Pak-India relations take a nosedive
The suicide attack on paramilitary troops in Pulwama in south Kashmir was the deadliest in years, with 44 soldiers killed and dozens injured when a terrorist rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of paramilitary troops.
The tragic incident brought immediate reactions from India. New Delhi decided to revoke Pakistan’s Most Favored Nation status, in place since 1995, and the Modi government recalled its ambassador to Pakistan for consultation.
The fallout on the already shaky relations between the two south Asian neighbors has been predictably damaging and a hasty response by India could cause irreparable harm to the prospects of sustainable peace in the region.
The security environment in Indian held Kashmir has worsened over the last four years. The primary reason is the complete absence of any serious political dialogue, with groups calling for more autonomy. There has instead been greater emphasis on quelling the rebellion by using more and disproportionate force leading to a yet untold number of fatalities. This has created an atmosphere of fear, insecurity and hostility, that has disrupted ordinary life and gravely impacted the institutions of Indian-held Kashmir.
One thing is clear: the status quo must change. It is not going to work any longer.
The Indian Government under the nationalist BJP –Bhartia Janata party- has failed both in reconciling with the movement for autonomy and in subduing it. In other words, the yearning for independence is deep-seated and can no longer be silenced by the use of force alone.
There is an urgent need to develop back-channel contacts to contain the damage that the Pulwama incident is likely to cause especially in India’s pre-election climate. The time to act is now.
Rustam Shah Mohmand
The insurgency has continued in the face of detentions, executions and torture and its strength suggests that it has great support from the people of Kashmir. Admittedly, the movement and its leaders may have received support from across the border i.e. from the Pakistani side, but it is not prudent to put the blame entirely on help allegedly received by the insurgents from Pakistan or its security agencies. That would amount to ignoring ground realities.
For its part, Pakistan must come down heavily on outfits which use Pakistani soil and perpetrate atrocities or launch attacks beyond Pakistan’s borders. Organizations like Jaish-e Mohammad, Lashkar-i- Taibba and Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat Dawa which have a presence in Pakistan and operate in parts of India-held Kashmir must be outlawed and their infrastructures dismantled. That will convey a firm and clear message of Pakistan’s credentials as a country that will not lend support to any militant organization within or outside the country.
But that will not be enough unless India changes course and embarks on a policy shift that could create an environment for sustained dialogue with representatives of the insurgency. Pakistan had proposed a formula in 2004-05 that envisaged acceptance of the current boundary or line of control as a de-facto border between India and Pakistan. That was a position steeped in recognition of ground realities. A resolution to the dispute must incorporate these objective realities and pay close attention to the aspirations of the people. A military solution is unthinkable.
For over seventy years, the non-resolution of the Kashmir issue has soured relations between India and Pakistan. One fifth of humanity has suffered, and India and Pakistan have been unable to jointly tackle one of the most fundamental problems to their existence together: water scarcity.
Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to this, because it is dependent mostly on a river system fed by the Himalayan glaciers located in Indian held Kashmir. Together, the two countries should have taken measures to regulate the construction of reservoirs, to deal with the problem of seepage, soil erosion and avoiding the wastage of water by combining resources, exchanging data and acting in harmony to safeguard lives and properties.
There is an urgent need to develop back channel contacts to contain the damage that the Pulwama incident is likely to cause especially in India’s pre-election climate. The time to act is now.
– Rustam Shah Mohmand is a specialist of Afghanistan and Central Asian Affairs. He has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan and also held position of Chief Commissioner Refugees for a decade.