Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Kashmir: is this a re-run of 1989?


Protesters shout pro-freedom slogans in Srinagar/Fayaz KabliAfter months of relative peace which turned Kashmir into a near-forgotten conflict, the region has exploded  again with some of the biggest protests since a separatist revolt erupted in 1989.  What started as a dispute over land allocated to Hindu pilgrims visiting a shrine in Kashmir has snowballed into a full-scale anti-India protest, uniting Kashmiri separatists and reviving calls for independence.

The dispute has also pitted Muslims in Kashmir against Hindus in Jammu – the two regions which along with Ladakh make up the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir – in what is the biggest communal crisis faced by the central government in Delhi since it took office in 2004.

At stake is the risk of the “Balkanisation” of Jammu and Kashmir comparable to the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In this, worst case, scenario, the state would break up into its three different regions with Jammu and Ladakh favouring India and Kashmir either battling for independence or tilting towards Pakistan.  (The state is the part of the former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir which remained in Indian hands at partition in 1947 with the other side controlled by Pakistan.)

Little wonder then that analysts in India are describing it as a major crisis, with an editorial in the Hindustan Times calling it the greatest test for the central government since it took office.