[Reader-list] Eqbal Ahmed on Kashmir

abir bazaz abirbazaz at rediffmail.com
Mon Oct 29 01:06:23 IST 2001

Beyond mutual destruction


DIPLOMACY does occasionally wear a farcical look but nowhere more often than in South Asia. During bilateral talks in 1993, India and Pakistan exchanged carefully drafted position papers. These were called ‘non-papers’. An American academic, Stephen Cohen, has followed in this tradition. He is the author recently (1996) of a non-plan, labelled the Cohen Plan. It is the subject currently of much interest in Islamabad which has, to the best of my knowledge, not given any thought to a plan of peace with India.

Cohen’s is an outline not for a settlement of disputes between India and Pakistan but for U.S. sponsorship of a ‘Camp David process’. It offers no clue to American or even the author’s thinking on the principles that may guide the agenda of this process. It merely argues that the climate for an American initiative is favourable, that peace-making in South Asia will be less expensive for the United States than was Camp David which entailed large aid to Egypt in addition to the hefty billions Israel receives from the U.S., and that it will require patience, bipartisan consensus, and a well-reputed American mediator.

The closest Cohen comes to revealing the substance of the initiative he recommends is his model of the Camp David Accord. He deems it, as most American policy analysts do, a great success. But was it? Surely, by removing Egypt from the rank of frontline Arab states, it rendered unthinkable an Arab war against Israel. By the same token, Arab states and people became the objects of Israel’s ambition and aggression. It was after Camp David that Israel invaded Lebanon, killing 30,000 civilians, maiming thousands more, destroying its ancient villages, towns, and the capital city Beirut where Israeli forces oversaw the Falangist massacre of Sabra and Shatila. A portion of Lebanon remains under Israeli occupation, the site of weekly killings and dying, a monument to Camp David.

The Palestinians – who are the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the Kas
ter Camp David. The United States pretended to an arbiter’s and guarantor’s role; in reality it was on Israel’s side. When negotiations between Anwar Sadaat and Menachem Begin deadlocked over the question of unlawful Zionist settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, Jimmy Carter staked his presidential prestige to assure Sadaat that Israel would not establish more settlements. The ink had not dried on the Camp David Accord when Begin announced the establishment of new settlements. Jimmy Carter protested, verbally and in vain. While massive U.S. aid continued to pour into Israel, it expropriated nearly 60% of Palestinian land and all of its water resources. The augmented harshness of the occupier rendered life well nigh impossible for the hapless people of the West Bank and Gaza. Dispossession on a large scale was one outcome; the outbreak of the intifada was another.



The Camp David Accord is viewed, not incorrectly, as the foundation stone of the Oslo and Cairo agreements between Israel and the PLO. Officials no less than most journalists and scholars in the United States have been offering these as first steps toward Palestinian statehood. I, among others, have argued that Oslo is liable to yield not a Palestinian state but a state of apartheid in the Middle East. Its outlines had already emerged under Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, though both prime ministers were viewed in Washington as apostles of peace.

Two distinct humanities live in Israel and under its occupation – one Jewish, the other Arab. One enjoys full citizenship rights, the other does not. One claims sovereignty, the other is denied it. One controls the land and its resources, the other does not. They live in separated spaces, the one as a free people, the other as a besieged people. These realities become uglier and more complex as new roads, public facilities and institutions are constructed with American aid. They create new facts of apartheid and inequality. It’s an awesome tribute to the power of belief that perfectly normal sch
ike Professor Cohen, offer Camp David as a successful model.

As Washington shows interest in midwifing an India-Pakistan agreement, Pakistan’s policy-makers – where are you Éwhere? – ought to reflect on Camp David’s example. No two histories are similar, yet analogies help analysis. Egypt and Israel went to war thrice in three decades; so did India and Pakistan. Palestine served as a major bone of contention in the Middle Eastern conflict as Kashmir does in South Asia. As Pakistan has over four decades, Egypt expended much energy posturing about resistance and liberation while ignoring Palestinian right to representation and paying scant attention to a changing world environment. As frustrations piled over failures, Egypt put all its eggs in the American basket. ‘Ninety per cent of this problem can be solved by America,’ Anwar Sadaat was fond of saying. Pakistan has been inviting third party mediation for some time. As a ploy to engage the sympathies of others it has not worked. It is unlikely to serve as a mechanism to obtain even a modicum of justice for the Kashmiris, or peaceable Indo-Pakistan relations. Rather, American mediation may harm Pakistan as it harmed the Arabs.



The United States’ interests in South Asia are those of a great power, largely economic and part strategic. Moral issues of human rights and self determination play but a minor role in policy-making. It is self-defeating to get distracted by Washington’s professions of virtues and neutrality. Realistic analysis would suggest that in the role of mediator, the U.S. shall be keen to bring about peace in South Asia while favouring India over Pakistan, and the two states over the stateless Kashmiris. Consider, among other factors, the following:

India is a large market roughly eight times larger than Pakistan; this ratio is reflected in the current volume of American investments in the two countries. It is many times more endowed in natural resources than Pakistan. Also, India is better positioned for rapid economic growth by v
nd literacy. Strategically, it is a large and populous country, in important respects a counterpoint to China. As a post-cold war structure of international relations emerges, the United States seeks balancing mechanisms to strike a favourable equilibrium in its relations with China. India can serve this purpose better than any other country in Asia except Japan. For these reasons, Washington has to be more keen to insure the goodwill and stability of India than of Pakistan.



Nations, realists are fond of reiterating, do not have permanent friends, nor permanent enemies. They only have permanent interests. During most of the cold war years, the United States government saw political Islam as its ally and an adversary of communism. Today the reverse is true; it views Islamic movements the world over with deep distrust and active hostility. Between 1989 when Kashmir’s powerful nationalist insurrection began, and 1992 when it developed an Islamic character with Pakistan’s help, America’s intelligence services supplied their policy-makers an alarming picture of militant Islam emerging in the strategic Kashmir valley with Pakistani, Afghan, and Iranian involvement. This impression of Kashmiri resistance has been reinforced by the proliferation of a score of armed Islamic groups in Kashmir.

Like all paramount powers, the United States is a status quo power. In areas of its interest and influence it favours stability over change. Kashmir’s liberation movement has been increasingly perceived in Washington as a destabilizing force in South Asia, especially if it makes significant gains toward its goal of total separation from India. They see the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamaat-ul-Ulema’i Islam gaining legitimacy, popularity, and armed strength from their role in Kashmir, thus changing the comfortable current balance in favour of temporal parties of Pakistan. In India, Kashmir’s separation can only aid the militant Hindu parties which have arrived perilously close to power. Above all, Kashmir’s separation is like
worsen India’s tense communal environment; the BJP and its partners may ride the anti-Muslim wave. ‘We cannot afford,’ a Washington insider remarked some months ago, ‘Bosnia on a grand scale.’

For these and more reasons, Pakistan will be wise to encourage U.S. interest while declining its mediation in our relations with India. Thanks, but no thanks! Islamabad’s challenge is to explore other, better options. Unfortunately, it does not appear poised to meet it.



A lasting peace between India and Pakistan remains, nevertheless, an urgent necessity. Hostility between the two will continue to distort the political and economic environment of both countries, inflict upon their inhabitants the augmenting costs of subversion and sabotage, inhibit regional cooperation, and force more than a billion people to live perpetually under the menace of nuclear holocaust.

Indian-Pakistani disputes over Siachin and Wuller Barrage are easily resolvable; in fact, the basics of agreement over these two issues have already been reached in bilateral talks. Kashmir is the primary source of conflict. It has outlasted most post-world war II conflicts – the cold war, war in Indo-China, the American-Chinese confrontation, South African apartheid, and the Israeli-Arab conflict. Three full scale wars, frequent armed confrontations along the India Pakistan border, years of Kashmiri uprising and Indian repression, and the beleaguered Kashmiris’ enormous sorrows, have not induced either India or Pakistan to shift from their positions.



Delhi declares the matter settled, claims that Kashmir – under its occupation – is an integral part of India, regularly denounces and occasionally threatens Pakistan for its ‘interference in India’s internal affairs,’ and has been trying for years to put down Kashmiri resistance – mercilessly, without pity, and in vain. Islamabad insists that Kashmir is an unresolved international dispute, and it must be settled by a plebiscite as originally envisaged by a U.N. Security Council Resolut

Neither position is sustainable. Pakistani and Indian decision-makers will serve their countries well if they concede to the realities sooner rather than later. One, a military solution of the Kashmir dispute is not possible. Two, it is equally difficult to envisage, as India does, a unilateral political solution. Three, while the United States has a stake in peace between India and Pakistan, neither the great powers nor world opinion will make a decisive contribution toward resolving this conflict. Four, direct negotiations offer the only effective path to a peaceful solution. However, meaningful negotiations are not possible without Kashmiri participation. Hence the most sensible way to resolve the dispute is tripartite negotiations involving Pakistan, India, and a representative Kashmiri delegation. Direct negotiations do not preclude a facilitating role for the United Nation’s or the United States. A discussion of these points follows.

Three models may be envisaged for a military solution: a conventional Indo-Pakistan war, the Kashmiri war of liberation ending like Cuba, Algeria or Vietnam, and protracted guerrilla warfare followed, as India achieved in East Pakistan, by a decisive Pakistani military coup de grace. To a student of military strategy all three options would appear unrealistic. For differing reasons neither Pakistan nor India are likely to win a conventional war. It shall, nevertheless, be unbearably costly to both countries. If perchance a decisive outcome appeared likely, nuclear weapons will surely enter the scene, resulting at best in an inconclusive cease-fire or, at worst, in a continental holocaust.



Military leaders in both countries share this estimation of the military balance and international environment. Barring the odd hawkish officer, they do not favour a full scale military confrontation. That leaves the option of low intensity warfare. In Kashmir, India is engaged as an incumbent; Pakistan supports the insurgency. It also happens in wars of incumbency and prox
ivals hit each other with sabotage and subversion.

This Kashmiri uprising has lasted more than a decade, long enough for observers to discern its ramifications, possibilities and limitations. India and Pakistan exchange accusations against each other on a regular basis. Since 1990 the two countries have engaged in a carefully calibrated war of proxy and subversion which has done both sides much harm. In the process, an estimated 40,000 Kashmiris are dead, and many more wounded. Kashmir’s economy has been wrecked, and an entire generation of Kashmiris has already been deprived of normal upbringing and education. Yet, armed struggle and Indian repression have not brought Kashmiris closer either to self determination, which is Pakistan’s demand, or to pacification, which India seeks. In fact, both countries are farther from attaining their goals in Kashmir than they were in 1989.

Kashmir’s discontent is rooted in history, economics, politics and psychology. The causes and dynamics of the Kashmiri movement lie in Kashmir and its experience with India. It is not a product of plotting and subversion by Pakistan. As such, it can not be suppressed by force. Nor is it likely to be managed by electoral manipulations. Yet India has confronted the insurgency as incumbents normally do – with a combination of brute force, unlawful subversions, violations of Kashmiri humanity and, above all, denial of reality.



In the last analysis, the successes and failures of counter-insurgency operations revolve around two questions: One, does the incumbent state enjoy at least residual legitimacy among the insurgent people? Two, is the incumbent power willing to accommodate those aspirations which converge to cause and sustain the insurgency? I have asked these questions twice before. Once in 1965 in relation to America’s war in Vietnam. Again in 1971 concerning Pakistan’s military operation in East Pakistan. For India too the answer to both questions is NO.

A rational approach to Kashmir shall elude India as long as i
nce may not be for India the kind of military defeats which the United States experienced in Vietnam or Pakistan suffered in its eastern wing, now Bangladesh. Yet, one can say with confidence that if India, Pakistan, and Kashmiris do not reach a mutually beneficial settlement, the protracted war among the three will continue, with lulls and heats. Its costs may be even greater in the future than the hapless peoples have already paid.

India’s allegations notwithstanding, Pakistan had little to do with the insurgency which emerged full blown in 1989. In fact, Islamabad’s military no less than civilian intelligence services were surprised by the intensity and scope of the uprising. It was united by and large behind a single organization, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, which had most of the attributes of a winning young movement.

The great powers, especially the United States, have not evinced any interest in supporting Pakistan’s position which is legally and historically well founded. Islamabad has expended much effort and resources in trying to mobilize international opinion. In effect, lobbying for Kashmir has provided since 1989 the framework for hundreds of Pakistan’s ministerial, parliamentary, and other international junkets. None of these have had any discernible impact. Even the United Nations and its Security Council, whose authority Pakistan invokes quite assiduously, have shown scant interest in the matter. An analysis of years of Pakistani effort to mobilize meaningful international support for its position on Kashmir suggests that neither the great powers nor international opinion are inclined to weigh in meaningfully on Pakistan’s or the Kashmiri resistance’s side.



India has lost Kashmir. Delhi’s moral isolation from the Kashmiri people is total and, I think, irreversible in the sense that in order to reverse it India will have to envisage a qualitatively different relationship with Kashmir. But can India’s loss translate into Pakistan’s gain?

My answer is no! There is an in
ot unusual. It is common in international relations for rival countries to view their contests as a zero sum game whereby the losses of one side would translate into gains for the other. The American intervention in Iran (1953), and its costly involvement in Vietnam (1956-75), were compelled in part by this outlook. The Soviet interventions in Hungary (1956), and Czechoslovakia (1968), were similarly motivated. History has repeatedly exposed this assumption to be false. The ratio of rival losses and gains is rarely proportional; it is determined by circumstances of history, politics, and policy. India’s Kashmir record offers a chronicle of failures; yet none of these accrued to Pakistan’s benefit. Rather, Pakistan’s policy has suffered from its own defects.



Three characteristics made an early appearance in Pakistan’s approach to Kashmir. One, although Pakistani decision-makers know the problem to be fundamentally political, beginning in 1948 they have approached it primarily in military terms. Two, while the military outlook has dominated, there has been a healthy unwillingness to go to war over Kashmir. Three, while officially invoking the Kashmiri right to self determination, Pakistan’s governments and politicians have pursued policies which have all but disregarded the history, culture, and aspirations of Kashmir’s people. One consequence of this is a string of grave Pakistani miscalculations regarding Kashmir. Another outcome has been to alienate Kashmiris from Pakistan at crucial times such as 1948-49, 1965, and the 1990s.

The question asked at the beginning remains largely unanswered: Has India’s loss translated into Pakistan’s gain? Another question needs to be asked: if both countries are failing in Kashmir, what next?



A reminder is useful: in the 20th century armed struggles have failed more often than they have succeeded. In the 1960s, no less than 45 armed uprisings were in progress; six of these could claim success. A few, including the Kurdish, Irish, Timorese, and Filipi
 that while success may not be assured an armed uprising can endure or keep recurring if the aspirations on which it feeds are not addressed. A review of the Kashmiri movement suggests that it is falling in this latter category.

Popular support is an essential attribute of success. To win, consolidate and maintain it is the greatest single challenge of an armed movement. To deny it popular following, drive wedges between it and the people, and reclaim the hearts and minds of the populace constitute the primary objectives of incumbents. This is one requirement the Kashmiri movement fully meets. As I argued earlier, India’s federal government has lost all semblance of legitimacy and support among Kashmiri muslims. It’s moral isolation appears so total that it is unlikely to regain even a modicum of legitimacy without conceding in a large measure the Kashmiri aspirations which have converged around a single slogan – Azaadi.

That slogan, Pakistan’s policy-makers and Pakistani partisans of Kashmiri struggle ought to acknowledge, translates as sovereignty for Kashmir. There exists among Kashmiri speaking people but little enthusiasm for a plebiscite which would confine them to exchanging life under Indian sovereignty for life under Pakistan’s sovereignty. It is only a rare Kashmiri – I found none among the dozens abroad or scores I have interviewed in Pakistan – who views Kashmir as an ‘unfinished agenda of partition.’ In the U.S., a Kashmiri academic from Srinagar asked: ‘East Pakistan has violently separated from the west. The Muslim nation of the Qaid-i-Azam is now divided into three sovereign states. So what unfinished agenda of partition are we Kashmiris required to complete?’

Unity is essential to success. But unity is rarely total. The Chinese, Algerian, Cuban and Vietnamese movements confronted divisions, but in all four countries one party and leadership commanded hegemony over the others. At the start, the Kashmiri movement had the appearance of fulfilling this requirement. Soon after, the proliferat
 parties began and became epidemic. There are no less than thirty-eight armed parties in the valley. Thirty of them are grouped in the All Party Hurriyat Conference, a welcome umbrella all but paralysed by differing ambitions and styles.



Increasingly, the valley has become a free-for-all environment in which the distinction between crime and militancy has been blurred. The atrocities of the ‘reformed militants’ are credited obviously to India’s account. But it is also true that the excesses of other groups reflect on the standing of the movement as a whole. Pakistan is viewed as the purveyor of internal divisions as some parties and positions are known to be favoured by Islamabad while others are not. In growing numbers Kashmiris are beginning to regard themselves as dually oppressed.

Clarity and consistency of ideology and objectives are the third essential factor in keeping a movement strong and resilient. These are essential to maintaining the morale of cadres, solidarity of the people, and sympathy of neutrals at home and abroad. In an environment of armed struggle in which people invariably face great risks and cadres unusual hardships over long periods of time morale, solidarity, and sympathy define success and failure in critical ways. Unfortunately, barely two years after it began Kashmir’s uprising started to suffer from split images.



At first the movement led by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front appeared to be secular and nationalist. As such it elicited support at home, and a measure of sympathy both in India and abroad. When the Islamic parties, supported among others by the Jamaat-i-Islami of Pakistan made a significant appearance on the scene, the effect was not only internal confusion and division but also the dissipation of actual and potential international support for Kashmiri struggle. To date, the governments of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir have spent millions of dollars to mobilize international support behind the question of Kashmir. Cumulatively, the score has bee
secular, parliamentary and private carpet-baggers and patronage seekers, Kashmir’s cause serves in Pakistan as one big pork barrel.

The creation and maintenance of ‘parallel hierarchies’ of governance has been the distinguishing feature of liberation warfare in the 20th century. Successful movements have tended to out-administer their enemy rather than outfight them. This is so because the gap between the military resources of states and the opposing guerrilla forces have widened greatly as a consequence of technological progress after world war I. An armed movement neither aims nor expects to defeat its adversary in conventional battlefields; events such as the battle of Dien Bien Phu are exceptions not the rule. Liberation organizations expect to exhaust the enemy – politically, economically, psychologically – through protracted struggle.



This is primarily political not military warfare. It demands systematic elimination of the incumbent’s governing capability, and its substitution by the movement’s administrative and social infrastructure. Slowly and surely the guerrilla organization assumes the functions of government – provides health facilities, schools, courts, arbitration, and collects (not extorts!) taxes. Thus the state’s machinery becomes increasingly dysfunctional, delinked from the people. ‘Nous commencons legiferer dans le vide’, the French had recognized first in Indo-China, then in Algeria (We are legislating in a void!). And the liberation movement gets organically linked to the land and its people. It is this phenomenon that overcomes the vast discrepancy in the military power and material resources of the two sides. In 1989-1990, the Kashmiri movement showed signs of developing parallel hierarchies, an infrastructure of governance. Then, it lost interest no less than ability. It still has popular support but neither the will nor capacity to serve the people. In such a climate a movement’s support dissipates as people tire of hardships and suffering.

The location of the intell
decisive factor in wars of liberation. Individual exceptions notwithstanding, the intelligentsia is a cautious class, prone to opportunity seeking more than risk taking. In an environment of armed polarization they wait and watch, and change positions as they sense the balance of forces shifting. The desertion of the intelligentsia from incumbency to the movement normally signals a decisive shift in favour of the latter. The opposite is also true.

In Kashmir, the intelligentsia inclined toward the JKLF in 1990, then began distancing from the movement as it recoiled from the excesses of Islamic militancy. Menaced also by Indian excesses, many middle and upper middle class families moved to the safety of Jammu and Delhi. An estimated 15,000 Kashmiris are now enrolled at Indian universities. Although it is impossible to find an educated Kashmiri who does not disapprove of India’s military presence in the valley, their class location vis-a-vis the struggle for Kashmir remains ambiguous.



Last the material factors – the availability of arms, men, and logistical supplies – which significantly affect the course of a struggle. The best organized armed uprisings obtain much of their armaments from the enemy. ‘We must regard [French General] De Lattre as our quarter-master-general,’ was Vietnamese General Ngo Vuyen Giap’s motto during the Indo-China war. Algeria’s guerrilla commander Belkacem Krim had his adversary, General Andre Beaufre play roughly the same role. To my knowledge, Kashmiri militants are not capturing even 10% of their weapons from Indian forces. Their dependence on external sources of supply is total. I am not in a position to estimate the endurance and reliability of their external sources of weapons supply. One should expect it to be limited and sporadic.

Kashmir has a Muslim population of about 5.5 million. Of these roughly half a million are estimated to be males of fighting age, between 15-35 years. The state is their major employer, followed by agriculture and tourism, a trade wrec
hese some 40,000 are dead; and an estimated 60,000 have been disabled. Unbearable economic burdens on families are added to their enormous personal grief. There is a growing feeling among Kashmiris that the world, including their own world, has abandoned them.



The dispute over Kashmir is as old as independent India and Pakistan. This latest phase of violent strife has lasted over ten years. Yet while the human and material losses have mounted – beyond bearing for the Kashmiri people – neither India nor Pakistan have shown an inclination to end the bloodshed on any except their own terms. The three parties to this conflict have reached an impasse. It is now necessary for them to find a peaceful solution. I should first summarize the nature of the impasse.

If one views as crucial the distinction between governing a society and coercing a multitude, India has ceased to govern Kashmir. For reasons discussed earlier, its moral isolation there is total, and irreversible if Delhi remains fixed on the terms which it currently offers. It’s options then are three-fold: One, to keep its coercive presence in Kashmir and hope that some day Kashmiris will tire and throw in the towel. Two, to negotiate with Kashmiri leaders on terms the latter could live with. Three, to negotiate a broader settlement with Pakistan and the Kashmiri insurgents who are grouped in the All Party Hurriyat Conference. We deemed a fourth, another India-Pakistan war, as an unrealistic option for settling the question of Kashmir.

India’s current 

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