The problem in Kashmir has accentuated again after the encounter of young Hizbul Muzzahhiddin militant Burhan Wani after the series of protests against the Indian state, its administration and armed forces has put the region in stalemate.
Recently, the by poll elections attracted merely 2.03% votes accompanied by skirmishes with the Army highlighted the grim situation.
- The origin of Kashmir conflict goes back to the partition of India which was based on the “two-nation theory” that Muslims constitute a different nation and therefore deserve a different state in the subcontinent in the areas where they are in majority.
- Jammu and Kashmir at independence was a muslim majority state with a Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh who after initial hesitation was persuaded to accede to the Indian Union when the Pakistan sponsored tribesmen attacked.
- To allay the fears of muslims in Kashmir, the then PM Jawaharlal Lal Nehru did not hesitate to make this a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan in the newly formed body United Nations (which henceforth became a doyen of cold war politics and subsequently affected the case of India) and promised plebiscite.
- The Indian state went further and announced a new constitutional package for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the form of Article 370.
- However in the late 80s and early 90s, the wave of Islamism (supposedly funded by oil booming economies of the Arab world in consonance with Pakistan) has altered the very fabric of the Kashmir society when the Kashmiri Pandits were forced for mass exodus.
- Henceforth AFSPA was implemented in the Kashmir valley with large scale militarisation of the Kashmir, thereby alienating the civil lives of kashmiris further.
Internationalisation of the issue
- The very nature of the issue was such that it should have been settled at the bilateral table of India and Pakistan, but the idealistic faith of Nehru in the international institutions have hampered the cause of India.
- The cold war politics has provided fillip to the Kashmiri problem with the US supporting the Pakistan and its allies in Arab world.
- Indo-China war in 1962 has created a deep rift. China was demanding parts of the Indian territory in Aksai Chin as part of Tibet like in Arunachal Pardesh. It also heralded support to Pakistan militarily and strategically, though not always overtly.
- The strategic location of Pakistan and its open border with Afghanistan has continued its relevance for the western world in the post-cold war era and has remained immune from its sin of fomenting terrorism in India. However India’s surging economy and its good relations with the Arab states has counterbalanced the international follow-ups on the issue except by China.
- Infact China besides capturing Aksai Chin, is also administrating the area of Shaksgan valley ceded by Pakistan from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which lies north of the Siachin glacier – the world’s highest battleground. India fears that in case we demilitarize the glacier, China will occupy it and thus can control the river systems and other issues central to India’s interest.
What can be done to internalise the aspirations of Kashmiris in the Indian project of democracy
- The basics of the polity have already been provided to the people of Jammu and Kashmir by the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which accords special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir amongst the federal system of Indian states.
- It should be assertively demonstrated that the two-nation theory is a dubious theory and Indian muslims are testimony of the aspirations of the common muslim of the subcontinent rather than the failed state of Pakistan. The leaders of the Muslim community can be employed to spread the message.
- The AFSPA, which provides impunity to the army men from the civilian judiciary to tackle the nexus of extremists, can be made more holistic by taking into account factors of civil rights and military’s essence of ensuring It is said that the militancy is limited to the Kashmir valley rather than entire Kashmir, and therefore the Act can be relaxed in some areas to restore normalcy of life.
- The voice of all ethnic communities in Kashmir must be given a credible space while discussing the problem – of Kashmiri muslims who want secession, and of kashmiri Pandits, pastoral tribes like Bhotiyas and Gujjars who want to remain wihin India.
- The institutions of democracy should be strengthened further so that the anger can be channelised into discourse than the guns.
- The government scheme specific to Jammu and Kashmir to fund sports infrastructure can be effective in diverting youth which is born after 1990s towards the path chosen by Parvej Rasool, the cricketer.
- The Switzerland twin Kashmir is a heaven for tourism prospects.
What are the strategic stakes of India involved?
- Kashmir valley provides land passage to the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir which is in the proximity of Chinese expansionist designs. Therefore India cannot afford to lose the territoriality of Kashmir.
- India intends to mark its influence in the resource-rich Central Asian region which again necessitates the solution of Kashmir. Further China again has huge stakes in Central Asia.
- India should allay the fears of Kashmiri people as suggested while making way for Kashmiri Pandits to return to the valley.
- India should dismantle the terrorist infrastructure created by Pakistan through diplomatic pressures and military muscularity.
- Some also suggest that India can explore the option of opening the borders by recognising LoC as “soft border” so that people to people contact enhances, as worked upon by Parvej Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh in and around 2005-06.