Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
from India Insight:
Last week, New Delhi appointed three new mediators to find a solution to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent months.
The appointment of the three-member non-political team of interlocutors -- journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and government official M. M. Ansari -- is also aimed at defusing simmering anger in the disputed region.
More than 110 people were killed, most of them by police bullets, in months of deadly protests.
But New Delhi's most important initiative on Kashmir, which India and Pakistan claim in full but rule in parts, has provoked widespread disappointment and dismay.
from India Insight:
Nearly half of the people living in the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir want their disputed and divided state to become an independent country, according to a poll published by think tank Chatham House.
London-based Chatham House says the poll is the first to be conducted on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), a military control line that has separated Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir since the U.N.-brokered ceasefire between two rivals in 1949.
Some people in India are calling upon the new coalition government to make a series of bold moves towards Pakistan that will compel the neighbour to put its money where the mouth is.
If Pakistan keeps saying that it cannot fully and single-mindedly go after militants on its northwest frontier and indeed increasingly within the heartland because of the threat it faces from India, then New Delhi must call its bluff, argued authors Nitin Pai and Sushant K. Singh in a recent piece for India’s Mint newspaper.
India 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.
One of the more troublesome aspects of the latest protests in Kashmir, among the biggest since a separatist revolt erupted in 1989, is the impact on the younger generation.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Indian writer Pankaj Mishra writes that India’s attempt to crush the revolt in 1989 and 1990 ended up provoking many young Kashmiris to take to arms and embrace radical Islam.
Take two nuclear-armed countries which are not officially at war, yet whose armies shell each other on a near-daily basis. That is how it was between India and Pakistan before a November 2003 ceasefire ended their fighting over the divided former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. With that ceasefire now showing signs of fraying at the edges and India saying that its peace process with Pakistan is under stress, it is worth remembering quite what a dramatic development it was for two countries which had come close to war in 2001/2002 to tell their armies to stand down.
Nearly five months after the ceasefire, I visited an Indian border post that had seen heavy fighting for years. It was in the Jammu region, at what had been a busy railway station in pre-partition days, on a road that once ran from the town of Jammu to Lahore. The railway station was left in India, with a railroad track that led nowhere, while the road had been closed since 1947.