During the last days of the Bush administration, many of civilian and military aides to Bush conclud
During the last days of the Bush administration, many of civilian and military aides to Bush concluded that Kashmir was key to resolving the mess in Afghanistan. One reason for this was the behavior of both Islamabad and New Delhi in that country.
It was obvious New Delhi did everything it did in Afghanistan with a view to encircling Pakistan – a strategy it put to work as early as 1950. That is how far back India’s meddling in Afghanistan goes. Pakistan got in the game much later, toward the end of 1970s and early 1980s. It was obvious Islamabad could not afford to see regional powers use Afghan soil to create trouble inside Pakistan. Today, history repeats itself.
There is little doubt about Kashmir’s centrality to regional peace. This is why calls to put the conflict – recognised by the Security Council as an international dispute – on the backburner are not feasible. Even if a government in Islamabad, hypothetically speaking, were to do this, progress in bilateral ties in all areas will always be hostage to developments in Kashmir.
Apart from the question of right to self-determination, the conflict has now expanded into other areas, like water distribution, the question of building new dams on Kashmiri rivers, Siachen and a history of region-wide proxy wars. Kashmir is in the middle of a regional boiling pot.
This is an urgent matter that cannot be ignored under any pretext. To do so would be a disservice to the cause of lasting peace in the region. Instead of asking Pakistan to put Kashmir on the backburner, Indian leaders should be asked to show leadership and deal with a festering problem. The ground situation in Kashmir today proves the problem won’t go away with time. Engaging Islamabad in proxy wars on our western border won’t help either.
In Pakistan, there are signs of a renewed interest in Kashmir. Over the past week, about a dozen or so large and small events took place on the Islamabad think-tank circuit, all linked to Kashmir. One major event was focused on Afghanistan. Today’s Kashmir Solidarity Day, held on Feb. 5 each year, sees a busy calendar of events, including a human chain near the ceasefire line in Kashmir.
Last year’s human chain was probably one of the largest in the world. And young Kashmiris and Pakistanis have come together on a single platform through Youth Forum for Kashmir, or YFK, a lobbying group recently launched in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad. An the Oxford University Press has launched a book, The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir.
Australian author Christopher Snedden told an audience in Islamabad last week that his book cleared a common misconception about the role of Pakistani tribals in starting the Kashmir conflict. His research concludes it was the people of Azad Kashmir who started the struggle for self-determination in July 1947. Pakistani tribal fighters intervened much later, in late October of that year.
Over the years, some Pakistani governments damaged the cause of Kashmiri. In hindsight, president Musharraf’s out-of-the-box ideas and one-sided concessions to India were a futile effort and failed to cause any positive change in New Delhi’s mindset.
India does not have many options in Kashmir. With a near civil disobedience showing no signs of abating it will have to do the right thing eventually: give the Kashmiris the right to self-determination, according to the norms of democracy the UN charter.
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