They have fought wars and played games against each other. They have done everything in their capacity to destroy each other. They are in arms race despite being poor. Apparently they are being exploited by a third party as a result of their conflicts. However they do help each other in election time. If together, they can be growing powers of the world. Yes, I am talking about India and Pakistan.
The significant bone of contention between the two countries is Kashmir. Well, Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan and has been the cause of wars and rivalry between the two nations. More importantly it has been a source of deep suffering for the people of Kashmir. Both countries while chasing a false vision of glory have done everything to make the lives of common people, more specifically Kashmiries, miserable. The amounts of money spend on defence and wars could have been better utilized for development and welfare. On the other hand people of Kashmir want peace and conflict resolution and that is all. Now who so ever calls Kashmir as it’s integral part or jugular vein should be seen as antagonist to peace in Kashmir.
Since the beginning of armed resistance in Kashmir, India has done everything to crush the same. It has used all the military might, given free hand to army, fought rebels, bribed people and politicians, ignored governance, rigged elections, played games etc. On the other hand Pakistan has provided all kinds of support to the movement against Indian rule. However it is worth mentioning here that India has only made half hearted efforts to reach out to the people of Kashmir. Specifically it has not made a sincere attempt to have a political solution of Kashmir. It must be understood that political problems can’t have military solutions, and attempts to continue military approach may only keep the violence cyclic.
The recent Fidayeen attack in Pulwama Kashmir has again brought both the countries to a war like confrontation. The media is already there, war rhetoric has become a norm, and promises of action and retaliation are also buzzing around. The question which arises here is what options India and Pakistan have with regard to Kashmir? I believe that there are four options: a full scale war; any action short of war; status quo; and political solution of Kashmir through dialogue.
The first option is to go for a full scale war. Nuke each other and be done for ever. The two countries have taken the option of war in past, without any significant achievement though. Even Pakistan got divided into two but all that proved to be less fruitful. Peace has not prevailed between the two countries at all. Now with advancement in the accuracy and lethality of weapons, along with nuclear weapons, the two countries can easily wipe each other completely. Who will be victorious in such a misadventure, is only a joke.
Option two is to take any action short of a full scale war. Now this option is the one that is much talked about and probably considered by both the countries and even presently being implemented. This option can take any shape like armed insurgency in Kashmir or Baluchistan, Kargil War, terrorist attacks against each other, mobilization of troops like in 2005, surgical strikes, cross LOC firings, arms race, diplomatic efforts against each other, propaganda against each other, economic ruination of each other etc. However this option, though tried much as compared to other options has only increased the hostility between the two countries. It has only made them to be exploited by a third party. It has made them to lock horns against each other and forget about welfare, development and prosperity of their own people. And victory, if not peace, has only been an illusion.
The third option is to maintain a status quo. For India it means a continuous military approach in Kashmir, a free hand to army, no efforts to reach out to the people, no talks with Hurriyat and Pakistan and no political space in Kashmir etc. For Pakistan it means a continuous support to the movement in Kashmir against Indian rule, in whatever way they can. However this too will keep the conflict as it. Such an approach will continue to frustrate the people in Kashmir, more specifically youth and will lead to an increase in militant activities. Pulwama attack can be understood as the outcome of such an approach.
The fourth and last option in my opinion is a political solution of Kashmir issue through meaningful, consistent and time bound dialogue. Now I am not an expert on conflict resolution to deliberate on the modalities of such an option, but my simple question to people, at the helm of affairs, in both the countries is that if United States can talk to Taliban and try to find a political solution of Afghan problem after 17 years of war, why can’t India and Pakistan take the same route, after four wars and around 70 years of rivalry? If this option is not opted and valued, then the other options will simply ruin them. Any spark may lead to a full scale nuclear war. Peace in such a situation will only be a myth, and victory, just a mirage.
Imran Khan M.Phil Psychology from University of Kashmir