Don't Put All the Blame for Kashmir on Pakistan

True to form, New Delhi and Islamabad have been carefully sifting through the text of the March 27 joint U.S.-U.K. statement on Kashmir to see how they can use it to their respective advantage. While the Indians have largely endorsed the statement, Pakistan has welcomed its call for a dialogue but expressed reservations about the reference to cross-border infiltration.

The statement, jointly signed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, asks India and Pakistan to resume talks and states that the United States and Britain are eager to help both countries start a process “aimed at building confidence...and resolving outstanding differences, including Kashmir.”

Islamabad has repeatedly called for talks with India, but the latter has re-fused to budge from its inflexible position, slamming the door on any dialogue until the so-called cross-border terrorism stops. Tensions between the two countries escalated dramatically following the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

While India blamed Pakistan for the attack, Islamabad denied all involvement in the incident. The attack led to the massing of Indian troops along the border and brought the two nuclear powers close to what could have been a catastrophic war. Only after international pressure, especially from the United States, did India pull back its troops. While spurning all offers for dialogue, India has continued to see a Pakistani hand behind every violent incident in Kashmir and elsewhere.

The recent massacre of 24 Hindus in [Indian] held Kashmir last week was promptly blamed on Pakistan. Islamabad has taken exception to the part of the U.S.-U.K. statement that urges Islamabad to “do its utmost to discourage any acts of violence by militants in Kashmir.” Islamabad has consistently denied that it is involved, directly or indirectly, in any such activity. Accordingly, it has expressed its disappointment that there is no mention in the Powell-Straw document of the gross human-rights violations in occupied Kashmir by Indian forces.

While the recent massacre of Hindus was mentioned, there was no reference to the deaths of thousands of Muslims in Kashmir over the years. India, meanwhile, is pleased that the statement “recognizes” that Pakistan has not fulfilled its commitment to halt all cross-border infiltration.

The truth of the matter, however, is far more complex than the Indians would have the world believe. The uprising in Kashmir has been raging for over a decade without showing any signs of ending, despite the presence of more than half a million Indian troops in the troubled state. It is naive to suggest that such a development could be sustained for that long by armed militants moving across the border.

The struggle is clearly motivated by the Kashmiris’ desire for self-determination and has been turned into a process of militant assertion by India’s policy of brutal suppression. Thousands of people have died in the process, countless detainees have “disappeared,” and many more have been severely tortured and maimed.

To ensure against cross-border infiltration, Pakistan has proposed the strength-ening and posting of the U.N. Military Observers Group along the Line of Control [the line running through Kashmir separating India and Pakistan] and has called for neutral observers to monitor cross-border movement. But India remains opposed to this too.

The point is that only through dialogue with Pakistan and representatives of the Kashmiris can the problem be peacefully resolved. Attempts to present the Kashmir tragedy as a simple case of terrorism are cynical and remain a major obstacle to progress toward a peaceful resolution of this conflict.