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Kashmir - a Plan for Peace - The Ornery American


Kashmir - a Plan for Peace
By Joshua Tucker June 12, 2003

"The real sovereign of the State [of Kashmir] are the people of the State. If the ruler is not the servant of the people then he is not the ruler."

-Mahatma Gandhi


In the fight for a just and progressive world Kashmir has been left behind. Over the past fifty-five years Pakistan and India have fought three wars over the disputed Kashmir valley, casting the region into long-term instability and poverty. There are two compelling reasons for western policy makers to make bringing security to Kashmir a top priority in 2003. I submit this plan to the Ornery American in hopes that it will give rise to a debate not only of Kashmir's problems but also how best we can solve them.

The first reason that no citizen should ignore Kashmir is that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. A fourth war between the rival states now appears likely. Indian allegations of Pakistani sponsored cross-border terrorism and continuous skirmishes and shelling along the Line of Control, (LoC,) separating Indian and Pakistani-occupied Kashmir are severely escalating tensions. Furthermore, an increasingly violent separatist movement, hoping to secure Kashmir's total independence, has spurred the Indian army to oppress Kashmiris brutally, increasing unrest and threatening to ignite international terrorism. Given these extreme circumstances, Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have called Kashmir "The most dangerous place on earth." Engineering stability in Kashmir would not only bolster American economic and diplomatic ties with Pakistan and India, but also would eliminate a breeding ground for terrorism and the production and use of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The second reason inducing policy makers to focus on Kashmir is that, as President Bush tries put a clean face on the failure of the war in Iraq to capture WMDs or Hussein, let alone restore a just government, while calling Ariel Sharon, "A man of peace;" the West is failing to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. Western policy makers need to make this goal more than rhetoric by making concrete progress in bringing peace to one of the four regions in which the oppression of Muslims is causing wholesale hatred and fueling terrorist violence around the world: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Chechen rebellion, the occupation of Iraq, and the oppression and division of Kashmir. Since neither Yasser Arafat nor Ariel Sharon is providing leadership that could bring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the new Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas appears to be relatively powerless,, it is doubtful whether the West will be making progress there. In Chechnya, Russia's determination to crush the breakaway Republic's Muslim independence movement appears unshakable. Russia's proven ability to deflect criticism and pressure by calling Chechnya an issue of internal terrorism, and by using its military and economic clout to discourage would-be peacemakers makes Chechnya a poor target for a decisive victory. In Iraq the diverging needs of Kurds, Shia, and Sunni Muslims make it unlikely that a productive government will be established. Especially as the UN resolution 1409 continues to block the UN from offering a nonpartisan reconstruction effort, and is "much worse," for Iraqis than The Oil For Food program according new Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan. Kashmir is the West's strongest prospect for building peace and goodwill in the Muslim world, because Indian Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders are fundamentally open to negotiations, and all have pressure points susceptible to western diplomacy.

Now that the United States has executed a preemptive attack on Iraq, surely Kashmir is an excellent place to preempt a nuclear war by making peace. If tensions were decreased along the Indian-Pakistani border then Pakistan could devote hundreds of thousands of the troops it now has stationed there to pursue terrorists in tribal areas of Pakistan and along the border with Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said of Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharref, that he, "has set a new direction for Pakistan which will enhance its role in the region and the world." But now Musharref, or "Busharref" as many Muslim fundamentalists label him, is seen by many Pakistanis as increasingly weak in the face of Indian and American pressure rather than a champion for Pakistani causes. The possibility of a coup, like the one that brought Musharref to power, putting the Pakistani stockpile of medium range nuclear missiles into the hands of a Muslim fundamentalist regime, that could pass components on to terrorists, is too grave to be ignored.

Trouble in Kashmir began developing as soon as the British withdrew and India was partitioned in 1947. Maharaja Hari Singh, then the Hindu ruler of the predominantly Muslim state of Kashmir, decided to sign an Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union. Pakistani leaders were furious. Believing that Pakistan was entitled to rule all Muslim majority areas of India, they immediately invaded. India counter-attacked. The UN Security Council's 1948 call for a plebiscite was ignored by Indian leaders, and war has continued sporadically to this day--giving rise to a violent Kashmiri independence movement and a nuclear arms race. Instability has crushed the Kashmiri economy giving the people with the richest land in the Indian subcontinent a GDP lower than that of Ethiopia and driving away the tourists that once gave Kashmir 90% of its business.

Why is Kashmir still the object of such tremendous desire? Surrounded by the broad shouldered peaks of the high Himalayas, the Kashmir valley holds lakes like emeralds and mountains rich with sapphires. Some biblical scholars believe that Kashmir, not Israel, was the promised land of milk and honey. While that is difficult to prove, Kashmir is certainly wealthy in natural resources and radiant with unparalleled natural beauty. To India, Kashmir is, "Happy valley" as the Maharajas called it. Perceived as the crowning jewel of Indian pride, Kashmir is guarded by Indian military supremacy. To Pakistan, the fact that Kashmir is 99% Muslim means that it is home, not only to greatly coveted natural resources, but also to over one million fellow Muslims living under oppressive Indian rule. To the Kashmiri separatists, the violence they propagate is a guerrilla revolution, as justified as the American Revolution, to free Kashmir from the greedy encamped Indian army of unjust oppressors who nearly outnumber the residents of the region.

The Bush administration turned U.S. South Asian policy upside-down, even before September 11th. Discarding the ideals of Indian-Pakistani Nuclear disarmament that the Clinton administration had advocated for through years of bilateral talks, the Bush administration abandoned efforts to seek South Asian signatures on the CTBT. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher offered vague a goal on June 19th 2001," that nuclear developments not be carried any farther." However, even this has been rendered toothless by continuing Indian and Pakistani testing and proliferation. The administration formally sacrificed this goal when on September 22nd 2001 it lifted sanctions on arms exports and American military assistance to the rival powers, implemented to penalize nuclear proliferation, paving the way for the soaring tensions and increased nuclear testing of 2002.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld toured Asia in November 2001, as part of a post September 11th ally roundup. In Pakistan he tried to strengthen the alliance against terrorism, but denied Pakistani requests for a respite of U.S. bombing in Afghanistan during Ramadan. Proceeding to Delhi, Rumsfeld agreed to new military ties with India to develop a strategic partnership. It seems the Bush administration acknowledges the Kashmir conflict in rhetoric only. By strengthening Indian military might even as he asks Pakistan for favors Rumsfeld has endangered America's relationship with Pakistan when it was most needed. However the administration still managed to anger Indian leaders when it tipped the regional balance of power by selling F-16s to Pakistan; granting the dictatorship the optimum delivery mechanism for its nuclear weapons.

By condoning India and the unstable Pakistani government's possession of nuclear weapons and contributing to their military growth, while planning war against Iraq for its alleged possession of WMDs; the Bush administration continues to fulfill the policy it began by derailing the CTBT. The administration hopes to allow only American allies to procure WMDs, as appose to the Clinton administration's policy of reducing all possession of WMDs. The Bush policy raises two questions in South Asia that threaten American strategic interests. First what happens when two of those allies are enemies of one another, and second, what happens if you loose a well armed ally?

Failing to address the first question, the administration has made military deals with both nations, while closing its eyes to the fact that the issue of Kashmir renders any deal with one a military affront to the other. Now that the cold war distrust between India and the U.S. has ended there is no excuse for America's failure to seek a solution in Kashmir with more than Rhetoric. By deepening the rift between India and Pakistan through weapons sales and a conceding to nuclear proliferation the U.S. is driving a wedge between two of its vital allies in the war on terror.

In a shortsighted disregard for the second question the U.S. has been pulling Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharref to its side of the tightrope that the Muslim leader walks between competing interests. On one side President Bush demands compliance, saying "You're either with us or against us," while backed by the strongest military in the world and a preemptive strike policy. Pulling from the other side of the tight rope, many Pakistanis, calling their prime minister "Busharref," believe he caves to often to American and Indian pressure, rather than being a champion for Pakistani interests--predominantly a free Kashmir. The possibility of Musharref falling from the tightrope in a coup, like the one that brought him to power, is not taken into account in the administrations actions. They ignore the likelihood that a coup would put the Pakistani stockpile of medium range nuclear missiles into the hands of a Muslim fundamentalist regime, which could pass components on to terrorists. This week Musharref must feel the tightrope sway beneath him as Pakistan's vote in the UN Security Council, on a resolution bringing a war in Iraq, remains undecided.

In regards to Kashmir itself, the administrations policy is limited to ineffective rhetoric and remains a victim in the crafted game of misinformation and brinksmanship that India and Pakistan play in the fight for Kashmir. A clear example of the confusion created by such misinformation occurred last June when US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Delhi, who told him that Al Qaeda operatives were hiding in the Kashmir valley. Rumsfeld immediately called a press conference and announced that it was so. The next day, in Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharref told Rumsfeld that this was simply an Indian bluff to gain support for their military domination of Kashmir. For the second time in twenty-four hours Rumsfeld went before the cameras, this time to announce that he had "No proof," of Al Qaeda's presence in Kashmir.

The fact is the Bush administration has never sought to actually understand the problem of Kashmir. If it had, it would be made clear through a policy that offers more than fly by night band-aid deliveries to Delhi and Islamabad. If America fought to build peace in South Asia and freedom for the battered Muslim population of Kashmir it would go far toward showing the Muslim world that the U.S. seeks to bring stability, not sacrilege. Freeing India and Pakistan from their destructive nuclear rivalry will enable them to further concentrate on the war on terror. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani soldiers, who now Patrol the 720 km LoC between Indian and Pakistani occupied Kashmir, could be reassigned to follow-up on the successes of Pakistani Security Forces in capturing Al Qaeda leaders along the Pakistani- Afghan border.

What it comes down to is that the Bush administration would prefer to get public cooperation from India and Pakistan in the short term, rather than bringing peace to Kashmir in the long-term--or even protecting greater U.S. strategic interests. I spent July of 2002 in Srinigar, the summer capital of Kashmir, working as a journalist. I met with the UN Chief Military Observer, many proponents of both Indian and Pakistani Rule, and the separatist Hurriyat Conference leader Omar Farooq. I am offering a peaceful solution.

For Kashmir to achieve a lasting peace an intermediary who is respected by all parties is required to guide the peace process. Speaking with the UN's Chief Military Observer in Kashmir I became aware that the Indian army continues to confine the UN's influence to the wall of the UN compound, as they have done since military observers first arrived in Kashmir in 1949. Many Muslims are not ready for a U.S. or British-led peacekeeping force with the specter of the a war in Iraq looming large. However, American and British support could be integrated several years down the line if these nations can first make a show of good faith to the Muslim world. Instead, Special Envoys from the EU, like those sent to monitor the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should first be sent to assess the situation on the ground and make preliminary negotiations.

Sending Special Envoys will tell India and Pakistan, far better than fly-by-night trips to Delhi and Islamabad, or ineffective UN outposts, that Kashmir is a matter of serious international concern. Furthermore, having Envoys on the ground in Srinigar will enable western policy-makers to clearly understand what is going on in Kashmir--avoiding the crafted misinformation presented by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee to Donald Rumsfeld, and others, to solicit western support. Envoys will induce India to join Pakistan at the negotiating table with stern economic pressure, and negotiate with India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Conference, offering a plan to rebuild Kashmir's economy and secure peace for all parties. I propose the following:

1. AID: The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union, will give a total of $600,000,000, (USD) per year for the next six years. The aid will be in the form of economic stimulus and humanitarian aid for the educational and health needs of the people of Kashmir. After the six year period the continuing needs of Kashmir will be reassessed. Aid will be administered by the UN and EU troops, as well as being subcontracted to the non-profit organizations already operating in the area, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Red Cross. How best to use the aid will be negotiated annually between the chief executives of Indian and Pakistani-occupied Kashmir and the representatives of those giving, distributing, and receiving this aid. The special envoys will mediate this process. The UN High Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR) will station observers in Kashmir to monitor and report on the use and effectiveness of international aid and to advise the parties as to fairness and practicality of plans. Without the consent of the UNHCR no plan for the use of international will be funded. If a plan has not been agreed upon by the end of the year covered by the previous plan, the previous plan will be extended on prorated bases until a new plan is agreed upon.

2. PEACEKEEPERS: The EU will maintain an active garrison of 7,000 troops, with no less than 80 helicopters, in Kashmir to keep the peace, investigate terrorism, protect minorities, and administer aid. These troops will be subject to Indian and Pakistani national and local laws and justice systems. American and British ground forces can supplement EU troops as Kashmiri unrest subsides.

3. AUTONOMY-NEW BORDERS: The Indian national government will grant partial autonomy to the Muslim majority areas of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. India will cede to Pakistan the small area of territory between Siachen glacier and Karakoram Pass that it seized from Pakistan in 1983, and a permanent international border will be established along the LoC. Local governance will rest in the hands of the people; free and fair elections to reestablish a local democratic government will be supervised by EU troops. Indian soldiers will be confined to their barracks on election days, as supervised by EU troops, to avoid coercion. EU troops will also guard the polls. The Indian National government will retain the sole rights to tax, at the same rates used throughout India, and to defend their borders from international military aggression. However, this new border will be open to all civilians. India and Pakistan will be free to regulate the borders between semi-autonomous Kashmir and their interiors as they see fit.

4. TERRORISM: The investigation of terrorist violence will fall exclusively under the jurisdiction of EU troops. They will utilize the assistance Indian or Pakistani authorities when they see fit, until Kashmir develops its own anti-terrorism force. Indian and Pakistani authorities may pursue terrorists across the border and into one another's territory only when accompanied by EU troops, and remaining across the border for no more than forty-eight hours at a time, with a force of no more than 70, and going no further then 20 kilometers into the other nation's territory. Apprehended suspects will be placed in the custody of the nation in which the alleged offense occurred.

5. ARMS CONTROL: The UN Security Council may call for India and Pakistan to work with Russia to agree to immediate nuclear non-proliferation leading to gradual disarmament and to negotiate three-year timelines for withdrawal of excess troops from Kashmir as well as the clearing of landmines. Furthermore, the Security Council may demand that Pakistan join India in accepting a no first-strike policy in regards to its nuclear arsenal. Negotiations will be mediated by the Special Envoys. The Security Council shall consider imposing severe military sanctions against either India or Pakistan if they fail to cooperate promptly. The Security Council may also call for member nations that offer to sell weapons to, or in any way contribute to the military prowess of, either Pakistan or India to make identical and simultaneous offers to both nations.

6. PRISONERS: India will open its prisons in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the inspection of the UNHCR and comply with humanitarian reforms. All prisoners accused of violent acts while fighting for Kashmiri independence, but not yet charged with a crime, will be released if the Indian government cannot press significant charges against them within 30 days.

7. DIPLOMATIC TIES: India and Pakistan will return their ambassadors to one another's capitols and keep them there. The semi-autonomous state of Kashmir will be offered the opportunity by UN member nations to establish "Mini-Embassies" in their capitols to develop Kashmiri diplomatic ties.

8. TIMELINE: Gradual EU troop pullout will begin in 2012, ending in 2018, if at that time the UNHCR determines it is in the best interest of all civilians. The seal of success would be to hold the winter Olympics in Kashmir in 2018.

Though audacious, I am convinced that through negotiation and modification this plan can bring a slow but lasting peace to Kashmir, and to the Indian subcontinent. My confidence stems from the fact that this plan does not call for serious changes in the policies of any nation, save in respect to nuclear disarmament for which serious changes are needed. Rather it offers new ideas while maintaining harmony with the basic interests of all parties.

In considering the complexity of this plan one might ask why Kashmir could not simply become an independent nation. However, that would be an impractical and reckless course of action. If Kashmir did become independent, doubtless India and Pakistan would undoubtedly y invade immediately and reassert their claims of possession, while pointing nuclear missiles at one another.

In fact, the history of violence in Kashmir is so gory that it is unnerving that decisive action has not yet been taken to secure the peace. Separatists clash with Indian forces almost daily. "Acts of shocking brutality by the Indian security forces," have, as even Congressman Dan Burton has said, "Detained, tortured and murdered thousands of civilians." Shelling across the LoC kills still more. All told, the conflict has already claimed over 61,000 lives.

To induce the parties to recognize the perils of continued conflict in Kashmir and adopt a plan for peace Special Envoys need not rely on verbiage alone. They may also utilize political pressure points. For example, both nations would be quick to take action if scaling back western aid, trade, or investments were considered by western governments to be in the interest of peace. Also India may be quick to give ground when prodded about the, "10 shipments [an Indian engineering company sent] between 1998 and 2001 to Iraq that contained atomized aluminum," and other material banned by the UN embargo for its military uses. However, it is not proposed that this plan be forced upon the parties for the simple reason that it does not need to be. The sizable aid package, though only a fraction of the 4.5 billion the international community put together for Afghanistan in 2002, will certainly entice Indians and Pakistanis alike, and fuel Kashmir's economic growth for years to come.

The 7,000 person EU commitment may seem large but compared to the 42,000 NATO has committed to long term peacekeeping in Kosovo and the 6,000 the UN dedicated to Sierra Leone, 7,000 is modest but sufficient force. The 80 helicopters are utterly essential to respond rapidly to violence and to administer aid throughout Kashmir. Roads through the Himalayan region are chronically bad to non-existent. UN military observers told me that it takes up to three days to reach the site of a violent incident, by which time the perpetrators are clearly not to be found. The EU troops will also provide protection for the minority Hindu and Sikh population, because a true democracy is about the rights of the minorities as much as about the rule of the majority.

This initial proposal prompts the EU to take up the burden of keeping the peace rather than NATO, which is already broadly extended in Kosovo and the Balkans. Or the UN, whose Peacekeepers are not sufficiently armed to deal with the region's resourceful terrorists; some of whom would not be satisfied by any peace deal. Using the EU offers nations such as Germany, Belgium, and France an opportunity to fight terrorism while making peace keeping the international community united in purpose. Clearly, however, it is not truly important under which organization European Peacekeepers go to Kashmir, but simply that they do go.

Establishing an international border along the LoC will not only please India, as this has been their first priority for many years, but also avoid the upheaval and violence that has been seen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when parties seek to redraw borders. For Pakistan, though this plan does not give them rule over Muslim majority Kashmir, it contains enough Indian concessions to please even the hardliners pressuring President Musharraf. First, India will make a largely symbolic gesture by ceding a small remote area of Kashmir they seized from Pakistan in 1983. Next, this plan creates a semi-autonomous Kashmir, with the Indian army reducing its presence and turning over the investigation of terrorism to EU troops, eventually to be replaced by a Kashmiri counter-terrorism force. The violence and oppression Kashmiris have endured in India's custody will be greatly diminished--appeasing their Pakistani sympathizers. The possibility of releasing jailed separatists will further foster good will.

Opening the Indian-Pakistani border to all civilians along the Line of Control will doubtless draw Indian opposition, yet it is critical to bringing a lasting peace. Though Indian leaders will argue vehemently that this will grant terrorists unconditional access to their nation, unfortunately this has always been the case. Even with the hundreds of thousands of troops India deploys along the 740 km LoC, terrorists still routinely slip through the porous Himalayan border. As the US learned in Vietnam, such infiltration is all but unstoppable. This plan would offer India and Pakistan the opportunity to stop infiltrators along Kashmir's often less mountainous borders with internal India and Pakistan. Most importantly, however, the opening of this border will reunite an ethnic group torn apart by the wars of other countries, Political connotations aside, opening this border is similar to tearing down the Berlin wall. Giving Pakistanis free access to Indian occupied Kashmir will go far towards easing Pakistani angst at not regaining all of Muslim majority Kashmir.

Planning for Kashmiri "Mini-Embassies" around and the world, like those that semi-autonomous Scotland has in Brussels, and the possibility of holding the winter Olympics in Kashmir are potent symbols of the independence and recognition that Kashmiris have so long desired. This plan not only offers symbols to the people of Kashmir, but hope for a lasting peace in a united Kashmir, and a day when all Kashmiris can live without fear. For western leaders, building peace in Kashmir is a way not only to end a horrific nuclear arms race, but also to show the Islamic world that the West seeks to bring security, not sacrilege. American leadership in such an endeavor would make the United States a nation that others respect and can look up to again. As US State Department Director of Policy and Planning Staff, Richard Haas, said while at an Indian-Pakistani summit on January 6th, 2003, "Now is clearly a moment of opportunity in Kashmir."

Copyright © 2003 by Joshua Tucker

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