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The Kashmir Conflict: How to Keep it Alive

The Kashmir conflict, like other ones such as Palestine, does have a history. Parties to it write, rewrite and exploit this history to a point where its ability to offer a solution becomes precarious. Besides, this kind of use of history complicates the conflict inextricably, and one wonders whether it would ever be possible to resolve it. So, I think, instead of delving into the history of Kashmir conflict, it’s better to look forward to its possible resolutions.

by Dr. Khalil Ahmad

The Kashmir conflict, like other ones such as Palestine, does have a history. Parties to it write, rewrite and exploit this history to a point where its ability to offer a solution becomes precarious. Besides, this kind of use of history complicates the conflict inextricably, and one wonders whether it would ever be possible to resolve it. So, I think, instead of delving into the history of Kashmir conflict, it’s better to look forward to its possible resolutions.

For the last decade, I have ignored the news stories on Kashmir (and Palestine, as well). I do not read them with serious attention — not that I am callous to the suffering of the people, but because I am too much concerned with the misery of the people, the real victims of these conflicts. Also, because I know what the stories may contain; I know what they would recount; I know the end-result. Isn’t it surprising to predict human affairs with hundred per cent accuracy!

Sometimes, there came a break. My interest and hope revived. But, then, I lost interest even in the news of diplomatic visits, meetings, negotiations, etc. Everything seemed receding into the ever-burning conflict. I had to tell myself that every move from either side was a trick of diplomacy and politics. Nothing else! Nobody is sincere and willing to resolve the conflict. Are they not just a conflict-minded people?

Nor do I try to keep abreast with the latest developments on the issue of Kashmir (and Palestine, too). Because I know even the future developments. Because I know there would be no development, in fact. Because I know that for the last several decades no progress has been made; and, I like to stick to my conclusion: no progress can be made either. I know my reasoning is invalid; but I know it has repeatedly proved correct.

Let me be clear. I am not a pessimist. I know the history of the resolutions of the conflicts — the recent history, too. Settlement of the East Timor is a big example. But, these two issues, Kashmir and Palestine, defy my short-term optimism. I don’t know how and when they are going to be solved or resolved!

Locally, when two guys start fighting each other, many people come over to try to stop and pacify them. But, undoing their efforts, they jump on to fighting more and more vigorously. In desperation, these people leave them to their fighting. Now, after a while, they stop fighting. But, of course, parties to the Kashmir (and Palestine) conflict are not like these two guys. This conflict is not a two-party conflict. There are so many parties involved in it. And, at times, it appears the original parties of the conflict are not the real parties to the conflict. Thus, the nature of the conflict changes altogether; and its resolution becomes more distant.

Let’s stay a while with the two fighting guys. Sometimes, some of the people out of the crowd side with one guy, while the others with the other one; thus, the fighting between two guys becomes a brawl, but I would like to call it a crowd-fighting. Interesting thing about the crowd-fighting is that no one knows why he is fighting, why he is siding with this guy and why not with the other one. Same is the case with the Kashmir (and Palestine) conflicts. The support for this or that party of the conflict is never based on rational analysis of facts, and is never resolution-oriented. It is usually sentimental, artificially created by propaganda, and based on religious, political, racial, regional, prejudices and the like. This sort of crowd support is used and abused by various parties of the conflict to further their vested interests; but never positively to the resolution of the conflicts.

After the recent “bout” between India and Pakistan in which both brought their armies on the borders, there was a news item telling how much arms were sold by the UK (of course, its arms manufacturers) to India during this hot situation. I don’t know in addition to UK who else is selling arms to India. Equally, I don’t know where Pakistan buys arms. But, I know that the USA, UK, China, and certain European countries, and for that matter, all the countries that sell arms to India and Pakistan, are a party to Kashmir conflict. I don’t know how high the stakes are for these countries, but no doubt they have an interest in what is going to be the fate of Kashmir. I won’t lend support to the theory that it is they who cause a war to start between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, but I find sufficient weight to corroborate the view that they may be interested to see this conflict alive. Yes, alive — but, within limits (not to let it go nuclear). The recent diplomatic hustle-bustle on the part of the USA, UK, China, and other European countries to stop the nuclear collision between India and Pakistan is enough to prove that. Let’s wait for the times when nuclear arms, like the conventional ones, will be selling legally through international contracts!

Another party to the Kashmir conflict is the military establishment of both countries. [Kashmir, either Indian or Pakistani, has no army of its own.] The armies of India and Pakistan have a life and death interest in this conflict. If this conflict is resolved, there will be no justification and no need for both countries to maintain such huge armies. So, the conflict needs to be kept alive!

There are politicians and political parties, too, in both countries who are a party to this conflict. But, they are one of the parties that may be interested in the settlement of this conflict. For instance, in 1999, A. B. Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, came to Lahore by bus to meet the then Prime Minister of Pakistan. As is believed, that visit was meant to reach an agreement regarding the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. But that was sabotaged half way. One thing must be clear here. Particularly, in the case of Pakistan, there are politicians and political parties who play the game of army; but, some of the politicians and political parties sometimes play independently. It is they who want to see this conflict settled anyway. It is necessary for their survival. The Kashmir conflict has strengthened both armies, and especially the Pakistan army, to unknown limits. As Pakistan army’s control on civil and political affairs of the country is tightening, the politicians are losing ground, and their share of the booty is getting smaller and smaller. Most of the politicians and political parties have accepted the leadership of the army to grab their little share of the booty. They, too, need to keep this conflict alive!

Religious groups and parties of both countries do have a stake in this conflict. They, too, are a party to it. They have transformed this conflict into a theocratic and religious one and treat it as a religious war. Some of these groups and parties survive simply on this conflict. Agitation, politics, funds, and recruitment to the ranks of the group or party, and “selling” the recruits to the religious battle-field, etc. will be vanished with the resolution of this conflict. So, keep this conflict alive!

Then, come the Kashmiris themselves; no matter whether they live in India’s Kashmir or Pakistan’s Kashmir. They are probably the weakest party to the conflict. They have no strong independent political party looking after their interests except the All Parties Hurriet Conference of India’s Kashmir which has its own links and limitations; the Muslim Conference (Sardar Abdul Qayum); and the Pakistan Peoples Party (Barrister Sultan Mahmood) of Pakistan’s Kashmir, which play the politics of establishment in Pakistan. But, as a matter of fact, all the groups and parties of Kashmiris are under the burden of vested interests from both sides. That is why I had to opine above that the original parties to the conflict are, in fact, no parties to the conflict. Whatever be the settlement, it will be reached between India and Pakistan with some Kashmiri group or party acting as a show-piece!

To be frank, in all such cases, I am intensely apprehensive of one thing: I always wonder how they get money for all their activities. I mean the Kahsmiri (and Palestinian, and for that matter, all others) politicians and mujahideen groups no matter they are armed or not. >From where do they get their finances? They do nothing to earn their livelihood and apparently have no source of income, but they live expensive lives — rather extravagant ones. They spend lavishly on their political and other activities also. If they have any source of income, it doesn’t match with the cost of politics they do. Perforce I conclude as these parties and groups do not make their finances public, it means their accounts are not straight. So, from where the finances come, there lies the source of trouble. These financiers of the conflict become the unnatural party to the conflict; and, it is they who influence and determine the efforts made towards the resolution of these conflicts.

A strong party to this conflict are the various religious, political and armed groups. However, they are no real party to the conflict; they are artificial creations of the vested interests. But, they play an important role in keeping this conflict alive.

The real party to the Kashmir conflict has always been ignored. It is the Kashmiri individual; and it is ridiculous that he is completely unaware of this fact. He doesn’t know he is going to gain nothing even out of the resolution of this conflict. He is being fooled in the name of religion, homeland, political freedom, self-determination, etc.

Let’s come back once again to the two fighting guys. Each guy after fighting, if one does not kill the other in the course of fighting, learns and concludes that he can not wipe out the other one; and, they both realize better stop fighting. But, the major parties to the Kashmir conflict do not realize that; or, if they realize that, they don’t act on that realization. Each party claims to have the whole pie. Though both India and Pakistan realize that they cannot conquer the other Kashmir, they keep on doing politics, claiming that they can. This has cultivated a dangerous sentiment in the minds of the people that they must never lose Kashmir. Hence, the dichotomy is: the whole pie or nothing!

So, I know beforehand what is happening and what is going to happen on the issue of Kashmir. I need not go into the details of news and news- stories. Because I know it is no more a conflict between the original real parties. Were it so, it is possible it could have been resolved long ago. But, in its present form, it’s a conflict between the parties who have strong vested interests in keeping this conflict alive. So, no hope of its settlement. [Same is the case with the Palestine conflict!]

Under these circumstances where no will to resolve this conflict prevails, the game will remain in the hands of no-parties to the conflict, the parasites of the conflict. Kashmir (and Palestine, too) is like a wound that has rotted to produce worms within itself; now, these worms won’t let this wound heal!


Dr. Khalil Ahmad is president and founder of the Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free-market think tank. 

This article was originally published in The Libertarian Enterprise on September 16, 2002.