Owing to its beauty and geostrategic importance, Jammu and Kashmir continues to remain a flashpoint between India and Pakistan leading to intermittent wars and subsequent social, economic and political losses to both countries.
Unlike other countries which are determined to move towards better foreign policies and friendly relations on socio-economic, political and cultural fronts, the nuclear neighbours are deeply mired in a rivalry over the Kashmir issue which is not only a threat to South Asia but to the world as a whole. Due to this offensive and defensive game, both India and Pakistan have been developing their military capabilities and spend large amounts to develop sophisticated arms. They care little to develop human capital, resulting in a lag on every human development index.
The history of the Kashmir conflict dates back to the partition in 1947. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was among the princely states that were given a free hand to join either side or to remain independent. Then ruled by a Hindu maharaja, Hari Singh, both India and Pakistan strongly claimed ownership of the state and even sent troops to occupy it. Owing to this, the maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to the Union of India leading to the first war on Kashmir.
The war led to strained relations and subsequent wars in 1965 and 1999, causing a huge loss in terms of men and material. Between the 50s and 80s, both countries remained in a state of cold war and tried their best to strengthen their military capability to contain and undermine each other.
Keeping in view the gravity of the issue, a number of attempts were made by the international community and by both, India and Pakistan, to peacefully resolve the issue. A resolution by the UNSC after the first war stated, “The question of accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite.”
However, this could not happen as India did not comply to the UNSC resolution and refused to withdraw its forces. After that, the UN intervened in 1949, and brokered a ceasefire line, the Line of Control (LoC), that divided the two countries resulting in a disputed territory. The International community then didn’t interfere, whereas the Pakistani leadership tried to resolve the issue, but failed due to India’s hegemonic and rigid attitude.
Meanwhile, the 1992 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, and the Mumbai attacks fueled the fire on both sides as both accused each other for the mess. The water dispute also remained a great obstacle. The origination of the water source of both the countries from the disputed territory of Kashmir is an important hurdle in the peace process. Pakistan has reservations that if Kashmir acceded to India, Pakistan may not get its water share because of India’s upper riparian position and would cause a great loss to the country’s agricultural output. India, on the other hand, is not in a position to lose its upper riparian position as its dams and other irrigation projects are likely to suffer if the Indian claim to Kashmir is lost.
As per analysts and experts, the issue of Kashmir is one of the greatest threats of the 21st century. If not resolved, it may lead to nuclear war wreaking havoc across the world.
It’s high time for governments on both sides to end this bloody game and formulate a peaceful way out. Both governments should show seriousness and flexibility in diplomacy in this regard and a solution under the auspices of the UN should be sought. As we have seen, the issue of the Falkland Islands was resolved after 181 years through a referendum under UN supervision. Similar privileges should be given to the people of Kashmir, a failure of which may make the two countries suffer incalculable losses and unimaginable horror.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2021.
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