Monday, February 13, 2012

Jammu and Kashmir: What India chooses to ignore by Aakar Patel Feb 12, 2012

Jammu and Kashmir: What India chooses to ignore
by Aakar Patel Feb 12, 2012

In 1960, Pakistan under Ayub Khan and India under Nehru signed the Indus Waters Treaty.

This cemented the division of Jammu & Kashmir. After this the United Nations lost interest in pursuing the matter of plebiscite. The wars in 1965, when Pakistan meddled in India, and in 1971, when India meddled in Pakistan, focussed the world on keeping the neighbours apart. The Simla Accord of 1972 signed by Indira and Bhutto stressed a bilateral solution. India believed that this again reduced the parties in the dispute to two, ejecting the people of Jammu & Kashmir, and eclipsing the Security Council’s resolutions. Indira rehabilitated Sheikh Abdullah two years later and believed that the issue was now behind India.

Indian policemen look at members of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) holding placards with pictures of Maqbool Bhat as they try to march to the office of the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), in Srinagar February 10, 2012. Reuters
This strategy did not work because the fundamental problem remained unresolved. The larger part of Jammu & Kashmir’s Muslim population, and perhaps a majority as a whole, did not want to live under the Indian constitution.

This resentment had been checked by New Delhi, from the time of Nehru’s jailing of Sheikh Abdullah by fixing elections in the state. In Benazir Bhutto’s first term the state exploded with its demand for freedom. India was taken aback by the ferocity and persistence of the call in Srinagar. Private television came to India in the same period and the visuals alarmed Indians who had been led to believe something else by state propaganda. The stern and insistently Islamic nature of the Kashmir movement disturbed a nation whose textbooks had consistently stressed secularism. (Our history books blame partition entirely on one man, Jinnah). Pakistan brought the sword to the Kashmiris’ call with the introduction of the mujahideen, who were motivated and well trained. Naturally, they were Islamic and their names – Harkat al Mujahideen, Harkat al Ansar, Hizb al Mujahideen, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Muhammad – reflected this. With the exception of a couple of groups, like Amanullah Khan/Yasin Malik’s JKLF, even the political resistance was coloured in religion. Kashmiri Muslims responded, and packed off their Hindu neighbours, who have not yet gone back to the state.

The introduction of foreigners gave India the justification to send the army into Srinagar, and the occupation began. The jihad burned through the 1990s. It ended immediately after Musharraf blocked Lashkar and Jaish, the two dominant groups, from cross border activity. Today there is little violence in Jammu & Kashmir. The new threat and the state’s attention is on the uprisings in the tribal areas of central India. This demonstrated to Indians that the problem in Kashmir was entirely the product of Pakistan. However, the army has remained in Srinagar.

The question is why.

The answer is that India had two problems. The military problem was the mujahideen, who had been sent back home by Musharraf. The second problem is unresolved. Many if not most Kashmiri Sunnis and some Shia want independence or accession to Pakistan. Without resolving this unease, India cannot settle the question of Jammu & Kashmir, no matter what the outside world accepts. India’s response to this was to stop meddling in the state’s politics. Through the last 12 years, the population has been allowed to elect whoever it wanted. The army did not need to force people to vote any longer, and the numbers of those who voted rose. As part of this change, India began talking to the group that was pushing the plebiscite. This was the Hurriyat Conference, a body of mostly Sunni groups like the modernist Jamaat e Islami under Ali Shah Geelani and the traditionalists under Omar Farooq. It has been trying to get these groups to participate in the elections as they had in the past. New Delhi has been assuring them that they will let them come to power if they should win. It has not had success in this in any great measure. However, some people have begun contesting like Abdul Ghani Lone’s son Sajjad. Perhaps in time, some of the others will also.

The Security Council has today little if not zero interest in pursuing its resolutions. The tolerance of the world today to cross border mischief is low, and in that sense Pakistan’s options are now limited.

The only problem for India appears to be to convince Jammu & Kashmir’s Muslims to fully accept the Indian constitution. Next week, we’ll look at why that has been difficult to do

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