Kashmir Unresolved Dispute

KASHMĪR: THE UNRESOLVED DISPUTE


Indo-Pakistani relations continued to be strained after the Simla Agreement, for it did not address the final status of Kashmīr. Armed hostilities continued to erupt in the territory along the LOC, making any political resolution to the dispute highly unlikely. The vast majority of India’s political establishment has indicated a willingness to settle the dispute along the LOC and formally cede the Pakistani-controlled portion of the state to Pakistan. However, Pakistan has refused to accept the status quo in Kashmīr as long as Muslim-majority areas, such as the fertile Kashmīr Valley, are under Indian administration. Meanwhile, the proliferation of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan since the 1970s has dramatically increased the stakes of their long-standing territorial dispute.

Both India and Pakistan acknowledge that the Simla Agreement requires them to settle their bilateral disputes without resorting to the use of force. However, neither one has been willing or able to uphold this provision, and they disagree over who is to blame for continuing violence in the territory. In addition, Indian and Pakistani officials interpret other important aspects of the Simla Agreement quite differently. Indian decision-makers believe that the agreement supersedes all former UN resolutions and requires strictly bilateral negotiations to bring a resolution to the dispute. The Pakistani side argues that the agreement leaves open the possibility of multilateral negotiations. The varying interpretations of this document aside, the two parties remain fundamentally at odds over the terms of any resolution to the dispute.

A -The Kashmīr Insurgency
Since 1989 the dispute over Kashmīr has taken on a new dimension due to the emergence of a separatist insurgency among Muslims in the Indian-controlled portion of the territory. Described as an ethnoreligious (ethnic and religious) insurgency, it initially involved mostly Muslim Kashmīris. Many Pakistanis, Afghans, and Arabs subsequently joined the insurgency, increasing its militancy. Pakistani support has helped to sustain the insurgency materially and prevent its suppression by Indian security forces.
Fighting between the insurgents and Indian security forces has resulted in more casualties than all three Indo-Pakistani wars combined. Although estimates vary, most dispassionate estimates suggest that about 40,000 individuals have lost their lives since the onset of the insurgency. Both the rebels and the Indian security forces are known to have committed substantial human rights violations.

Politically, the principal demand of the insurgency is that India hold a plebiscite to determine the status of the territory. This demand rests on the assumption that the Muslim-majority areas of the state would prevail, leading to secession from the Indian Union. Some of the insurgents support merger with Pakistan, while others want a unified, independent Kashmīr state. The most militant members of the insurgency, whose numbers have swelled in recent years, create mayhem and terror without any clear political agenda.
Meanwhile, India steadfastly refuses to hold a plebiscite on the premise that Jammu and Kashmīr State is an integral part of the Indian Union, as provided for in the Indian constitution. Elections to the state’s legislative assembly have consistently brought to power moderate candidates who support this view.

The Jammu and Kashmīr Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen are the two principal insurgent groups of indigenous Kashmīri origins. The JKLF renounced violence in the mid-1980s. However, it has refused to enter the political process under the terms of the Indian constitution. In addition to the insurgent groups, a number of separatist organizations have banded together under the aegis of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). The APHC has also refused to enter the political process even though its members are not involved in the insurgency.

B -Recent Developments
Since the late 1990s, the situation in Kashmīr has been especially tense. In May 1998 India and Pakistan each exploded nuclear devices during weapons tests. These demonstrations of nuclear capabilities were clearly intended to intimidate the other side. Afterwards, both sides came under intense international pressure to resolve the Kashmīr dispute, lest it escalate into a nuclear war. In an attempt to allay international concerns, Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accepted the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to visit Pakistan. Accordingly, Vajpayee traveled to the Pakistani city of Lahore in February 1999 to inaugurate a bus service linking it with the nearby Indian city of Amritsar. This meeting at Lahore was seen as an initial attempt to usher in a more cordial Indo-Pakistani relationship.

In early May, however, units of the Pakistani Northern Light Infantry, a paramilitary unit with troops recruited mostly from the Pakistan-administered Northern Areas, made incursions across the LOC at Dras and Kargil. Although initially caught by surprise, the Indian army responded with vigor and managed to dislodge the Pakistani intruders. Sharif, in an attempt to save face, sought and obtained the intercession of the United States from President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s agreement to intercede rested on the restoration of the sanctity of the LOC. Under Indian military and American diplomatic pressure, Sharif agreed to Clinton’s terms and the conflict was brought to a close.

In October 1999 General Pervez Musharraf, the chief of staff of the Pakistani army, overthrew Sharif’s democratically elected but increasingly authoritarian regime. Pakistan’s relations with India, which had been strained as a consequence of the Kargil conflict, worsened under Musharraf. Indian leaders accused Musharraf of continuing to materially assist the Kashmīri insurgents. Musharraf denied these allegations, insisting that his regime was only involved in providing moral, political, and diplomatic support to the insurgents.

The most dramatic deterioration in relations came after December 13, 2001, when members of two Pakistan-based insurgent groups, the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked the Indian national parliament in Delhi. Prompt action on the part of local police and paramilitary forces contained the ferocity of the attack and limited the number of deaths. In the aftermath of this attack, India recalled its ambassador from Pakistan, severed road and rail links, and dramatically increased its military deployments along the Indo-Pakistani border and in Jammu and Kashmīr State.

Relations between the two countries continued to worsen through much of 2002 as additional terrorist attacks took place on Indian soil and India continued to exert growing military pressure on Pakistan. In Kashmīr, artillery fire routinely erupted along the LOC. Both countries increased troop deployments along their shared border, amassing a total of about 1 million troops. Fearing an outbreak of war between two nuclear-armed states, the United States and a number of other major powers intervened to defuse the increasing tensions. The status of Jammu and Kashmīr remains one of the most volatile territorial disputes in the world, and India and Pakistan are no closer to reaching a resolution in the foreseeable future.

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