1947-1997: The Kashmir Dispute at Fifty Charting Paths to Peace

18 Aug, 1998    ·   137

Report on the visit of independent study team to India and Pakistan





The Findings section of this report revealed how widely divergent are the perceptions of the several parries to the Kashmir dispute in respect to the origin and nature of that dispute as well as in respect to the means of resolving it. That section also revealed the depth of emotion with which the dispute is viewed. It follows, therefore, that the path to a just, viable, and enduring peace will be both long and arduous and that progress Along this path will require creative compromises by all the concerned parries.



This Recommendations section of the report expresses the Team’s best collective judgement in regard to such compromises. Its focus is on compromises that need to be made immediately or in the near future. It does not present the Team's own blueprint for the long-term future of Jammu and Kashmir . Instead, it urges measures to change the circumstances currently prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir , continuation of which will preclude intelligent planning for the area’s future. The measures recommended emerge directly from the team’s findings; they are for the most part what thoughtful people the team spoke with said was required to bring about conditions congenial to serious dialogue among the parties to the dispute. They are premised on the belief that such conditions include commitment by all parties not marely to the peaceful but to the just settlement of the Kashmir dispute, and that a settlement on terms falling short of that will simply not endure.



Following are the Team’s specific recommendation.



III.1. Continuation of normalization initiative.



The Team commends the governments of India and Pakistan for embarking in the 50th anniversary year of the Kashmir dispute on an historic and promising initiative to normalize bilateral ties and strongly recommends that they press forward with their effort.



This recommendation is premised on the Team’s recognition that the various peoples of Jammu and Kashmir state cannot independently determine their fate and that a "solution" to the Kashmir problem has to be found, to an important extent, in improved India-Pakistan relations. The task ahead is to so alter the relationship between these two states so that the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir can live their lives under more secure conditions while at the same time pressing their claims to dignity and self-determination.



The Team recognizes also the formidable barriers that both governments face as they take steps towards complete normalization, and it recognizes too the obligation laid upon the world community to honour the virtue of patience as the two governments strive to surmount these barriers. At the same time, however, the Team is persuaded that the extraordinary statesmanship, political courage, perseverance and resourcefulness that these two governments must now summon in order to succeed in this mammoth task of reconciliation are matched in every respect by the degree to which social, economic, ecological, cultural, and political conditions will be enhanced for all who dwell in the region of South Asia once this goal is achieved.



III.2. Strengthening and institutionalization of dialogue.



The Team considers it imperative that the dialogue now underway between India and Pakistan be given as soon as possible a strengthened and protected institutional framework. This means, for the present, arrangement of frequent, scheduled, and publicity-free meetings of their official representatives in circumstances insulated from the likely stresses and strains of their relationship.



A major step in this direction has been taken, of course, in the decision by the governments of India and Pakistan in June 1997 to establish a "mechanism" including working groups, to address outstanding issues of concern to both sides-including Jammu and Kashmir-in an integrated manner.



Over the longer term, however, the objective of overcoming the frailty of the South Asian region’s conflict-mediating and conflict-resolving institutions might best be achieved by creating a permanent regional framework along the lines of the Conference on Security and cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki model), to be charged with developing rules, techniques, and organizational formats for peacekeeping in the South Asian region as well as for conduct of routine discussions over such political and security problems as are represented by the Kashmir dispute. This framework would considerably supplement and reinforce-and, at some point, desirably be expanded and formally linked to-the existing South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC).



III.1. Restoration of normal civil life.



The Team believes that progress towards the restoration of normal civil life in Jammu and Kashmir is a vital initial step towards an eventual fair and honorable settlement of the Kashmir dispute. All parties to the dispute need to commit themselves unreservedly to this objective.



Progress towards the restoration of normal civil life involves, first and foremost, a commitment to the substantial "demilitarization" of the civilian-inhabited areas of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in other words, to the imposition of significant curbs on and, if possible, termination of the whole array of insurgent and counter-insurgent "military" activity. Demilitarization, as the Team envisions it, must be defined broadly enough to include the use of draconian measures by Indian security forces to combat insurgency, the infiltration of insurgent forces from across the border, activities by insurgent and counter-insurgent groups against unarmed civilian populations, and other forms of armed internecine strife. The legitmate security needs of both India and Pakistan must, however, be taken into account. Therefore, demilitarization may well need to be phased in over time. What is essential, however, is that it embody the sincere determination of all parties to the dispute to substitute peaceful forms of political contestation in place of violent and coercive ones.



The Team does not believe that the Kashmir talks themselves can realistically be used to negotiate "compliance with such a commitment. They could, however, arrange for the creation of mechanisms whereby each party to the talks could register with the others what steps it has taken in this regard. The Indians, for instance, could note that they have reduced their forces by a certain amount, or that they have improved the human rights situation by taking such-and-such steps. Such disclosures, there or elsewhere, would go far in persuading doubters in Pakistan (and Kashmir ) that the discussions over Kashmir were more than the sterile and ultimately futile exchanges of the past. They should also encourage the Pakistanis to carry on with other aspects of the normalization talks since they could rightly claim to their public that as least some substantive movement was taking place on the "core" issue of Kashmir .



Proceeding in this way would undoubtedly involve some risk to all parties. In particular, by asking the Kashmiri separatists to set aside for some time their aspirations either for independence or for accession to Pakistan , these aspirations-and perhaps those who hold them-might become permanently sidelined. Admittedly, this is not a risk against which there can be any ironclad guarantee. The Team considers these aspirations, no matter hoe understandable or justifiable they may be, to be largely unrealizable under present circumstances and, hence, not really in greater jeopardy from postponement than they already are from outright repression.



While it was not a requirement of the Team’s study mission either to craft or to propose particular institutional or territorial models for application to Kashmir, it is the Team’s judgement that over the longer term the complexities of the Kashmir conflict may require-and almost certainly would benefit from-innovative, even what may now seem redical, experiments in the region’s management of its ethnic and religious minorities. Among such experiments, autonomies schemes for devolving maximum political authority to state or sub-state regimes should certainly be closely examined. Nor would the Team rule out from consideration desgines of "co-sovereignty," confederalism, or other power-sharing arrangements as have sometimes been proposed for Kashmir . It should be understood, in any event, that the Team’s seeming short-term embrace of the political status quo and willingness to set aside temporarily the more far-reaching demands of the separatists is an embrance, in fact, of the essential requirements for the restoration of normal civil life and citizen security. Without this, no matter how earnest the advocates of separatist solutions may be, the present intolerable situation in Kashmir will never be transcended.



III.4. Inclusion of peoples’ representatives in talks.



At an appropriate time early in the unfolding of normalization talks between India and Pakistan , the Team believes that the political representatives of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir should be formally and meaningfully included in the negotiations.



The Team is convinced that the process of normalization will not and should not proceed very far without some agreement having been reached among all principle parties to the Kashmir dispute-the Government of India, the Government of Pakistani-controlled areas of Jammu and Kashmir-in regard to the restoration of normal civil life in the insurgency-troubled state. All of these parties bear some responsibility for the abnormal conditions currently prevailing in the region. All must cooperate to improve them.



Omission of the representatives of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir from such negotiations risks the probable disassociation’s of at least some of them from any agreements that might eventually be reached and, thus, would place in jeopardy the popular legitimacy and long-term durability of these agreements. Moreover, decent respect for the principle of self-determination of peoples clearly demands that the principle not be casually dismissed or so distorted by exercise of some political sleight of hands as to permit relegation of the Kashmir dispute once again-its myraid burning issues essentially untouched-to the regional back burner.



III.5. Broadening of representation in talks.



The Team urges that representation of Kashmiris in normalization talks between India and Pakistan should be broadly defined to include not only representatives of the two governments already established in the area-that in Srinagar as well as that in Muzaffarabad-but also representatives of all other major political, regional, ethnic, and religious groups.



Confronted by its own conviction that the "political representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir " must be included in talks focused on the restoration of civil life in Kashmir , the Team has had to define what it means by that. Meant to be included among such groups, to avoid any misunderstanding, are representatives both of the Kashmiri Muslim-dominated All parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference and those of the now largely refugee population of Kashmiri Hindu Pundits. Considering all of the other elements also deserving of representation, this will be an exceedingly diverse assemblage, no doubt, and it will require unusually resourceful institution crafting to manage it effectively. But no other measure, in the Team judgement, would better ensure the confidence of the Kashmiri people in the ongoing normalization process and their willingness to abide by its outcome.



Determination of appropriate mechanisms both for the fair selection of such representatives and then for joining them to the bilateral India-Pakistan discussions are matters, the Team believes, for the parties themselves to work out.



III,6. A confidence building measure to which the Team attaches particular importance would be a significant reduction in the number of security forces that India maintains on internal security duties in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the transfer of these duties to the state’s own regular police forces.



It goes without saying that headway towards achieving the objectives set forth in the five recommendations above could not possibly be made without major concessions over Kashmir or at least a clear indication of willingness to consider them-by the Government of India. The Team is of the view, therefore, that the Government of India should seriously examine and then act to implement so-called "confidence-building measures" in regard to Kashmir that have been identified by Pakistani and Kashmiri respondents earlier in this report. The most frequently cited of such measures was reduction in the number of security forces in the valley. As a number of respondents made clear, a "token" force reduction would have little, if any, effect. A massive and unilateral reduction, on the other hand, cannot realistically be expected. What is needed, then, is a phased reduction scaled to symbolize the Government of India’s sincerity of intent, with successive force reductions to be undertaken in response to diminution’s in insurgent activity and infiltration’s across the Line of Control (LOC). The Team believes that Indians transfer of internal security duties to irregular forces, such as to the so-called pro-India militants, would in this context be entirely counterproductive.



III.7. Monitoring of cross-border activity.



The Team believes that Pakistan , for its part, should simultaneously undertake a convincing confidence-building measure of its own by agreeing to station on its side of the Line of Control an adequately staffed regional or other international body with a fresh mandate for observing and reporting all cross-border activity.



The process of normalization, and, in particular, the reaching of any bilateral agreements with India in regard to Kashmir , cannot be expected to progress far without the Government of Pakistan’s adopting confidence-building measures of its own. That government must make explicit, in other words, the strength of its commitment to help in creating a regional environment congenial to serious and sustained dialogue with India . One possibility for doing so would be public and strongly expressed verbal disapproval of any and all acts of indiscriminate violence, whosoever may be responsible for them, committed in Indian-controlled areas of the state of Jammu and Kashmir . But the most material and convincing gesture that the Government of Pakistan can make is in relation to covert cross-border interference. Pending establishment of an appropriate bilateral (India-Pakistan) peacekeeping mechanism, as proposed in section III.8 below, the Team believes that the Governments of Pakistan should invite the setting up for this purpose of an interim international body-under the auspices, perhaps, of the Commonwealth, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), or possibly even of SAARC. Objectionable and reporting, but also should be both renounced and denounced by Pakistan if, in fact, they do occur.



In making this recommendation, the Team lays claim to no authoritative knowledge that covert cross-border activities are currently underway or are being advocated. Indeed, creation of such a body must be understood neither to imply nor to relieve the related responsibility of any party to this dispute. Neither should the existence of the proposed body suggest that hostile cross-border actions were necessarily confined to the sector of the India-Pakistan border constituted by the LOC. Its sole and entirely constructive purpose would be to facilitate the process of normalization and, specifically, to enable the parties to the Kashmir dispute to enter agreements pointing to the restoration of normal civil life in Jammu and Kashmir .



While the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), the peacekeeping organization already in existence in Kashmir, is certainly technically qualified to carry out the monitoring function described here and might conceivably have its mandate converted to that purpose, the political difficulties involved in such step, in the Team’s judgement, might prove to be insuperable. India 's unfavorable view of UNMOGIP’ mission has been demonstrated; but some mechanism might be found to alter that view.



III.8. Strengthening of peacekeeping on the Line of Control.



A logical follow-on to the last recommendation, in the Team’s judgement, would be for India and Pakistan to explore together various modalities for strengthening peacekeeping on the Line of Control. One such option would be to constitute a Joint Border Security Group to supplement or even eventually replace the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) as principal peacekeeper on the Line of Control.



Already given some consideration in the context of the India-Pakistan negotiations over the Siachen Glacier, a joint peacekeeping arrangement on the LOC would formalize security cooperation between India and Pakistan while at the same time providing a mechanism for reducing and perhaps eliminating the grounds for the frequent military clashes between them on the LOC. Introduction of a joint Border Security Group would also give explicit, institutional acknowledgement to the incontestable fact that the situation in the Indian-controlled sector of Jammu and Kashmir is in some part interstate in origin and therefore requires interstate cooperation for its amelioration.



Regrettably, UNMOGIP itself has been weakened over the years and is now to serve the purposes noted above. Upgrading of its capabilities, in light of political attitude in the region, presently seems improbable. A formalized peacekeeping apparatus of some kind is obviously required in the region, however, and UNMOGIP should not be discarded until a durable agreement is reached on a viable successor.



Assuming a joint Border Security Group is established and demonstrates its efficacy, consideration should be given to gradually expanded demilitarization of sections of the Line of Control to a width of up to ten kilometers on either side of the line. Such demilitarized sections-which would be subject to the same type of inspection as the sections that are not demilitarized-would go far toward eliminating the all-too-frequent trans-border exchanges of fire that presently occur along the line of Control.



III.9. Monitoring of compliance with human rights covenants.



It is equally crucial, the Team believes, that the Government of India takes public steps to formalize and strengthen monitoring of India ’s compliance in Kashmir with applicable United Nations human rights covenants.



There are several ways by which the Government of India can protect human rights in Kashmir . One is aggressive and unfettered involvement of the government’s own monitoring agencies-the Indian Human rights Commission and the newly-formed Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir state. Much more likely to generate widespread confidence in the fairness and fullness of monitoring procedures, however, would be official encouragement for increased monitoring in Kashmir by India’s own independent human rights organizations, including, for instance, the highly respected People’s Union for Civil Liberties and the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center. The Team is of the view, however, that free and unfettered access to Kashmir by international humanitarian agencies and Human rights monitors would even better assure India ’s credibility. Ideally, to strengthen the practice of local human rights monitoring over the long term, such agencies should be formed from within the region, perhaps under the auspices of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and should include members from all the states in the region. Also desirable, however, would be India ’s prompt removal of all barriers to monitoring by such established international organizations as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Asia Watch.



III.10. Initiation of domestic-level talks with Kashmiri leaders.



The Team believes that India should initiate formal and unconditional domestic-level with a broadened slate of Kashmiri leaders, including the leadership of the All parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference. India ’s willingness to take this action is essential for progress to be made towards the restoration of normal civil life in Kashmir . In addition, this action would be an important confidence-building measure.



These talks, which would be separate from and preparatory to trilateral discussions within the normalization framework (as recommended in Section III.4, above), can be variously structured. They must certainly not exclude representatives of the Present National Conferenceled state government. They should have as their initial objective winning the support of the state’s political leaders, whether in or out of power, to the project for restoring normal civil life to Kashmir .



III.11. Commitment to eschew violence.



A parallel confidence-building measure that the Team Considers equally important to the successful restoration of normal civil life in Kashmir would be a clear commitment given by all of the armed militant and counter-militant Kashmiri groups of their willingness to eschew violence and to participate constructively in the process of political dialogue.



An unambiguous declaration by all these groups of their willingness to suspend all military activity and observe a complete cease-fire pending the outcome of talks with India is one obvious and very likely essential such commitment.



III.12. Role of the international community.



The international community, the Team believes, can play a helpful role by emphasizing to all those concerned the importance of implementing measures to restore normal civil life and by pointing out to them the high costs of failing to do so.



Major and direct involvement by agencies within the international community at the present preliminary stage of negotiations over normalization between India and Pakistan , unless sought by both India and Pakistan , would more than likely be counterproductive. Assuming these negotiations proceed along their present positive trajectory, however, a substantial and relatively near-term supporting role for the international community, or at least for particular state level or regional agencies within it (as proposed in sectionIII.7) , can be envisioned. Should it happen that these negotiations falter or break down entirely- not at all a remote possibility in view of the history of India-Pakistan relations-then reexamination and reconfiguring of the role of concerned actors within the international community would certainly ve required.



For the moment the Team believes that the primary focus of the international community including here interested governments as well as nongovernmental and intergovernmental entities-should be upon communicating forcefully and frequently to the governments of India and Pakistan the urgency of their undertaking and the willingness of the international community to assist in facilitating its success.






The Kashmir dispute has now believed relations between India and Pakistan for half a century and is, the Team is convinced, the principal obstacle to normalization of relations between those two states and to broader cooperation in South Asia . Two costly wars have been fought between India and Pakistan for control of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and a third War between them, relating primarily to the separation of what is now Bangladesh from Pakistan , soon spread to Kashmir as well. Within the Indian-held portion of Kashmir , a grim civil struggle has been raging for the better part of a decade. And the possibility of its escalation into a fourth international war cannot be discounted.



There can be little doubt that, virtually since the moment of their independence, the high costs of military preparedness borne by India and Pakistan, to no small extent because of the Kashmir dispute, have acted to the detriment of most of the people of the subcontinent, roughly two-fifths of whom still live below the poverty line. Thus, one can see that 99% of the combined populations of India and Pakistan (see frontispiece) are, in effect, held hostage to the struggle to extend or preserve Indian or Pakistani control over the remaining 1% who happen to inhabit the area constituted by Jammu and Kashmir . It is not marely the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir who suffer from the struggle, but also, in varying degrees, the entire South Asian region. At the moment of independence, South Asia led the countries of Southeast Asia in respect to most indices of development. Today, those countries of Southeast Asia that have been spared the scourge of war lead India and Pakistan by substantial margins. These observations are not merely the carping of critical outside observes, but were conveyed to the Team repeatedly by its Indian and Pakistani informants as well.



Yet, despite the widespread recognition of the dangers and costs engendered by continued conflict over Kashmir , the maddening complexities of that dispute have prevented its resolution to date. Nevertheless, a good, though still modest and tentative, beginning has been made by the governments of India and Pakistan to normalize relations between the two states. The study Team sent to South Asia by the Kashmir Study Group warmly applauds that initiative and urges its continuation and expansions. It has put forward in this report a number of recommendations that, in its view, will further this process. These recommendations, intentionally modest in scope, are aimed primarily at the restoration in Kashmir of a normally working civil society, marked by conditions of peace and respect for fundamental human rights. These are the essential prerequisites for carrying on a sustained dialogue in which not only the two national governments, but also the voices of all significant segments of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir can be heard. The Team is convinced that, with mutual forbearance, a spirit of accommodation, and a willingness to compromise, the parties to the dispute can work out for themselves a peace settlement that is at once honorable and just.