India and Pakistan need to indulge in deep introspection
After decades of confrontation and proxy wars, India and Pakistan are once again engaged in an open conflict. Fortunately, it has remained confined to skirmishes in the skies, even as the danger of escalation looms. How dreadful could the consequences be if the spiraling cycle of violence escalates and takes the shape of a larger, bloodier war?
When sanity and prudence give way to rhetoric and aggressive posturing, then it is unwise to expect that a rational approach can guide decision-making.
Both India and Pakistan feel they have done the right thing by launching air strikes on each other’s territory, with each side claiming that they were only responding to a situation created by the other.
However, as the conflict de-escalates and the danger of a wider conflict recedes, there will be an inevitable recourse for a reappraisal of policy.
The rebellion or insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir has acquired a momentum of its own and no longer requires any external motivation or support. The involvement of the youth in attacks on India’s security forces must be understood from the perspective of atrocities that the latter have been committing on protesters in the Valley. The disproportionate use of force against people participating in rallies — organized by the political parties — has generated a new culture of hatred, revenge, and despondency. This can at times boil over into suicide bombings, and attacks against security forces or their installations.
One thing India must understand clearly is that the continuance of the status quo is no longer a viable option. It has to change.
Equally importantly, it must acknowledge that independence for Kashmir is a goal that can never be realized, because any such move to secede Kashmir from India would give rise to more such demands from several other states.
This could trigger a huge movement across India for more autonomy or secession, following which the implications for South Asia can very well be imagined.
However, there are several possibilities of how to confer more autonomy that could reflect the aspirations of the public, too — a goal which is worth pursuing.
Islamabad must dispassionately reconsider the issue of dismantling the infrastructure of militant outfits that operate, not only within Pakistan, but beyond its borders, too. Have such groups been of any help to advancing the cause of Pakistan, it’s democracy , regards, or standing in the world?
Rustam Shah Mohmand
Pakistan must realize that an India weakened by demands for secession would pose immense dangers to its own stability. It cannot remain aloof to the instability of its neighbor given that both countries have had adversarial relations since independence in 1947.
Destabilization of India would have far-reaching and disasterous implications for the entire region.
As well as seeking a rapprochement with India on Kashmir — by vigorously advocating the cause for more autonomy — Islamabad must dispassionately reconsider the issue of dismantling the infrastructure of militant outfits that operate, not only within Pakistan, but beyond its borders, too. Have such groups been of any help to advancing the cause of Pakistan, it’s democracy, regards, or standing in the world?
Has Pakistan benefited in any way from the presence of such groups? On the contrary, the damage that has been caused over the years must be quantified and documented for a reorientation of policy.
Come to think of it — one organization that claims the support of just two or 3,000 supporters in a country of 221 million, can, by committing one act, hold the entire country hostage to its myopic ideology and cause the country to be taken to the brink of war, too.
Would any country acquiesce a situation like that?
Confrontation between the two neighbors has lasted long enough. However, while there has been no progress on resolving the Kashmir issue, other potentially dangerous problems — such as climate change and the growing scarcity of water — have emerged which call for urgent attention. Soon, they will rear their ugly heads on the political landscape and plunge South Asia into a spiral of ever-increasing poverty — one which threatens livelihoods and spreads further chaos.
Together the two countries can combine resources and technologies in order to combat the menace of poverty and water shortage. Both are severely water stressed, share common rivers, and know how best to coordinate on strategies for afforestation, better irrigation practices and for slowing down the rate of the depletion of aquifers.
These are issues that should draw the attention of leaders and members of the civil society from both sides of the border.
— 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.