The Prospects of Peace in Kashmir

I am confident that all of us are aware that there are multiple ways by which we can resolve conflicts.  The most pragmatic being through dialogue and negotiations, whether that be through the auspices of Track I [official dialogue with state representatives] or Track II Negotiations, which are considered to be un-official, but have become an effective medium to finding solutions to many conflicts, both violent ones and others.

Obviously, the most prevalent perception about ‘Conflict Resolution’ is that it is dependent upon the political process of negotiation, mediation, and other forms of non-violent dispute resolution.  However, while this is a correct assumption, it is important for all of us, who are considering venturing into the domain of ‘Conflict Resolution’ as practitioners, to take note that firstly, the greatest hurdle is to get all parties involved in a conflict to come to the negotiating table.

Secondly, the terms of reference should be formulated in such a manner so that they are seen to be fair and amicable to all stakeholders. These are daunting tasks, bearing in mind that stakeholders are often entrenched in their various positions and are inclined to stick to their demands before finally opting to come to the negotiating table.

Signs of progress in any ‘Conflict Resolution’ can be measured only if all parties involved in a conflict choose to come to the negotiating table.  Even if the parties do not achieve a final solution to their problems, the parties concerned would have at least been able to establish contact with each other, with the aim of discussing the various contending issues, which may well end up by them agreeing to disagree.

The crucial task in getting the parties to the negotiating table is through the initiation of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), prior to embarking upon the negotiating process.  This would allow all parties to attain a sense of trust and gain confidence that their negotiating partner would at most act in good faith if a resolution to their dispute were to finally be endorsed through the negotiation process.

We have seen CBM’s succeeded in forging an element of trust between New Delhi and Islamabad. The international community commended both these countries on their flexibility throughout the CBM initiative and hailed that initiative as a stepping-stone towards lasting peace between the two countries. However, some Kashmir centric CBMs need to be initiated to create an atmosphere for dialogue, i.e., demilitarizing  Kashmir, repealing of  black laws, releasing of political prisoners, and allowing the right of freedom of expression & assembly to the people.

India and Pakistan can make peace with each other. However, what needs to be highlighted is that a major stumbling block in resolving theKashmirconflict is the failure of the two disputing states to recognize Kashmiri leadership as a legitimate partner in the peace process.  One cannot loose sight of the fact that the Kashmiris are the ones who are most affected in the ongoing conflict.  They are the ones who are shouldering most of the casualties.  It is thus pertinent to ask: “Why isn’t the Kashmiri leadership regarded as an equal partner in the negotiating process, bearing in mind that the conflict is of paramount importance to determining the future of their land and people?” Thus their basic human rights too need to be taken into consideration and not just the establishment of peace between India and Pakistan.

The Kashmir issue needs to be resolved once and for all to the satisfaction of all three parties – the Governments of India & Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.

Kashmir: Urgency in dialogue process

 by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai/ March 25, 2015

“All of us remain concerned that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should be solved through peaceful negotiations and should be willing to lend all the strength we have to the resolution of this matter.” President Nelson Mandela at the NAM Summit – September 2, 1998 

Clip_78In matters of international conflict resolution, that can only imply the involvement of a third party mediator or facilitator. Most importantly, without a third party’s impartial diligence in pursuing a settlement, breakdowns in lines of communication or other disputes that may arise will inevitably create barriers to resolution, and the process will fail. The side in the dispute which offers initiatives will always be seen as weak when both are out rattling their sabres.

Although it seems that the UN would be the most ideal party to do so, it’s obvious that UN involvement needs acceptance from both Pakistan and India. India has made it clear that the UN’s monitoring of the Line of Control separating the two sides is itself unacceptable. Efforts to involve other major power brokers has achieved nothing, and most have alliances with one or the other of the two countries that would taint the process. The world powers can still persuade India and Pakistan to go back on their position in respect to the UN. Alternatively, they can suggest to both neighboring countries to simply agree that some other neutral party which perhaps professionally engages in conflict resolution might work between the two countries, creating an unbroken line of communication between them so that differences can in fact be resolved.

This mediator or facilitator should not be any party that is tied to any known national or international political agenda, whose funding should be derived independent of such interests, and which may pursue the resolution of this conflict objectively.

It would be the task of such an independent agency or a personality of an international stature to review solutions to the dispute which have garnered some attention and agreement in the past and to propose steps that would bring Pakistan and India together on points of alignment, with the full inclusion of the Kashmiris themselves. Since the future of Kashmir is at stake, it is vitally important that its own interests, however varied among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others, be a party to any discussions that are to take place.

Numerous proposals have been made in the past for resolving the Kashmir dispute which the neutral agency might take into consideration, such as that proposed by Sir Owen Dixon’s Plan in 1950, Ambassador Yusuf Buch’s Proposal in 2003, to Ambassador Kuldip Nayar’s Proposition in 2014.

There are several key issues that have been addressed in such proposals that need to be taken into consideration again.

  • Should all military operations cease and all troops from both countries be withdrawn?
  • What political, economic, national defense or social interests do Pakistan and India have in their respective regions of control in Kashmir that are important to retain?
  • Is their involvement in the power structure of a future Kashmir necessary to preserve such interests?
  • Should the long-term objective be complete sovereignty and independence for such a state, or should a power-sharing arrangement be sought with the countries now involved?
  • Should communal interests that divide these regions culturally and religiously be used to establish provincial or federalized boundaries in order to separate them politically?
  • Should the Chanab River be used as a boundary in making such a division?
  • Should the Line of Control be dissolved?
  • Does land or territory make a country or do people make a country? Which has greater priority in deciding Kashmir’s future?
  • Should the interests of the people who now live in Kashmir be given greater priority than geographic considerations of proximity to Pakistan or India or any other interests of those who live outside its boundaries?
  • Is peace possible if the interests and desires of the population inhabiting Kashmir are not given the highest priority?
  • Should valuable resources within Kashmir, such as water, which provide an essential need to all countries involved, be managed by a board or coordinating committee composed of members from all who benefit with international guarantees?
  • What examples of international conflict resolution may be used to identify successful pathways to resolving the conflict?
  • What are the benefits that would accrue to both India and Pakistan in resolving this dispute?

It is clear that resolving this dispute requires a careful evaluation of its many points of contention and addressing them one by one in a carefully drawn out process in which coming to an agreement on each sets the stage for moving on to the next. The most basic set of principles must be established and adhered to regarding human rights, the interests of the Kashmiris themselves, and the preservation of vital interests that both India and Pakistan have at stake, and then to proceed with steps toward objectives that result in a win-win solution for all.

Dr. Fai can be reached at: