What is humanity for the Kashmiri?


Iftikhar Gilani

To person

Iftikhar Gilani is the director of the New Delhi office of the Kashmir Times newspaper. The journalist also works for several Pakistani newspapers and Deutsche Welle's Urdu service.

India and Pakistan are closer than ever to a solution - and yet far from it

The main point of dispute between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir region, for which the two states fought three wars. In addition, the conflict also harbors considerable explosives in terms of domestic politics.

The embattled Kashmir region borders not only on India and Pakistan, but also on China. (& copy AP)

When the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in January 2006 the third round of their so-called Composite Dialogue, the joint talks began, both sides reaffirmed their will to a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict. In the meantime you are back at the beginning. During a meeting of high-ranking officials and diplomats just a few months later, India put the issue of Kashmir on hold and called on Pakistan to take concrete steps against terrorist activities. This primarily meant the violent incidents outside the Union state of Jammu and Kashmir, such as the attacks in the pilgrimage city of Varanasi, in which 20 people died in March, or the devastating bomb attacks on suburban trains in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), which in July 2006 almost 200 Claimed human lives. Only then could bilateral issues, including the Kashmir problem, be discussed again, it said.

Map of Kashmir
Source: commons.wikipedia.org
Nonetheless, Delhi reiterated once again that it was interested in a "lasting relationship" with Pakistan. While India refused to discuss Jammu and Kashmir in previous talks, the Indian negotiator asked his Pakistani counterpart in January to come up with ideas and suggestions that could help to resolve the conflict. "We are ready to look at everything that is presented to us," said State Secretary Shyam Saran, thus breaking a blockade that had lasted for more than 30 years.

Until 1975, India and Pakistan were actively trying to find a solution to the Kashmir problem - even though they had previously waged war against each other three times (1947, 1965 and 1971). (see info box) But after reaching an agreement with the legendary Sheikh Abdullah - for decades one of the most influential politicians in Kashmir and ardent advocate of the right to self-determination - India believed it had settled the conflict and refused to talk to its neighbors about Jammu and Kashmir to negotiate. According to the agreement with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Sheikh Abdullah withdrew from his demand that the Kashmiri should decide on their state future in a referendum. In return, he was appointed Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan was unable to oppose this after its defeat in the 1971 war.


historical background

History of the Kashmir conflict

Stefan Mentschel
The problem was by no means solved. The manipulation of several successive elections after the death of Sheikh Abdullah in 1983 opened old wounds again. Many Kashmiri, who had resigned themselves to belonging to the Indian Union of their homeland, complained that the basic democratic rights guaranteed in the constitution behind the towering mountain ranges that surround Kashmir do not seem to apply. The state elections of 1987, in which a particularly large number of young people took part, finally broke the ground. Obviously, the result was postponed in favor of the desired winners, with the party of Sheikh Abdullah's son, Farooq Abdullah, benefiting in particular. Observers believe that these elections were the justification and trigger for the armed conflict that has killed over 50,000 people to date. (see tables) Nevertheless, India avoided all talks about the Kashmir conflict and accused Pakistan of fueling the conflict.

Victims of terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir - 2006

 CiviliansSecurity guardsTerroriststotal

* until December 18, 2006
Source: Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi (http://www.satp.org)

Victims of terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir - 2005

 CiviliansSecurity guardsTerroriststotal
August4711 75133

Source: Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi (http://www.satp.org)

Striving for dignified peace

It was not until January 2006 that hope re-emerged when Delhi asked the Pakistani side for suggestions for a final solution to the problem. Since then, both sides have been exchanging information on a regular basis - mostly with the help of so-called non-papers. Although the contents of these papers are not officially known, well-informed sources claim that there is now greater consensus than ever before. This is what Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf calls for joint management (analogously: joint leadership) and the division of sovereign tasks, while India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a cooperative management (analogously: cooperative leadership) advertises.

Some political observers believe that Musharraf and Singh only sit down at the table together and have a term between them joint management and cooperative management would need to find to solve the problem. It therefore seems ironic that, despite this rapprochement, both governments are still far from a solution. Former Indian intelligence chief and Kashmiri Amarjit Singh Dulat is convinced that the time is ripe for a solution. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed the perception of many Kashmiri leaders, said Dulat. They no longer strived for independence but for a "dignified peace".

Indian officials are also genuinely interested in reaching out to Pakistan. At the same time, they point out that the violent incidents in 2006 - for which the neighbor is at least partly held responsible - complicate the rapprochement process. "We are a democratic country, and it is not possible to act against public opinion, which is largely hostile to the peace process after these incidents," it said from government circles. Whether something moves depends on success on the "terrorism front".

Even more than the opposition Indian People's Party (Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP), which is determined to oppose any initiative launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, from the nuclear deal with the US to rapprochement with Pakistan, parts of the ruling Congress Party are also turning vehemently against advancing the peace process with Pakistan.