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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Asia > South Asia > Kashmir > Kashmir: The View from New Delhi

Kashmir: The View from New Delhi

Asia Report N°69 4 Dec 2003

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

For half a century Kashmir has been the major issue of contention between India and Pakistan. In India’s view, the conflict in the state of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a major internal security threat and is driven by Pakistani interference. No solution is possible, according to the Indian leadership, until Pakistan ceases its support for militants there.

The ceasefire at the Line of Control (LOC) established by India’s acceptance on 24 November of Pakistan’s announcement the previous day of a unilateral measure and confidence building measures (CBMs) proposed by India in October 2003 have raised hopes of an improved environment for negotiations. Nevertheless, the potential for yet another Kashmir crisis that could result in armed conflict looms large, since mutual distrust and hostility remain high, and both countries’ substantive positions are rigid. Meanwhile the Kashmiri people are caught in the crossfire between the militants and Indian security forces.

This paper lays out the public and private positions of the government in New Delhi on Kashmir and relations with Pakistan. It also examines the way the issue is tackled by Indian politicians of all parties and the media. ICG is releasing simultaneously reports that look at how the conflict is seen in Islamabad and at the history of the crisis and past efforts to resolve it. An earlier report examined views from within the Kashmir Valley. Taken together, the series analyses the positions and looks at the constraints in terms of ending the conflict as they are perceived on all sides.  A subsequent final report in this series will offer extensive recommendations on how to move forward with a process of reconciliation between India and Pakistan and within Kashmir.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has traditionally pursued an uncompromising attitude on Kashmir, favouring a military solution over a political resolution of the conflict. Although it has moderated its views in government, the pressures of electoral politics and, to a lesser degree, its ideological preferences, will continue to constrain its decisions.

Internal constraints in resolving the Kashmir conflict extend beyond the conservative political parties to encompass an array of rightist forces. Within Kashmir, despite divisions between hardliners and moderates, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference still represents Kashmiri separatism. Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri militants pose formidable hurdles to conflict resolution.

Any movement forward on Kashmir is made even more difficult by the lack of a national consensus on how the conflict within Kashmir and with Pakistan should be addressed. In general, public opinion is not set against an agreement and is supportive of peace initiatives since Kashmir, for most Indians, is not the most pressing of the country’s major problems. However, popular sentiment hardens during crises, influenced by official and media rhetoric. There is then a tendency to move away from support for a negotiated settlement to preference for a military solution in dealing with Pakistan and the militants.

India’s bottom line on Kashmir has remained unchanged over the decades: the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian Union, and any settlement of the crisis there must be effected within the confines of the Indian constitution. However, differences abound within Indian policy circles on the future shape of a possible solution, from support for incorporating into India all of Jammu and Kashmir, including territories presently under Pakistani and Chinese control, to the territorial status quo, to the increasingly apparent shift in official policy for recognition of the Line of Control (LOC) as the international border.

Indian perspectives are moving in the following direction: that a holistic solution must include recognition that it is impractical at this late date to conduct a plebiscite; that New Delhi cannot avoid providing maximum autonomy to Srinagar; and that converting the LOC into an international border is necessary on pragmatic grounds. The Indian government remains publicly opposed to any international involvement in the dispute although it has urged the United States to press Pakistan to end support for militants. Statements by Indian officials on all these matters are split. Most accept in private that a solution is possible along the basic lines just described. However, few have yet acknowledged this in public.

New Delhi/Brussels, 4 December 2003

 
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