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Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First
Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
India/Pakistan Relations and Kashmir: Steps Toward Peace
India/Pakistan Relations and Kashmir: Steps Toward Peace
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Briefing 106 / Asia

Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First

Even if India and Pakistan appear willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) that separates the parts of Kashmir they administer, any Kashmir-based dialogue will fail if they do not put its inhabitants first.


India and Pakistan have consistently subjected Kashmiri interests to their own national security agendas and silenced calls for greater autonomy. With the start of their composite dialogue – comprehensive negotiations to resolve all contentious bilateral issues, including Kashmir, launched in February 2004 – both appeared willing to allow more interaction across the Line of Control (LOC) but failed to engage Kashmiris in the process. As a result, they did not take full advantage of opportunities to enhance cross-LOC cooperation by identifying the most appropriate Kashmir-specific confidence-building measures (CBMs), and bureaucratic resistance in both capitals resulted in uneven implementation of even those that had been agreed. India has suspended the composite dialogue since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistan-based militants, but neither New Delhi nor Islamabad has backtracked on these CBMs. Nevertheless, the CBM process will only achieve major results if the two sides devolve authority to Kashmir’s elected representatives and take other vital steps to win over its alienated public.

Despite the recent rise in militancy, clashes between separatists and security personnel and other violence, Kashmir (known formally as Jammu and Kashmir, J&K) is not the battlefield it was in the 1990s. The Indian government has pledged to reduce its military presence there and has made some overtures to moderate factions of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). It has also refrained from the blatant election rigging that characterised J&K polls in the past. The roots of Kashmiri alienation, however, still run deep, and outbreaks of violence occur regularly. J&K remains heavily militarised, and draconian laws that encourage human rights abuses by security forces remain, fuelling public resentment that the militants could once again exploit.

In Pakistan, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government has taken some action against operatives of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD), responsible for the Mumbai attacks. The alleged masterminds of this action are being tried, the first time in the country’s history that criminal charges were levied against the perpetrators of terrorism on foreign soil. Pakistan-based militants, however, still regularly infiltrate the LOC, and the military, which retains control of Kashmir policy, continues to support Kashmir-oriented jihadi groups, including the LeT/JD and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. A second Mumbai-like attack in India by these or other Pakistan-based jihadis would bring relations to another low, indeed possibly to the brink of war.

Post-Mumbai, mounting tensions between the two neigh­bours have eclipsed Kashmiri hopes for political liberalisation and economic opportunity. Given the Kashmiri political elites’ subservience to New Delhi or Islamabad, this atmosphere of mutual hostility is widening the gulf between J&K and Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), undermining the progress that had been made in softening the borders that divide the Kashmiri people. Moreover, the corrupt and dysfunctional state governments in both Srinagar and Muzafarabad are failing to provide basic services and are reluctant to solicit voices from across the political spectrum, thus contributing to the fractures in Kashmiri society. In India-admin­istered Kashmir, for instance, Ladakh and Jammu are increasingly resentful of the Valley’s monopoly over J&K’s relations with New Delhi.

The Indian government cannot afford to postpone crucial decisions to improve centre-state relations. It should revive the “special status” guaranteed by the constitution and repeal all draconian laws. Replacing military-led counter-insurgency with accountable policing and reviving an economy devastated by violence and conflict would instil greater confidence among Kashmiris. It is in New Delhi’s interest to be regarded as a sincere partner committed to improving Kashmiri lives, not as an occupying force.

While Pakistan’s elected civilian leadership has expressed a desire for improved bilateral relations and to resume the composite dialogue, it must ensure that jihadis can no longer disrupt the regional peace. Islamabad must also make certain that civilian institutions, particularly AJK’s elected bodies, drive the normalisation process. Likewise, policymakers in both the national capital and Muzafarabad should prioritise reforms that open political debate to all shades of Kashmiri opinion, stimulate the local economy and end AJK’s over-dependence on the centre.

This briefing resumes Crisis Group reporting on the Kashmir conflict after a four-year gap, assesses existing cross-LOC CBMs and identifies the key political, social and economic needs of Kashmiris that need to be addressed on both sides of the divided state.

Islamabad/Brussels, 3 June 2010

Report 79 / Asia

India/Pakistan Relations and Kashmir: Steps Toward Peace

The agreement between Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and India's new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to continue talks on all contentious issues including Kashmir has inspired optimism about reduced tensions in South Asia.

Executive Summary

The agreement between Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and India's new prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to continue talks on all contentious issues including Kashmir has inspired optimism about reduced tensions in South Asia. If decades of conflict are to be settled, however, the two sides must both do much more to address grievances and deal with the legacies of a half century and avoid too ambitious an effort to attempt everything at once. They need to foster all forms of bilateral contact and improve the lives of Kashmiris, who have borne the worst of the conflict. Dialogue will have to be expanded beyond high governmental levels if real constituencies for peace are to be nurtured.

This report builds on previous work published by ICG on Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations and was written after extensive consultations with experts representing various viewpoints. It does not lay out a template for peace or what a comprehensive solution would look like because the circumstances for a diplomatic endgame are not yet ripe. Any such proposal at this stage would surely be rejected by both sides. Instead, it suggests steps forward to widen a peace process and make it more sustainable. Previous attempts to reach agreement have all faltered, often after highly-charged summit meetings. It is vital that the current attempts be structured in a way that makes them more durable and less prone to disruption by extremists or violence. Many suggestions are made throughout the paper on how to do this, and how to improve the lives of Kashmiris. The main themes are outlined below.

Five forms of dialogue will be needed to work toward a lasting peace:

Dialogue on normalisation of relations. This is already going on but will need to deal with ways to reduce the risks of conflict and develop confidence building measures (CBMs). Previously agreed CBMs have generally failed and will need to be revitalised while new links should be established to reduce risks of conflict. A wider array of economic, social, sporting and un-official "Track II" contacts should be established.

Dialogue with Kashmir. Relations between the federal government in New Delhi and the state authorities in Srinagar have improved but more could be done. There needs to be revival of debate on Article 370 of the constitution that granted Kashmir a high degree of autonomy, commitment to a ceasefire and willingness to follow through with policies aimed at improved security, human rights and economic welfare in the province. Pakistan's relationship with Muzaffarabad and the area of Kashmir under its control will also have to be reassessed: Pakistan should allow free elections there and reduce the role of security forces. It should also discuss constitutional and legal changes that undermine the governance of the area.

Dialogue within each country. Both Pakistan and India need to do more to open up discussion at home about normalisation and Kashmir. Parliamentary debates should be sustained outside times of crisis, and both sides ought to do more to explain the economic and social benefits of peacemaking. India will have to recognise the usefulness of a greater international role in supporting any peace and making progress to improve lives in Kashmir. Pakistan will need to follow through on its repeated pledges to end assistance to extremists who resort to violence in Kashmir and to halt infiltration across the Line of Control.

Dialogue within Kashmir. Kashmir is now a highly divided society. Efforts must intensify to mend the rifts between its three religious groups -- Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist -- to reduce the gulf between rural and urban areas and to deal with the issue of displaced people.

Dialogue across the Line of Control (LoC). Improved relations between India and Pakistan will eventually have to lead to greater contacts among Kashmiris across the LoC. Both sides should permit a wider array of contacts and desist from anything that would disrupt future dialogue.

All discussion on these issues will be contentious but necessary if the relationship between India and Pakistan is to gain enough ballast that it cannot again be upset as it was in 1999 and 2002 when they nearly went to war.

Kashmir has been changed for ever by more than a decade of conflict. Beyond the political discussions that need to take place, much more must be done to repair the fabric of society in a way that reduces extremism and gives new hope for the future. State Premier Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's call for a "healing hand" needs to be backed up with concerted federal and state action to boost the economy, re-establish tourism, improve human rights and security, reduce abuses by the security forces and help the many victims of the conflict.

Everything from governance to education and healthcare needs funding and inventive policymaking.

Almost all the burden of ending conflict in South Asia lies with the Indian and Pakistani governments but supportive, sustained and sensitive international assistance is also required. Direct mediation or a major UN role have been rejected by New Delhi but the Indian government should recognise that some post-conflict assistance would be useful. The U.S. has played a key role in defusing conflicts but needs to develop a longer-term policy perspective to prevent crises from blowing up. The European Union (EU) should make South Asia a greater priority and be more willing to take an active part there by promoting economic and social integration and doing more to promote democracy in Pakistan.

Any number of missteps could derail the tentative process that is now under way. India and Pakistan must recognise that dialogue will only prosper if it is gradual, sustained, and held mostly outside the glare of the media. They should resist the temptation to push the pace on contentious issues  and opt instead to move steadily toward a normalisation of relations. Additional and modest CBMs, including enhanced trade ties, would strengthen existing domestic stakeholders, create additional ones and generate an enabling environment for negotiations on the Kashmir dispute.

Islamabad/New Delhi/Brussels, 24 June 2004