India, Pakistan, Kashmir and Arms Race

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

‘The Christian Science Monitor’ in its column on April 25, 2012 said it all by emphasizing that “Ritual Aggression: India and Pakistan’s missile tests, following peace talks.”

We know that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. Both have now tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. Both are adamant against inking the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Both feature domestic constituencies that universally celebrate their muscular nuclear postures; no political party or serious private association champions nuclear controls or disarmament. India and Pakistan have warred three times since their respective births in 1947, and two occasioned on the disputed territory of Kashmir. In the best of times, India and Pakistan are no more friendlier than the Montagues and Capulets on the streets of Verona.

Two not mutually exclusive approaches are available to the United States to turn back the nuclear clock in South Asia; a region that former President Clinton has lamented is the most dangerous place on the planet. The first emphasizes restraints on nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles; the second gives primacy to eliminating the probable cause of nuclear exchanges. The US has chosen the first, and given but lip service to the second.

All experience teaches that neither India nor Pakistan will accept non-trivial limits on their nuclear arsenals in the foreseeable future. India’s intransigent position for more than 44 years is no nuclear constraints unless every nation abandons its nuclear forces and stockpiles, including the big five nuclear powers under the NPT: the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, and France. India has now tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads to the Beijing and Shanghai. Pakistan reciprocated with just few days. The United States did not say anything that gives cause for Indian military anxieties. India’s nuclear and missile fixation pivots on her national ambitions and self-perception as the hegemonistic power in South Asia she routinely meddles in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives, and annexed Goa in 1961 and the Kingdom of Sikkim in 1975 by force of arms. Thus, nothing but an overwhelming nuclear disarmament incentive could cause India to entertain the idea. At present, such an incentive is chimerical.

According to the United Nations, Kashmir is a disputed territory. When the Kashmir question got erupted at the UN in 1948, the world powers took the stand that the future of Kashmir must be ascertained through plebiscite conducted by the United Nations. India’s plebiscite obligation has been defied with both insolence and impunity for more than half a century, which substantially explains the chronic convulsions and ubiquitous indigenous Kashmiri resistance to India’s illegal military occupation. Contrary to popular myth, cleverly peddled by India, the resistance in Kashmir is indigenous & popular; and infiltrators or terrorist "Afghan Arabs" are marginal to the Kashmir conflict.

The nuclear clock in South Asia thus can be turned back only by addressing the source of the proliferation, i.e., Kashmir. If the 65-year-old Kashmir conflict is settled with fairness and justice to all parties, then the possession of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan will be dramatically less worrisome. Britain and France, for instance, do not fret that the other is a nuclear power. And the United States and Russia are engaged in serious nuclear arms reductions, but it came only after the end of the Cold War. In sum, Kashmir is the key to spiking the nuclear arms race in South Asia.

I do not mean to suggest, however, that tackling Kashmir will not be difficult. But here are my thoughts about a new and promising approach.

First, recognize that Kashmir is primarily about the 17 million Kashmiri people, their human rights and right to self-determination under international law and still binding United Nations Security Council resolutions. It is not a border quarrel between India and Pakistan, nor a fight between Hindus and Muslims, nor a struggle between secularism and theocracy.

Second, third party intervention and mediation is indispensable. India and Pakistan have negotiated for 65 years without result. All the flowery declarations from Tashkent, Simla, Lahore and other summits have proven sound and fury signifying nothing. To persist in the same course after 65 years of dismal failure conjures up many adjectives, but none are flattering to the cerebral faculty.

Third, the United States should urge the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to appoint a special envoy on Kashmir. More importantly, the United States should insist on the inclusion of genuine representatives of the Kashmiri people at the negotiating table. It is their political destiny and human rights which are at stake, and no solution that fails to command their consent will endure. That same reasoning explains the United States support for Sinn Fein representatives in the Northern Ireland talks, PLO representatives in talks with Israel, East Timor voices in negotiations with Indonesia, KLA leaders in negotiations with Yugoslavia, and Muslim, Croat, and Serb politicians in discussions over Bosnia.

Fourth, the United States should mount a campaign of moral suasion against India’s illegal occupation of Kashmir. At present, its moral voice has been as silent as the Sphinx. Moral suasion generally works slowly, but is not Pollyannaish. It accelerated South Africa’s dismantling of apartheid and the end of the international slave trade. It promises no miracle in South Asia, but is nevertheless superior to all other peace and non-proliferation alternatives.

Finally, all tactics aiming at progress over Kashmir must be exercised with supreme prudence, without which, as the inimitable Sam Johnson sermonized, knowledge is useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible.

Dr. Fai can be reached at: