Academic journal article Strategic Forum

Finding a Kashmir Settlement: The Burden of Leadership

Academic journal article Strategic Forum

Finding a Kashmir Settlement: The Burden of Leadership

Article excerpt

Key Points

Although prospects for resolving the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir may not seem encouraging, political developments in Pakistan and Kashmir, as well as India's blossoming relationship with the United States, hold some promise. Peace processes in other parts of the world offer lessons on possible approaches toward peace in Kashmir.

Three basic propositions should guide thinking about a Kashmir peace process:

* Kashmir is only a part, albeit the most central and stubborn one, of the larger problem of India-Pakistan relations.

* No party can enter the process having defined in advance what a settlement will look like.

* At this stage, crafting the process is more important than agreeing in advance on what kind of end state is acceptable.

These propositions imply that a peace process should address several baskets of problems rather than focusing exclusively on core issues. To prevent premature and unrealistic expectations, the process should begin in discreet backchannels and become formal only after careful preparation.

The Kashmiri people must be brought into the process in a serious way, which will require changes in the behavior of New Delhi and Islamabad.

Finally, both sides should consider the proven value of the involvement of third parties in helping structure and manage a bilateral peace process. The United States needs to plan seriously its role. Pakistan has always favored international engagement, and the Indian government now seems more open to such U.S. involvement.


The combined talents of the people of India and Pakistan, with the fitful help of a long list of others, have been trying for over 50 years to resolve the Kashmir issue. This essay offers no ready-made answers but rather suggestions on where to begin to look for them. Experience with other recent peace processes teaches valuable lessons about how would-be peacemakers need to approach their task and the ways in which third parties can help.

The May 2003 announcement that India and Pakistan would resume diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level and resume civil air links came after nearly a year-and-a-half of unusually bad relations. Transportation links had been severed and most normal contacts suspended. Although massive troop deployments along the international border had been reduced since the high point in 2002, there is still a huge military presence along the line of control and the working border. Violence had been high within the Kashmir Valley and nearby districts, and Indians were convinced that infiltration was continuing despite Pakistani assurances to the contrary to the United States. Attacks elsewhere in India--Parliament, various Hindu temples--had left a residual bitterness there, and India's unwillingness to engage in talks with Pakistan has produced a legacy of enormous frustration.

But even during these generally unpromising times, there have been promising developments. The October 2002 elections on the Indian side of Kashmir, despite their obvious flaws, did shake up the political situation and create an opening for change. More recently, gestures by leaders on both sides convey tentative interest in exploring greater contact. (1) Pakistan's stronger international position in general, and its changed relationship with the United States since September 11, 2001, in particular, could be an asset if Pakistan were to adopt a more determined search for a settlement. Perhaps most interesting is India's changed attitude toward international involvement in its relations with Pakistan. India has not embraced the idea of international mediation, but it has come to accept tacitly the notion that an outside country can play a useful facilitating role. This should strengthen U.S. Government interest in developing a strong and sustained diplomatic strategy for moving toward a real settlement. …

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