Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kashmir's War Designs

Kashmir has become a centre of a bitter sanguinary war - a nidus of inter state warfare, when we ponder times like 1947-1948 and 1965. Gone are the days of history when Mughal kings used to travel to the vale as a vacationing spot. By being smitten to its beauty, they used to call it paradise. Now in changing times, the paradise is burning. Kashmir is now reduced to body counts, through a guerrilla warfare derived from ethno-nationalism and religious nationalism pitted against the Indian forces - civilians, renegades,  guerrillas, policemen, and military are parties to the dispute.

After the partition, and controversial accession, and UN peace keeping commissions, Kashmir was made to settle with two countries. In Indian Kashmir, JKNC made close ties with INC, the party spearheading freedom movement in India. In terms of religious contiguity and topography, Kashmir did suit well with the idea of Pakistan. Had the terms of accession been settled well by the Maharaja with the Pakistani Dominion, the whole Kashmir would now had been with it. But Pakistan, contrarily,  strangulated Kashmir through an economic blockade and tribesmen aggression.  

The most concerning rumination of our conflict, however, is the Line of Control (LOC), a 742 kilometer de facto border line, that separates parts of Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir. It originated as a ceasefire line in 1947, which was slightly modified in 1965 and 1971, by an agreement between two countries in 1972. The Line of Control was carved out of war, just like in other conflict zones like Israel-Palestine, Bosnia, Cyprus, Sri Lanka to name a few. The LOC is such a barb wire which rambles through world's highest battleground, the Siachen glacier, where both the countries have locked horns in fourth generation warfare exchanging shells and bullets. 

LOC is a harrowing example of political bickering between the two countries. Most Kashmiri people think of LOC as a line which has increased an emotional barrier between the natives of Kashmir in both parts, and believe that a free Kashmir would have settled aspirations - LOC means a sense of hostility, more war and less peace in South Asia. For Kashmiri people, it is a blot on India's and Pakistan's political history that is consumed by bankruptcies . 

Few people talk about the maneuvers before the bus routes were started by both countries in 2005, which were even praised by American foreign ministry. Between 2002 and 2004, India erected a ' multi-tiered fencing system' along the 742 kilometer border to dissuade movement of insurgents. The system comprised of two to three rows, about three meters to ten feet high, which were electrified and connected to a motion of sensors, with thermal ageing devices, and alarms that were imported from United States and Israel, just like its 'Great Wall of Palestine' counterpart without any credible media attention.

When bus routes for peace started in 2005, Indian military establishments were actually in the process of repairing these technologically advanced barbed wires due to adverse weather conditions.  In those times, there were even cases when many guerrillas firefighted with the Indian army. This two fold diplomacy actually resulted as a superficial peace making drama, as no responsible solution was granted to the dispute.

The Kashmir conflict has never seen a solution based on some pattern, similar to those which were proposed in Cyprus in 2004 or in Bosnia in 1996. In 1955, when Plebiscite Front was formed, it aimed at self-determination for Kashmiri people, under UN auspices, and demanded withdrawal of armed forces - the government of Indian controlled Kashmir prohibited the organisation to have any political mandate. In 1972, when it decided to contest elections, around 350 of its members were arrested by the police cadre under a series of police raids, and the organisation was declared illegal under Indian legal grounds. 

In August 1952, Nehru announced India's future spectrum of Kashmir, by muzzling any form of dissent, that was directly against the Indian dominion. This stance was officially supported by Russia in UN in 1957, to block a resolution that called for Kashmir's sovereignty. This made matters war prone in 1963-1964 when Ayyub Khan announced a war, code named 'Operation Gibraltar' with India. The plan was made successful when Pakistanis put it into operation in 1965, with the intention of forming an uprising in Kashmir. At that time, Sheikh's followers were not willing to submit to Pakistan's war designs. 

Operation Gibraltar was a strategic failure. Sheikh Abdullah, who once believed that Indian democracy ended in Pathankot, and after Banihal, there was no Indian democracy, also officially entered the Indian electoral fray as in 1975. After that, Abdullah never spoke about self determination as in 1953. In 1988, when his son became the successor, Kashmir was an epicenter of civil strife, doctored governments, authoritarianism, which ultimately produced the nemesis of Ak-47 perilous aggression in the following years.  Elections in Kashmir have mostly used by politicians for paltry gains.

Keeping Kashmir's shadow of war and failed diplomacy in order, there seem to be inherent challenges in the re-establishing democratic relations. There is a subtle discontent in Kashmiri public and a lot of rhetoric which permeates through media channels in India and Pakistan, that actually doesn't allow parties to re-engage in forward making decision making. The infinite silence by the government of India should also shun for the cost of reconciliation.  Both countries should look at conciliation resources for bridging the deep political divide that has only reverberated violence in the vale of Kashmir. Only a testament of practically can augment our resolution- nothing less than that.

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir