The peace process though unproductive in terms of results on substantive issues did reduce the tension on Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. For the first time after Partition and subsequent conflict in Kashmir, trade was started across Line of Control. Though symbolic, it helped in diffusing tension and enabled India to create fencing on whole of LoC. Pakistan facilitated erection of LoC and border fencing and in containing the level of violence that was going on in Kashmir for decades. It was this atmosphere and Pakistan’s engagement with pro India parties that enabled India to conduct smooth assembly elections in J&K. Pakistani concession came in anticipation of a fruitful dialogue and peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues including Jammu & Kashmir.
Unfortunately instead of taking serious steps towards resolution of Kashmir, the Congress government in New Delhi kept on deferring the dialogue process on one pretext or other. During the tenure of democratic governments in Pakistan the dialogue was evaded for “lack of civilian control over army”. “Un-representativeness of the military regime was used as a pretext during the dictatorships. Fed up with the attitude of Congress government Kashmiris again resorted to boycott of previous parliament elections. Pakistan too became skepticaland approached the UN for its involvement in Kashmir.
Change of guard in New Delhi as a result of previous elections changed the environment for a while. However things soon turned around once Government of India formally stalled the negotiation process. It seemsthat instead of Vajpayee line, LK Advani’s hardline policy has taken over the foreign office of India. Advani, because it was he in who’s home minister-ship parliament attack took place and was used as a pretext for launching operation Parakarma on Indo-Pak border.
Huge mobilization of Indian troops along the International border for 22-long-months didn’t yield anything apart from draining resources in terms of men-and-material. Given the fact that India and Pakistan had become nuclear powers and any misadventure could lead to nothing apart from a catastrophe for both the countries, the operation had to be called off.
Toeing of LK Advani’s line, by Modi government has revived pre-peace process tension along the Line of Control and International border in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The language used by both sides indicates that much hyped post 1914 scenario is becoming a reality. Most of the American soldiers are leaving Afghanistan, the small number that new Afghan government has retained will remain preoccupied in securing itself rather than contributing to the conditions required for stability in Afghanistan. The war of words unleashed by India and Pakistan and tensions in Kashmir can be an incentive for non-state actors from Afghanistan to complicate situation for India in Kashmir
Given the fact that Chinese too remain focused on the situation, the prospects of future don’t seem to be smooth. Soon after visiting India and promising investments in Gujarat, Chinese prime minister asked his countrymen to prepare for a regional warfare. Within few weeks once tension on Indo-Pak border increased Chinese issued a subtle warning to India with regard to its border road plans in Ladakh and northeast. This type of warning from China comes for the first time after 1965. The delicate situation with increasing tensions demands a sensible response. Any sort of miscalculations can plunge the area into a chaotic phenomenon of the type that is being experienced in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Syria. All these countries like India remained in close proximity to Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Global sweep of capitalism has brought nothing apart from strife, fragmentation and civil war for cold war allies of Soviets.
Rather than looking at Pakistan as a puzzle as mentioned by Arun Jaitley and throwing jingoistic response to Chinese statements it would be better for those ruling New Delhi to try to diffuse the situation and initiate sincere and serious process for settlement of long pending disputes. Hostile populations within and provoking retaliations from neighborhood are destined to create a dangerous situation. Negative reputation of the rulers can add fuel to the fire and provide rivals with additional armory for mobilization.
Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain teaches International Law and Human Rights at Central University of Kashmir