Both for resolution of and peace in Kashmir as well as stability within South Asia, it is imperative that India and Pakistan begin mending their relations with each other. Unfortunately, with unending vicious cycle of bellicose rhetoric and record number of ceasefire violations, both countries seem to be moving in just the opposite direction. The fragility of the relations between the two countries is further enhanced by the unpredictability of the manner in which USA under the new regime of Donald Trump is likely to engage with the region and India-Pakistan relations. US backing India on Masood Azhar’s case and China firmly adamant in its support of Pakistan should not generate false illusions in a world where the fate of global politics is likely to see major tectonic shifts. The vulnerability of the region to continuation of devastating hostility and wars has been a well acknowledged fact especially in view of the nuclear capabilities of India and Pakistan.
The danger that an eventuality of war poses to the region and rest of the world cannot be under-scored. Kashmir continues to be a major nuclear flashpoint and it is difficult to predict how a changed discourse in the West will contribute in maintaining or marring peace and stability in South Asian region. In this light, it is incumbent upon India and Pakistan to act with greater maturity rather than continue to be conditioned by traditional hostility and tit for tat words and actions. The war of words between the two sides, in recent days, has further exacerbated the ongoing tensions with no signs of entering into a peace process and melting the heat. While Pakistan has been upping the ante by raking up Kashmir, the recent remarks by none other than union home minister Rajnath Singh have revealed that India has not only vehemently decided to rule Kashmir by tyranny and has also added a new dimension by threatening to claim the entire territory of Pakistan. Such foolishness does not contribute to resolution of disputes and issues. The only way to resolve them is across the table and by a continuous mechanism of talks.
The rules of the dialogue dictate that hardened positions cannot be softened by overnight agreements but by painstaking efforts of continuously talking, understanding perspectives and finding ways to be accommodative. They are based on principles of flexibility and operate through negotiations that take into account concerns of all sides. In the India-Pakistan conflict, Kashmir cannot be ignored or sidelined. It is an intrinsic part of the set of disputes between the two countries and one that involves the aspirations and will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the border and must take people into account. While India’s excessive militarization of the region and poor human rights track record remains questionable, Pakistan loses the moral authority to question India on the issue in view of its own inability to fulfill its own obligations as per the UN resolution as well as its own tendency to control the socio-political landscape of Kashmir under its administration.
The interference of Islamabad in the politics of the territory it officially calls ‘Azad Kashmir’ is no less than New Delhi’s manipulations in Jammu and Kashmir on this side under the garb of democracy. The slicing of Gilgit-Baltistan and changing its demography makes the role of Pakistan equally questionable. Both sides use Kashmir to up the ante against each other, blaming each other for abetting militancy or human rights violations. Therefore, there is need to end this tradition of double-speak and petty politics. The onus of peace and prosperity in South Asia lies primarily in the hands of New Delhi and Islamabad. They must begin a sincere process of dialogue unconditionally, by bringing on table all contentious issues including terrorism and Kashmir by making the dialogue process people-centric.