Peace with Justice in Kashmir: Overcoming the Burden of History

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On February 27, 1976, President Richard Nixon met with Mao Tse-tung in the Forbidden City. Chairman Mao’s health had deteriorated since their first meeting in 1972. He was a shell of the man he had been, but was still sharp mentally. A massive stroke had robbed him of his ability to put his thoughts into words. The charismatic communist leader who had moved a nation and changed the world with his revolutionary exhortations could no longer even ask for a glass of water. He was still a revered leader of nearly a billion people. As they spoke in Beijing he was six months from death, and a succession of crises was already raging around him. During their conversation, President Nixon said that they must continue to cooperate in seeking peace, not only between our two countries but also among all the nations of the world. It was painful to watch Chairman Mao try to respond. His face flushed as he grunted out half words. His translator, an attractive woman, tried to put his grunts into English.

Chairman Mao knew enough English to realize she had not understood him. He shook his head angrily, grabbed her notebook, and wrote out the words in Chinese. She read them aloud in English: “Is peace your only goal?”

President Nixon had not expected that question and paused briefly. Then he answered, “We should seek peace with justice.” [1]

I am a Christian clergyman and my inspiration comes from the Christian Holy Scriptures to work as peacemaker and seek justice among our human family.

An Old Testament prophet, Micah, who lived in Palestine between 750 and 686 B.C.E., said: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)”

Our focus is to look together at the issues of conflict causing war, hatred, and long separation between two neighbors in the South Asia region. “Eternal neighbors cannot be and must not be eternal enemies.” [2] The issue of territory is one factor that has led to 54 years of conflict between Pakistan and India. They have fought three wars in the region and pursued a series of military engagements. The most recent battle was in 1998 over the Kargil sector.

When Great Britain granted independence to India in 1947, 565 princely states covering over two-fifths of the sub-continent with a population of 99 million, technically became sovereign states. A “Memorandum of States’ Treaties and Paramountcy” stated that the paramountcy which the princely states had enjoyed with the British would lapse at independence. The void thus created would have to be filled either by a Federal relationship or by particular political arrangements with the succeeding government or governments, whereby the states would accede to one another’s dominion. The instrument of Accession was to be signed only by the ruling princes and there was no provision in it for referring the question of accession to the new independent states of India and Pakistan.

Since then, Kashmir has been the core issue/problem/dispute. It has caused three wars between two neighbors, in which some 65,000 Kashmiris, militants, soldiers and innocent civilians, have lost their lives to liberate or protect this territory. In the book, India and Pakistan: The Origins of Armed Conflict, Dr. S.P. Shulka quotes Michael Breecher’s book The Struggle for Kashmir, saying that the problem of Kashmir arose because Maharaja Hari Singh was unable to make up his mind to which Dominion the State of Kashmir should accede or whether to accede at all. [3] “If Partition itself has been the subject of much anguished and rhetorical writings, so too has been the drama of the Kashmiri Maharaja’s indecision about whether to join the Dominion of India, become an Independent Kashmiri state, or become part of Muslim Pakistan.” [4] The indecision by the Maharaja fed the appetites for territorial gains of both nations. To establish control over the Kashmir would bring territorial power to either state in the region. The religious demography also had an influence on the natural alliance to one of the states. “At the time of partition the State of Jammu and Kashmir, popularly called simply Kashmir, had an overall Muslim majority of 78 percent. In the most desirable part, the Vale of Kashmir, the Muslims numbered 93 percent.” [5]

Pakistan and India were partitioned on the basis of a two-nation theory: Pakistan is for Muslims and India is declared as a secular state with a Hindu majority. “Having a Hindu leader over a Muslim Majority state, Pakistan’s claim to the Kingdom seemed to be justified on the basis of the two-nation theory. Moreover Kashmir’s proximity to Pakistan also favored the Ratcliffe Principal of grouping together contiguous Muslim majority areas. Following implicit Pakistani support for the tribal invasion into the valley to help their fellow Muslims, the Maharaja signed up to join India and received immediate military help. This led to outrage in Karachi and an immediate conflict between the two dominions.” [6]

N.C. Chatterjee, a Hindu member of the Indian Parliament, pointed out in Muhammad Abdullah’s article “Kashmir, India and Pakistan” in Foreign Affairs, that: “The geography of Kashmir was such that it would be bounded on all sides by the new Dominion of Pakistan. Its only access to the outside world by road lay through the Jehlum Valley road, which ran through Pakistan, via, Rawalpindi. The only rail line connecting the State with the outside world lay through Sialkot in Pakistan. Its postal and telegraphic services operated through areas that were certain to belong to the Dominion of Pakistan.”

Kashmir was dependent for all its imported supplies like salt, sugar, petrol and other necessities of life on their safe and continued transit through areas that would form part of Pakistan. The tourist transit traffic which was a major source of income and revenue could only come via Rawalpindi. The only route available for the export of its valuable fruit was the Jhelum River which ran into Pakistan.[7] Stephen Cohen of Brooking Institute would perhaps reject the old argument that Kashmir is economically dependent upon being attached to a major state. The new generation of Valley Muslims, educated and trained in India, but with a window open to a wider world look to Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe for models and to émigrés in America, Britain, and Canada for material support.

The failure to bring Kashmir into proper relationship with its neighbors has brought about 54 years of mistrust, three wars, the expenditure of hundreds of millions dollars for military hardware, continuous poisonous propaganda, and loss of thousands of precious human lives with nothing to show for it. Now, these two neighbors stand at a crossroads.

Since 1948, Pakistan has reminded the Indian Government of the promises she made in the UN Security Council to the people of Kashmir that there would be a free plebiscite. India has constantly reminded Pakistan of the cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and its interference in India’s internal matters. The issue has been confused and people in Kashmir have suffered. Emotions of people on both side of the border have been hurt. One may not like to admit having cancer but once the Oncologist diagnoses, one has to come to terms with reality. Every possible solution should be looked at to solve the Kashmir issue/conflict. Should India and Pakistan ask Kashmiris to have an independent nation? Or should both countries entertain the idea of partition of Kashmir along ethnic/religious lines?

In the recent Agra Summit, the disagreement was about the phraseology to be used in describing what they would talk about if they ever seriously got down to talking. They again slid off the slippery tongue of semantics. Pakistan wants India to admit that the Himalayan region of Kashmir is the core problem between them. After all, it has been the cause of two of their three wars. Each holds a portion of it. Their troops face each other along a cease-fire line. But the Indians refuse to acknowledge that this Himalayan territory is even in dispute. By their reckoning, to do so would be to conceive of the inconceivable, that some areas of Kashmir may rightfully belong outside their federation. Instead the Indians want to talk about cross-border terrorism, the militants who sneak into the Indian controlled part of Kashmir either from Pakistan or the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir to wage guerrilla combat. But this terminology displeases Pakistan, which prefers indigenous freedom fighters. And while it is an open secret that the Pakistanis support these militants with money and training and guns, this is something never to be spoken of in public.

“Indians and Pakistanis, when not talking about Kashmir, are some of the most intelligent people in the world,” said Vinod Mehta, editor in chief of Outlook, an Indian news weekly. “But when they talk about this subject, they sound like morons.” [8]What can we do to act as intelligent members of this 5,000 year-old civilization and sub-continent which holds one-fourth of world’s population? Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President General Pervez Musharraf’s Agra Summit, last July, gave a hope for peace to the people of India and Pakistan. People at last on both sides shared openly their hopes for peace and prosperity.

On the first day of the summit, Shai Imam of Fatepuri Masjid Delhi, Dr. Mufti Mohammad Mukarram Ahmad, appealed in his Friday Kuhtba (sermon) to Prime Minister Vajapee and President Musharraf to forget the bitter past and take concrete decisions in the larger interest of the two countries at the Agra Summit. He said that absence of peace and cold war not only caused colossal losses to life and property but also jeopardized the means of progress and prosperity.

General Musharraf, on his return to Islamabad from the Agra Summit, expressed his sentiments in these words: “The vast majority of the people of Pakistan and India wanted peace and hawks could be ignored to attain this objective.” [9] In his speech delivered on July 14 at a banquet hosted in his honor by the Indian President he said, “The legacy of the past years is not a happy one. Our two countries have been through wars. Blood has been spilt; precious lives have been lost. We have been locked in mutual suspicion and hostility. We have paid a heavy price for it. We owe it to our future generations to do our utmost to open a new chapter of goodwill and cooperation. We must overcome the burden of history. Other nations have done it. We must also do so.”

Prime Minister Vajpayee addressing the parliament on July 24 said, “General Musahrraf’s visit was meant to seek avenues for durable peace and cooperative friendship with Pakistan. Thus our bilateral engagement with Pakistan will continue. We will continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation. Our endeavor for a relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation will be pursued vigorously.”

An Indian citizen wrote a letter to the editor and said: “Give Peace a chance to happen. The common man in both countries received nothing but poverty, disease, illiteracy and hunger out of this unwise belligerency of fifty years. There is therefore a sense of joy and hope at these distant signs of peace. It is no longer a time for rigid postures, bloated egos, preconceived notions, clerical thinking and remote controlled arguments. It is time to seek solutions with bold initiatives.” (The Indian Express, July 8, 2001)

I am neither a politician nor an expert of international affairs, but would like to recommend the following after my prayerful research:

Multi-track diplomacy should be encouraged, where diplomats meet with the diplomats, intellectuals are given opportunities on a regular basis to exchange ideas. Seeds of peace should be sown through the exchange of students. The new generation in both India and Pakistan may not be obsessed with the struggle of their parents and grandparents and may give a better chance for peace in the sub-continent.

The sub-continent consists of pluralistic multi-faith communities who have existed with each other for centuries. The last 54 years particularly have given rise to religious intolerance and a bigoted spirit. Tolerance, respect and appreciation of the richness and diversity of our faiths need to be taught, to create an atmosphere conducive for peaceful communities with diverse faiths.

Indian and Pakistani Ulemas should be provided opportunities to pursue their views to bring to an end the religious extremism and militancy of Islamic Jehadis and Hindutva which have weakened the fabric of civil society. The Indian government should invite the participation of the Muslim community in their dialogue of peace between two countries.

People to people diplomacy: Kashmiris from both sides of LOC (the international Line of Control) should be brought into a dialogue to give their vision reality for peace.

The All-Party Hurriyat Conference should be recognized as a major representative of the people of Kashmir. The APHC needs to include Hindu and Buddhist groups to give better validity to any claim that it represents all Kashmiris. India should include Kashmiris in a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan.

South Asia needs its own peace process and other Asian countries should be invited to help as observers and mediators to bring an end to this bitter conflict. Japan has strategic, economic and even moral interest in the region. The Gulf States, where India and Pakistani both have strong ties, may be key players to bring the adversaries to a solution.

Since India accuses Pakistan of cross-border terrorism, Pakistan needs to satisfy India on this allegation before the leaders of both countries enter in the second round of dialogue for peace.

At the Foreign Secretary level, talks should be held soon before the future meeting of General Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajapayee. They should discuss an eight point agenda which includes Kashmir, peace and security, Siachen, Wular barrage, Sir Creek, commerce, trade, terrorism, and drug trafficking.

Visa restrictions in both these countries need to be relaxed. Bus and railway trains schedules between Lahore and Amritsar should be increased. Bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar should be restored. People from Munaboa (Rajistan) to Tharparkar (Sind) should be given easy access to visas to travel on both sides of the border. The Consulates in Mumbai and Karachi could be reopened to make it easier to travel to both countries.

A commitment is needed to continue the ongoing honest process of talks to settle matters of dispute and works with a sense of mission for peace. Mediation can be a useful tool here.

Money spent from national budgets to purchase military hardware has stalled the economic progress in the sub-continent. In Pakistan, 85% of the population lives on an income of less than two dollars a day. According to the recent Human Development report of UNDP, Pakistan ranks 127 among 162 countries on the basis of human Development index. Economic cooperation between India and Pakistan can help the stagnant economies to grow. There could be ten-year programs to eliminate poverty. Growth of GDP is essential for eradication of poverty. Poverty can not be reduced without increase in national income. Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

India and Pakistan both have been treading on dangerous grounds while in possession of nuclear weapons. Mr. Tsuboi of Japan is a survivor of atomic bomb explosion over Hiroshima in 1945. He made a visit to Pakistan and India in 1997. He said that the best way towards creating durable peace between any two conflicting nations was dialogue and trust. He said trust was especially important.

On the day the atomic bomb exploded 580 meters above a government building in Hiroshima. It destroyed everything around it. The shockwave shattered windows as far as 27 kilometers from the center of the blast. The heat of the explosion, which reached well over 1,200 degrees Celsius was enough to melt iron and steel in nearby structures; even rocks were melted. By the end of 1945, he said, a total of 140,000 people had died in Hiroshima alone, but this was at best an official estimate because many bodies were never found. He said that though he had hated Americans for 20 or 30 years that was not the case any more and everyone should try to build bridges. He said that some Japanese survivors had met US pilots and air force personnel who took part in the bombing and some of the latter had apologized. [10] Thus, when bridges are built, there can be reconciliation.

I come to you from a far-off land to join a group of peacemakers – Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus – to work together for the peace of the region. The war policies of both countries have caused poverty, and created orphans and widows who cry today: STOP THESE CRAZY KILLINGS! Give nonviolence and peaceful diplomacy a chance to sow the seeds of love among neighbors. Peace in this region can be achieved with peaceful means. Violence begets violence. Archbishop George Carey said recently, “Bombings, shootings, killings and all such violence serve only to extend and deepen conflict. Striving together to do justice – the justice that brings peace and reconciliation – is a harder way, but the better way. At such times we must look for models, and it seems to me that we all have one in the towering figure of Nelson Mandela. He could so easily have returned from Robben Island, after 27 years in captivity with grudges and scores to settle, and terrible violence would have been the probable result. Instead, he forsook vengeance, and reconciled his country from the injustice of its past. The result is a land where different communities are traveling together on the same road, certainly not without difficulty, but equally not without hope.” [11]

Let me close with a story which I recently read:

A Rabbi asked his disciples to define that moment we call dawn when the morning prayers may be said.

One disciple said: It is dawn when you can tell a horse from a donkey. Another said, It is dawn when you can tell an olive tree from a fig tree. And the rest all offered their best guesses.

And at last the Rabbi said: It is dawn when you can look a stranger in the face and see your sister or your brother.

The dawn we all long for will come when we see not first and foremost Pakistani and Indian or Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or Christian, but brothers and sisters living in peace and harmony. Then Peace with Justice will prevail. Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9) Vasudaiva Kutumbakam. The entire world is one family.

Notes:

[1] Richard Nixon, Beyond Peace, Random House, Inc, New York, 1994,p.1.

[2] Prof. Khwaja Masud, former Principal of Gordon College, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. International The News, July 23, 2001

[3] S.P. Shulka. 1984. India and Pakistan: The origins of Armed Conflict. New Delhi, India: Deep and Deep Publications.4.

[4] Vernon Marston Hewitt. 1992. The International Politics of South Asia. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press,28.

 Morris, p. 261, note 91. S.M. Burke and Lawrence Ziring. 1990. Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: An Historical Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press,28.

[6] Hewitt,op.cit.,29

[7] Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah 1965. “Kashmir, India, and Pakistan” Foreign Affairs. April,528.

[8] Berry Bearak and Celia W. Dugger, July 22,2001. The New York Times International Sunday,,11.

[9] Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Dawn, July 21, 2001.

[10] Dawn, M

[11] lecture given by Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury at St. Georges Cathedral in Jerusalem, July 28, 2001

The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine is rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, Virginia. A native Pakistani, he holds an extensive resume in interfaith work. He has traveled recently to several nations experiencing religious violence, including the Sudan and Pakistan, and serves as Canon and Commissary to the Archbishop of Sudan in Pakistan. Canon Augustine also serves as chair of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia’s Companion for World Mission commission.

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