Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Kargil Crisis Recedes in Wake of Clinton-Sharif Meeting, but Menacing Kashmir Problem Remains Unsolved

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Kargil Crisis Recedes in Wake of Clinton-Sharif Meeting, but Menacing Kashmir Problem Remains Unsolved

Article excerpt

Kargil Crisis Recedes in Wake of Clinton-Sharif Meeting, but Menacing Kashmir Problem Remains Unsolved

The State of Jammu and Kashmir does not belong to either India or Pakistan. This is a fact that many outside the subcontinent do not know, and some do not care to recognize. Anyone who is even remotely interested in resolving the menacing Kashmir dispute, however, needs to remember that in this case the devil is not in the details but in the basic underlying facts.

The issue is not Kargil or Daars, as it has been made out to be in recent weeks in the international media. It is the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir which is contested in a dispute that jeopardizes the peace of one of the most heavily populated regions of the world. Further, the organized international community needs to be reminded that it pledged through the United Nations in 1948 to let the 13 million people of Kashmir determine their own political future. It is a promise that has gone unredeemed for the past half-century.

The subcontinent has paid a heavy price in economic and human terms for this denial of the right of self-determination -- a principle honored by great powers all over the world in the abstract, but repeatedly denied to all who are prepared to fight and die for it. The Kargil crisis, it must be recognized, is just the latest example of the willingness of Kashmiris to lay down their lives for their freedom.

Unfortunately, there is more hypocrisy than honesty in international relations. Depending on who is defining them, the groups that have revived the demand for an independent Kashmir are identified as mujahedeen, freedom fighters, intruders, infiltrators or mercenaries. Whatever they are called, they are people dying for their own independence, a cause with which Americans, only two centuries after their own similar struggle, should easily empathize. This is particularly so since, until it is resolved, the Kashmir dispute presents the world's greatest threat, by far, of nuclear war. The half-century-old Kashmir dispute has proven, beyond a shadow of doubt, that time is no healer, as it has defied all manner of delaying tactics over the years.

New Delhi has been able to avoid a settlement only by deploying more than 700,000 army and paramilitary troops to "keep order" in the Indian-occupied two-thirds of Kashmir. Nor has any amount of counterfeit democracy reduced the demand for freedom in the state. India has arrested prominent Kashmiri leaders belonging to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of groups fighting for freedom, and India's puppet Kashmiri chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, has accused his fellow Kashmiris living in the Kargil-Daars area of supporting alleged mercenary intruders. However, none of this theater or fakery has changed the mind-set of the local population, who have suffered deeply under severe repression. Their struggle for freedom continues unabated.

THE KARGIL CRISIS

Pending final settlement of the Kashmir dispute, a temporary Line of Control (LOC), was set up some 27 years ago demarcating the Indian-and the Pakistani-controlled parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Ever since, the LOC, which marks the front lines at the time a cease-fire was negotiated, has been monitored by a U.N. peacekeeping force, although the artificial boundary has been porous, especially during the short summer when snow and ice do not impede passage.

India accused Pakistan of aiding and abetting "intruders" who breached the LOC and occupied high ground on the Indian side, shooting down at the Indian troops trying to regain the lost territory. It is snow-clad and treacherous terrain and, by New Delhi's own admission, the Indian army suffered major casualties.

Military skirmishes and exchanges of fire began in mid-May, with both sides making contradictory claims. The United States called only for a return to the status quo, and respect for the LOC. India quotes the Simla Agreement of 1972 wherein the two countries had agreed to "resolve" all issues, including the Kashmir dispute, through bilateral negotiations. …

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