Kashmir: Confrontation and Miscalculation
Kashmir: Confrontation and Miscalculation
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
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EU Watch List: 10 Cases Where the EU can Build Peace in 2022 (Online Event, 28th January 2022)
Report / Asia 3 minutes

Kashmir: Confrontation and Miscalculation

With tensions in Kashmir and the confrontation between Pakistan and India appearing to cool in recent weeks, it would be easy for the international community to focus its attention elsewhere.

Executive Summary

With tensions in Kashmir and the confrontation between Pakistan and India appearing to cool in recent weeks, it would be easy for the international community to focus its attention elsewhere. Unfortunately, the dynamics underpinning the conflict between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (the de facto border dividing the two countries in Kashmir) have not changed, and the potential for strategic miscalculations by both sides and broader fighting remains all too real. Indeed, the heart of the dispute is being driven by both local political conditions in Kashmir and much more sweeping issues of national politics and national sovereignty in both countries. Further complicating the situation, both Pakistan and India have sought to use the U.S.-proclaimed “global war on terrorism” to their own tactical advantage, increasing the risk of military missteps.

The immediate cause of recent fighting has been the cross-border infiltration of militants into Indian-controlled Kashmir. Despite reiterated pledges, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has yet to take decisive action to contain the Pakistan-based Islamist extremists responsible for much of the violence in Indian Kashmir. Pakistani security services also continue to support home-grown militants operating within Indian-controlled Kashmir. As events in May and June 2002 made clear, skirmishes along the Line of Control can quickly escalate into a far more dangerous situation with both New Delhi and Islamabad appearing all too willing to engage in nuclear sabre rattling. With one million Indian and Pakistani troops confronting each other across the Line of Control and artillery clashes occurring daily, both militaries have remained on high alert, moved heavy armour toward the border and reportedly deployed nuclear-capable missile batteries. Although both sides have taken some steps to climb down from their highest state of readiness, it would take little to rapidly escalate tensions again.

On a local level, the assembly elections in Indian-controlled Kashmir scheduled for September or October 2002 will likely continue to trouble relations. The recent assassination of a senior figure in Kashmir’s separatist alliance who intended to take part in the elections highlighted the stakes involved. India is eager to demonstrate that increasing numbers in this territory are willing to engage in a dialogue with New Delhi about fundamental issues of self-rule and governance and to participate in the Kashmir ballot. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has declared that he is willing to consider any political arrangement short of independence for Kashmir.

In contrast, Pakistan is eager to keep the pressure on India by supporting more militant factions that continue to urge either independence or annexing Kashmir to Pakistan, often through violent means. Pakistan clearly hopes that many political parties and groups in Kashmir will boycott the state assembly elections. Pakistan’s deep-rooted desire to avoid anything that would appear to legitimise India’s control of Kashmir could well be pushing it to encourage cross-border incursions as a way to discourage participation in the elections – even though provocative steps risk triggering a war.

Both India and Pakistan have been quick to use the post-11 September “war on terrorism” to their advantage. The former has attempted to portray the challenge in Kashmir as purely a matter of combating terrorism, and to make the case that it has a right to pursue extremists operating from Pakistan exactly as the United States and its allies have hunted down al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. While rhetorically convenient, this approach ignores the competing historical claims as well as the fundamental question of the competence of Indian administration of Kashmir.

Pakistan, for its part, has sought to use its broad cooperation with the United States on operations in Afghanistan to gain some leeway for maintaining the general policy of adventurism that seeks to bleed Indian resources in Kashmir. In essence, the Musharraf government seems to be implying that it is at the limits of the steps it can take against extremist groups, and that the West should tolerate cross border insurgency operations in Kashmir or risk facing a new government that could be far less accommodating.

Militancy in Kashmir and the subsequent heightened risk of an India-Pakistan war will not disappear until many things are done. These include the restoration of genuine democracy in Pakistan and steps by New Delhi to grant political autonomy to Kashmiris, improve their economic well-being, and end all human rights abuses by its security forces in the territory. Subsequent ICG reporting will examine these underlying issues in detail and offer more extensive proposals for addressing them. This report concentrates, however, upon immediate measures that are needed to cool off the situation and create space for a concerted political and diplomatic effort by the two countries and by a concerned international community to resolve the crisis definitively. Most notably, Pakistan must discontinue its support for cross border militants and the training camps and religious schools from which they spring, and India needs to show greater flexibility about reopening diplomatic and military channels of communication with Islamabad.

Islamabad/Brussels, 11 July 2002

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