split the territory, telling C and D that the fence running through their land is permanent and to beat them up whenever they open their mouths. But C and D won't accept this solution because they are real brothers.
The third solution is for A and B to allow C and D to live peacefully, giving up their respective rights. But this is unworkable because of the strong views of their families and their own personal egos.
The fourth and only real solution is for A and B to stop firing at each other and let C and D live in peace, meet and talk to each other, while taking some of their farm's produce in taxes. They also help these farmers so their farm yield - and so their taxes - are higher. Everyone benefits. This is the only long-term solution to the Kashmir problem.
Let's start with acknowledging the truth that most Kashmiris want independence (azadi) from both Pakistan and India, whether openly or secretly, even if they don't admit this to the media. This is the third (and not workable) solution of a Kashmiri plebiscite under United Nations Security Council Resolution 47, which requires Pakistan to first withdraw from Kashmir. India would also never give its consent for this because it would be politically unacceptable in the country and disastrous for any election, aside from legal issues of secession needing careful management.
At least some Kashmiris acknowledge that this is never going to happen, albeit youngsters cling on to their pipe dream of independence, with many losing their lives in this quest. There is no doubt that the youth of Kashmir hates both India and Pakistan because of the loss of their basic freedoms as human beings. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Indian-administered Kashmir.
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs states in its annual report for 2017-18 that, since the start of militancy in 1990 and up to December 31, 2017, in India-administered Kashmir 13,976 civilians and 5,123 security personnel were killed in various incidents. Separately, it confirmed that 21,965 militants were killed from 1990 to March 31, 2017. However, human rights groups, such as Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, put the number of civilian deaths from 1990 at a much higher figure of 100,000. According to the UN, the Kashmir conflict "has robbed millions of their basic human rights."
The reality on the ground in Indian-administered Kashmir is that India has deployed one soldier for every 12 Kashmiri (Jammu and Kashmir) civilians - an estimated 700,000 security forces consisting of the army, paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir police and other security agencies - to fight around 250 to 300 freedom fighters.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus' counterinsurgency field manual says that experts recommend ratios close to 25:1,000 residents, which the US has never met in Afghanistan. Compare this to India's 59:1,000 ratio, bearing in mind that the US Army is better trained and has better weapons and equipment.
Pakistan faces similar charges of human rights abuses in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, ranging from political repression, electoral fraud, forced disappearances, torture and suppression of freedom of speech. Neither country has allowed the UN high commissioner for human rights unconditional access to their respective protectorates.
The "Other"
Both India and Pakistan, first cousins and nuclear states, are currently in a quagmire of the first and second solutions, fluctuating between them depending on which government is in power and, particularly in Pakistan, how much the army chief or the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) exercises power over the civilian government. The genocide of the Partition and the 1971 Bangladesh War, along with other conflicts, have institutionalized hatred toward the "other" within the government.
This is reflected in the armed forces' and intelligence services' approach, even if Indian and Pakistani civilians get along perfectly well and are the best of friends abroad. It may be stated that the Kashmir issue is an intricate web that serves the interests of all in power and that nobody is actually interested in a permanent negotiated solution in which they compromise on their stated positions. Religious radicalization, nationalism and territorial ambitions have together created a bloodbath in Kashmir.
Pakistan is described by academics as being an "ideological state" that is "persistently revisionist," seeking to acquire territory in Kashmir that it does not need for security reasons, and also to reverse India's emergence as a global power. The army dominates its foreign and domestic policies and projects its conflict with India in civilizational terms in a face-off between "Muslim Pakistan" and a "Hindu" enemy, with itself as Pakistan's savior. It has undermined efforts by civilian governments to normalize relationships with India, including through trade and investment.
Further complications occur because of the considerable hold that Pakistan's army has over the country's economy. The army controls one-third of all heavy manufacturing in the country and up to 7% of private assets. The Pakistan armed forces run over 50 commercial entities worth over $20 billion. Key appointments and public sector posts normally occupied by civilians are given to senior retired and serving military officers. With this size, scale and power, it needs a constant enemy to define itself in relation to. This complicates problems because India's traditional approach is to talk to the civilian government on the issue of Kashmir, whereas the army and the ISI - and even Islamists - run parallel governments in Pakistan. If India does not talk to all the relevant people at the same time, then it is simply not talking to the correct people, and the peace process will ultimately be derailed.
Strong Government
While India's nationalist ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supported by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, a right-wing, Hindu nationalist volunteer organization), are driving the country toward "saffronization" - a militant Hinduism - partly with political objectives and partly in genuine fear of Islamic militancy, Pakistan is caught up with the problem of Islamic radicalization. Whatever the historical reasons for the spread of Islamic terrorism across Pakistan, it is certainly clear that this is a long dark path that will ultimately implode Pakistan. It is not in India's interest to have a Pakistan caught up in the throes of militancy because of the risk of it spilling across the border. There is also the risk that Pakistan's nuclear weapons (in an end-game scenario) find their way into the hands of Islamic militants with disastrous consequences.
Yet in India's history there has arguably never been as powerful a government as the RSS-backed BJP that, for all its muscular approaches both in Kashmir and in its 2019 electoral strategy, has the right intentions to make a difference in India - whether it is on the right track or not is a different question. Currently, its tough policy in Kashmir - through a political alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now in the form of governor's rule imposed in June - has not wielded the desired results; it is basically solution two from the above example.
India wrongly perceives the Kashmir conflict as a security issue and not a political one that needs a tripartite agreement that would include Kashmiri leaders and separatists. The BJP being in power is actually a fantastic opportunity for Pakistan to engage in a fruitful manner while bringing multiple stakeholders within its country to the table. It is virtually impossible to achieve a political solution in Kashmir with a weak coalition government at the national level. Assuming the BJP gets a second term in 2019, by 2020 it would have a majority in the upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha, making a deal with Pakistan easier to pass in both houses.
From 1947 to AK47
It is also important to look at the demographics in India to understand the overall context for a peaceful coexistence between its Hindu majority (80%) and Muslim minority (14%). In history, Islamic fundamentalists have been driven by an ideology of hatred and the desire to convert the "other." However, India's Hindus have resisted conversion through 800 years of Muslim rule. Moreover, the bulk of conversions to Islam in India happened in the hinterlands (and not around the capital cities of the Muslim sultans) as a result of the secular Sufi movement that Islamic fundamentalists denounce.
Kashmir was historically a land of Sufi Islam. Sufism is a good fit with Hindu-majority India because of its focus on love and humanity and the fact that almost all schools (barring the Naqshbandi School) do not require or pursue conversion to Islam actively. Mainstream Islam, on the other hand, will find itself in perpetual conflict with a nationalistic and determined Hindu population, particularly in the hinterlands. This fact needs to be accepted by the institutions in Pakistan (civilian government, army, ISI) and respected in order to have any long-term peaceful solution in Kashmir and also to manage its relations with India.
Historically, the bravest warriors in India were Sikhs who were mostly Hindus inspired by the Sikh beliefs of justice, righteous action and martyrdom for a just cause. The current wave of nationalism gripping India is arming and training Hindus in the hinterland for self-defense against Islamic fundamentalists, creating a new breed akin to the Sikh soldiers of the past. The bloodbath of radical Islamic militants facing these Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization affiliated with the RSS) Dharam Yodhas (religious warriors) head on is left to the reader's imagination.
--(To be concluded)
(Courtesy: Fair Observer)



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