the last week or so hope for peace in Kashmir, a region fiercely
contested among India, Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists for decades
has been raised by a couple of events few observers had expected.
Abdul Majid Dar, commander of the militant Hizbul Muhajideen, generally
viewed as being sponsored by the Pakistani government, announced
a unilateral cease-fire and its willingness to enter into negotiations
with Indian authorities on July 24. Four days later the top Indian
army general in Kashmir, Maj. Gen. Basant Singh, announced that
he would reciprocate and suspend operations against the militants
for three months.
comes on the heels of the Indian government having expressed, in
the last couple of months, a preliminary willingness to talk with
the local government in Kashmir about the possibility of at least
some measure of autonomy for the region. The provincial legislature
adopted a resolution June 26 that would restrict the Indian government’s
authority in the region to defense, foreign affairs and communications
and that the Indian
Supreme Court and federal service would no longer be necessary.
The Indian government didn’t accede to the proposal but said it
was willing to negotiate.
these developments have led the international intelligence Web site
Stratfor.com to suggest the possibility that "it
appears that India and Pakistan are edging toward negotiation over
Kashmir probably with help from Washington."
start celebrating just yet, warns my friend Muazzam Gill. Born in
Pakistan and now a U.S. citizen who heads the Center for Economic
and Religious Freedom, Dr. Gill was highly placed in the Pakistani
government before he emigrated in 1980. "When you’re talking
about India and Pakistan," he cautions, "peace is simply
a time between wars. Of course one must be hopeful, but I don’t
see much evidence that anything fundamental has changed yet."
both India and Pakistan having tested nuclear weapons, Dr. Gill
believes, the Kashmiri conflict has more than regional implications.
While President Clinton might want a resolution in the Indo-Pakistani
conflict as a legacy, all parties are aware that he is a lame duck
who can’t make long-term promises or commitments.
parties in the region, he says, might agree to a short-term cease-fire
to throw a fig to Uncle Sam, he says, or for their own reasons.
("Remember, these are the Himalayas and a cease-fire in August
could be a good way to dig in for the winter.") But Gill is
skeptical that real peace is about to break out any time soon.
the independence of India from Great Britain in 1947 and the almost
immediate breakaway of Muslim-dominated Pakistan and the bloody
war that followed, Jammu and Kashmir were more or less self-governed
regions under only loose British control. The area is mostly Muslim
but the political leadership was Hindi. The hereditary Maharajah
of Kashmir agreed to Indian domination in return for Indian support
against a Pakistani-aided Muslim rebellion.
1947 India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and have engaged
in dozens of smaller conflicts, often enough over Kashmir. The current
conflict has been active (at varying levels of overt violence) since
the Hizbul Mujahideen was founded 11 years ago by Pakistan’s intelligence
service. Both Pakistan and India still covet the region, and in
recent years a fairly vigorous movement for outright Kashmiri independence
from both countries has emerged, with exiles in Great Britain and
the United States active in the movement and, according to Muazzam
Gill, some pan-Islamic overtones.
border between India and Pakistan cuts the traditional Kashmiri
region more or less down the middle. The Hizbul Mujahideen, the
largest guerrilla army in the region, wants Kashmir to become part
of Pakistan. Other militant groups support Kashmiri independence
and were said to be dismayed at Abdul Majid Dar’s unilateral declaration
of a cease-fire. As Muazzam Gill puts it, "to an outsider it
might look simple, but don’t be fooled. There are wheels within
wheels among all factions. It rivals the Middle East in complexity
and in the emotional depth of hostility on all sides."
CASE FOR REDUCED HOSTILITY
says that the developments suggest that "India and Pakistan
are taking diplomatic baby steps toward each other, which may bring
the two sides together by fall. Indian diplomats in Pakistan are
hinting about the possibility of official negotiations as soon as
October, according to The Dawn, a Pakistani daily.
conflict is more than 50 years old and will not be solved easily.
Nevertheless, these are some of the most positive signs to come
out of the region in years. The status of Kashmir is a delicate
subject for all parties, and the ongoing conflict has been a major
drain on the resources and military readiness of both sides…"
So perhaps—just perhaps—there is reason to entertain the possibility
that India and Pakistan are seeking something resembling a resolution.
CASE FOR CONCERN
the other hand, even though India and Pakistan have not overtly
escalated hostilities or tested nukes again since their mutual nuclear
shots across respective bows a couple of years ago, the tensions
still run deep and military preparation continue. The
Pakistanis in June opened a second major naval base in Ormara, in
the western part of the country, far from the Indian border.
heightened tension over Kashmir last year, the Indian navy had bottled
up the Pakistani fleet at the other naval base at Karachi, less
than 120 miles from the Indian border, which also had a deleterious
impact on commerce.
a second major base is said to be a way to make it more difficult
for India to do a formal or informal blockade in a future conflict.
China is helping Pakistan beef up its navy, while India seems to
be courting closer relations with Russia. While China and Russia
have been making brave noises about a new alliance vis-à-vis
NATO and the West, their interests in Central Asia do not always
coincide. China and Pakistan seem to be working together to help
end the Afghan civil war, but Russia would like to be the main player
situation is fluid, but in general Russia would seem more interested
in ousting the Taliban regime (which it claims has been allowing
Chechen rebels to be trained in Afghanistan) but in instability
until that happens. Instability keeps its former Central Asian satrapies
dependent on Russia for military support. China, meanwhile, sees
the possibility of economic links among Central Asia, Afghanistan,
Iran and Pakistan.
to complicate matters, the United States has agreed to start training
Pakistani military personnel in what U.S. officials describe as
counter-narcotics tactics and missions. Pakistan is a major drug-smuggling
route, but most of the smuggling is by land or by air, not by sea.
thinks the real reason is to re-establish military ties with Pakistan.
got hundreds of millions in U.S. military aid during the Cold War,
but that aid slowed to very little in the 1990s. A modest training
program was canceled in October 1999 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf
ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup. The United
States seems to want to get its hand back into the "Great Game"
in South Asia.