Kashmir the intractable

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Once again India has stirred the Kashmir pot – and not in a good way. The Kashmir problem is a legacy of Partiton, the time when Pakistan was created as a state. It has been a constant source of friction and open conflict between India and Pakistan for 70 years and at no point in that time, despite countless attempt to resolve this most damaging of divides, has there been any sign that resolution was either possible or imminent.

In recent years, and particularly under the Modi government, the Indian stance has been aggressive. Most recently it has objected to a phone call made by the Pakistan Foreign Minister to the leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. This is a by no means an unusual event, and the leadership of Pakistan across successive governments has regularly communicated with the Kashmiri leadership – and we expect that to continue whether or not it is to the liking of India. Particularly odious is the oft-repeated Indian line that the Kashmiris struggle for freedom is a form of ‘terrorism’, and that Pakistan by supporting the Kashmiri leaders is somehow complicit in terrorist acts, thus justifying the Indian response. This is scurrilous nonsense.

Kashmir is best described as a ‘pending dispute’ between two nations, having been acknowledged as such through various United Nations Security Council resolutions down the years and treaties signed by both nations which include the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. The previous government of Pakistan whatever its other faults may have been was diligent and consistent in taking a pacific line with India, and the current government has continued in a similar manner. The 2003 ceasefire agreement is repeatedly violated, and calls for the New Delhi government to investigate ceasefire violations fall on deaf ears. The UN Commissioner for Human rights in 2018 issued a report that concluded that there was ‘impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice’ in the occupied valley, a signal that could be no clearer that India acts beyond the limits time after time and is impervious to investigation by any external party, unchecked and unaccountable.

There is no single or simple solution. The Kashmir issue cannot be resolved by conflict as has been proved historically and pitting two of the largest armies in the world against one another is going to cause immeasurable damage regionally, beyond the boundaries of the dispute. Dialogue is the only option – but it takes two to talk and until India decides that it will sit at the table and back-burner whatever the current point of irritation might be then nothing is going to move. The same has to be true for Pakistan; both sides must come with a clean slate and a willingness to think out of the box. This can only be resolved by the two parties, and third-party intervention has consistently failed in the past. Making a mountain out of a mole-hill of a phone call takes nobody anywhere, and India needs to take the 2.1 Adulting option rather than – again- throwing its toys around the playpen.