At first glance, India and Pakistan today seem closer to peace than at any point in the past several decades. Yet the current détente process between India and Pakistan suffers from the same structural infirmities that led past peace initiatives to collapse.  peacemakers might do well to focus on the problems of the state’s peoples—thus building a base from which creative democratic solutions might eventually emerge.

Summary

  • Since December 2003, India and Pakistan have maintained a successful cease-fire along the militarily volatile Line of Control as part of a dialogue process that is addressing a wide range of disputes between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
  • A key component of the dialogue centers on the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, of which both India and Pakistan control a part. (China holds a third part.) Both states claim sovereignty over the entire region.
  • The current round of India-Pakistan détente has led to some optimism that the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the world, could be ripe for resolution.
  • Pakistan has recently advocated plans for what it believes is a workable final territorial solution to the problem—essentially, a partition of Jammu and Kashmir along ethnic-religious lines. India, however, has rejected these proposals, arguing that such a partition is repugnant to its secular values and could lead to a worsening of tensions elsewhere in South Asia.
  • This dissonance in perceptions points to a larger set of problems in the dialogue process, all of which could take several years, if not decades, to work through.
  • A second dialogue track, between India and secessionist politicians in Jammu and Kashmir, also appears to have reached stalemate.
  • Although Pakistan has helped bring about a significant reduction in terrorist violence within Jammu and Kashmir, much of the infrastructure of terrorism is still intact—and the possibility of crisis-inducing terrorist strikes remains.
  • Stalemate between the main actors has meant that the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir have yet to see any gains from the dialogue process and the India-Pakistan détente.
  • Rather than wait for a grand resolution of these complex issues, we need to find ways to deliver concrete gains to the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir—principally, though not exclusively, through a cessation of violence. Peacemaking may thus be better served by turning attention away from the “Kashmir problem” to the “problems of Kashmiris.

 

About the Report

At first glance, India and Pakistan today seem closer to peace than at any point in the past several decades. The cease-fire that went into place along the Line of Control in December 2003 has held; terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir has been in steady decline since the two nuclear-armed states almost went to war in 2002; and both countries have succeeded in sustaining a wide-ranging and high-level dialogue process. All this appears to suggest that conditions exist for resolution of one of the world’s most intractable and bloody conflicts, the India-Pakistan war over Jammu and Kashmir.

Yet the current détente process between India and Pakistan suffers from the same structural infirmities that led past peace initiatives to collapse. Instead of looking for a resolution of the grand historical conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, peacemakers might do well to focus on the problems of the state’s peoples—thus building a base from which creative democratic solutions might eventually emerge.

Praveen Swami is a Randolph Jennings Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. A journalist with Frontline, a major Indian magazine, Swami has covered the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir for more than a decade.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect views of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policy positions.

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