Eleven stumbling blocks in Kashmir peace process
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Eleven stumbling blocks in Kashmir peace process

A latest report published by an American think-tank United States Institute of Peace has analysed the peace moves in the region, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 19:47 IST
Arun Joshi

When it comes to resolving the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, there are as many as 11 identifiable stumbling blocks, but now Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing 'building blocks' for peace.

That is how a latest report published by an American think-tank United States Institute of Peace has analysed the peace moves in the region, which was released on Thursday, two days ahead of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Pakistan. The visit is seen as a crucial forward movement on the Kashmir issue by political quarters in Jammu and Kashmir.

The report titled Building Blocks, Stumbling Blocks: Prospects for Peace in Kashmir, penned by A Heather Coyne senior programme officer of the Institute’s Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, is based on the discussions it hosted with the head of the Kashmir Study Group (KSG) Farooq Kathwari and a member of the group, Chester Crocker.

KSG had studied situation on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir and has come out with two sets of reports so far, which have set off debate in the entire South Asian region as also in the international non-profit organisations and think tanks.

In the report Crocker outlined the major stumbling blocks that stand in the way of a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict, stumbling blocks that both result from and contribute to its intractable character:

The centrality of Kashmir to the identity of both India and Pakistan means that compromising on the principle of Kashmir is felt by both sides to be the equivalent of compromising one’s national identity.

There is a lack of clarity about who the parties to the conflict are and who is empowered to be at the table in a peace process.

There is a lack of clarity about what issues need to be resolved: is the question whether the territory of Kashmir should be part of India or Pakistan or is it whether the people of Kashmir should have some form of autonomy?

There is a lack of consensus on the shape of the deal: that is, on what the solutions might look like and who would sign on to them.

There is no agreement on who speaks for the Kashmiris and no clear way for an authentic Kashmiri voice to emerge in an environment where various powers are trying to monopolise the decision on who can speak for the Kashmiri people.

External mediation is not an option because the power asymmetry between India and Pakistan allows India to veto external intervention.

There is no agreement on a peace process: one side preconditions a peace process on the cessation of violence while the other says it cannot control the violence until progress on resolving issues is achieved.

The protracted nature of the conflict empowers extremists by increasing the number of grievances and potential spoilers. The longer the conflict continues, the more difficult it is to resolve.

Resolving this issue is a low priority for the international actors that have leverage on India and Pakistan, and for the governments of India and Pakistan themselves.

The Kashmir issue is inextricably linked to the wider problem of Hindu-Muslim relations in the region.

Any of these obstacles in itself might be enough to deter or derail a peace process; taken together, they present a formidable challenge to peacemaking in the region.

Having stated this, the report goes on to identify the areas, where the progress is being made on Kashmir, and it has also acknowledged that the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is the people themselves - neither India nor Pakistan. And that the plebiscite demand was not practical.

Instead, it is kindling the line: give all five regions the ability to govern themselves, allowing the three on the Indian side and the two on the Pakistan side to form some common body to look after their interests, and then create an overarching entity to govern the interests shared by both sides, such as tourism, water, and environment.

This solution also called for the borders to be opened, to become almost meaningless.

The report noted, quoting Kathwari, “Momentum is building and that any stumbling is a "stumbling forward".

Email Arun Joshi: a_joshi957@rediffmail.com

First Published: Jan 11, 2007 19:47 IST