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SOME POSSIBLE APPROACHES TO CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN SOUTH ASIA

By

INPAD

 

There are five  possible approaches to resolve conflicts.

* It is solved through  talks or negotiations when parties to the dispute accept a compromise that gives them less than 100% . 

* A 'decisive' war is also an option when one of the sides to the dispute emerges triumphant. But the conflict will linger on if the victory is anywhere less than complete.

Besides these two rather obvious basic ways at conflict resolution, there are two other that deserve consideration.

* One way is to convert a conflict into a competition by mutual agreement.

* Second course of action is to reduce the hostility level so as to put the conflict on a 'Back burner'.

* The third option is for all parties to accept that they  ALL are in a 'no win' situation and  decide to live with the conflict by limiting the fallout to the minimum.

The last three courses are often seen as essential 'first step' to a negotiated settlement. This need not be so as these options may well be pursued independently and indefinitely as the best possible course in a given circumstances. The decisive element, in all except war option is, however, a degree of mutual agreement.

The first step towards adoption of any of these option is to clearly define the nature, substance and contours of the conflict. Another essential step is to clearly identify 'parties to the dispute'. The parties to the dispute are not only those who are directly interested in a certain outcome, but also groups that are likely to be directly or indirectly affected by the dispute and possible outcome.

The 'Kashmir Dispute' in South Asia has been a running sore for the last 53 years. It is proposed to analyse the dispute in conformity with the framework given above in order to generate ideas towards peace in the region.

The world has been grappling with the Kashmir problem for last 54 years. What began as a territorial problem arising out of secession of Muslim majority provinces of India in 1947, has over the years become an ideological issue and a contest between the religion based nationalism of Pakistan and plural & secular India. Such conflicts by their very nature are zero sum games and absolute conflicts where compromise is very difficult if not impossible.

Pakistan claims Kashmir on the basis of the 'spirit' of 1947 settlement as well as vocal agitation by some of inhabitants of Kashmir valley. Indian case initially rested on the legality of the accession of the state. In the early years change of status of Kashmir would not have had much effect on the subcontinent. But over period while Pakistan has become an Islamic state, in India reside 160 million followers of Islam. The application of principal of religion based secession for the 7 million Kashmiris can have unpredictable consequences .

The only gainers from this likely catastrophe would be religious extremists both in India and Pakistan. It is doubtful if Pakistan will survive the flood of refugees. A second secession in the subcontinent may well see repeat of the horror of 1947, when several millions were uprooted and thousands were killed.

Change in political status of Kashmir would force the 30 % non Muslims ( Hindus and Buddhists) out of their homes. Even earlier, in 1990, the Islamic militants terrorised and forced out 200,000 Hindus from the Srinagar valley. It was the patience and good sense of the Indian political leaders that ensured that there were no repercussions  on Muslims elsewhere in the country. Since India kept this tragedy and ethnic cleansing under wraps, the world has also largely ignored the plight of these hapless people.

What began as internal unrest in 1989, has now been taken over by the 'Taliban' like extremists, essentially a product of economic and social breakdown of Pakistani society. These elements have never hesitated to strike at civilian targets in India, latest being the attack on Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. 

For the last 20 years, a sustained effort was made in Pakistan to put across Kashmir issue as 'un finished business of partition'. It must be conceded that the logic advanced by Pakistan either appeals to the British, the original supporters of the two-nation-theory, or they wish to speak up in favour of Pakistan for reasons of their own. The US in this matter takes  its  cues from the British. Kashmir is regarded as Pakistani territory under Indian occupation. Most Pakistanis are also convinced that India is carrying out genocide in Kashmir and killing their Muslim brethren Even the moderate opinion there on this issue, is quite strident in demanding that Kashmir be part of Pakistan.  .With such diametrically opposed points of view, a solution to Kashmir issue is not on the horizon. Inpad therefore proposes a more modest, conflict control approach to the whole issue.

BASIC UNDERSTANDING.

Both sides must accept that they are in a 'no win situation'. While India would bleed , Pakistan cannot take Kashmir by force and face an economic ruin running an arms race with India.

Both sides must accept that they have a case they harbour absolutely no doubts about the validity of their own convictions,’.and that neither can compromise.

In all this the people of Kashmir are suffering untold misery and the economic well being of India and Pakistan is being sacrificed.

SUGGESTED MEASURES: COURSE A

Both sides accept that they have a case and any measures that are takenin the interim  do not detract from this basic stand ie, the claims of both sides remain intact.

Without prejudice to their enduring positions regarding the Jammu and Kashmir state, both sides agree to promote peace in Kashmir. The two countries could form a joint team with equal representatives of each country and one each from the SAARC countries to monitor the human rights situation and cross border terrorism in the entire state of J&K ( on both sides of the LOC).  This team be given unfettered access to all the areas and can make its finding public and also present them to both the governments.

Having thus taken care of the issue of Human Rights violations and cross border terrorism, both countries open borders to Kashmiris to visit either side.

Steps towards Peace.

In order to calm the situation on the line of control, a joint Indo Pak group of cease-fire monitors needs to be constituted that can replace the UN observers. This group should essentially carry out the same function as the UN observers but report to a joint Indo Pak commission.

Once this is put into practice for a period of six months or so, as next step, the border should be opened for limited trade in local produce. This should hopefully prompt the direct trade between two countries. The reality is that today billions of dollars of trade is carried out between two countries via Gulf countries. Direct trade will benefit all.

 

Once contact at people to people level is established in Kashmir as well as elsewhere, after five years time, the issue of what should be the status of Kashmir be examined. As a teaser, one can propose a 'de-militarised' Kashmir as an interim goal.

Simultaneously with the establishment of joint commission and parliamentary committees, both India and Pakistan should cease interference in each other's country. Service personnel of other SARC countries could head the observer groups as well.

SOLVING SIACHIN ISSUE

This area that lies at the height of over 21000 feet, is of no strategic significance to either side. India and Pakistan should agree to set up a monitoring force IN EACH OTHERS AREAS  at the locations that can easily ensure that no military movement is taking place.

De-militarisation of line of control.

In order to reduce the chances of frequent clashes, both the sides to should agree to withdraw a fixed distance behind the line of control.

Regional Initiative.

-Exchange of Students. -Free flow of journalists, artists  and intellectuals.-Support to  sports exchanges.

COURSE B

Conflict Management

Conflict management cannot wait any longer and must commence forthwith. Announcements should be made unilaterally and IMMEDIATELY. The present window of opportunity will not remain open for very long. What is implied is that without predetermining the final outcome, a process must be launched in which the elected representatives of J&K participate and a hiatus of fifteen years is allowed to cool the temperatures. Creative processes must be allowed to work without hardening attitudes on the final outcome. This applies equally to India and Pakistan. Following steps could be taken:

(a)   The J&K State should have three regions for the purpose of ‘development’ . Each region should have a development-council. Development-councils should have independent allocations. These could consist of elected representatives from local bodies and state legislators.

(b)   The state legislature should act virtually as a constituent assembly and offer their own solutions to the present imbroglio without any kind of restraint – not even that of the Constitutional framework. The recommendations at the end of fifteen years, when approved by a two-third majority of legislators and the heads of the development-council should be brought before Indian Parliament.

(c)   During the period of hiatus, terrorism should be ruthlessly suppressed.

CONCLUSION

In April 1979 in the wake of hanging of ZA Bhutto, there was an upsurge of anti Pakistani sentiment in the valley. We failed to cash in on it due to lethargy. In the aftermath of elimination of Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Quaida, a similar opportunity is again presented to us.

India must take UNILATERAL STEPS in Kashmir NOW. Tomorrow may be too late. Socio-economic measures have long been debated but seldom implemented. 

Many of the suggestions can be classed as 'small steps'. But even if some of these small steps are only partially implemented and successful, it will represent 'giant leap' towards welfare and peace for the people of the sub-continent.

( Many of the ideas of this paper were presented at the XIII World Congress of the IPPNW at Melbourne in 1998 by Anil Athale)