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The Solution to the Kashmir Conflict -II
By Rohan Bedi
India has followed the same strategy in Kashmir since 1947 - in the words of a Kashmiri "from 1947 to the AK47" - that fits the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Pakistan is no different. Its support for cross-border terrorist attacks in India via proxies have effectively labeled the Kashmiri freedom struggle as a terrorist movement and caused them to lose Western support. People on both sides of the border suffer from fatigue with their governments' approach to Kashmir. Ordinary civilians in both countries are sick of powerful politicians and generals talking big on nationalism and painting the other as the enemy.

It's a false narrative, and people are now beginning to understand this, especially those civilians who interact with people across the border. Besides the issue of human rights violations, the amount of money wasted on the armed forces of both countries, the energy expended by its leaders on developing strategy and policy to counter the other, the misuse of the issue to whip up fear and animosity before elections - all these could be avoided if the institutions were more sincere about dealing with the issue through negotiation. They need to focus on growing their respective economies and eradicating poverty both in Kashmir and more broadly within the two countries.

It is important to underscore that India is less of a country and more a subcontinent, where diverse peoples coexist, as do multiple religions. Its diversity is both its strength and weakness, because there have been various separatist movements against the union at different points of time. The Khalistan movement of the Sikhs, insurgencies in India's northeast states, the far-left communist Naxalite rebellion and the Kashmir insurgency are four key examples of such movements. Whilst some movements are more under control - the Dravida Nadu movement, for instance, is defunct - than others, the Kashmir issue cannot be seen as being anything special or different from other independence struggles, each of which has its own grievances and logic.

Similarly, Pakistan also has prominent ethnic nationalist movements, including the Bengali nationalist movement (which led to the creation of Bangladesh), Sindhudesh, Pashtunistan and the Free Balochistan movement. Realistically, what the Kashmiri people need to expect as an end-goal is a solution within the status quo and a return of peace and economic prosperity to the two Kashmirs. To ask for more is a denial of both the complexities and realities of the Kashmir issue.

Toward a Solution

So let's look at the key components to construct a tripartite agreement implementing the fourth solution in which India and Pakistan stop firing each other and let Kashmir live in peace while both countries add value and levy taxes in their respective administered Kashmirs. This requires letting go of the past and moving forward in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, focusing on the future rather than being held hostage by the past.

First, we need to get the engagement model right. There needs to be time-bound engagement on both sides with multiple stakeholders, including the civilian government, army, intelligence, separatist leaders and civil society. This needs to include the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley and a cessation of Islamic fundamentalist activities and disarmament.

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Ultimately, the land being fought over in Kashmir is not as important as the people and their right to peace, security and to enjoy the fruits of development - to lead a normal life that we take for granted.

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Over 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits fled the violence in India-administered Kashmir in the 1990s. Currently, the numbers in India are around 62,000; 40,000 of these live in Jammu, 20,000 live in Delhi and its satellite cities. Kashmir traditionally had a peaceful composite culture called Kashmiriyat, signifying the centuries-old indigenous secularism of Kashmir that demanded religious and social harmony and brotherhood. This needs to be restored to the valley. Interestingly, Muslims in the valley want the Pandits back and not in segregated townships. While ghettos are undesirable in the long term, for reasons of security it is likely that initially a mix of new townships and restoring Pandits to the areas originally inhabited by them is needed.

Second, the powers and constraints placed on the armed forces need review and modification. India needs to address the humanitarian concern around Kashmir by repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in its current form, replacing it with a version that recognizes and protects human rights of innocent Kashmiris. This is unlikely to offer protection to known terrorists, putting a brake on enforced disappearances of innocent civilians detained for questioning.

However, it also means that new legislation is likely to bring in stronger military and criminal measures to protect the rights of the Indian security forces who have had to face stone-pelting, to bring the stone throwers in line with the law (the law in countries like the US and Israel is far more stringent). The consequences of stone-pelting should be made clear to the civilian population in advance so that if they indulge in this, it would be at their own risk and responsibility. It is also good to involve parents to control their underage children from inadvertently becoming casualties. This should be part of the civilian outreach and is absolutely essential to the long-term success of any peace agreement.

Pakistan also faces charges from Kashmiris that intelligence agencies trap poor Kashmiri youth into a cycle of terrorism and frequent human rights violations, including enforced disappearances of people who live in villages close to the Line of Control (LOC). Hence, on both sides of the LOC, the armed forces would need to have similar powers and constraints imposed by humanitarian law.

Third, India and Pakistan need to issue a joint person of Kashmiri origin card, a 25-year multiple-entry visa entitling Kashmiris (from both sides of Jammu and Kashmir) to travel for up to 180 days and invest anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir, whether in Pakistan or India. Controls can be there initially for periodic reporting to the local police stations every 15 days, but this can be dropped as the plan becomes a success and peace is restored. Moreover, where a Kashmiri is buying and selling goods from another Kashmiri across the border, it can be agreed that there would be zero import duties, but other customs checks on the nature of the goods would continue as normal.

Fourth - focus on autonomy alongside integration. India's Kashmir currently enjoys a high degree of autonomy on paper through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution (except for defense, foreign affairs, finance and communications), and Pakistan-administered Kashmir also has significant autonomy, although actual practice differs in both parts. Specifically, it needs to be examined whether a higher degree of financial autonomy is required for both Kashmirs and how this would work.

It is currently unclear whether Article 370 can be legally dropped altogether or not. Irrespective of that, Indians would want at least limited property rights, such as 99-year leasehold, in India's Kashmir. Pakistan should do the same on its side. This also helps in national integration with mainstream Indians and Pakistanis. Avoiding ghettos of any sort is necessary for long-term peace, particularly in an Indian context.

Fifth - build focused law and order arrangements. Personal and religious freedom must be protected in both parts of Kashmir. India and Pakistan need to create a joint mechanism that agrees a common minimum plan for the entire Kashmir area including, for example, enhanced monitoring (such as using artificial intelligence) of radical preachers in mosques and madrassas, including publications distributed by them.

A minimum curriculum for madrassa students, including the secular teachings of Sufi Islam on love and humanity, should be introduced, and limitations placed on Sharia courts to provide non-binding arbitration/mediation judgments on civil matters related to family disputes such as inheritance or divorce cases, review of fatwas issued on religious matters to ensure that they do not infringe upon the rights of individuals guaranteed under law; training for judges is needed. Websites and chat rooms need to be monitored and/or blocked to curb radicalization, as well as clamp down on the sale and distribution of extremist DVDs. Hawala funding needs to be monitored, including the use of cryptocurrencies on the dark web. Exchange of intelligence information and joint security operations must be undertaken across both sides of the border to flush out any remnant terrorist pockets.

Sixth - eventually, demilitarization is needed. This can be considered on both sides of Kashmir based on a phased approach once peace is firmly established, leaving sufficient armed forces to maintain law and order (including riot control) and counterterrorism on both sides.

Seventh - make investments and expect returns. India and Pakistan need to come out with a plan to invest in Kashmir's industry, agriculture, services and tourism. There needs to be a budget and a new joint development body to execute these plans through both direct infrastructure investments, building institutions (such as popularizing high-yield agriculture) and lending via existing banks. It should be the same integrated plan with each country's money being spent on their respective areas. Of course, central governments should recover these investments through taxes. The free ride for Kashmir has to stop in order to deal with the resentment that non-Kashmiris have for their tax money being used in mollycoddling Kashmiris who enjoy autonomy unlike most other states.

Eighth - establish the international border. Of course, the LOC would need to become a permanent international border in the context of the above (including Kashmir territory under Chinese control) legitimizing the status quo and ideally solving India's other border disputes on its northeastern border with China in the same deal. India would need to make its peace with China on its Belt and Road initiative running through Kashmir, using it to benefit its half of Kashmir and the rest of India economically.

The full list of disputed territories in the area includes Jammu and Kashmir (also Ladakh), administered by India and claimed by Pakistan; Azad Kashmir - Pakistan-administered Kashmir, claimed by India; Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan and claimed by India; Siachen Glacier, administered by India and claimed by Pakistan; Aksai Chin administered by China and claimed by India (India's 1962 war with China was fought here); and the Shaksam Valley administered by China and claimed by India.

Ninth - create a role for the UN. In the context of an agreement between India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders and separatists, unconditional access needs to be given to the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights on both sides of the new international border. Both countries need to agree to act on any recommendations from the UN commissioner, wherever possible. Jammu and Kashmir has hitherto been treated as a "bilateral issue" under the Simla Agreement of 1972, albeit this only referred to the process of building a political solution.

Tenth - focus on building other bridges. Within Kashmir, engaging with the civilian population to get their buy-in for the peace agreement and to help them alleviate grievances is absolutely essential. A sustained campaign is needed, not a one-off effort, and to work it needs to be well thought through (involving social psychologists) and well managed. Beyond Kashmir, an economically resurgent India also has a role to help eradicate poverty in South Asia. Hence, a similar 25-year multiple-entry visa needs to be issued to prominent businessmen and other prominent persons (artists, writers, musicians) in both countries to cover travel, investment, trade (part of, but not a solution in itself) and working anywhere in India and Pakistan. Automated immigration services could be set up in key cities.

Eleventh - recognize that friends don't fight. It obviously follows that Pakistan would need to give up its "bleed India with a thousand cuts" policy using proxies, and India would need to stop interfering in Baluchistan altogether. Both would need to release all Kashmiri political prisoners from their respective jails. Pakistan would need to remove extreme messages inciting religious hatred against Hindus from all school textbooks and cease all training camps for Kashmiri freedom fighters.

Twelfth - lead the transition with professional project management. Both India and Pakistan are notorious for their shoddy implementation of otherwise good ideas. What is needed is a systemic approach with a jointly appointed team consisting of professional managers, members of the civilian government, army and intelligence, with proper authorities responsible for information and transparent discussion of policies, identifying all the changes needed and rolling them out systematically. It also needs a high-level project governance committee consisting of the respective prime ministers, heads of the two parts of Kashmir, key central government ministers and army and intelligence chiefs meeting once a month via video conferencing to monitor progress.

The solution is as simple as we want it to be or as complex as we want it to be. It can take six months to agree or 60 years. But certainly without recognizing the existence of multiple stakeholders and having a time-bound negotiation, we can never expect to see peace in Kashmir or in the region as a whole. India's approach of closing its porous border and treating Kashmir as a security problem is a short-term stop-gap solution that does not recognize the humanitarian cost, nor does it treat Kashmir as the unfinished business of Partition.

Pakistan's approach of funding cross-border fighters is ultimately a piecemeal and failing strategy that achieves nothing long-term other than trouble for the local Kashmiri population. It remains to be seen whether both countries have the political will, wisdom and compassion needed for an actual solution. Thoughts, words and deeds have to come together for this. We cannot say one thing and do something else. To those who say that peace is never possible, please remember that no one could predict the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Ultimately, the land being fought over in Kashmir is not as important as the people and their right to peace, security and to enjoy the fruits of development - to lead a normal life that we take for granted.

(Rohan Bedi is the managing director of CSFC Singapore, a financial crime consulting firm.)

—(Courtesy: Fair Observer)

—(Concluded)


News Updated at : Tuesday, August 7, 2018
 
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