India, Pakistan and Kashmir: Stabilising a Cold Peace
Asia Briefing N°51
15 Jun 2006
When the third round of the normalisation talks concludes in July 2006, India and Pakistan will be no closer than when they began the process in February 2004 to resolving differences, including over Kashmir. What they call their “composite dialogue” has helped reduce tensions and prevent a return to the climate of 2001-2002, when they were on the verge of all-out war, but progress has been limited to peripheral issues. India’s prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, have reiterated commitments to sustain the dialogue. It is unrealistic, however, to expect radical change. International, particularly U.S. support for the process will likely dissuade either side from pulling out but asymmetry of interests and goals militates against a major breakthrough. The need is to concentrate on maintaining a cold peace until a long process can produce an atmosphere in which the support of elected governments in both states might realistically bring a Kashmir solution.
The situation in the former princely state is far from stable. In 2004, violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) diminished somewhat but it is again on the rise, amid concerns that it could reach earlier levels with Pakistani support, particularly since the two countries’ priorities remain at odds. Pakistan’s military government has urged India to reach a solution on Kashmir; Indian decision-makers instead stress the prior need to create an environment conducive for a stable peace, which would help, in the longer term, to resolve the issue. Should the Pakistani generals, impatient with the pace and directions of the talks, attempt to pressure India through accelerated support for cross-border militancy, the fragile normalisation process could easily collapse.
Within Jammu and Kashmir, the relative decline in violence has helped stabilise the economy, and tourism is again flourishing in the valley. With the assistance of international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, the Indian government is undertaking development projects in the cities. While the human rights situation has improved in urban centres, including J&K’s district capitals, it has yet to change in the countryside, fuelling Kashmiri resentment, particularly in the valley. Human rights violations are inevitable so long as there is a heavy presence of security forces. Although India attributes this presence to militant violence, it should reassess and reduce it to prevent the militants from exploiting Kashmiri alienation.
India and Pakistan should also involve in their talks Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LOC) and from all shades of opinion. New Delhi has initiated a process of consultation with moderate factions of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC); Islamabad should consult all shades of Kashmiri opinion, including pro-independence, in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Kashmiri participation would make the process more meaningful, particularly in the context of confidence building measures (CBMs). Had Kashmiris been consulted in devising the modalities of CBMs such as the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus line, India and Pakistan would have won Kashmiri goodwill, and implementation hitches could have been ironed out.
It is in the interest of both states to remove hurdles to the normalisation process. Pakistan must end material support for militancy in Kashmir if regional peace is to be assured. Both sides would save the lives of their soldiers and neutralise Pakistani spoilers by agreeing to resolve the dispute over the Siachen Glacier. Above all, they need to end the cycle of mutual recriminations and prove to Kashmiris that they value their welfare over narrow interests. Such an approach would help stabilise a fragile cold peace.
International, in particular U.S., support is essential to sustain and consolidate the normalisation process. The international community should:
press Pakistan to end all material support to the militants in Kashmir, while conditioning its military and non-development assistance on a complete end to cross-LOC infiltration; and
provide technical assistance for monitoring technologies and verification procedures to facilitate an agreement on the Siachen Glacier, where both countries have an interest in disengaging troops but progress is blocked by the lack of trust.
For their part, New Delhi and Islamabad need to:
sustain the normalisation process by stabilising the ceasefire on the LOC through a gradual reduction of troops and by implementing CBMs such as regular meetings between local commanders; and
remove administrative impediments to implementing Kashmir-specific CBMs such as cross-LOC communication and trade links; identify additional measures in consultation with Kashmiri stakeholders on both sides of the LOC and ensure Kashmiri participation in their dialogue process.
Islamabad/Brussels, 15 June 2006