Briefing for King Prajadhipok Institute (Thailand) Delegation
Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee, Director, Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies
Amb KC Singh, Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs
Prof PR Chari, Research Professor, Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies
Prof Baladas Ghoshal, Visiting Professor, Third World Studies Centre, Jamia Milia Islamia
Dr Suba Chandran, Deputy Director, Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies
The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi organized a briefing for a delegation from the King Prajadhipok Institute (KPI), Thailand, which was followed by a detailed interaction between the Indian and Thai delegates. The KPI delegation, comprising Thai senators, managing directors of MNCs in Thailand, academicians, bureaucrats, judges, politicians, police officers, press, and members of the Thai civil society, were briefed on the dynamics of the security and strategic environment in India, particularly the Kashmir conflict, diplomatic aspects of the Kashmir conflict, religious radicalization, Burma and Northeast India and peace processes, and communal harmony and internal conflict resolution by the Indian panelists.
The panel gave an overview and analysis of how India has addressed its security dynamics and why it is important to interlink and create a deeper understanding among its neighbours. The study of conflict in India varies given the differing nature of problems in various regions of India. The discussion centered upon the dispute in J&K and Northeast India and the Indian state’s attempts to deal with other internal security threats like communal violence.
Terrorism not only threatens India and Pakistan, but the entire neighbourhood. Hence, a closer understanding and mutual cooperation is essential between neighbouring countries in South Asia, which will enable them to combat both, traditional and non-traditional security threats. How has this conflict and threat come to the Indian subcontinent? How do India and Pakistan view J&K; what is happening within the three regions - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh? The consequences of partition are there for all to see: India and Pakistan continue to be embroiled in conflict, and Kashmir remains a point of contention between them. History perhaps, has played the biggest role as the basis of the problem and has now penetrated into a larger issue.
The issue today is not Kashimr, but radical Islam. Pakistan has used various strategies including the use of proxy war through the influx of terrorist agents and the Mujahideen into the region in an attempt to seize the province of Jammu & Kashmir. These agents have resorted to violence that has spread across the J&K region. Pakistan must stop the breeding of the institutions that promote radical Islam. Both countries have the same ethnic origin, cultural links, which are much older than Islam itself. Hence, it is important to develop closer links between these two neighbours. This is how the situation in Kashmir will be resolved and peace will prevail. Pakistan is now faced with the existential challenge of being devoured by the monster it has created.
The effort in J&K should not be to redraw the border, but to make it irrelevant by allowing people to people interaction and the flow of trade across the border, among other such initiatives. Another problem that has created instability in this region is the rising antagonism between the three distinct and geographically divided regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. Issues such as who gets more attention and resources from the federal government, religious differences, political issues such as differences between the three major political parties in the region, and the differences in the perception of Islam, have contributed to creating instability and a volatile political atmosphere in the region. The rise of Wahabi Islam and the growing inclination of the youth to this strand of Islam will create a huge problem in the coming years. Conflict has become an industry in J & K, since it is in the interest of several groups to keep the conflict simmering.
India’s Northeast, the gateway to Southeast Asia is a zone of conflict that has created an enormous threat to the country and the region as a whole. The severance of links with its neighbouring countries has created a hindrance in the economic development of the region. The problem in the Northeast is becoming more acute due to the lack of economic development and alienation of minority groups, and insurgencies. There are two probable approaches to solving the problem – India should develop closer cooperation with the Southeast Asian countries and integrate the Northeast with its neignbours like Bangladesh and Myanmar. Such cooperation will discourage the neighbouring countries from indulging in activities aimed at giving material support to insurgent groups or encouraging drug trafficking and terrorism across India’s border. Regional trade, transport corridors, and development of infrastructure can be some other measures for creating closer regional links and stability.
The other aspect that was discussed was the internal conflict in India. While India’s population is comprised of different castes and religions, the state has provided certain constitutional grounds for rights – to both the majority and minority groups. This is in keeping with India’s constitutional declaration of India being a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic nation. However, India, till date, faces the challenges of caste conflict and religious disputes even when opportunities and mechanisms have been created for both majorities and minorities. Using religion as a medium in politics, to garner electoral votes is a major cause for concern in the country today.
This cannot be taken for granted anymore. In order to address communal differences, small gestures like community dining and inter-caste marriage will go a long way in building communal trust and harmony. The state must act impartially in the case of communal conflicts and allow the law to take its own course. Even if the caste system cannot be eradicated or sorted out completely, the civil society must play a major role in the process of development of communal harmony and peace.
Research Officer, IPCS