Is Kashmir Caught Between Two Hissing Cousins

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Is Kashmir Caught Between Two Hissing Cousins
Mehbooba Welcomes Centre’s Announcement To Halt Security Ops
As Ramzan Ends Ceasefire Hangs In Balance
Amid Animosity Two Asian Giants Shaking Hands

Your own safety is at stake when your neighbour’s wall is ablaze.

                                                                                                                                                                _Horace

Sumera B Reshi

As the two women can’t stay silent for long, so can’t India and Pakistan be at ease with each other.  From their inception, India and Pakistan have been a hissing cousin, loath to reconcile or calm down. Since past 71 years, both have been very hostile often times. Both of them fight hard to get their beloved ‘Kashmir’ into marriage alliance. The animosity, between India and Pakistan, is worse than what Laila – Majnu or Romeo – Juliet ever met with to get their love. 71 years is a long journey to stand for on and off rifts, standoffs and escalations. Thus, of late both India & Pakistan have been trying to lower the heat to initiate their broken bilateral ties through goodwill gestures and signatory statements.

Both the hissing cousins have restated their commitment to harmoniously resolving their ties. In the recent past, instead of knocking each other down physically, they have chosen to harass their respective diplomats, however, to prove that they are committed to peace, they have agreed to humanitarian gestures with regard to prisoners suffering in lock ups on both sides.

For the past 71 years, they closed every door and window for each other. Even they sealed the minor crevices so that hatred won’t escape a la light doesn’t escape a black hole. Both of them wanted hatred and mistrust to simmer till it could explode like a volcano and destroy everything that comes its way. And after 71 years, India and Pakistan felt they need to work on the windows of opportunities. Like the battle of Troy, they lost almost everything – relations, trust, peace and trade.  As of now, the trade between India and Pakistan is just over $5 billion through the third country. If non-tariff barriers are removed, liberalization of visa and normalization of mutual relations are maintained, the two-way trade could touch a high $30 billion.

Since past 71 years, both India and Pakistan have been rejecting and embracing each other. Each new government on both sides creates a new fear. However, India and Pakistan survive despite playing Tom and Jerry. Nonetheless, Narendra Modi’s rise as the premier of world’s largest democracy stirred every polity of Pakistan, especially the army. In 2016, premier Modi in a public speech mentioned India’s support to Baluchistan and its dissatisfaction over Gilgit-Baltistan’s status which actually reinstated Pakistan’s suspicions about India’s motives. Pakistan believes that India is employing covert means to destabilize and foment violence in Pakistan. Analysts’ view that India’s alleged covert operations to punish Pakistan would further lead to a disturbing development and accelerate the 70-year security competition between the two arch-rivals.

In a 70 year history, India & Pakistan have played hide and seek, fought three wars and have been very acerbic towards each other. The bilateral ties broke and then restored but after Kargil war in May 1999, the hostility reached to the meteoric heights followed by the “Twin Peaks” crisis, which was sparked by an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.

Decade 2000 witnessed many ups and downs and after 2012, India and Pakistan resumed foreign secretary-level talks in 2015, which were followed by Prime Ministerial diplomatic talks in Ufa.

However, bonhomie between India and Pakistan began deteriorating after the militant attacks, first on Gurdaspur police station in July 2015 and later on Pathankot Air Force base in January 2016. Despite much bitterness after Pathankot attack, bilateral relations didn’t suffer much until the September 2016 attack on the Army camp in Uri amid five-month long massive protests after the death of Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffer Wani. In response, India launched ‘surgical strikes’ and both sides are on fire since then.

Modi, who is considered a staunch supporter of Hindutva, however, this time he turned out to be different. None of the governments or political parties either in Pakistan or in India has been empathetic to the situations in Kashmir. They all seem to be immune to the plight of Kashmir and its inhabitants. What they are good at is to get political mileage over the miseries of the people at large. According to Lisa Curtis, Former Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, with Modi’s rise to power comes an increased likelihood of greater Indo-Pakistani tensions and potential for military escalation, especially if a major terrorist attack occurs in India.

Nevertheless, having close ties with RSS, Modi earned unceasing publicity among India masses and the world over, yet he proved himself more than expected. In his tenure, BJP formed an alliance with the local PDP, thus for the first time, BJP was in power echelons in JK. In Modi’s regime, BJP made inroads in Kashmir valley. The presence of BJP cadres and its leaders from the local populace made the real difference.  Modi did for the BJP what others failed to do.  Under BJP’s rule at centre and a party at power in Kashmir, Modi is yet to deliver on its political promises.

The BJP government at the centre approaches the Kashmir issue either using a Pakistan angle or from a Hindu-Muslim perspective. They have used same old rhetoric that Pakistan creates unrest in the Valley.  To deter the conflict in the Valley, Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh tried to rope in Delhi-based Muslim clerics to reach out to Kashmiris was a flawed approach asserted Happymon Jacob, an assistant professor of Diplomacy and Disarmament at the School of International Studies , Jawaharlal University, New Delhi.

In the 70 years, long battle of resentment, India – Pakistan had so much at stake. In view of the growing economic markets especially in South Asia and Southeast Asia and CPEC on cards, both sides felt they need to come out of the seven decades old grudges and work for economic prosperity. Therefore, in May 2018, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria, while addressing the Employers Federation of Pakistan and South Asian Forum of Employers, echoed the need to increase the level of trade. He said that if South Korea and North Korea can shun hostilities and work towards resolving their intricate differences, there is no reason why India and Pakistan can’t follow the path.

Conflict along the line of control (LoC), the dividing line between Indian and Pakistani-controlled portions of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir — has become a permanent feature of India-Pakistan relations. Both India and Pakistan accuse each other of violating the ceasefire agreement and of unprovoked firing, both feel proud that they have inflicted heavy losses to the other side.

In 2018, the number of ceasefire violations (CFV) reached the 400 mark in the first two months. If this trend continues then 2018 will likely record the highest number of CFVs along the LoC since November 2003, when the ceasefire first came into force. Meanwhile, efforts to promote dialogue or confidence-building have given way to greater mistrust.

In an article published by the British think-tank, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in which the author, Kamal Alam argues that now there is a paradigm shift in the mindset of the Pakistani Army under the leadership of present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Ahmed Bajwa. According to Alam, “there is now a genuine realization by Pakistan’s army of the need to move away from the zero-sum approach.  Alam in his article wrote, “Pakistan’s military reaches out to India,” referred an address by Gen. Bajwa in 2016, where he invited India to be a part of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Project (CPEC). Alam quotes Gen Bajwas as: “The Pakistan army is now no more insecure and feels confident of its future and that he welcomes Indian participation in Pakistan’s flagship infrastructure project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).”

The ambience of warmth didn’t end here, on another occasion, Gen Bajwa reiterated the necessity of dialogue between India & Pakistan and also invited the Indian Military attaché, Sanjay Vishwarao and other senior diplomats posted at the Indian High Commission to attend the military parade to mark Pakistan’s National Day which falls on March 23rd.

Additionally, an interesting development highlighted by Alam is the upcoming military drill to be held under the umbrella of SCO in September 2018, in which both India and Pakistan, along with member states, will take part. Certainly, this is a positive development and Alam claims that this change was obvious in the mindset of Pakistan’s army and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) when both these powerful institutions charted out the Indian Plan.  They agreed that engagement and not the conflict was the answer.

 Moreover, China has been emphasizing for a better relationship between India and Pakistan for some time, keeping in view its own economic interests. Even China also asked India to be a part of CPEC, however, India has firmly opposed to the BRI, given the fact that CPEC passes through disputed territory. Given the changing undercurrents in India-Sino relations, Gen Bajwa and top brasses in Pakistan tone down a bit so to appear positive before the international community, especially its all-weather friend – China.

Past is gone, but future is still with us. Experts believe that Bajwa doctrine stands for regional peace. Bajwa is aware of the changing political landscape of South Asia. China also wants to make peace without touching the differences on core issues, so that is what Bajwa has in mind, make peace but don’t compromise on the Kashmir issues and the Kashmir isn’t letting India and Pakistan be at peace nor ease. Despite all, Pakistan hasn’t ignored China’s advice that instead of was, other peaceful measures could be tried for Kashmir issue.

For Pakistan, Kashmir is not the only cause of itching; Indo-U.S. Nexus in Afghanistan is another factor which had to have an impact on Indo-Pak ties. Pakistan is cautious of an expanded Indian presence in Afghanistan as it believes a pro-India government in Kabul could permit India to sponsor militancy in Pakistan and might even lead to a two-front war with India in the event of a crisis. At the same time, India supports Afghanistan’s current National Unity Government (NUG) as it is opposed to the existence of a Taliban-like regime in Kabul that might reinforce LeT and other militant groups directed at India.

Since the beginning, India and Pakistan seem incompatible, in spite of their shared history and geography. Essentially, India – Pakistan relations are deadly and Senior Fellow Emeritus – Foreign Policy, The India Project, Stephen P. Cohen calls it a ‘paired minority conflict’. As per Cohen, at the times of conflict, both the countries see themselves as vulnerable, threatened and encircled and at risk. “They have a “minority” or “small power” complex, which also means that conventional morality does not apply to them. Sri Lanka and the Middle East are the other two outstanding cases of a “paired minority conflict.” All three are self-contained, internally powered conflict machines. Therefore, Kashmir is both the cause and effect of this paired-minority complex, it can’t be “solved” because there is no solution as long as present mindsets prevail, wrote Stephen P. Cohen.

For the larger benefit, there is a need of thaw between India – Pakistan as it is necessary for South Asian stability. Nevertheless, it does not mean that either India or Pakistan will ditch their beloved Kashmir. Since 1947, Pakistan has played with the right to self-determination card and India has been mumbling that Kashmir is an internal part in order to get Kashmir. They can’t achieve peace by chanting Kashmir mantra, rather both of them need to identify others areas of mutual interest to improve bilateral ties.

In present situations, the US should encourage trade, joint economic projects, and civil-society engagement among the people from both sides of Kashmir.  While no concrete solution is visible to the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir and various governments at the centre have tried to ease tensions but with zero resultant. Modi might be seen as a radical, fanatical or an extremist but the world is watching him and his strategies to take India to new heights. In such a scenario, he might try to behave, work towards relative calm and greater economic prosperity. All is not lost, there is much more to gain.

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