In this report, a duo of experts from India and Pakistan explore the prospect of "making borders irrelevant" in Kashmir through increased movement of people, goods and services across the "Line of Control." The findings draw on the results of a survey of stakeholders and public opinion on both sides.

Special Report: Making Borders Irrelevant in Kashmir

Summary

  • Neither India nor Pakistan has been able to impose its preferred solution on the long-standing Kashmir conflict, and both sides have gradually shown more flexibility in their traditional positions on Kashmir, without officially abandoning them. This development has encouraged the consideration of new, creative approaches to the management of the conflict.
  • The approach holding the most promise is a pragmatic one that would “make borders irrelevant”—softening borders to allow movement of people, goods, and services—instead of redefining or removing them. The governments of India and Pakistan have both repeatedly endorsed the concept, but steps to implement it have been limited.
  • Myriad suggestions for putting this new mantra into practice have been made, from establishing more bus services to increasing trade and tourism across the Line of Control (LOC). While some of these suggestions still await official consideration, others are being examined, and some have already been implemented.
  • Liberalization of the travel regime would be a major step toward enabling the two parts of Kashmir to develop a multifaceted and normal relationship. Such liberalization requires overcoming a mixture of political, bureaucratic, and regulatory challenges.
  • A survey of opinion on both sides of the LOC reveals that the public mood in both countries favors peace, stability, and a softening of the LOC. The international climate is also propitious for confidence-building measures.
  • It remains to be seen, however, if New Delhi and Islamabad can muster the political will necessary to overcome the resistance of key stakeholders within both countries’ bureaucracies and militaries.

About the Report

This report analyzes the possibilities and practicalities of managing the Kashmir conflict by “making borders irrelevant”—softening the Line of Control to allow the easy movement of people, goods, and services across it. The report draws on the results of a survey of stakeholders and public opinion on both sides of the Line of Control. The results of that survey, together with an initial draft of this report, were shown to a group of opinion makers in both countries (former bureaucrats and diplomats, members of the armed forces, academics, and members of the media), whose comments were valuable in refining the report’s conclusions.

P. R. Chari is a research professor at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi and a former member of the Indian Administrative Service. Hasan Askari Rizvi is an independent political and defense consultant in Pakistan and is currently a visiting professor with the South Asia Program of the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

This report was commissioned by the Center for Conflict Mediation and Resolution at the United States Institute of Peace. The Center supports a variety of projects that explore the potential of cross-border collaboration—especially economic and business-based cooperation—to resolve the protracted conflict between India and Pakistan.

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