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Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First
Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?
Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?
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 224 / Asia

Pakistan’s Relations with India: Beyond Kashmir?

Their recent dialogue process provides the best chance yet for bilateral peace and regional stability, but Pakistan and India must still overcome serious mistrust among hardliners in their security elites.

Executive Summary

In March 2011, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government resumed the composite dialogue with India, with the rapid pace of its economic liberalisation program demonstrating political will to normalise bilateral relations. The November 2011 decision to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India by the end of 2012 is not merely an economic concession but also a significant political gesture. Departing from Pakistan’s traditional position, the democratic government no longer insists on linking normalisation of relations with resolution of the Kashmir dispute. India no longer insists on making such normalisation conditional on demonstrable Pakistani efforts to rein in India-oriented jihadi groups, particularly the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and hence suspension of the composite dialogue. The two countries need to build on what they have achieved, notably in promising economic areas, to overcome still serious suspicion among hardliners in their security elites and sustain a process that is the best chance they have had for bilateral peace and regional stability.

Within Pakistan, the normalisation process enjoys broad political support, including from the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz, PML-N), the largest opposition party. Viewing liberalised trade with India as in Pakistan’s economic interest, the PML-N also believes that broader economic ties would provide a more conducive environment to address longstanding disputes like Kashmir.

Liberalised trade, stronger commercial links and deeper bilateral economic investment would strengthen moderate forces in Pakistan’s government, political parties, business community and civil society. Yet, an effective integration of the two economies would only be possible if Pakistani and Indian traders, business representatives and average citizens could travel more freely across borders. For this, the stringent visa regime must be relaxed, including by significantly reducing processing times, granting multiple-entry visas, eliminating police reporting requirements and removing limits on cities authorised and the obligation for entry and exit from the same point.

However, Pakistan’s ability to broaden engagement with India and move beyond Kashmir depends on a sustained democratic transition, with elected leaders gaining control over foreign and security policy from the military. Pakistan must also counter anti-India oriented, military-backed extremist groups. These include the LeT – banned after the 2011 attacks on the Indian parliament but re-emerging as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JD) – as well as the Jaish-e-Mo­hammad and similarly aligned outfits. A powerful military, deeply hostile towards India, still supports such groups and backs the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC, Defa-e-Pakistan Council), a new alliance of jihadi outfits and radical Islamic and other parties aligned with the military that seeks to derail the dialogue process.

Within India, with suspicions of Pakistani intentions still high, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has limited political support for talks that do not prioritise the terrorist threat. Another Mumbai-style attack by a Pakistan-based jihadi group would make such a dialogue untenable. It could also provoke a military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Meanwhile New Delhi’s heavy-handed suppression of dissent and large military footprint in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) alienates Kashmiris, undermines Pakistani constituencies for peace and emboldens jihadi groups and hardliners in the military and civil bureaucracies.

There are numerous other impediments. Water disputes, for example, could place the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of 1960, which has successfully regulated the distribution of a precious resource between the two countries for over five decades, under greater strain. India, with its larger population and mushrooming energy requirements, uses much more of the shared waters, and its domestic needs are rising, while Pakistan depends increasingly on them for its agriculture. With India constructing several dams in the Indus River Basin, the Pakistani military and jihadi groups now identify water disputes as a core issue, along with Kashmir, that must be resolved if relations are to be normalised.

Islamabad/Brussels, 3 May 2012