Pakistan, India and the cross-currents over Kashmir

October 20, 2008

Fisherman on the Dal lake in Srinagar/Fayaz KabliIndia and Pakistan will open a trade link across divided Kashmir for the first time in six decades on Tuesday, aiming to ease tensions by creating soft borders in the disputed region. The move looks to be fairly tentative; lorries will be allowed across the military ceasefire line only once a week, carrying a limited list of goods, and will be expected to unload some 10 km to 15 km beyond the Line of Control which separates the Indian and Pakistani-held parts of the region. But it has potentially more than symbolic significance, particularly if it helps to open up the isolated Kashmir Valley — at the heart of the separatist revolt – to the outside world.

The step, which would have been unthinkable before a ceasefire on the Line of Control in late 2003, is also meant to build trust between India and Pakistan. The region’s governor, N.N. Vohra, described it as an important milestone in India-Pakistan relations. But as is so often the case in India-Pakistan relations, there have been some unexpected counter-currents recently, acting as a powerful undertow against attempts to improve the two countries’ approach to Kashmir.

At the Chenab river in BagliharAs I discussed in a post in June, the two countries are getting tetchy about the use of water from rivers they share in divided Kashmir. India and Pakistan have successfully regulated their use of the rivers through the Indus Waters Treaty  (see full pdf document here), signed in 1960 under the auspices of the World Bank. It is the only agreement to have been fully implemented by India and Pakistan; it held through two full-scale wars in 1965 and 1971 and survived long periods of intense antagonism.

But matters came to a head earlier this month when Pakistan complained that India had violated the treaty while building a dam on the Chenab river in Kashmir for a power project. Although a Pakistani team is now in India for talks on the controversial Baglihar dam, the row has raised questions about the durability of the Indus Waters Treaty at a time when both countries are desperate for water both to grow food and provide hydroelectric power. (The Times of India has just run two stories on it here and here.)

In a separate issue, Pakistan also protested last week against a trip by US Army Chief General George Casey to the Siachen glacier while he was visiting India. It complained the trip might be seen as an endorsement of the Indian position. India and Pakistan have battled since 1984 for control of Siachen, in the mountains beyond Kashmir, though they stopped actual fighting there when the 2003 ceasefire was agreed. 

File photo of protests in SrinagarOn top of that, Indian plans to push ahead with state elections in Jammu and Kashmir in November and December, after the biggest protests since the separatist revolt began in 1989, and in the face of a planned boycott by Kashmiri separatists, also complicate the picture. Pakistan has traditionally opposed elections in Jammu and Kashmir, seeing them as an attempt by New Delhi to impose a purely Indian solution that excludes Islamabad.

So one step forward and three steps back? The usual eddying currents that have made the Kashmir issue so intractable for more than half a century? Or will the opening up of trade shift mindsets enough to offer the possibility of further progress?

12 comments

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The resolution of Kashmir dispute is the key to normal relations between India and Pakistan.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

Pakistan is a small country on the verge of breaking up. India dont have to consider them any more. With only $4billion reserves and an unstable government in power, they cant do much. They have to beg for the water now. India knows that almost 5% of the annual wheat production depend on the water from Chenab river. That’s why they have blocked it. I dont think its fair. But as long as Pakistan is incapable of doing anything, India can do what ever they want.

Posted by JK | Report as abusive

Pakistan is a small country on the verge of a collapse. With only a $4billion as reserve and a struggling government, they cant do nothing now. Only thing they can do is to beg for the water they need. India knows that the water from Chenab contributes for more than 5% of the total wheat production in Pakistan, and thats why they built a dam there. I dont think its fair. But without any power, only thing Pakistan can do is to beg!!

Posted by JK | Report as abusive

pakistan may not collapse due to economic crisis facing the country as USA/IMF/World Bank might help it out for now. However in the long run pakistan should think about its policies towards terrorism and anti-west hypes. china will continue to provide help to pakistan but only upto certain limit. pakistan should progress itself in economic development and should create environment for building confidence of the investors. That can be done only by suppressing fundamentalist elements ruining the future of pakistan.

Posted by chander | Report as abusive

Your tag line for Pakistan “Now or Never” is disgusting. It doesn’t mean anything and is demeaning.

“Now or Never” for Pakistanis was the name of the brochure that created Pakistan.

You should find a good tag line for Pakistan: Heart of the mystic East, Pakistan: Center of Asia, Pakistan: Crescent and Star, Pakistan: The resurrection of the Indus Valley Civilization, Pakistan: People and Politics, Pakistan:A panorama etc etc.

what about “Pakistan: On the verge of breaking up”?

Posted by JK | Report as abusive

Pakistan: The resurrection of the Indus Valley Civilization
resurecssion of IVC?? ha ha ha
pakistan began with Qasim as per pakistan studies.:)
Everything before that was jahiliya:)
You said so yourself.

Posted by Shantanu Chatterjee | Report as abusive

moin ansari — howzat!

Pakistan: a hallucination
Pakistan: Heart of the satan
Pakistan: Center of Terror
Pakistan: Crook and SinnerPakistan: The usurper of the Indus Valley Civilization

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive

India: The land of hindu fascists
India: World biggest sham democracy
India: HIV capital of the world
India: Epicenter of poverty and oppression.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

Umair-

India: is a land of billion dreams..

and we do not day dream!!

Posted by Gabbar | Report as abusive

UMAIR,

THIS GUY IS NUTS,

EVERY ARTICLE OF PAKISTAN ,I FIND HIM WRITING TALES OF PAKISTANS GLORY EVEN THOUGH THEIR GOVT.IS BEGGING WITH IMF FOR RESCUE PACKAGE.

THIS NUT ALWAYS WRITES ABOUT DESTROYING INDIA AND LOOK WHAT IS HAPPENING TO HIS COUNTRY.

ECONOMICALLY AND POLITICALLY PAKISTAN IS IN TROUBLE AND IS SINKING BUT UMAIR AND HIS ILK ARE LIVING ON CLOUD#9.

PLEASE WAKEUP AND OPEN YOU EYES.

sir.
Abdul kalam Azad said after independence that India is a country and Pakistan was an experiment.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive

[...] in Kashmir, regulated until now by the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, as I have discussed in posts here and [...]