The longstanding struggle between India and Pakistan over Kashmir needs to come to an end before more lives are taken and peaceful withdrawal ceases to be an option
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the control of Kashmir, the disputed region between them. Both states continue to assert that Kashmir is their sovereign territory. The conflict has its roots in the Indian Independence Act of 1947, when Kashmir was given the choice to either accede to India or Pakistan. The Maharajah, then leader, was Hindu but most of the populace were Muslim, and chose to accede to India thus commencing the lengthy conflict.
Most Kashmiris wish for independence; in fact, the Sunday Hindustan Times newspaper reports that two out of three of all polled desired independence. This however has not stopped India from asserting its authority over Kashmir and Pakistan continuing to inject money and weapons towards separatist forces — a fact Pakistan has consistently denied. It is estimated that 100,000 people have already been killed due to the fighting between the Indian Army and Kashmiris. And though Kashmir does have a certain amount of autonomy due to Article 370, this provides little relief as many of Kashmir’s affairs are controlled by the central government.
Pakistan will continue to fund Kashmir separatists to destabilize the control of the Indian Army, while the Indians will use their army as a force to crush the separatist movement. Undoubtedly, compromise between these two states will be difficult to implement. India and Pakistan view each other as eternal enemies, and the sovereignty of Kashmir remains a contentious issue in determining the power politics within the region. If India forgoes its authority over Kashmir then Pakistan will most likely seize control and assert itself as the ‘superior’ power. Incidentally, before Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries were due to meet, the Pakistani authorities met with Kashmir separatist groups thus prompting India to cancel the peace talks. India simply will not allow Pakistan to have any more influence in an already turbulent state of affairs.
However, both these states need to compromise to find a solution. Pakistan and India must stop their bitter rivalry in order to reach a peaceful solution. Kashmiris are clear; they wish for independence, although both India and Pakistan are unwilling to forgo their sovereign claims. The most likely resolution for all actors involved is creating an autonomous region in Kashmir, involving the removal of Indian troops from the area and halting the funding of insurgents by Pakistan. Both states have more to gain from a peaceful resolution than by continuing with the infighting which is needlessly undercutting their relationship.
Pakistan and India are neighbours; each state may view one another with suspicion and contempt but improving relations by finding a resolution to Kashmir will reduce the likelihood of another war.
The bottom line is that those who suffer most are ordinary Kashmiri citizens who face the threat of sectarian violence and heavy-handedness utilized by the Indian Army. It is well known that the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir as well as the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, have both accused the Indian Government of ‘institutional cover-up’ involving human rights abuse.
Presently it remains the case that the Kashmir Assembly is largely at the whim of the ruling party to grant it ascensions. In virtue of this crippling position, Kashmir desperately needs some form of resolution which will allow it to be recognised as a separate entity that can exercise control over its future.