The past sixty years of India and Pakistan’s existence has been defined by their dispute over Kashmir –” a ‘space of desire’ over which Pakistani and Indian nationalisms collide; both claiming it to be an integral part of their territory. This bitterness has ensued through long spells of the Cold War, cold peace and the four wars that have divided Kashmir across the Line of Control (LoC) with the majority of territory with India; and Pakistan and China controlling two-fifths and one-sixth respectively. There have been many attempts in the past to break the deadlock, but due to political considerations and trust deficit aided by various geo-political configurations, not much progress was made. Although the India-Pakistan relations had not reached a ‘hurting stalemate’, the aftermath of 9/11 seemed to have created the ‘ripe moment’ for a peace process. In light of new geo-political realities, Pakistan not only had to give up its military assistance to the Kashmiri resistance fighters, but also to abandon its support for the UN Resolutions that called for the right to self determination. Similarly, India had to accept that it cannot crush the Kashmiris through military means and had to abandon its ideas of launching a war against Pakistan under the pretext of ‘War on Terror’ or ‘cross border terrorism’ as a means to pacify Kashmiri rebellion.
The stated aim of this peace process reflects the ambivalence of economic concerns pushed by the neo-liberal economic agenda, but there are other reasons and motivations as well. Primary among them being the realistic thinking pushed by the overt nuclearisation that the outcome of any military engagement would be uncertain and hence disastrous for both sides. Also the peace process is being pursued with an aim to gain international influence and legitimacy as both the countries try to portray a liberal and peaceful image abroad.
If Kashmir gave rise to wars and acrimony, it has now prompted the two countries to start a peace process that is deemed as ‘irreversible’. This has resulted in a greater movement of people across the two regions with the talk of allowing trade and further easing control in order to make current borders ‘irrelevant’. Though the Kashmir problem is far from being solved, the thaw that the ‘peace process’ has ensued is allowing India and Pakistan to discard past political linkages and revive old and shared historical and cultural links. The main argument of this essay is that Kashmir is central to the India-Pakistan relationship, but as the new linkages are formed and historical and cultural roots of the past revived and strengthened, the core Kashmir problem is slowly moving towards periphery. The cooling of tempers on Kashmir has allowed both the countries to pursue profitable engagements in trade and commerce, which is in turn pushing Kashmir to further margins. However, I further argue that this optimism cannot be self-sustaining unless the Kashmir issue is addressed and solved comprehensively as there still remains a large trust deficit, particularly in the security arena. Amid the talks of peace and business, both countries continue to spend massive amounts on defence and routinely carry out nuclear capable missile tests, signifying that the peace process cannot reach maturity and erase chances of future confrontation unless the core issue of Kashmir is solved.
India and Pakistan have a long history of conflicts and wars since 1947. They have fought four wars –” 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999. All but the 1971 war was fought on Kashmir and it is widely believed that the Kashmir problem is the ‘major cause as well as effect of the tensions between the two countries’ (Puri, 2008:100). The massive public rebellion and insurgency in Kashmir in the late 80s pitched India and Pakistan against each other not only at the popular political level, but ideologically also, raising the mutual mistrust and hostilities to unprecedented levels. This is not to deny that there have been ‘over 100 pacts, joint communiquÃ©s and agreements between the two countries.’ (Ahmad, R;2006:10), with resolution to ‘the Indus Waters dispute in 1960 and the Rann of Kutch dispute in 1968 through negotiations, [but] there was no agreed mechanism to navigate their enduring conflictual relationship.’ (Misra, 2007:506).
The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the end of the Cold War necessitated a change in thinking. While ‘there was a discernible plunge in US interest in Pakistan on the one hand and growing warmth in relations with India on the other’ (Misra, 2007:508), India was also increasingly willing to negotiate with Pakistan as it had failed to crush the rebellion in Kashmir despite engaging more than half a million troops. Besides, ‘the conventional wisdom that one cannot chose neighbours and therefore must learn to live with them had begun to shape India and Pakistan’s foreign policy formulations.’ (Misra, 2007:508).
Taking the lead, the Pakistani government led by Nawaz Sharif initiated dialogue that saw the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries meeting for the first talks in three years in April 1997. The meeting was described as friendly although ‘Kashmir topped the list with Pakistan insisting that Kashmir is the core of their problem and must be addressed first, but India contended that because Kashmir is the toughest issue, it should be dealt with later so progress can be made on easier matters’ (CNN, 1997).
A marked shift in the relations came when ‘in May 1997, in MalÃ©, capital of the Maldives, on the sidelines of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif mooted the idea of a structured dialogue or the CDP [Composite Dialogue Process]…Based on a compromise approach, the peace process enabled the two countries to discuss all issues including J&K [Jammu and Kashmir], simultaneously. In other words, the peace process discarded the ‘Kashmir first’ approach and followed a ‘middle-path’ wherein progress on all issues was possible simultaneously. It was a compromise in the sense that India agreed to include Kashmir in the agenda for talks, Pakistan relented to include terrorism, the two major irritants in bilateral relations’ (Misra, 2007:507).
The dialogue process was itself a great achievement and warmed up the mood, but it could not go far due to a weak Indian government. A political crisis ended the government, and in March 1998, the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was known for its anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric, came to power, raising tensions. Barely a month in office, in May 1998, the new government conducted five underground nuclear tests, destroying any trust that was built since the MalÃ© meetings. The crisis brought years of nuclear competition into open with the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee making loud and hostile remarks that India needed nuclear weapons to prevent what it called ‘military adventurism by…Pakistan’ (CNN, 1998). The Indian Home Minister LK Advani also said that ‘India intended to adopt a ”pro-active” military policy in Kashmir, including ”hot pursuit” of Pakistan-backed insurgents operating across the cease-fire line (Burns, 1998.b). This was followed by a series of statements by various Indian leaders that were ‘read as threatening a military attack on Pakistan’ (Burns, 1998.a). The Indian statements were so provocative that it looked as if a war was imminent. ‘India’s Ambassador to Pakistan was summoned to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry to be told that Pakistan intelligence agencies had picked up signs of an imminent Indian attack on Pakistan’s nuclear installations’ (Burns, 1998.a). Finally, when Pakistan retaliated with its own nuclear blasts and claimed to have ‘evened the score’, the Indian officials continued their provocative speak. ‘Some official [Indian] statements belittled Pakistan’s first tests…India’s Defense Minister…described Pakistan’s blasts as ”Ping-Pong balls,” crude atom bombs of the kind the United States dropped on Hiroshima, not the more powerful and sophisticated hydrogen bomb that India said it detonated’ (Ibid.).
The nuclear blasts attracted huge international condemnation and economic sanctions. After initial jubilation, there was a security rethink as the previous policies with unilateral security framework became untenable (Hussain, 2006:410). The growing calls in both countries stressed the need to move away ‘from a confrontationist approach towards a policy of engagement and address pending disputes in a peaceful and negotiated manner’ (Misra, 2007:508) in order to achieve assured mutual survival. Therefore, when Nawaz Sharif while announcing his country’s nuclear blasts offered talks, India accepted the offer and the Indian leaders had to tone down their rhetoric. This culminated in Atal Bihari Vajpayee taking a bus journey to Lahore in February 1999 that resulted in the Lahore Declaration that stressed for a peaceful and bilateral resolution of all the problems.
However, this optimism turned short lived ‘as Pakistan Army provoked escalation in Kargil along the LoC as they along with Kashmiri resistance militants infiltrated into Indian positions. This led to a war that took place between May and July 1999’ (Puri, 2008:100-101). Although the international pressure forced Pakistan to abandon Indian positions, it effectively buried the dialogue process with Vajpayee famously saying that his Lahore bus was dumped at Kargil. The Kargil episode reinforced two things: sanctity of the LoC that was in India’s favour and Kashmir being viewed as a nuclear flash point and hence calls for its resolution. This went in favour of the Kashmiri resistance and Pakistan.
In the aftermath of Kargil, the Indian government hardened its position and categorically refused any dialogue with Pakistan. This led to a stalemate that continued for nearly two years. In order to clear the hostile air, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in summer 2001 ‘proposed a “reciprocal action plan” to New Delhi as a first step to diffuse tensions between them and to promote peace. While calling upon India to stop atrocities in India-held Kashmir, it said “Pakistan might recommend to the freedom fighters to moderate their indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir”‘ (Hussain, 2007-08:7). Owing to the international pressure, Atal Bihari Vajpayee invited Pervez Musharraf for talks to Agra in July 2001. Although the summit failed ‘to produce a tangible outcome, but the draft Agra Declaration that both sides considered issuing at the end of their historic meeting clearly stated that “settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue would pave the way for normalisation of relations between the two countries”‘ (Ibid.). However, the failure of the summit added to bitterness with the Vajpayee government, under the pressure from Hindu fundamentalists, upping the ante and accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism and hence ruling out any talks until the ‘cross border terrorism’ was stopped. Pakistan responded by calling an end to the Indian ‘state terrorism’ in Kashmir.
9/11 –” ‘The Ripe Movement’?
The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was one of uncertainty for Pakistan as it was deeply involved in Afghanistan and felt threatened for its own survival. Initially, India was hoping to draw the world attention towards the Pakistani involvement in ‘cross-border terrorism’ as ‘right wing agenda of national security, nationalism, anti-Pakistan/Muslim sentiments…acquired a new legitimacy’. (Singh, undated: 1). The Indian Defence Minister even accused Pakistan’s indirect involvement in 9/11 and in veiled terms called for the US military action against it (Excelsior, 2001). But as Pakistan took a U-turn and joined the ‘War on Terror’ against Taliban, Indian expectation for the Western support for its own military campaign against Pakistan proved futile. Pakistan also failed in its attempts to seek Western support for Kashmir in lieu of its joining the War on Terror. In the ensuing confusion, the Kashmiri resistance militants also increased their activities to keep the international focus on Kashmir converged. The alleged militant attack outside the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in early October 2001 raised tensions and the Indian government threatened to attack and destroy ‘terrorist camps’ inside Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. As the US was trying to cool down the tempers, alleged terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in December 2001. The Pakistani or Kashmiri involvement was never proven, but the attack provoked the Indian government and it ‘launched its biggest ever peacetime mobilisation of forces on Pakistan’s border called Operation Parakram’ (Puri, 2008:101). Pakistan responded with its own troop mobilisation and, in May 2002, war seemed like a distinct possibility. ‘Faced with the nightmare scenario of an India-Pakistan shooting war turning into a nuclear conflagration –” with devastating consequences for the region and the American anti-terror campaign against Al-Qaeda –” Washington exerted intense diplomatic pressure on New Delhi and Islamabad, asking them to pull back from the precipice’ (Hussain, 2006:410).
In June 2002, after months of brinkmanship, both the countries agreed to pull their troops back. While India realised that there was not much world support for its own ‘war on terror’ and ‘hot pursuit’, Pakistan had to come to terms with the changed worldview and abandon its support for the Kashmiri militants as well as linkage politics –” linking solution to the Kashmir problem with its progress in relations with India. Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri described the shift as ‘confrontational mode of the subcontinent being rolled back in the face of ground realities of today’s turbulent world'(Ahmad, S; 2007). This could perhaps be described as what Zartman (2006) calls the ‘ripe moment’ which in this case was created by the active influence of outside powers, particularly the US. This ‘ripe moment’ advanced the constituency of peace and strengthened it at the cost of those who sought a perpetual confrontation for either their personal or ultra-nationalistic goals.
New Phase of the Peace Process ‘A new era of peace began…after Pakistan declared a ceasefire on the LoC in November 2003 and India reciprocated. It was followed by talks between Vajpayee and Musharraf on the sidelines of the SAARC conference in Islamabad in January 2004 when the two leaders agreed to start a composite dialogue on all contentious issues, including Kashmir’ (Puri, 2008:101). President Musharraf pledged that ‘he would not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner. This statement was meant to mollify New Delhi’s concerns relating to the issue of alleged “cross-border” infiltration from Pakistan’ (Hussain, 2006: 412).
Since its resumption in February 2004, the India-Pakistan ‘composite dialogue’ commonly known as ‘peace process’ has had four rounds with preparations for the fifth round under way. Both the countries have made some Kashmir specific measures like cease-fire along the LoC that has brought relief to thousands of villagers on both the sides, as well as allowing greater movement of people between the divided regions including leaders of both the parts of Kashmir.
The latest dialogue has been described as ‘the most vibrant epoch in India-Pakistan détente’ (Matoo et al, 2007:vii) that is different from previous engagements. Many have termed the process as ‘irreversible’, as it has withstood terrorist bombings of July 2006 and of the Samjhauta Express in February 2007. After the Samjhauta Express bombing in which more than 50 Pakistani civilians were killed, Pakistan refused demands to freeze talks saying that it would be tantamount to falling into the trap of terrorists. This has strengthened the feeling that India-Pakistan relations have matured and the dialogue process has reached ‘a level of self-sustainability’ (Ibid, viii). In a sense, the peace process has shown its irreversible character as it has continued through various changes in the governments in both countries- from a Hindu fundamentalist BJP government to a secular coalition led by the Congress party in India; and from a military dictatorship to a broad based secular democratic government in Pakistan.
Although ‘India and Pakistan did not seem to have reached a mutually hurting stalemate which is regarded as a key element in conflict resolution theories, and pushes parties into negotiating a compromise solution’ (Misra, 2007:507), there are many motivations for both the countries to lower their hostilities and engage in a peace process. The economic liberalisation and overt nuclearisation exhibited the deficiencies of their respective positions and 9/11 not only crystallized those anomalies, but also proved a convenient faÃ§ade for a change. This followed ‘a significant increase in the numbers of analysts, academics, research scholars and policy-makers in both countries who have argued that all issues can be resolved through peaceful negotiations and not by coercion and confrontation. Viewed in this way, the peace-process was indispensable for both sides’ (Ibid.:509).
The overt nuclearisation prompted first serious calls for engagement; from ensuring mutual survival to ‘display responsible nuclear custodianship’ (Hussain, 2007-08:8). The threat of a nuclear war made a military solution virtually impossible, as the outcome of any such engagement was uncertain and unpredictable. This was proved in the Kargil War beyond doubt when India could not escalate due to the fear of provoking an all out nuclear war and Pakistan had to vacate Indian territories for fear of the same. Mukerjee’s (2006) idea that the uncertainty of military outcome makes peace harder to achieve does not hold true in the India-Pakistan case. In fact, uncertain outcome of any military engagement seems to have contributed to a rethink to strengthen non-military mechanisms like trade and open borders to seek reconciliation. Due to strong international condemnation for initiating the Kargil War, ‘Islamabad feels obligated to reassure the world community about its nuclear weapons and growing missile capabilities. Resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue with its focus on nuclear risk reduction measures seems to be the only credible way of easing world concern over the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal’ (Hussain, 2007-08:9). Similar argument can be extended to India, as it seeks recognition as a new world power and wants to exhibit its responsible behaviour.
The Track II diplomacy has also contributed in changing the political climate. There have been several non-governmental initiatives under way where former diplomats, retired civil and military officials, journalists and other members of civil society have interacted to develop the concept of cooperative peace and security. Mohanty (2008:15) points out that ‘cumulative impact of track two diplomacy’ has played an important role in effecting a change. However, more credence is accorded to economic changes like increased trade and cooperation between China and India that reduced the importance of mutual border disputes, prompting Pakistan to follow suit. ‘As India’s ties with the US, China and other major countries grow impressively, its rise as an Asian power drives Pakistan to settle its disputes before the power asymmetry grows any further’ (Misra, 2007:525). One of the reasons for the change in the mindset is ascribed to the economic liberalisation, vision of creating the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and consequent economic opportunities (Mattoo et al, 2007:viii). In the 1990s, both India and Pakistan liberalised their economies; and because the world economy is driven largely by the dominant neo-liberal agenda, this agenda seems to have had great influence on the thinking in both countries. The high business interest in the initiative is not only for the immediate economic reasons and the development of SAARC but also for the belief that enhanced geo-political stability would attract more foreign investment. In case of Pakistan, the added incentive to pursue peace is the common belief that it would lead to liberalisation, secularisation and democratisation of their society (Selby, 2007:2).
Although both the countries have taken recourse to liberal functionalist reasoning as their main motivation for engagement, Selby (2007:21) believes that the peace process is ‘a product of both India and Pakistani quests for international influence and legitimacy. In India’s case, support for negotiations arises primarily from an awareness that conspicuous conflict with Pakistan damages India’s global political image and ambitions. Pakistan’s participation in the peace process, meanwhile, is driven primarily by post-9/11 pressure upon the Pakistani regime to end its support for terrorist groups and by the latter’s need for enhanced international legitimacy’. Above all there is a realisation in Pakistan that ‘there are links between the continuation of dispute, the rise of Islamist extremism in the country, and the threat that the groups espousing Jihad as a state policy pose to the country’ (Burki, 2007:25). This has reinforced the belief that both the countries face similar problems such as ‘terrorism, poverty, ecological and environmental problems, religious extremism…[and] both countries now have a joint anti-terror mechanism to chart out way and means to fight terrorism’ (Matoo et al, 2007:viii).
Kashmir –” From Core Issue to a Peripheral Symbol?
There is no doubt that Kashmir has been the most outstanding problem between the two countries, but political realism and economic concerns seem to have reduced the issue in its importance or at least its symbolic value; thus decreasing its power to hold India-Pakistan relations as ‘hostage’. Although, there is no actual progress on the future of Kashmir, the peace process has progressed and India and Pakistan have strengthened their cultural and trade links, slowly pushing the core issue of Kashmir to the margins. ‘Movement of people and goods between the two countries have increased manifold, in an unprecedented manner; myths about the other are gradually vanishing; the leadership in both countries is identifying common grounds to engage themselves in; and, the unstoppable forces of a rapidly changing world are forcing the countries to think out of box. This may indeed be the opportune time for creating a common vision for a common destiny…’ (Matoo et al, 2007:viii). The commonality that is being invoked relates to centuries old shared history, culture and geography which is also used to build a case for trade within regional arrangement ‘as a way to develop the Kashmiri economy and to create pressure for peace on both sides of the border’ (Burki, 2007:26). Therefore, it is argued that as the current ‘Peace Process’ is progressing, it is gradually demystifying the ‘coreness’ of Kashmir as India and Pakistan are actively moving to other areas of agreements and forming new relationships.
This was evident in the February 2008 elections in Pakistan which ‘were fought almost wholly on domestic issues…[with]…marginal attention [paid] to issues like Kashmir…All major parties, contrary to the past, mentioned Kashmir only in the concluding paragraphs of their election manifestos…[and] there was no sloganeering about grabbing Kashmir’ (Ahmad, 2008). The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that emerged as the largest political party ran ‘open minds, open markets, open opportunities’ (PPP, 2008:6) as its slogan and promised to make Pakistan a business friendly country (Ibid.). ‘Besides hailing the China-India model of conflict-management, the PPP in its manifesto also stated that it would not allow lack of progress on one issue, namely Kashmir, to impede progress in other areas of common concern with India’ (Ahmad, M; 2008). The PPP also reiterated to ‘work for a regional economic framework for the countries of South Asia to benefit all its people through economies of scale. Such a regional economic group has the potential to turn into a global economic powerhouse, attracting investment, creating jobs and eliminating poverty’ (PPP, 2008:20). The first policy statement of the PPP head, Asif Ali Zardari, was on similar lines when he suggested freezing the Kashmir issue for future generations adding that it should not be allowed to hold India-Pakistan relations as hostage (Dar, 2008; Subramanian, 2008). The same thinking was reiterated by Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani who stated that Pakistan would not fight another war with India for Kashmir. Similarly, former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) also supports peaceful relations with India and is considered as ‘pro-business’ politician. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi who stressed that the new government would not put on hold progress in various areas of cooperation with India because of the impasse on Kashmir. He said that ‘there are areas like trade where we feel we need to move on to the mutual benefit of both the countries’ (Greater Kashmir, 2008). This stems from the well articulated belief that trade could be used as a glue to bind together the splintered region (Burki, 2007:35-36).
Such thinking also reiterates that the power of Kashmir to hold the polities of two countries as ‘hostage’ is on the wane as they are moving to a ‘constructive engagement towards fulfilling common regional goals and aspiration’ (Mattoo et al, 2007:viii). This new regional approach of holistic South Asia is freeing both India and Pakistan from their narrow geographic and attendant political considerations over Kashmir. This was also evident from the fact that India did not react at all to the rhetorical ‘Kashmir statements’ by some Pakistani politicians during and after the elections, a departure from the past when every ‘Kashmir statement’ from Pakistan was matched in tone and content.
The ‘cultural exchange’ that led Indian and Pakistani journalists, retired diplomats and singers and cultural performers to visit Kashmir has seen new levels of popular engagement, though it has evoked strong resentment among the sections of people and politicians who are worried that Kashmir is being pushed into oblivion. Despite the earlier feeling that the new Pakistani government might change course of its Kashmir policy, the engagement between the two countries has continued on the previous lines and visits of Pakistani artists continue to push for further peace. The recent visit of famous Pakistani rock band ‘Junoon’ received huge public interest with youngsters enjoying the musical performance. This is despite the fact the supreme commander of biggest Kashmiri resistance group Hizbul Mujahideen had called for scrapping the event which was rejected by the organisers and performers.
Problems and Pitfalls
So has the ‘peace process’ transformed Kashmir from a malignant pathology into a benign problem that is on wane? Will it be eternally drowned under the new optimism of mutual booty of trade and commerce or shared culture and jingles of commonly revered maestros? If the history of the region is an indicator, then the answer is a big no. Between every war from 1948 to 1999, Kashmir had been forgotten or sidelined with the hope that the dust of history will settle the malefactor. But Kashmir keeps on coming back with vengeance, nursing wounds and provocations ad infinitum. As the two rivals are now nuclear armed, even the very thought of Kashmir’s comeback prompts scary scenarios. Although both the countries affirm to resolve the issue peacefully and via political means, there is clear lack of any serious initiatives. In India, there is ‘no consensus at the national level….in terms of a final solution. The existing Parliamentary Resolution signifies Indian’s maximalist position and not what is feasible and practical….There is a clear difference between secular moderates and the extremist Hindu right in India’ (Chandran, 2007:4). The situation in Pakistan is no different, as the Musharraf regime never consulted any political parties while dealing with India. To offset this, some people in India and Pakistan believe that as trade and commerce grows, the border dispute in Kashmir will subside citing the China-India example. The PPP and the new Pakistani government seem to subscribe to the same idea (Ahmad, 2008; Greater Kashmir, 2008). Those making such comparisons fail to recognise the most important fact that there was no political movement or constituency embedded in China-India dispute as there is in Kashmir. The Kashmiris have a history of 60 years struggle against the status quo with Indian and Pakistani interests intertwined with it, both at the official and popular level, making it harder to neutralise such a profound sentiment through economic initiatives alone.
There is no denying the fact that mutual trust levels have gone up and so has the ‘people-to-people’ contact and trade, but the security concerns remain unchanged. Under the clamouring for peace, we cannot remain oblivious to the fact that ‘military spending has increased sharply in recent years, and weapons tests have continued unabated (indicatively, India and Pakistan’s recent resumption of talks was accompanied by both states conducting high-profile tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles)’ (Selby, 2007:21). In realistic terms, this means that there has been negligible meaningful progress on core issues, thus reducing the peace process to a charade where the whole process remains pretence, largely for international consumption (Ibid.). This position is shared by the majority of Kashmiris who have not noticed any tangible difference on the ground –” be it the spate of human rights violations or overwhelming presence of the Indian Army, despite massive decrease in the levels of violence. There is a general feeling that while Pakistan and Kashmiris want conflict resolution, India wants conflict management. This attitude might be prompted by this belief of Indian elites that ‘a much stronger India in the next eight to ten years would be less vulnerable to bullying (italics mine) and pressures’ (Misra, 2007:525). If this is what drives the current Indian behaviour in Kashmir, it is a very risky trajectory to follow. Kashmiris are well aware of the dangers as the former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and the President of the largest pro-India Kashmiri political party, National Conference, Omar Abdullah, warned that ‘freezing Kashmir without finding a solution would prove dangerous not only for India but for Pakistan as well.’ (Kashmir Times, 2008).
In Kashmir, the initial optimism about the peace process has died down long time ago, with the Kashmiri leaders –” both pro-Independence and pro-India questioning the rationale of the exercise for its lack of any visible impact on the ground. The pro-independence Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq that had held several rounds of talks with the Indian government over four years, pulled out of talks in late December 2007 declaring that India was not sincere. One of its senior leaders, Nayeem Khan openly admitted that dialogue process with New Delhi had cost them their credibility as India was unwilling to make any changes on the ground. Similar observations are made by many Pakistani political and religious parties with renewing calls for Jihad, citing unending human rights violations as one of the reasons (Gardezi, 2008). Therefore, ‘the peace process remains highly vulnerable to Indian and Pakistani political whims that have always been inconsistent’ (Mohanty, 2008:15) and ‘there is still a long way to go before history’s legacy can be overcome’ (Burki, 2007:31).
The current peace process has created a favourable atmosphere for trade and commerce reinforcing old and mutual links, pushing Kashmir to the periphery. But it has yet to reach to the levels of ultimate trust as both the countries have failed to build a consensus on the Kashmir issue and its ultimate solution. Despite increased economic activity and people to people contacts, the security concerns remain and are reinforced by the arms race and introduction of new nuclear capable technologies. Unless the Kashmir issue is seriously addressed, the claims that the ‘peace process’ is a pretence for international consumption will stay and gain ground, stripping it of any legitimacy and goodwill. Such a negative view is already holding ground among Kashmiris because there is a massive Indian military presence that is prone to commit human rights violations. Therefore, it is necessary for both the governments to attend to Kashmir and seek its resolution. The current atmosphere of trust and good will could offer some help to expedite a breakthrough. But if the business of finding a solution is left unfinished, the change in geo-political situation in future might make pursuit of war more gainful than that of peace and therefore lead to another cycle of acrimony, hostility and tension.
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