Making A Difference

The Final Solution

The shift to a people-centric approach from the real estate aspect of the problem is welcome indeed, and since all politics is local, it is high time to shift the focus from macro to micro issues. The majority community in J&K, not merely the governm

The Final Solution

The announcement of starting the bus service betweenMuzaffarabad and Srinagar from April 7 has been universally applauded, with thenotable, if not unexpected, exception of Jaish-e-Mohammad (Masood Azhar), Al-mansoorian/Lashkar-e-Tayiba (Umer Mukhtar), Hizbul Mujahideen (Syed Salahuddin), All Party HurriyatConference – Geelani Faction (Syed Ali Shah Geelani) and Duktaran-e-Millat(Asiya Andrabi).

Perhapsno other characteristic defines the value of this major CBM more than the veryfact that all terrorist organizations have denounced this announcement, whilemasses in both Kashmirs have celebrated the news with joy and hope. So inpursuing this CBM, India and Pakistan have served the cause of peace as thisnews has isolated various merchants of violence and demonstrated how far theyare out of touch with the reality in Jammu and Kashmir and with the rest of theworld.

In taking up the CBMs in a broader context, one can see value in the twoneighbors developing ideas and jointly agreeing on new schemes that strengthenpeace and decrease chances of conflict and violence betweenand within the two countries. Such a climate is necessary to encourage seriousdialogue between officials of the two countries and to build the trust soessential to reaching an agreement on the "final solution" of theJammu and Kashmir problem.

Going beyond real estate 

But will these near-term or even long-term CBMs help settle the Kashmirconflict? To answer this question, one has to understand why the Kashmirconflict has remained unresolved for so long. Here I wish to make three points:

First, there is practically no possibility that a solution can be imposed fromthe outside. If such a solution could not be imposed when both countries were intheir formative years, there is clearly no possibility of imposing a solutionwhen both are nuclear powers and one country is on its way to becoming theeconomic powerhouse of this century. 

Second, both countries are determined notto gave an inch of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir under their control andinsist that Kashmir problem deals with the disputed territory that is currentlyoccupied by the other country. 

And third, the new momentum in the peace processhas come from two countries themselves, who now realize that the final solutionof the Kashmir conflict is likely to be people-centric, rather thanland-centric, as was the tradition in the past. 

The net effect is that CBMswill continue until the time is ripe to reach a settlement that involves a lotmore than simply the real estate of Jammu and Kashmir.

Complete rejection of 'gun culture'

When you go beyond the issue of real estate (recognizing that Kurds, Pashtuns,Balochis and even Punjabis are in a similar situation, geographically), theresolution of Kashmir conflict translates into protection of Kashmiri identity,restoration of peace and tranquility, and development of human values worthy ofthe "first world" countries on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir.

Thisis where CBMs are truly significant. It will require not only CBMs between governments of India and Pakistan, but also among theconstituents of Jammu of Kashmir in their own respective regions as well asacross both sides of the border.

The first step in any conflict resolution process is the total and completerejection of "gun culture," so that violence will end and the peopleof the state can express their views openly and freely without the threat ofdeath hanging over their heads. 

In the December 2004 Kashmir Conference held inKathmandu (arranged by the Pugwash Conferences) that brought players from India,Pakistan and the two Kashmirs together, apart from the usual desire for"sustained dialogue," there was also this cry from valley basedrepresentatives at the meeting: "If the whole of J&K is disputed, whyis there violence only in our side of Kashmir?" 

The elimination of gunculture will not only require a strong denunciation of terrorism in all itsforms and manifestations, but it will also require the public in both Kashmirsto stop making collections in the name of jihad, for authorities inPakistan to close the 67 terrorist training camps (some in the guise ofreligious training schools as reported by India Today in the February 7,2005 edition), and for Indian security forces to stop using excessive force oncivilians. Once violence subsides, it will put the onus on governments toimprove the quality of life in Jammu and Kashmir.

Poverty and economic hardship

But peace and development are intertwined with poverty and economic hardshipsthat most people on both sides of Jammu & Kashmir have to face today. I didan assessment for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) last year thatlooked at economy, budget and governance in the Indian side of Jammu andKashmir. 

Many have suggested in the past that the Indian side of Kashmir isprimarily being kept "financially afloat" either by remittances fromKashmiri Diaspora overseas (about Rs. 200 million annually), or by overseas jihadifunds pumped covertly into Kashmir (about Rs. 500 million annually as estimatedby the Indian government). Even if these figures are doubled to Rs. 1.5 billion,it is still only a tiny fraction of the official Jammu and Kashmir annual budgetof Rs. 150 billion. 

In principle, such an enormous sum should be more thansufficient to improve the lives of about 12 million people that live on theIndian side of Jammu and Kashmir, but in reality nearly 75% of the people –mostly villagers and rural communities – hardly see any changes in their dailylives in spite of such huge budget outlays. 

Who gains from the trickle-down economy?

The analysis indicated that on theIndian side of Jammu and Kashmir, there are three broad classes of people thatare served by the "trickle down" economy – the top 5% consists of state bureaucracy and politicians (in power, out of power or even those fightingfor power) who get to keep most of the pie; the next tier consists of smallbusinessmen and urban professionals who constitute roughly 20% of the populationliving a middle class life; and the bottom 75% are a mostly rural populationthat see very little of the trickle down effect. 


Thus many people in the stateare alienated, despondent and bitter with the existing situation that does notseem to improve with changing governments. The situation on the Pakistani sideis probably identical.

And that is the biggest challenge and opportunity for developing CBMsthat will result in a marked change in the human development of the people ofJammu and Kashmir. Because no matter who gets elected, including separatistswithin Hurriyat if they were to win in a future election, the majority ofpeople of Jammu and Kashmir will not see much change in their lives. Why? Dataclearly indicates that governance in Jammu and Kashmir is extremely poor andthere is a nexus between corrupt bureaucracy and opportunistic politicians thatcircumvents democratic processes, creating a feudal system where oligarchs keepgetting rich and poor masses keep getting poor. 


The real problems

Specific to the Indian side, Ican say that many of the problems exist because the independent Constitution ofJammu and Kashmir lacks adequate protections related to transparency andaccountability in governance, development of civil society, due process, workersafety and environment, etc. 

On the other hand, some of the Indian national lawsextended to the state to rectify such deficiencies have been mostly ignored bythe state (a collective process of indifference involving politicians,bureaucracy and the local press) as an act of defiance against usurping theArticle 370, which grants political autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. In the erawhere the Indian economy is booming and yet hardly touching the lives of mostKashmiris, it is obvious that the Article 370 has been abused by powerfullobbies in Srinagar to enslave Kashmiri people into mediocrity, destroyed theirentrepreneurial spirit and made corruption and hustling as a way of life. 


Quality of life can improve only by reducing state bureaucracy, reducing thecontrol of government on commerce, and encouraging private sector growth.Instead, the powers that be continue to harp on additional autonomy orindependence without addressing current inadequacies or even setting a personalexample of accountability and transparency in their own personal lifestyle orpolitical organizations to which they belong.

On the Pakistani side there is a unique situation where a major portion ofthe Pakistan administered Kashmir lacks direct representation. Even though asenior High Court judge in "Azad Kashmir" gave a ruling that theNorthern Areas (NA) should be incorporated in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan has ignoredpublic aspirations within the NA. 


In a recent assessment made by theindependently run Freedom House, titled, "Freedom of the World Report2005", it rated Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir as having relatively morepolitical freedom than the Pakistani side of Jammu and Kashmir. And yet the sameKashmiris who demand more freedom on the Indian side talk so little about thelack of any such freedoms on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

Kashmiri identity

Then there is the concern about protecting Kashmiri identity. Pakistan isalleged to have eroded Kashmiri identity on their side of Jammu and Kashmir byresettling many retired or retiring security personnel from other parts ofPakistan. On the Indian side, Kashmiri identity is under threat not because ofpeople who have moved into the area, but because of people who have moved out ofthe area. 


While most Muslims in the state live in the valley of Kashmir, therewere also a significant number of minorities, especially Pandits (Hindus), Sikhsand Christians who until recently lived in the valley. The term Kashmiriyatimplied a certain composite identity that drew on major religions of SouthAsia to define a culture that was uniquely in harmony with heavenly surroundingsof the Kashmir valley. But following the rise of insurgency and terrorism in1989 and subsequent massacres, most minorities have fled the valley.

The issue today in the valley is one of Kashmiri identity. It is, by andlarge, a Muslim identity, and the way things are going it is unlikely to changewithout specific community-to-community CBMs to bring back Kashmiris ofnon-Muslim faith. If valley based Kashmiris want a return to pluralism andreligious tolerance that was once the hallmark of Kashmiri identity ( Kashmiriyat),then a lot needs to be done to create conducive conditions for the return ofPandits. 


The majority of community CBMs should not merely address securityaspects of the problem, but address real issues dealing with sharing ofpolitical and economic power in the valley so that Kashmiri Pandits feel thatthey are also true stakeholders in the future of Jammu and Kashmir. So evenafter the gun culture ceases, unless and until Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits hold a composite political dialogue, I do not believe there will be anylarge-scale return of minorities back into the valley. In the famous words ofTip O’Neill, "all politics is local".

Substantive CBMs needed

I have addressed CBMs related to the Kashmir conflict on multiple levelsand brought up contentious issues involving the people of Jammu and Kashmir aswell as governments of Pakistan and India. Resolution of these issues takentogether will eventually help resolve the Kashmir conflict. We expect the twogovernments to announce further CBMs in the future to sustain peace andpromote trade and commerce between the two countries.


But the real benefit to the people of Jammu and Kashmir will come from CBMsthat are people-centric and address anomalies created by tortured history andongoing insurgency that have come to represent the Kashmir conflict. Forexample, the road between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar is welcome news that willpromote movement of people and invigorate trade between two Kashmirs, but whynot also open road links between Sialkote-Jammu and Skardu-Kargil? And whatabout a direct road link (even though it has to be constructed) betweenMuzaffarabad and Gilgit? 

People of Jammu and Kashmir have a right to convenientand accessible travel not just between the two Kashmirs, but also within eachregion.


Similarly, there should be new CBMs to alleviate economic imbalances,alienation and hardship among rural Kashmiris by undertaking a major overhaul ofthe way the two Kashmirs manage their annual budget. Both sides of Kashmir relyheavily on the federal government to subsidize their annual spending – inJammu and Kashmir,  in India, the subsidy from the central government is in excess of 75%,whereas in Azad Kashmir the subsidy is about 50%. 

Besides a redirection ofpriorities to promote rural economy and promote private sector in the tworegions, major structural changes are necessary in bringing true democracy tothe people, including new laws to increase transparency and accountability,improve rights of minorities and women, and strengthen civil society in bothregions. 


Serious problems exist on both sides of the border. We need to redirectthe focus from macro issues related to Kashmir conflict that have received mostattention in the last half a century, and focus instead on micro issues thatwill bring greatest benefit to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Finally, the CBMs must address strengthening of Kashmiri identity thattranscends religion as a determining factor for such an identity. The majoritycommunity in Jammu and Kashmir, not merely the state government, bears theburden of developing appropriate CBMs to address this issue. A seriousinter-community dialogue is only a starting point in a confidence buildingprocess that should address long-term retention of minorities in the valley toplay an integral part in furthering democracy, nurturing diversity andrevitalizing economy of Jammu and Kashmir.


In summary, CBMs constitute an important component of the peace processthat will not only advance the cause of peace and normalcy in the subcontinent,but also bring together the diverse people of Jammu and Kashmir in creating newopportunities for economic growth and human development within their respectiveregions on either side of the border. Once that happens, the two countries canfinalize the resolution of the Kashmir conflict at a time of their choosing.

Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D. is National President, Indo-American Kashmir Forum (IAKF)Washington, DC, USA). This article is adapted from his presentation, "CBMs: Help or Hindrance for Resolving Kashmir Conflict"at the Fourth International Kashmir Peace Conference held in New York City on February 24-25, 2005. The meeting was organized by the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a US based organization affiliated to the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), and was attended by the Kashmiri Diaspora from Europe and Americas and included representatives from Pakistan, India, USA andEurope.