Tag Archives: kashmir conflict

LoC: A line that is the problem, not the solution

Two weeks of intense engagement in Keran sector mark the obvious that LoC-a temporary arrangement is not working. India and Pakistan continue to have a different take of any engagement on LoC.


Accusations fly across the divide like volleys across the net, with an obvious difference…the engagement is far from sporting. While Indian army takes the latest engagement as infiltration plus BAT-implying the support factor provided by Pakistan regulars to infiltration bid, Pakistan army chief-Parvez Kayani dismisses Indian charges, calling such charges-unfounded and provocative. While scores die on this unfortunate line that runs through the heart of people of J&K state, while casualties mount, in moral terms the most marked casualty remains the TRUTH!

Truth being the casualty is marked by 30 to 40 persons reportedly making the infiltration bid. The initial reports, as the bid started a few days before Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers met about two weeks back coincided with a fidayeen attack in Akhnoor sector, not far from the junction of LoC and international border between Indian and Pakistani Punjab. Added to twelve or thirteen combatants losing their lives in Akhnoor sector, twelve militants were reported killed in Keran. The ones killed were not accounted for, with Indian army claiming that given the armed engagement, finding dead bodies is not a priority. As the reports mounted on a daily basis with infiltration bids reported from various points in Keran sector, it was subsequently reported that 30 to 40 militants have been killed. However, apart from some seven bodies being accounted for, the rest were speculated to be dragged across to the other side.

Indian army’s take or Parvez Kyani’s stating it as unfounded is what is the staple, people of subcontinent are being fed with. In this exchange, it is difficult to make out, where the truth lies, however the only standing truth is that LoC is the problem, and could never be counted as a solution. Yet, it is often heard that providing a temporary arrangement-the very name LoC entails it, a permanency of sorts would solve the ‘K’ issue. Decades back in Simla, 1972 to be precise, India tried to put it down the throat of Pakistan. Presumption was that the country being virtually on the mat, Pakistan would be in no position to refuse it. Far from that, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto pressed hard preferred to pack and go home rather than submit to Indira Gandhi’s dictate. Indira was riding the high horse after Pakistan’s eastern wing had assumed new name-Bangladesh. Vajpayee in his oratorical fluency called her Durga.

Bhutto had decided the limits he could go to. He had an inkling that he has to accommodate Indian wishes, his daughter-the assassinated Benazir picks up the tale. As her father, the maverick, the mercurial, and the magnetic—Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took off for the Indian tourist resort–Simla in 1972 to meet Indira Gandhi, teenaged Benazir was with him. Benazir was on apprenticeship in the art of politics. Her father’s adversary on the diplomatic turf-Indira Gandhi had her apprenticeship much earlier. Asked on succession by Congress President—Kamraj, Nehru on hearing Indira’s name, said “Indu, perhaps later” [Kuldip Nayar: Between the Lines]. Kamraj took the cue, thus Indu followed Shastri. She had taken her political lessons as a young girl, marshalling her dolls against mighty English Empire.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hardly got the chance to name his dynastic successor, a South Asian staple. However, as his plane took off on the short trip with Benazir on his side, the political pundits were left in no doubt on Bhutto’s preference. He had two sons. The feudal hierarchy to which he belonged has had the tradition of a male heir, however Zulfiqar, sharp and agile saw the potential and promoted it. Benazir was his choice. What would you do if Indira offered the choice of either return of land or POWs? Zulfiqar asked Benazir and provided the answer—she cannot retain POWs for long, so we may opt for return of land. Benazir was getting her early lessons; the apprenticeship had started in right earnest in a critical phase of Pakistan’s short history as a nation.

When it came to the crunch, a take it or leave it situation on ceasefire line becoming a permanent border, and as Bhutto started packing, cool heads like PN Haksar on the India side, A. Aziz on Pakistani side got to work. They put it to their principals-Indira Gandhi and Bhutto that an accommodations of sorts has to be worked out. While Indira’s team had some ethnic Kashmiris like DP Dhar and TN Koul, Pakistan too was not lacking in local advice. Bhutto’s secretary-Yusuf Bucch-a Kashmiri, pushed back to Pakistan administered Kashmir [PaK] in 1947; a level headed diplomat was a part of the delegation. Yusuf Bucch-now a nonagenarian was a revenue official in 1947, he rose to become an international civil servant in UN headquarters. Line of Control [LoC] turned to be the compromise worked out. ‘K’ issue until then multi-lateral was sought to be bi-lateralized. However here too, Bhutto escaped with a rider-bilateral affair, yet under UN auspices, it turned out to be an agreement both could sell to their constituents.

The Line of Control (LoC) whatever it might mean to Indians and Pakistanis, for the overwhelming majority of people of Jammu & Kashmiris on both sides of the divide, the line runs through their hearts. With recent flare-ups between the two countries, the millstone is getting heavier, the strangulating effect of noose tighter. Give the line any name, it makes little difference. The dividing line is unacceptable and unpalatable; call it ceasefire line-a pre-1972 Simla Agreement nomenclature or LoC–the name prescribed in Simla.

Indira Gandhi made it out to be an agreement whereby India and Pakistan would administer the parts retained by either, on a permanent basis. Multi-lateral ‘K’ issue with UN resolutions was projected as bi-lateral by Indian side following Simla–an Indian diplomatic staple. This was an old mantra worked out by Indian establishment, first applied to water sharing between India and Pakistan, immediately after partition. Eugene R Black, the then World Bank president had to go in circles pretending that he is not mediating, while exactly doing that. Facilitator is grudgingly acceptable in crunch situations, while mediator remains a diplomatic anathema. Indira Gandhi’s father and predecessor in Prime Ministerial office–Jawaharlal Nehru had been much criticized for taking ‘K’ issue to UN. Once India had pocketed the accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, there was no need to take the case to UN, argue his critics. Post Simla, Indira thought she had helped erase the indecisive Indian dealing in Kashmir, her father stood accused of. Rider on bi-lateralization, which entailed under UN auspices, retained it as an issue on international agenda of unsolved disputes, whatever the pretensions to contrary. Even the much touted Indira-Abdullah 1975 accord, which had discord inherent in it could not accord permanency to Indian take on Jammu and Kashmir state.

The overwhelmingly dominant sentiment in Kashmir has never been affected by what New Delhi proposes or Islamabad disposes. In the paradigm of dominant sentiment, LoC is the problem rather than the solution. And state of Jammu & Kashmir craves to be a part of solution, rather than be a part of the problem. The craving had Kashmir erupt violently in 1989-90, changing the dynamics of how the prevailing situation is viewed. The resistance refuses to die down, in spite of what is attempted to counter it. Kashmir craves for room to breathe freely in the almost relentless Indo-Pak conflict and LoC symbolizes the conflict. The changed nomenclature has hardly had the desired impact. For years following Simla, frequent exchanges of fire and mines planted on either side led to innocent people dying on both sides. With initiation of militancy, pressures of other sort developed. Movement of men and arms across LoC grew. Militants in search of sanctuaries and the Indian Army bent upon drying up safe houses put additional strain on the residents staying in areas close to LoC, it did not end there. As militancy spread to other areas in the vale of Kashmir as well as the Chenab valley and Pir Panchal, the traumatized segments of the population grew in number, violations of human rights multiplied.

There was hope as decade long ceasefire worked out in 2003 more or less held, however the relative peace with dwindling scale of militancy could not be utilized for conflict resolution. It is back to square one with mounting pressures. People of J&K state on either side of LoC have to bear the brunt and pay the ultimate price, if the existent ugly situation turns uglier. As the situation stands, the noose that is LoC might be getting a bit tighter, the millstone that this line has become might be getting heavier.

Written by: Dr. Javid Iqbal

Published by: Kashmir Times

Pakistan says Indian shelling kills child in Kashmir

The photo shows an Indian soldier near the Line of Control. — Photo by Reuters

MUZAFFARABAD: Indian troops fired mortars across the disputed border in Kashmir on Friday, killing a child and wounding three other people, Pakistani officials said.

The incident took place in Nakyal sector, along the Line of Control (LoC), the heavily militarised de facto border between Pakistan and India, in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

“An 11-year-old boy was killed and three others including two women were wounded in the Indian shelling,” in senior local administration official Masood-ur-Rehman told AFP.

A senior police official in the area, Muhammad Amin, confirmed the incident and casualties.

The latest incident came almost two weeks after the prime ministers of the two countries pledged to restore calm on their disputed border in Kashmir, at a meeting in New York.

A deadly flare-up along the LoC in January brought a halt to peace talks that had only just resumed following a three-year hiatus sparked by the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

Fresh skirmishes erupted on the LoC after five Indian soldiers were killed in a raid in August.

Delhi blamed that ambush on the Pakistan army, but Islamabad denied the claims and has repeatedly called for restraint and dialogue.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory, is divided into Indian and Pakistani-administered sectors but is claimed in full by both sides.

Reported AFP Orignally Published by DAWN


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The dilemma of Kashmir’s half-widows

Most 'half-widows' cannot remarry for four years under Islamic jurisprudence [Abid Bhat/ Al Jazeera]
Most ‘half-widows’ cannot remarry for four years under Islamic jurisprudence [Abid Bhat/ Al Jazeera]
Decked by thick deodar forests, terraced corn fields, apple orchards and jagged mountains, the hamlet of Dardpora tucked in the northern rim of Indian-administered Kashmir looks idyllic.

But scratch a little deeper and the wounds of decades of conflict sweeping across the region open up when its 300-odd widows and ‘half widows’ (women whose husbands have disappeared but not yet been declared deceased) describe the pain of losing their husbands in course of the ongoing rebellion. More on ALJAZEERA

India ends Kashmir operation

“I have given directions to call off the concerted search operation,” Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, a senior commander, told reporters after a visit to the Line of Control (LoC). — Photo by AFP
“I have given directions to call off the concerted search operation,” Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, a senior commander, told reporters after a visit to the Line of Control (LoC). — Photo by AFP

“I have given directions to call off the concerted search operation,” Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, a senior commander, told reporters after a visit to the Line of Control (LoC).

The general said that 59 heavy weapons had been recovered from the Keran area of India-held Kashmir, along with a large amount of ammunition and rations. More on DAWN

India says Pakistan army backing Kashmir incursions

Indian army soldiers stand behind a display of seized arms and ammunition at a garrison in Srinagar, October 7, 2013.
Indian army soldiers stand behind a display of seized arms and ammunition at a garrison in Srinagar, October 7, 2013.

Army chief General Bikram Singh’s remarks were the first direct allegation against Pakistan since the heavily-armed fighters crossed the Line of Control in Kashmir last month in a setback for a government already seen as soft and indecisive.

The men were holed up in an abandoned village in the Keran sector for nearly a fortnight, an Indian army source earlier told Reuters. That prompted comparisons with the Kargil conflict further north in 1999, when hundreds of Pakistan-backed irregular troops occupied bunkers along a vast swath of the frontier. More on REUTERS

Kashmir’s silent rape victims

Number of cases of sexual violence against women by members of the Indian armed forces is much higher than those by resistance militants over the two decade conflict
Number of cases of sexual violence against women by members of the Indian armed forces is much higher than those by resistance militants over the two decade conflict

The government of Indian-held-Kashmir (IHK) has admitted to registering more than 5,000 cases of rape and some 15,000 cases of molestation of women since 1989, when the armed rebellion against Indian rule began.

“Some 5,125 cases of rape and 14,953 cases of molestation have been reported across the state’s hundreds of police stations in the last 24 years,” Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah told the state legislative assembly on Tuesday. More on WORLD BULLETIN

Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker tosummon Gen V.K. Singh over payoff remark

Speaker of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Mubarak Gul on Wednesday said he will summon former Army Chief V K Singh to explain his position on his controversial statement about payoffs to politicians in the state.
Speaker of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Mubarak Gul on Wednesday said he will summon former Army Chief V K Singh to explain his position on his controversial statement about payoffs to politicians in the state.

“I will summon him (Singh) very soon,” Gul said amidst uproar in the Assembly, which saw Opposition PDP storming the well of the House and demanding the Speaker set a time-frame for it.

The Speaker refused to spell out the time-frame for summoning Gen Singh, who had alleged that money was being paid to ministers in Jammu and Kashmir for getting certain jobs done, saying the proper procedure will be followed. More on DECCAN CRONICLE

Kashmir’s future, Fleeting chance: A brighter mood brings an opportunity. Expect India to squander it

ImageTHESE are unexpectedly happy days in conflict-torn Kashmir. Tourists flock from India’s sweaty plains to gasp the mountain air. Srinagar’s hotels, houseboats and cafés are crammed. Jetskis roar over the once-tranquil Dal lake. Hordes of Hindu pilgrims trek, unmolested, to a sacred penis-shaped lump of ice at Amarnath, a cave temple. And on roadsides Indian migrant labourers, mostly Biharis, line up to work in fields and on building-sites.

Amid the bustle there is glee. A father tells of his young children playing in streets that last year flew with stones and bullets. A man in Bandipur, a town north of Srinagar, previously protested against Indian occupiers but now worries more about cash: “tourism was gone last year, so now we need to make some money.”

Such pragmatism is welcome. Kashmir’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah, sitting on a terrace in his Srinagar home, says that almost 80% of voters turned out for recentpanchayat (village) elections, though he concedes that the vote does not signify acceptance of Indian rule. Protests over the past three years led in 2010 to five months of curfews, boycotts of shops, offices and schools—known as hartals—and stone-throwing by youngsters. Brutal and ill-trained security men responded by shooting dead more than 110 Kashmiris.

People would doubtless do it again, if called out. But many are fed up with staying home or getting shot at for no gain. Parents fret that their children are flunking exams; traders worry about lost earnings. Some fear that traumatised youngsters may become extremists, swapping stones for bombs or guns.

The authorities have also grown cannier. More than 1,000 young men are said to have been locked away as a precaution. Many separatists are behind bars or, like the most notable leader, the octogenarian Syed Ali Shah Geelani, under house arrest. The police have been taught, at long last, to use non-lethal force against unarmed crowds. And officials, not stick-wielding security thugs, are now supposed to respond when humdrum grievances—a broken water pipe, say—bring people on to the street. Mr Abdullah, whose hair is fast turning grey, says “our entire exercise is in not giving these people a trigger to start the protests again.”

The wider background may help. Kashmir’s separatists were quick to condemn a triple bombing in Mumbai on July 13th that killed 20. In Kashmir itself there are still occasional clashes: on July 15th a handful of fighters, allegedly from Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based in Pakistan, died in a shoot-out. But the army says militancy is down to a “subcritical” level. And though sullen-looking armed men in uniform are everywhere, dozens of military roadblocks that choked Srinagar last year have been cleared. Some soldiers might return to barracks, easing the locals’ sense of being under the Indian army boot.

Militants and pro-Pakistanis alike are also subdued because they fear that Pakistan is succumbing to dire economic and security problems. The talk is of “betrayal” by the government in Islamabad. When the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan hold rare bilateral talks in Delhi on July 27th, they will not discuss Kashmir’s status. Nor are Pakistan’s beleaguered army and spies likely to restore the backing for fighters in Kashmir which they reduced after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

As a result, India has space to do something on its own. Previous lulls were cues for it to neglect Kashmiri grievances, speeding up the return to protest. Possibly things might be different this time. Modest efforts to build trust are under way, such as allowing barter trade of farm goods with the Pakistani-run bit of Kashmir. That could be followed by letting more people cross the border to visit relatives. Braver steps would earn a response from moderate Kashmiris, whose most bitter complaints concern restrictions on daily life, rather than being part of India.

One step would be to hold India’s security services to account for last year’s killings. If Kashmiris thought the army and India’s politicians were concerned about their plight, they might be less resentful. Mr Abdullah says he expects prosecutions to follow current inquiries. The lifting of harsh emergency laws—both at the state level and under a centrally imposed armed forces act—is long overdue.

Timing matters. The Indian authorities move slowly, more worried about seeming soft on separatism to Indian voters than about winning the trust of Kashmiris. Yet delays raise the chances of renewed protest and play into the hands of hardliners. In April the moderate leader of a fundamentalist Wahhabi organisation, al-Hadith, was blown up as he arrived at a mosque in Srinagar. Suspicion points at extremists within the group, whose following is growing. Thankfully, neither bloody protests nor revenge attacks followed. Next time could be different.

From the Asian Print Eddition of The Economist

A conflict in pictures; courtesy Al Jazeera

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Q&A: Kashmir Dispute

The mountainous region of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years. BBC News provides a step-by-step guide to the dispute.

Why is Kashmir disputed?

The territory of Kashmir was hotly contested even before India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947.

Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act of 1947, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan.

The Maharaja, Hari Singh, wanted to stay independent but eventually decided to accede to India, signing over key powers to the Indian government – in return for military aid and a promised referendum.

Since then, the territory has been the spark for two of the three India-Pakistan wars: the first in 1947-8, the second in 1965.

In 1999, India fought a brief but bitter conflict with Pakistani-backed forces who had infiltrated Indian-controlled territory in the Kargil area.

How dangerous is the Kashmir dispute?

From potentially being one of the most dangerous disputes in the world – which in the worst-case scenario could trigger a nuclear conflict – the recent warming of relations between Delhi and Islamabad has led to less sabre-rattling over the Kashmir dispute.

In 1998 India and Pakistan both declared themselves to be nuclear powers with a string of nuclear tests.

In 2002 there was a huge deployment of troops on both sides of the border as India reacted to an armed attack on the national parliament in Delhi the previous December.

India said the attack was carried out by Pakistani-based militants assisted by the Pakistan government – a charge always denied by Pakistan.

Why has there been so much violence been in Indian-administered Kashmir?

Although in recent years violence in Indian-administered Kashmir has abated, the causes of the insurgency have not gone away.

Put simply, many people in the territory – especially in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley – do not want it to be governed by India. They would prefer to be either independent or part of Pakistan.

The population of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir is over 60% Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in the majority.

The sense of alienation from Delhi is especially to be found among young people in the Kashmir valley, a problem which has been made worse by high unemployment and what many see as heavy-handed tactics from Indian paramilitary forces in stifling their protests.

Although the insurgency today may not be so vigorously fought as it was in the 1990s, the scope for violence to re-surface – as happened in 2010 – is never far away.

While violent demonstrations and curfews no longer take place on a daily basis, this “tinder box effect” on the streets of Srinagar and other towns in Indian-administered Kashmir – in which angry crowds take to the streets often without much notice – is still a feature of life.

What’s changing now?

For much of the 1990s, separatist militancy and cross-border firing between the Indian and Pakistani armies left a death toll running into tens of thousands and a population traumatised by fighting and fear.

While relations in general warmed from 2000 onwards, tension again resurfaced with the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks of November 2008 – in which gunmen from Pakistan killed 165 people.

But there have been signs over the past decade that things are improving:

  • In 2003, the two countries agreed to a ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir
  • In 2006, Pakistan said it stopped all funding for militant operations in Kashmir, ignoring protests by some of the more influential groups
  • In February 2010 India announced an amnesty for fighters from Indian-administered Kashmir, saying they could return from Pakistani territory
  • Early in 2012, Islamabad cut by half the administrative funds it issues to groups that still maintain offices in Pakistani-administered Kashmir
  • At the same time it offered a cash rehabilitation package to former fighters to abandon militancy

One thing that has not changed, however, is the Line of Control (LoC) which divides Kashmir on an almost two-to-one basis: Indian-administered Kashmir to the east and south (population about nine million), known by India as Jammu and Kashmir state; and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to the north and west (population about three million), which is labelled by Pakistan as “Azad” (Free) Kashmir. China also controls a small portion of Kashmir.

Are there grounds to hope the Kashmir dispute can be resolved?

India and Pakistan have since February 2010 embarked on a series of confidence building measures and held regular peace talks. Both countries say that they are eager to end the dispute over the contested Siachen Glacier.

An end to the violence and uncertainty in Kashmir would also be widely welcomed in India and Pakistan – and not only by those weary of the fighting or those who see it as a hindrance to the economic development of the South Asia region.

However, a diplomatic solution has escaped both sides for more than 60 years, and there are no signs of any new proposals yet.

Furthermore, both governments face powerful hardline groups within their own countries who will be carefully monitoring the talks to make sure concessions they deem to be unacceptable are not offered to the other side.

What remains of the insurgency today is led by four main groups: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkatul Mujahideen and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. All are believed to be losing influence.

Kashmir experts say that the new mood in Indian-administered Kashmir is less supportive of the insurgency and more in favour of civil liberties and human rights.

India says that the way forward is through elections: It says that in recent years people on the Indian side of the territory have voted enthusiastically in assembly and council polls.

In July 2012 evidence of warmer relations between India and Pakistan was highlighted by Foreign Affairs Minister SM Krishna who praised Islamabad for its “new mindset” toward India which he said was “frank and candid”.

But problems and suspicions remain. India’s army and paramilitary forces insist that a few hundred armed militants are still active.

Background to the Kashmir conflict: challenges and Opportunities By: Kashmir Initiative Group

Background to the Kashmir conflict: challenges and opportunities

Efforts to peacefully resolve the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir have so far been unsuccessful. The dispute resulted in an armed rebellion in Kashmir in 1989, and tens of thousands of lives have been affected by this protracted conflict. Tensions over the region have also led the two countries to three fully fledged and one low scale war, and continue to threaten peace and security in South Asia.

Both India and Pakistan have consistently advocated for dialogue to resolve their differences over Kashmir, as well as other outstanding issues. Several attempts at bilateral talks over the years have been disrupted each time for varying reasons. While the leaderships of both countries agree that negotiations should be “uninterrupted” and “insulated”, terror attacks in India, minor infringements across the Line of Control (LoC), India’s domestic politics and persistent instability in Pakistan, have cast a shadow over the peace process.
Furthermore, Kashmiris have been overlooked as major stakeholders in the issue and their exclusion from dialogue exercises has led to growing disenchantment among the population. While it is common to hear about the ‘trust deficit’ between Delhi and Islamabad, the trust deficit that has developed in Jammu and Kashmir over the years is seldom discussed.
Although there has been a notable decrease in violence and a shift to non-violent protest in recent years in Kashmir, little effort has been made to seize the opportunity to hold meaningful dialogue at either the India-Pakistan or New Delhi-Srinagar level. Despite the relative calm in recent years, the mood in Kashmir is still highly charged; there is a growing danger that the increasingly disillusioned youth and the sporadic militant activity may become more mobilised. Many in the region fear that there may be a resurgence of violence in the absence of a genuine political initiative. There is therefore an urgent need not only to resume the composite dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad but also for serious political engagement at the level of New Delhi and Srinagar.

The withdrawal of NATO-led forces, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), from Afghanistan in 2014 could present further challenges, and any potential fallout should be considered and managed by India and Pakistan.

The inclusion of all stakeholders is vital to the credibility of the process and to ensure a
sustainable outcome. The level of trust among the Kashmiri population towards a dialogue process is currently very low; a Kashmir-centric dialogue process is crucial to rebuilding confidence in any
process. A quick solution is clearly not possible, but a pragmatic approach building on incremental steps and milestones would be an effective way to create a conducive atmosphere for a genuine and credible process aimed at an amicable solution.
External challenges and opportunities
Recurring tensions
Peace initiatives aimed at a peaceful, mutually acceptable solution to the Kashmir dispute have consistently been overshadowed by a constant threat of disruptions – in particular recurring tensions between India and Pakistan. Incidences such as the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai have very obviously derailed the peace process, but even minor incidents of firing across the LoC can be detrimental. Recent incidents between the two armies reveal how single infractions have come to threaten overall working relations.
A recent example was the cross-border firing between the two armies in January and August 2013. Its impact could be gauged by the strongly worded statement from the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in reaction to the death of two Indian soldiers in January, “After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual (with Pakistan)”. Similarly, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed two unanimous resolutions condemning Indian Army shelling at the LoC in August 2013. In response the Indian parliament passed a resolution condemning killings of its soldiers.
This also had an impact on CBMs across the LoC and other peace building measures between the two countries. The visa-on-arrival facility was put on hold and Pakistani players in the Hockey India League were sent home. Cross LoC trade on the Poonch-Rawalakot route was also suspended for a couple of weeks.

The hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru, who was convicted of an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, has reduced the appetite for peace among the population of the Kashmir Valley and in Pakistan, and has strengthened the voice of those that believe a peaceful solution of Kashmir is untenable.

The outgoing Pakistani parliament passed a unanimous resolution condemning Afzal’s hanging. In response, a resolution was unanimously passed in both houses of the Indian Parliament reiterating that Jammu and Kashmir was an “integral part of India”. Such a sequence of events is typical of the escalatory dynamic that so often characterises Indo-Pak relations.

Withdrawal of NATO-led ISAF forces from Afghanistan and Kashmir

There is some concern that when US forces withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014 Kashmir may become another fighting ground for insurgent groups. Reference is often made to the link between the birth of al-Qaeda and the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989, with fighters supposedly looking for a “cause” in other places. While there is no direct history of Afghan fighters becoming part of the Kashmiri militant movement in the past, the possibility that Kashmir could serve as a rallying ground for Afghan fighters post- withdrawal cannot be discounted. The fear is that this would divert attention from the indigenous “political movement” in Kashmir. Much will depend on how Afghanistan is able to manage its stability after the withdrawal but there is a need for India and Pakistan to prepare for any such eventuality.
There is also concern that the withdrawal may lead to a different challenge. India and Pakistan are increasingly at loggerheads over their ‘competing roles’ in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of ISAF troops may heighten tensions between the two countries, and adversely affect the prospect of a productive peace process vis a vis Kashmir.
Pakistan has voiced concern over the ‘rising influence of India in Afghanistan’. As early as 2010 Pakistani officials were expressing their concerns; Foreign Office Spokesperson Abdul Basit publically stating, “India is exploiting Afghan land to put into practice its nefarious designs against Pakistan.”
India has also expressed concern over Pakistan’s potential role in Afghanistan. In particular there is a fear that Afghanistan could turn into a Taliban-run state, backed by Pakistan – a scenario that would adversely affect India’s security and regional stability.
On June 24, 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry endeavoured to ease India’s concerns about the impending withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan as he embraced a greater role for the regional power. New Delhi and Islamabad should also take up the issue directly with each other, ideally at foreign minister level, and begin a constructive process of developing a consensus on their respective roles in Afghanistan.
Domestic conditions for peace in India and Pakistan
In general there is a growing consensus among both Indian and Pakistani leaderships of the value of resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully. However, hardliners are a major part of the discourse on both sides, and moderates are less visible.
As general elections approach in India, Kashmir has returned to public discussion. Right wing parties such as Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) have a clear line on Kashmir and Pakistan. Although its former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, took the peace process to new heights during his leadership from 1999-2004, the party is currently averse to any peace making efforts with Pakistan and to a reconciliatory approach towards Kashmir.
However there are a number of political parties, as well as a sizeable section of civil society, that are in favour of dialogue and peace with Pakistan. The Congress Party, which has been ruling the country since 2004, has yet to make its position clear given the electoral threat from BJP. But it has not closed the doors on dialogue with Pakistan, particularly in light of the new government led by Nawaz Sharif.
It is also encouraging that political parties in Pakistan overwhelmingly back the normalisation of relations with India and a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue. During the May 2013 national
election campaigns the parties were concerned with addressing issues such as corruption rather than relying on anti-India rhetoric, as is often the case.
Nawaz Sharif’s return to power in Pakistan is potentially a positive development for any impending peace process, given that he had initiated a process with India in 1999 and signed the Lahore Declaration with Prime Minister Vajpayee. He has already stated that he would pick up the threads from the derailed process. Sharif is likely to be positively received in New Delhi. Additionally, two other major political parties –­ the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) support reconciliation with India and a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue.
However, Nawaz faces resistance from the established anti-India lobby who supported him in the election, and he will have to manage these alliances carefully. To engage the broader anti- India constituency in Pakistan will also require reciprocity and good will gestures from the Indian establishment.
In Pakistan, the army and the intelligence agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has traditionally provided the lead on Kashmir. The civilian government in Pakistan needs to initiate a broader dialogue on Kashmir within its own institutions, in particular the army and the ISI, and develop a common consensus. This will ensure that all stakeholders pursue a coherent policy line instead of sending confused signals that impede goodwill promoted by the political leadership. Cohesion in Pakistani policy aimed at resolving Kashmir through dialogue is a must. Again, this has to be matched by some measure of confidence and reciprocation by the Indian government.
Neglected Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) CBMs across the LoC have been a positive product of the peace process that began with the ceasefire in November 2003. While the ceasefire brought relief to thousands of people living along the LoC, subsequent measures such as the cross LoC bus service and trade have been a huge boost to the process. However, there have been no sustained efforts to institutionalise the CBMs and ensure they enjoy more than mere symbolic value.
The Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service, initially started in April 2005 as a fortnightly service, became bi-weekly in August 2008. Following its success, a Poonch-Rawalakot bus service was then launched in June 2006, with cross LoC trade allowed and travel frequency increased in 2008. In six years, the bus service has played a part in reuniting over 16,000 Kashmiris divided by the LoC. These two initiatives have produced unprecedented goodwill and the possibility of personal interaction between those living on either side of the LoC.
It allows those from both sides to have a better understanding of each other’s situation as well as share their aspirations for a common future. Indeed, a number of ex-militants have become involved in LoC trade, distancing themselves from violence. Despite these positive aspects, India and Pakistan have failed to capitalise on the potential of the CBM’s as peacebuilding measures. The two countries have failed to extend the service or increase its frequency, or make travel easier. Indeed travellers have often complained that Indian authorities are more stringent when clearing travel documents, resulting in a smaller number of passengers entering Kashmir.
In July 2011, the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan agreed that travel would be expanded across the LoC to include tourism and religious pilgrimage. In this regard, the modalities have not been worked out thus far.
And although in recent years India and Pakistan have sought to improve their bilateral trade relations, they have failed to recognise the potential of one of their most important CBMs on Kashmir: the cross-LoC trade. This has yet to be converted from barter status to a normal trading pattern. It has also suffered from procedural obstacles such as restrictions on the number of tradable items, and a lack of infrastructure including banking and communication facilities. If the two countries nourished this trade, it could play a key role in reducing tensions along the LoC and helping to stabilise relations.
Trade and travel across the LoC is, arguably, the only CBM which directly benefits the people of Kashmir. It creates stakeholders on both sides and allows greater human interaction between the populations living on either side of the man-made divide. In many instances, economics has played an important role in promoting conflict resolution.

The economic and political elements of peace processes cannot be separated. While CBMs will not resolve conflicts, they can help create an environment for their solution by helping to build trust and good will between conflict parties.

Internal challenges and opportunities

Estranged Kashmiri youth
Kashmiri youth have borne the brunt of armed conflict; many lost their lives after taking part in the armed militancy, while a commitment to the political movement has brought with it other challenges. With little movement by India and Pakistan towards resolving Kashmir, cynicism is increasing among Kashmiri youth. And the more they feel alienated the less conciliatory they feel towards India. The shrinking of democratic space and intimidation by security forces has further led to a sense of estrangement. Meaningful engagement of youth at all levels is severely lacking; measures intended to offer economic incentives have not yielded positive results.
In 2010, 120 people (mostly youth) were killed by police and paramilitary forces during protests; this was seen as a complete disregard for efforts to protest in a non-violent and democratic way. State policies, including arbitrary detentions and the indiscriminate use of the Public Safety Act, have also contributed to feelings of resentment and anger. There is a particular concern over greater incidences of educated youth resorting to violence. In May and June 2013 at least six young men, who had professional and technical degrees, were killed in encounters with government forces. This requires urgent attention.

Indian politicians have recognised the need to bring Kashmiri youth into the mainstream and help them benefit from the economic progress of the country.
However, the prevalence of corruption in the system has led to a greater sense of disappointment among youth. This is heightened by the disconnect felt by youth towards mainstream Kashmiri political parties. Many young people are politically aligned with the separatist movement, and there is a widespread belief that pro Indian parties are self-serving and do not wield the power to actually redress their political and socio-economic grievances.
Resurgence in violence
Sporadic militant activity in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir is a reminder that militant outfits are still present and capable of striking at any time. Public support for militancy has drastically reduced but it has not disappeared. While a non-violent peace movement appears to have replaced the previous phase of violence, the political space for a sustainable and effective peace movement to develop has increasingly shrunk.
Concern over a resurgence of violence is not misplaced. Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, has recently seen some bold attacks on the Army and other paramilitary forces, in addition to incidents of infiltration from across the border claimed by Army. In just one week in July, more than 10 militants were killed trying to enter Jammu and Kashmir. This is in contrast to the general decrease in violence in previous years. According to the 2011- 12 annual report of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, there was a visible decline in the number of terrorist strikes and civilian and security forces’ casualties when compared with the previous year. “The year 2011 witnessed a 30 percent decrease in the number of terrorist incidents and 34 percent and 52 percent decrease in civilian and security
forces’ fatalities respectively compared with the year 2010.”
Both the government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian government have failed to consider that a restraint on, and a lack of support for, political and peaceful efforts may push an element of society to extremism, and that the situation may revert to the militancy of the 1990s. Deep public discontent and the heavy-handedness of security forces magnify the volatility of the situation. To avoid this, New Delhi and the Kashmiri leadership should think more creatively. New Delhi needs to recognise the right of people to pursue a peaceful political movement even if it challenges Indian rule in Kashmir.
The demand for repealing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives far- reaching powers to the Army operating in Jammu and Kashmir, has also grown louder. The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, has publically said, “hindrance is coming from the Army. There is nothing hidden in it,” in response to a question on why the controversial law was not being revoked. It is widely believed that this Act is being used to protect forces who have committed human rights violations while fighting militancy in the state.
The government should allow space for the dissident leadership to engage communities, and particularly youth, in explicit political activities. A reduction of forces and withdrawal of repressive laws particularly the AFSPA and the Public Safety Act (PSA) would help create a conducive environment for political forces to emerge. Stalemate at the political level Despite several rounds of talks between India and Pakistan, and between the leadership of Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi, there has been no sustained engagement. From 2004-2007, a section of Kashmir’s separatist leadership was engaged by New Delhi and Islamabad on a regular basis. Several Kashmir leaders met former Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and subsequently Manmohan Singh. Some of them also travelled to Pakistan and met with the then President Pervez Musharraf. Pro-India Kashmiri leaders including present Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti also met Musharraf. Likewise, former Prime Minister of AJK Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan went to New Delhi to attend a conference where he met Manmohan Singh in April 2007.
This informal process of consultation evoked mixed reactions. While some people saw it as a positive development towards the Kashmiri perspective being incorporated into the process of finding a solution, others believed it was simply paying lip service to the inclusion of the Kashmiri voice.

In the end these meetings appeared to be purely symbolic, and as there was no concrete outcome, the process was further discredited. For example, the talks between a section of separatist leaders and the Indian Government ended in stalemate. While the government blamed the separatists
for not coming forward with concrete proposals to discuss, the latter accused India of not being sincere in even accepting minor demands for the release of prisoners. In Kashmir, the separatists have been criticised for engaging in a “useless” process with “no outcome” to the talks; this vindicated those extremists who had at the outset rejected the process.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks also played a role in stalling the process of dialogue between India and Pakistan, and as a result spoiled the incremental gains achieved during preceding years. There needs to be a structured dialogue at the diplomatic level as well as efforts made to institutionalise
the process, so that no incident, no matter the magnitude, will derail it. It is, however, important that there is a sense of ownership by the people of Kashmir; all stakeholders must come on board to ensure positive steps forward.
Suggested points for action:
* Islamabad and New Delhi need to integrate the people of Jammu and Kashmir into the peace process through a wider process of consultation with civil society and political groups.
33The leadership of both sides, without any exclusion, should be properly briefed after each round of dialogue between India and Pakistan.
* Peaceful and non-violent dissident voices need to be encouraged to come to the dialogue table. Likewise, the Kashmiri leadership has to be more imaginative to put across its message peacefully. It needs to reiterate its commitment to the peace process and dialogue so that the faith of the young population in the process could be revived.
* Pakistan should encourage All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and its affiliated groups to engage in dialogue within the state and with Islamabad and New Delhi, so that a common minimum agenda can be formulated.

*Phased demilitarisation and revoking of laws including AFSPA and PSA must be started.

*Existing CBMs should be strengthened and new CBMs, including religious pilgrimage and tourism, introduced for increased peacebuilding prospects.

*Efforts to promote the deradicalisation of youth should be initiated at all levels. Youth engagement is a must.

*There has to be a broad-based approach so that consensus and a common agenda from people across the LoC can be formed. Intra-Kashmir dialogue and people-to-people contact between the people of the divided region is a pre-requisite to this. Intra-regional dialogue must be initiated to ensure communal and regional harmony.

*The LoC ceasefire announced in November 2003 should be respected in letter and spirit by both governments. A joint mechanism needs to be devised to limit LoC violations and, in the event of an incident, to promote joint investigations at military as well as foreign office level. The killing of civilians must be discouraged at all levels.

Courtesy: Kashmir Study Group
Kashmir Initiative Group Members
1.Dr. Shujaat Bukhari, Convener of KIG; Senior Journalist; Editor Rising Kashmir, Srinagar
2.Ershad Mahmud, Co-convener of KIG; Columnist, Rawalakot/lslamabad
3.Ambreen Gul, Research Scholar, Srinagar
4.Asma Khan Lone, Analyst, Islamabad/New Delhi
5.Dr. Shaheen Akhtar, Associate Professer, National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad
6.Dr. Parikshat Singh Manhas, Associate Professor, University of Jammu
7.Fayaz Ahmed Dar, Researcher and Social Activist, Srinagar
8.Javaid Hayat Khan, Researcher and Political Analyst, Berlin
9.lsmail Khan, Public Policy and Regional Cooperation Specialist, Islamabad
10.Sardar Amjad Yousaf Khan, Executive Director, Kashmir Institute of International Affairs (KIIR), AJK
11.Shafat N. Ahmad, Lawyer and Co-founder of Centre for Law & Development Policy, Srinagar
12.Zafar Choudhuy, Journalist, Jammu
Note: Kashmir denotes the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir comprising Indian and Pakistani Administered Kashmirs and Gilgit Baltistan.

Kashmir Initiative Group

This paper is the first in a series from the Kashmir Initiative Group (KIG). It provides background on the Kashmir context; four upcoming policy briefs will be launched over the next year. The paper reflects on the current landscape in the region and the opportunities and challenges for a dialogue process. The policy briefs will each focus on a particular issue – confidence building measures
(CBMs), trade across the Line of Control (LoC), the withdrawal of NATO-led forces from Afghanistan, and youth engagement – to provide more in-depth analysis and practical policy recommendations.

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