An Opportunity for Peace in the Valley of Kashmir?

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The recent announcement of General Musharraf that he would accept the invitation by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee has brought renewed attention to the conflict in Kashmir. Many analysts around the world seemed almost elated that Pakistan and India were deciding to talk about their mutual differences. However, most people fail to realize that a just resolution the Kashmir conflict is not in the cards.

Conventional political and strategic doctrines work against the creation of new states. While in the international community eventually intervened in Kosovo, they have been failed to allow the Kosovar Albanians to form their own nation. In Macedonia, NATO has talked tough in public about protecting the territorial integrity of Macedonia and once again thwarting the ambitions of the local Albanians. While Azad Kashmir will never be relinquished by Pakistan (and almost no serious Indian wants it), the Indian occupied part could become a viable entity on its own. 

If both countries were to fully demilitarize the borders and to jointly guarantee the integrity of an independent Kashmir, friendly to both nations, regional stability would be greatly enhanced. However, most architects of foreign policy around the world are loathe to cause even a partial dismemberment of any nations.

Domestic concerns play a large role in dictating the limits that any Indian prime minister would have to abide by when debating the future of Kashmir. It is hard to envision any politician risking the potential negative backlash of Hindu extremists if Kashmir was allowed to become an independent state. The political risks would be enormous and the politics of anti-Muslim hatred have helped the BJP gain and maintain power.

The people of India are too concerned about their own states problems to worry about Kashmir. Most have a knee jerk reaction to Kashmir and it would take a massive effort to try and explain the positive benefits of a full Indian pullout from the Vale of Kashmir. This would require politicians to admit that the thousands of Indian soldiers and the billions of rupees that have been spent on policing Kashmir were wasted by people worried about their next election instead of their electorate. Sadly, courage of this sort is sorely lacking in India.

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