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Islam and Politics ( 14 Feb 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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What India Needs to Do in Kashmir

By Aakar Patel

 February 11, 2012

In 1960, Pakistan under Ayub Khan and India under Nehru signed the Indus Waters Treaty.

This cemented the division of Jammu & Kashmir. After this the United Nations lost interest in pursuing the matter of plebiscite. The wars in 1965, when Pakistan meddled in India, and in 1971, when India meddled in Pakistan, focused the world on keeping the neighbours apart. The Simla Accord of 1972 signed by Indira and Bhutto stressed a bilateral solution. India believed that this again reduced the parties in the dispute to two, ejecting the people of Jammu & Kashmir, and eclipsing the Security Council’s resolutions. Indira rehabilitated Sheikh Abdullah two years later and believed that the issue was now behind India.

This strategy did not work because the fundamental problem remained unresolved. The larger part of Jammu & Kashmir’s Muslim population, and perhaps a majority as a whole, did not want to live under the Indian constitution.

This resentment had been checked by New Delhi, from the time of Nehru’s jailing of Sheikh Abdullah, by fixing politics in the state. In Benazir Bhutto’s first term the state exploded with its demand for freedom. India was taken aback by the ferocity and persistence of the call in Srinagar. Private television came to India in the same period and the visuals alarmed Indians who had been led to believe something else by state propaganda. The stern and insistently Islamic nature of the Kashmir movement disturbed a nation whose textbooks had consistently stressed secularism (Muslim Indians are absolved of responsibility for demanding Partition, which is blamed on one man, Jinnah). Pakistan brought the sword to the Kashmiris’ call with the introduction of the Mujahideen, who were motivated and well trained. Naturally, they were Islamic and their names — Harkatul Mujahideen, Harkatul Ansar, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e-Muhammad — reflected this. With the exception of a couple of groups, like Amanullah Khan/Yasin Malik’s JKLF (about which more next week), even political resistance was coloured in religion. Kashmiri Muslims responded, and packed off their Hindu neighbours, who have not yet returned home. The Deobandi/Salafi orientation of the warriors put off Kashmir’s Shias.

The introduction of foreigners gave India the justification to send the army into Srinagar, and the occupation began. The jihad burned through the 1990s. It ended immediately after Musharraf blocked Lashkar and Jaish, the two dominant groups, from cross-border activity. Today there is little violence in Jammu & Kashmir. This demonstrated to Indians that the problem was entirely the product of Pakistan. However, the army has remained in Srinagar. The question is why.

The answer is that India had two problems. The military problem was the Mujahideen, now called back home by Musharraf. The second problem is unresolved. Many if not most Kashmiri Muslims want independence or accession to Pakistan. India’s response to this was to stop meddling in the state’s politics. Through the last 12 years, the population has been allowed to elect whoever it wanted. The army did not need to force people to vote any longer, and the numbers of those who voted rose. As part of this change, India began talking to the group that was pushing the plebiscite. This was the Hurriyat Conference, a body of mostly Sunni groups like the modernist Jamaat-e-Islami under Ali Shah Geelani and the traditionalists under Umar Farooq. It has been trying to get these groups to participate in the elections as they had in the past. New Delhi says the separatists must demonstrate their popularity. It has not had success in this to any great measure, though some people have begun contesting like Abdul Ghani Lone’s son Sajjad.

Meanwhile external events have favoured India. After 9/11, the tolerance of the world to cross border mischief is low, and in that sense Pakistan’s options are now limited.

The only problem for India appears to be to convince Jammu & Kashmir’s Muslims to fully accept the Indian constitution.

Next week, we’ll look at why that has been difficult to do.

Source:  The Express Tribune, Lahore