Ambassador Hasan Habib – The Korea Times
While the country was divided by political choice, some princely states were given the option to join either Pakistan or India. These included Kashmir, Hyderabad (Dakhan), and Junagadh. India occupied the Junagadh State by force despite its rulers’ desire to join Pakistan. Similarly, India annexed Hyderabad. The Hindu Ruler of Kashmir desired to join India despite a majority Muslim population, violating the guiding principle of partition. An uprising and revolt began as Indian forces entered Kashmir. Later, India took the issue to the UN. The January 1, 1949 ceasefire and disarmament of irregulars was monitored by the UN. Under the terms, both countries needed to demilitarize, stop incursions and maintain the minimum level of military in preparation for the plebiscite to let Kashmiris decide their future. After the ceasefire, matters drifted away from the agreed framework and both accuse each other of its violation and the problem lingers on.
After almost 1,000 years of Muslim rule, the Indian sub-continent (presently India-Pakistan-Bangladesh) became a British colony in 1857. The Hindu population realizing that the British would leave sooner or later, started a political movement by establishing the Indian National Congress in 1885. The Muslims took longer to come out of the loss of the country and established the Muslim League in 1908. After a democratic political struggle, Pakistan and India obtained their freedom on 14 and 15 August 1947, respectively.
With frequent uprisings, especially the present one high-lighted in the media, the friction between the two countries has been taken to new heights. India openly accuses Pakistan of sending “terrorists” across the border. Pakistan claims that the uprising is indigenous and its support is only on moral and diplomatic grounds. Both countries have fought three conventional wars and Kashmir remains a hot spot as state and non-state actors frequently disturb the peace through acts of violence.
Both the countries are spending huge amounts on defense and have amassed advanced weapons of conventional and asymmetric nature. The Indian defense budget reaches $40 billion, an annual increase of 11 percent in terms of value and volume. Further, India has a weapons development plan of spending $100 billion over next ten years that is three times more than that of India and China. Pakistan spends around $7.6 billion on defense ranking it 25th in the World. With the increasing Indian budget and the fact that it is the largest arms importer in the World, Pakistan remains under pressure to divert its meager resources to defense.
The large scale defense spending has left a wide resource gap for social development in India and Pakistan. Issues such as poverty, hunger, malnutrition, poor literacy, human rights, human development and others remain unattended due to a lack of resources. The unresolved Kashmir issue and tensions generated by it had put the whole region in a cycle of war and poverty.
The distrust has led to the cancellation of the 19th SAARC Summit, as India refused to participate, accusing Pakistan of interfering in internal affairs. There has been no proof linking the government of Pakistan to the attack. Possibly a non-state actor did it with local support. India has been deploying 700,000 military and para-military forces in Kashmir that has population of 10 million, the most militarized region of the World. Indian forces are accused of human right abuses that include mass graves. Frequent attacks on Indian forces disturb the peace between the two nuclear neighbors.
Several attempts to promote peace and amity could not bring the desired results as distrust remains the prime factor. Some social developments have been witnessed culturally as occasional screenings of movies/dramas, exchange of media, writers and entertainment delegations. These create some hope of rapprochement but such efforts lack political support.
The two track diplomacy has also not achieved the desired results, despite the work of several eminent diplomats from both sides, due to mistrust. The only two issues resolved between Pakistan and India are namely the Indus Water Treaty (US mediation) and the UN Runn of Kutch Award of 1968 (UK mediation) illustrate that bilateralism is not a preferred mode of settlement of disputes between India and Pakistan. Kashmir is the core between India and Pakistan and its resolution or a freeze will bring desired peace in the region.
-President elect of the USA, Donald Trump has indicated his desire to pay a role towards solution, this is a most welcome move.
-The UK with its first-hand knowledge and home to the huge Kashmiri diaspora can play a key role in resolution of the issue.
-Indian water projects in upper reaches of Pakistani rivers and recent threats of stopping Pakistani water by Indian Prime Minister Modi has heightened the tensions.
-The international community should advise the political leadership of both countries to avoid politicizing such issues.Water will be the next flash point and the international community should start looking into it critically.
-More voice should be given to the Kashmiris in their matters.Both India and Pakistan should be asked to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) before any military/nuclear items are supplied to them.
-Wide ranging dialogue should be initiated internationally to enhance the understanding of the issue and seeking a solution to it.