Re­solv­ing the Kash­mir Con­flict: Think­ing Out­side of the Box

The Diplomatic Insight - - Kasmir - *Dr. Nazya Fiaz 11

It is now al­most 65 years since the end of colo­nial rule in South Asia, nev­er­the­less, In­dia and Pak­istan re­main em­broiled in a long-stand­ing dis­pute over the ter­ri­tory of Kash­mir. While the com­mence­ment of the US-led 'War on Ter­ror' has had the ef­fect of draw­ing at­ten­tion away from the Kash­mir quag­mire, nev­er­the­less, the is­sue re­mains, and will con­tinue to be an eye­sore un­til a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion is achieved. On the one hand, while the of­fi­cial In­dian pos­ture re­tains the idea that Pak­istan should with­draw her troops from both Azad Kash­mir and the North­ern Ar­eas; in pri­vate, the Indians are un­doubt­edly aware of the dif­fi­culty of such pro­pos­als. De­spite this of­fi­cial stance, the Indians would much rather pre­fer the con­ver­sion of the Line of Control (LoC) into an in­ter­na­tional border. On the other hand, the con­ver­sion of the LoC into a border is highly con­tentious from a Pak­istani per­spec­tive, since it would in­volve Pak­istan re­lin­quish­ing its claim over the Val­ley. Fur­ther still, the pro­posal would fail to sat­isfy those seek­ing in­de­pen­dence from both. It is clear that the con­flict in Kash­mir is in­trac­tra­ble to the ex­tent that at­tempts at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and set­tle­ment have his­tor­i­cally failed. How­ever, de­spite this con­text, In­dia has largely pushed for­ward the no­tion of bi­lat­er­al­ism; the idea that a just and sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to the Kash­mir con­flict can be ar­rived at through ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween the two main pro­tag­o­nists. Ar­guably bi­lat­er­al­ism is not an op­tion, and past ex­pe­ri­ence has demon­strated the fu­til­ity of such meth­ods. The truth is that bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan can­not work since the 'truths' of both coun­tries are di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed on the sub­ject of Kash­mir. In­dia's 'truth' is that Kash­mir is an in­te­gral part of its coun­try, while at the op­po­site end Pak­istan ar­gues that, given that Kash­mir is a Mus­lim ma­jor­ity state, Pak­istan was its nat­u­ral in­her­i­tor in light of the ter­ri­to­rial ar­range­ments of 1947. More­over, bi­lat­er­al­ism can­not work in a cred­i­ble sense ow­ing to the legacy of mis­trust and hos­til­ity be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan that spans gen­er­a­tions. While Indo-Pak re­la­tions have over the last decade seem­ingly im­proved, nev­er­the­less the is­sue of Kash­mir is a sure recipe to cause hos­til­ity in the fu­ture. How­ever, given the ex­treme im­por­tance of im­prov­ing and sus­tain­ing In­doPak nor­mal­i­sa­tion and cor­dial re­la­tions to both economies and do­mes­tic bud­gets, it is im­por­tant to re­dress the main bone of con­tention. In this sense it is crit­i­cal that In­dia be­gins to move away from its rigid in­sis­tence on solv­ing the dis­pute with a bi­lat­eral frame­work. Rather, third-party in­ter­ven­tion, pro­vid­ing me­di­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, has much po­ten­tial. Pak­istan has, for much of the his­tory of the Kash­mir dis­pute, en­cour­aged such me­di­a­tion and in­ter­ven­tion. Fortunately, there is a frame­work in the shape of the North­ern Ire­land Good Fri­day Agree­ment. The Agree­ment con­sti­tuted a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment be­tween the Bri­tish and Ir­ish gov­ern­ments and was en­dorsed by most of the politi­cised groups in North­ern Ire­land. While the in­tri­ca­cies can­not be re­hearsed here, nev­er­the­less the point is that the frame­work was able to fos­ter gen­uine change in North­ern Ire­land by bring­ing trans­for­ma­tion in the con­flict. An im­por­tant point here is that the Agree­ment ac­knowl­edged the cen­turies of hos­til­ity and ill feel­ing be­tween Ire­land and Bri­tain, and thus val­i­dated the need for ex­ter­nal me­di­a­tion if some sem­blance of peace was to be achieved. Thus the me­di­a­tion role played by US sen­a­tor Ge­orge Mitchell was a clear recog­ni­tion of the his­toric ri­valry be­tween Bri­tain and Ire­land. Ar­guably­with­out such me­di­a­tion the con­flict in North­ern Ire­land­would have not ceased. On a sec­ond note, the Good Fri­day Agree­ment was char­ac­terised by its ac­com­mo­da­tion of a range of po­lit­i­cal hues and opin­ions. Thus groups con­sid­ered by Bri­tain as 'ex­trem­ists' and 'ter­ror­ists', like the Sinn Fein, were in­cluded in talks, as were more mod­er­ate groups like the So­cialDemo­cratic Labour Party (SDLP). In short, theA­gree­ment pro­vided space and voice to all the stake­hold­ers in North­ern Ire­land. While there re­main rum­blings ques­tion­ing the 'suc­cess' of the Good Fri­day Agree­ment, it is clear that the frame­work, how­ever, flawed, pro­vided the im­pe­tus for change. With ref­er­ence to the Kash­mir con­flict, there is in­di­ca­tion, both in pol­icy and aca­demic cir­cles, for steps to be taken mod­elled on the Good Fri­day Agree­ment. In addition to Pak­istan's open­ness to th­ese ideas, the Hur­riyat Con­fer­ence chair­man Mir­waiz Umar Fa­rooq has also re­sponded pos­i­tively to draw­ing upon the frame­work of theGood Fri­dayA­gree­ment. How­ever de­spite this, In­dia has seemed less in­ter­ested in such pro­pos­als, in­stead pre­fer­ring to stick to its orig­i­nal stance of bi­lat­er­al­ism. How­ever, such rigid­ity is un­likely to bring any use­ful change in the Kash­mir con­flict. More­over, while the Good Fri­day Agree­ment rep­re­sents a use­ful frame­work, it is cer­tainly not the only frame­work or op­tion. Rather there can be amul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent ways of en­gag­ing with the Kash­mir con­flict in or­der to find a so­lu­tion. How­ever, so­lu­tions re­quire open­ness and a will­ing­ness to think out­side of the box; and out­side of es­tab­lished and en­trenched po­si­tions. At the mo­ment, In­dia seems un­will­ing to do this and ar­guably, in this way, con­trib­utes to the ex­ten­sion of the con­flict. Analo­gies be­tween con­flicts can be dan­ger­ous. Dif­fer­ent con­flict have dif­fer­ent pro­tag­o­nists, dif­fer­ent sources, is­sues, his­tory, na­ture and so on; nev­er­the­less what is use­ful to the de­bate here is the kind of in­ter­lock­ing, mul­ti­di­men­sional, and in­cre­men­tal ap­proach taken via theGood Fri­dayA­gree­ment. The point here is not to ar­gue for a rigid ap­pli­ca­tion, rather that the frame­work pro­vides a broad blue­print on which en­gage­ment can be mod­elled. Of course, a first step here must in­volve In­dia mov­ing away from its utopian no­tion of bi­lat­er­al­ism with ref­er­ence to Kash­mir.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.