Saturday, 21 March 2009

Kashmir - An Ideological Dispute

Kashmir is not so much a territorial dispute as it is a remnant of the ideological differences about partition of India on religious lines. Pakistan’s justification of claim over Kashmir is that it has a majority Muslim population, and hence after partition of India it should have merged with Pakistan based on the two nation theory that was radically preached by Jinnah. India’s claim on Jammu and Kashmir comes from looking at the state and its people from a different prism.

As per 2001 census the population of Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 10 million, which is about half of Bombay and it suburbs or the National Capital Region of India and amounts to 0.98% of the population of India. Kashmir is multicultural, multi linguistic and diverse in all aspects of human civilization. Religion is only one of those aspects. Population of Jammu and Kashmir has a diverse ethnicity , language and culture. There are three major regions in the present Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Jammu extends the culture of neighbouring Punjab and has a majority Hindu population. Ladakh is the largest of three and has a majority Buddhist population with cultural links with neighbouring Tibet. The vale of Kashmir is overwhelmingly (95%) Muslim and is the most populous region of three. The Sufi Islam practiced in the vale is tolerant of the differences that exist in the region and this tolerance had allowed a minority of Kashmiri Hindus to live in peace with their Muslim neighbours for nearly a thousand years. That was so, until they were evicted from the vale by Islamic militants during the beginning of insurgency in 1989. People of Kashmir valley have a shared heritage and culture which is in a sense different from the other regions of the state. [3]

The difference in ideology that made Pakistan separate from India is also the reason for it to seek Jammu and Kashmir as its own. The ideology of unity and diversity that governs India also makes it consider that Jammu and Kashmir has a common destiny with the rest of India. The majority of the population being Muslim does not make Jammu and Kashmir in anyway unsuitable for sharing its destiny with the rest of India rather it makes it an essential ingredient of the multicultural pot purée that is India. Jammu and Kashmir symbolises the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity of India.

Apart from a cultural claim that India has over Jammu and Kashmir, it also has a legal claim over it because of the instrument of accession signed by the erstwhile ruler of Jammu and Kashmir in favour of joining the Indian union. The circumstance under which the instrument was signed is quite well known. Pakistan with the interest of owing territory in former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir imposed an economic blockade on it. It sent tribal invaders along with regular army personnel, armed with Pakistani army weapons to Jammu and Kashmir. [1] Following the invasion, Maharaja Hari Singh sent a distress call to Delhi for assistance in flushing out the invaders. When Delhi set the condition of Maharaja signing the accession treaty, the Maharaja obliged. In October 1947 Indian Army was airlifted to Srinagar to protect the capital and flush out the invaders. The point to which the invader could be pushed before a UN brokered ceasefire was brought into effect, became a ceasefire line between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

After the cease fire in 1949 Pakistan has made several attempts to alter the ceasefire line with force. In 1965 expecting a weakened India after its 1962 war with China, General Ayub Khan the military dictator of Pakistan made a failed attempt to claim territory in Jammu and Kashmir by force. First sending covert infiltrators into the state and later involving the regular Pakistani military. [4] In the war in 1971 which was fought over Bangladesh, Pakistan opened a front in western India. Following the surrender of Pakistani Army in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh), the ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir became the current Line of Control between India and Pakistan in that state.

In the 1980’s America under Reagan administration followed a policy of covertly supporting Pakistani and Afghan religious militants to bleed Soviet army in Afghanistan. Pakistan under the leadership of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq more than obliged with the American plan to pursue its own interests in Afghanistan. [6] Since the successful US covert operation in Afghanistan Pakistan became an active military ally of US and received military assistance in the form of modern weapons and training for its military personnel. General Zia introduced hard line Sharia Islamic law in Pakistan and religious fundamentalism has been on a rise in Pakistan ever since his reign. The Reagan administration also failed to prevent Pakistan from acquiring technology for developing a nuclear bomb. [6]

Emboldened by the success of its operations in Afghanistan and acquisition of a nuclear weapon, the Pakistani army naturally saw the effectiveness of using the same forces to make India bleed in Kashmir. Ever since the creation of Bangladesh which Pakistani army considers a humiliation at the hands of Indians, it has sought revenge. The armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir began in 1989 with the support of Pakistani army and helped by the sheer mismanagement of public discontent by Indian administrators. It began as a rebellion by Kashmiri youth trained in the Pakistan in the use of arms of the same variety that was supplied to Afghan militants by US. With time it transformed into a terror campaign fed by men preached in religious fundamentalism from Pakistan and Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Over the last 20 years Pakistan has fuelled the terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir with impunity. Calling Jammu and Kashmir a disputed territory has become a justification of armed aggression by Pakistan, whether overt or covert. The Kargil misadventure in 1999 is a case in point. After 50 years of its first armed aggression in Jammu and Kashmir and creation of a cease fire line, Pakistani army tried to alter the Line of Control one more time by means of capturing strategic mountain heights in the Kargil and Drass sectors of Jammu and Kashmir, starting what is known as the Kargil war. The Indian army because of a glaring intelligence failure and failure in vigilance of this region had to flush out Pakistani invaders at the cost of nearly 600 lives of its men. [5]

Reaching a situation of stalemate in Jammu and Kashmir the terrorists and their handlers have spread their activities to other parts of the country including recruiting cadre from disgruntled youth and criminals from the rest of India also. The pattern remains the same. The terrorist elements are brought to Pakistan and trained in terror training camps operating there, and sent back to India to carry out violent acts under instruction from handlers in Pakistan; always maintaining a level of ambiguity to deflect any direct claim of involvement of the Pakistan government of the day. Some of the biggest attacks that were carried about by these elements were the Kandahar plane hijacking in 2000, the Akshar Dham temple attack, the Parliament attack in 2002, bomb blasts in various Indian cities like Jaipur, Delhi, Bangalore, Bombay and Ahmedabad, including high profile attacks in Bombay like the suburban train explosions in 2006 and the attacks in several iconic building in South Bombay by armed terrorists in November 2008. The mastermind of 1992 serial bomb blasts in Bombay is also believed to be hiding in Pakistan, although Pakistan continues to deny this.

The increase in terror attacks against civilian population by the Islamic terrorists has lead to the leading nations of the world pressing on Pakistan to curb the activities of these groups. The US which holds a particular leverage over Pakistan has pressed upon it to act. Indian threat of retaliation is a reason for US persuasion of Pakistan but it is clear from the public statements from officials and ministers from both US and UK that they would sooner or later fall in the trap of linking the Kashmir “dispute” with the terror acts being conducted from Pakistan. Pakistan would continue the sabre rattling and justify the aggression in Kashmir by the claim it makes on the territory.

The role that western nations and China have played in Pakistan is based to their own self preserving interests. Both the west and China have helped Pakistan make a considerable military strength to be able to challenge India. The interest of China is quite clear. It wants to keep India engaged with Pakistan considering that it has hostile claim on parts of India too. China also illegally occupies parts of Jammu and Kashmir . Enemy’s enemy makes a friend. West on the other has used Pakistan for its military goals in Afghanistan in particular and South Asia in general. Perhaps the remnants of their hostility towards Russia with India’s continued engagement with that country and also India’s independence in world affairs makes them continue to use Pakistan and Kashmir is a tool for controlling the Indian elephant. The west sees India’s independent views on issues of international concern as a problem. China has opposed expansion of permanent members in the UN Security Council which directly affects India’s say in matters of international concern. The relative weakness of Indian military and economy allows west and China to continue their policies without much resistance from India.

India’s problems in Kashmir are costing it dear in terms of its own security, both internal and external. India as yet does not have fully mature and efficient security establishment in place. The Indian Police is plagued by inefficiency and corruption. This is a fact which, any ordinary Indian citizen would have experienced in any part of the country. The trouble in North Eastern part of the country and the Maoist insurgency in tribal regions of the country are serious security concerns. A hostile and militarily strong Pakistan has done enough harm to India’s security. The impunity with which it continues to sponsor Islamic terror needs to be stopped. The Pakistani military does not need submarines, missiles, advanced tanks and fighter jets to fight the terrorists it is purported to be fighting in its tribal regions. It is imperative on India to press upon the leading nations of the world to check the military growth of Pakistan. But before Indian administrators will be effective in that, they need to demonstrate an ability to rescue its own Police from the present state of affairs. It is a matter purely in control of the elected representatives of the country. India needs to get its own house in order before it can persuade others to respect its security. Perhaps one might even suggest that internal security and justice to its citizens is a bigger priority for India than external threats. If the internal strife cannot be exploited by other hostile nations then India will be in a better position to negotiate with them.

Coming back to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, the previous assertion of internal security and justice is applicable here as well. Religious harmony is of utmost importance for India to live up to its ideology. Corruption and heavy handedness on part of the security forces is of a bigger concern in Jammu and Kashmir than anywhere else in the country. [2] This is so because of the sheer number of security forces present in the state and the security laws in force there. Allegation of illegal detentions and civilian death whether deliberate or accidental do not help the army’s cause in Kashmir. [2] A combination of getting our own house in order and pressing upon the world to demilitarize Pakistan is needed for the security in Jammu and Kashmir. Given that the support of Pakistan to terrorist organizations acting against India is out in the open for quite some time now, it is essential for India to press upon other nations not to strengthen the military of Pakistan with arms sales and training. Recent statements made by the government of India in this regard are a welcome step. This needs to be reiterated in international forums and during bilateral discussions with China, United States and other European countries.

Turing the LOC into a permanent border to end the claims and counter claims on the region by India and Pakistan is a valid proposition. If the partition of India was acceptable solution for preventing a civil war, then an acceptance of the Line of Control as International border for perpetual peace is an argument worth making. What is needed is acceptance of this reality by Indians including Kashmiris and the Pakistanis, just as the people of the subcontinent have accepted the partition of India in 1947. It is in the hands of present and future administrator of India to prove that the ideology on which the Nation was build will last the test of time and a better integration of the people of Kashmir in national mainstream will take place. To quote Nehru “Let us lay the foundations well and the rest will inevitably follow.”

[1] Nehru: The Years of Power by Vincent Sheean, Random House, 1960
[2] "Everyone Lives in Fear" - Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir by Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Right Watch Report, September 2006
[3] The mosaic of Jammu and Kashmir by Balraj Puri, Frontline Magazine Volume 18 - Issue 09, Apr. 28 - May 11, 2001
[4] Kashmir - Research Paper 04/28 by Paul Bowers, House of Commons Library, 30 March 2004 (
[5] Dispatches from Kargil by Shrinjoy Choudhary
[6] Failed States – The Abuse of Power and The Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky, Penguin Books, 2006

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