The South Asia Channel

AfPak Behind the Lines: Kashmir

This week’s AfPak Behind the Lines considers the current status of the Kashmir conflict and its impact on Afghanistan and Pakistan with Dr. Sumit Ganguly. 1. 17 Kashmiris have been killed in conflict with Indian authorities since early June, when police killed a 17 year old bystander at a protest. How does this summer’s violence ...

ROUF BHAT/AFP/Getty Images
ROUF BHAT/AFP/Getty Images

This week’s AfPak Behind the Lines considers the current status of the Kashmir conflict and its impact on Afghanistan and Pakistan with Dr. Sumit Ganguly.

1. 17 Kashmiris have been killed in conflict with Indian authorities since early June, when police killed a 17 year old bystander at a protest. How does this summer’s violence compare with previous years, and how has the nature of the conflict changed since the Muslim separatist movement began in the late 1980s?

This summer’s violence is markedly reminiscent of the violence at the beginning of the insurgency in 1989. At that time there was a genuine outpouring of popular anger over Indian political malfeasances in Kashmir. (These are explored at some length in my 1997 Cambridge book, The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace). Once again, young Kashmir men who are tired of the seeming callousness of the Indian state toward their plight have taken to the streets. They feel that much of the resources that the national government has poured into the state has not made a meaningful difference to their lives. They lack employment, infrastructure in the state if inadequate and the heavy hand of paramilitary forces deployed in the state adversely affect they everyday lives. They are subjected to petty harassment, periodic questioning and are occasionally roughed up. Given this milieu all that was needed was an unfortunate incident, namely the death of a hapless high school student was hit by a stray tear gas canister. His death provided the spark for the conflagration that ensued.

2. Analysts have assessed that unrestricted cross border trade in Kashmir could reach $6 billion a year. What might be the economic impact of more open trade routes there on India, Pakistan, and Kashmir? How do economic conditions in Kashmir affect the security situation there?

Actually, the question has it backwards: economic conditions in the state would improve dramatically if some semblance of security and political order obtained in the state. India has started a bus service in Kashmir linking the two sides. However, from the outset, Pakistan-based terrorists have attacked the bus terminal in Srinagar.

The economic conditions in Kashmir are complex. There is little question that over the years the Indian central (national) government has poured in very substantial amounts of economic assistance in an effort to win the sympathies of the populace. However, corrupt officials have siphoned off some of those funds and their administration has not always been effective; therefore the target populations have not frequently benefited from such public spending. The disturbed conditions within the state have also inhibited private investors thereby adding to the state’s problems of unemployment and under-employment.

3. The majority of Kashmiris want independence from both Pakistan and India. What are the current prospects for a political settlement of this conflict?

I do not subscribe to the view that the majority of Kashmiris want independence from India and Pakistan. Based on Robert Bradnock’s survey done in 2009 for Chatham House, in less than four districts of Jammu and Kashmir is there outright support for independence. To my knowledge, this is the best survey done yet in the region. More to the point, the independence option is politically fatuous. What would happen to "nested minorities" such as the Buddhists in Ladakh, the Shia in Kargil and the Hindus in Jammu? Would even the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the notionally secular pro-independence organization credibly guarantee their rights in an independent Kashmir? Also, do we really wish to create another ward of the international community? Can Kashmir without the massive subsidies that it annually receives from India (and squanders thanks to a kleptocratic political class) survive on its own? Would the People’s Republic of China (PRC) really countenance an independent Kashmir given the likely demonstration effects on restive (and oppressed) minorities in Tibet and Sinkiang?

4. What influence does the Kashmir conflict have on the war in Afghanistan? How does Kashmir impact Pakistani and Indian interests there?

This is yet another popular and base canard. It is the darling of the pro-Pakistan lobby in Washington, DC who are either misinformed or mischievous. The Kashmir issue really needs to be separated from the question of Afghanistan. The problem of Kashmir had plagued Indo-Pakistani relations long before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its subsequent troubles. That said, India and Pakistan do have competing interests in Afghanistan. India wants to see an Afghanistan free from the clutches of the religiously and socially obscurantist Taliban while Pakistan, and especially its security establishment, wants to resurrect some variant of the Taliban to exert influence on Afghanistan and to end an Indian presence there.

Dr. Sumit Ganguly holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations and is a Professor of Political Science at Indiana University in Bloomington.

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