“A New Narrative on Kashmir”
By Zia Siddiqui
This is not the first time that somebody has given a new idea for the resolution of Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Also, this is not the first time that people have proposed to convert the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir as international border between the two nuclear neighbors. Yet, this particular idea needs an immediate attention because it has come from fairly influential quarters, and at a time which is very critical in the regional context. Ms Christine Fair and Summit Ganguly have co-authored an article “A New Approach for Kashmir” published on the National Interest (http://nationalinterst.org) on November 20, 2012. This so called new approach to which I would prefer to refer as a new narrative suggests that “the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the disputed territory should be converted into an international border and that the United States will be the first to so recognize it. This would effectively transform the Kashmir impasse from an bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan into an important Indian domestic problem.”
Before I offer my comments on this narrative, it is necessary to know a little about the authors. Ms Christine Fair is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS), within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Fair has published extensively on South Asian political and military affairs and has also testified before the United States Congress several times about these issues. Her research focuses upon the security competition between India and Pakistan, Pakistan's internal security, the causes of terrorism in South Asia, and U.S. strategic relations with India and Pakistan.
She has authored, co-authored and co-edited several books including ‘The Madrassah Challenge: Militancy and Religious Education in Pakistan (USIP, 2008)’, Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance (USIP, 2006). Her article ‘State of Terror: Why Obama should Blacklist Pakistan-not just Haqqanis’ published in Foreign Policy on 10 September 2012, declaring that, “There can be no doubt that Pakistan's unrelenting support for the Afghan Taliban and allied militant organizations, of which the Haqqani network is just one of many, has made any kind of victory -- however defined -- elusive if not unobtainable for the United States and its allies. The crux of the matter: The United States and Pakistan have fundamentally divergent strategic interests in Afghanistan. America's allies, such as India, are Pakistan's enemies, while Pakistan's allies, such as the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban, are America's enemies. Unfortunately, Pakistan's ongoing support for these groups has become an altogether easy hook on which the Americans and their allies have hung their failures in Afghanistan.” So, Fair’s opinions about Pakistan are well known to the Pakistanis.
Mr Sumit Ganguly is a Professor of Political Science and holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations and is the Director of Research of the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington. Ganguly has also written numerous books on India-Pakistan relations including; ‘The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hope of Peace’, Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947, and co-authored ‘India, Pakistan, and the Bomb’.
Why are the things of the narrative so important to Pakistan? The preparations for a US drawdown form Afghanistan in 2014 are underway and Pakistan is seen as an important player and facilitator for safe and secured exist for US forces from Afghanistan. For the purpose, Obama Administration is convincingly impressing upon Pakistan’s military establishments to undertake military operation in North Waziristan Agency, which would certainly cause a binary stretch on Pakistan’s armed forces. These authors based in the US might be thinking that at a time when Pakistan is passing through difficult times with general elections in the near future, and President Obama who has long been wishing to see Kashmir issue resolved peacefully, could be persuaded to recognize the LoC as the international border.
The authors have taken one-sided view of the Kashmir dispute blaming squarely on Pakistan for the plight of the people of Kashmir. They claim that Pakistan eliminates Kashmiris who call for independence and do not prefer joining Pakistan. Also in their view, Pakistan targets those politicians of Kashmir who seek a negotiated settlement with India. The authors have concluded that the Kashmir dispute is unlikely to resolve through the bilateral mechanisms, and hence have proposed that “the United States should recognize the LoC as the actual border. This will remove Pakistan from the Kashmir puzzle altogether.”
Well, anything is possible in the interstate relations and as per the realists’ teachings; there are no permanent friends and no permanent foes. However, the idea of deleting Pakistan from the Kashmir equation is difficult to digest, because this would not be possible under any arrangement; be it under the UN formulae or the Simla Agreement. Yet, such learned and respected academicians have proposed it, perhaps to build a narrative that could be sold under the prevalent environment.
While the authors of this narrative have the right to propose anything but one would like to remind the proponents of such thoughts that any act on part of the United States to resolve the Kashmir by keeping Pakistan out of the equation may be acceptable to India, but would certainly not be acceptable to Pakistan and perhaps to the people of Kashmir also, and hence would make Kashmir issue more complicated. Therefore, one would expect a more prudent approach from the United States, should its role in the Kashmir issue is accepted by India, to which it has long been resisted.