Between ‘Dormancy’ and ‘Contingency’:Why the Conflict in and over Kashmir persists?

The conflict in Kashmir, after Burhan Wani’s killing, has now assumed the shape and form of a “battle of wills” between the state and the people. While Kashmir is up in arms against the state, so to speak, and the conflict in ( or within) Kashmir shows no sign of abating, the conflict over Kashmir has not aroused any great international attention- save for what amounts to “ mild noise” by Great Powers. Why, the question is, has not the current phase of the conflict the attention of powers that be?
First, let me offer a word on the character and form of the conflict in and over Kashmir. Even  though the accoutrements of the conflict in and over Kashmir have witnessed change and but the nature of this change has been marginal; this change has been predicated upon events- Shimla Agreement, post Sep 11 dynamic among other salient events. However, despite thie compendium of cooperation, conflict and interactions between the major players involved in the conflict-India and Pakistan-, the essential character , content and form of the conflict in and over Kashmir remains the same. This is despite the change(s) in the structure of the international system- bipolarity, unipolarity and now a putative multipolarity. Why then has there been no “forward movement” on Kashmir?
The reasons are structural, system and pertain to the respective strategies of India and Pakistan. The conflict in and over Kashmir does not pose systemic challenges nor does it threaten the structure of the international system- despite the nuclearization of the subcontinent. Deterrence stability between India and Pakistan which can break only under very extreme conditions ensures that there are neither structural nor systemic consequences from the conflict. This structuring context along with the nature and intensity of the conflict in Kashmir determines the strategy of India and Pakistan towards each other and in terms of Kashmir. 
Consider Pakistan’s strategic orientation and policy approach. Both can be held to be contingent. Yes: there is a major ideational and ideological thrust on part of Pakistan towards Kashmir but its policy and strategy is contingent on conditions that obtain in Kashmir. The watershed datum of 1989 may be a case in point.  It was only when Kashmir imploded and the institutions of the state crumbled that generated a fuller involvement of Pakistan in Kashmir. Prior to 1989 and during the nineties, Pakistan’s strategy appears to have corresponded to this norm: while there have been variations on this but the approach could be held to be basically consistent and constant. This has replayed in 2016 when Kashmir in the throes of widespread violence and mass protests. However, this time the nature and intensity of Pakistan’s involvement does not appear to be very strong- probably because of a combination of domestic and structural constraints.
 Insofar India is concerned, its basic orientation-policy and strategic- appears to be predicated upon “ dormancy” and the country being the status quo power.  India appears to hope and bank on Kashmir lying and staying dormant; it directs considerable energy towards this end through elections, engineering a political process in Kashmir , to some extent economic development of the vale and policing and security measures. The dyadic interaction with Pakistan is sought to be controlled and corresponded to a dynamic of conflict –cooperation(mild) continuum. India’s aim appears to wear out its opponent by containing and managing the conflict in Kashmir and checking the interstate or international ramifications of the conflict. This approach lends itself to the suggestion that the larger goal that India is wedded to is modification of Pakistan’s orientation and approach towards Kashmir through the policy of the status quo. The silence maintained by Delhi in the after math of Burhan Wani’s killing and mass protests thereof lend some validity to this analytical observation. 
All in all the policies and strategies adopted by India and Pakistan suggest that relations between the two will correspond to what has been termed as the “cold peace”- iteration of conflict and cooperation(mild) in repeated cycles. However, the “core” sticking point between the two- Kashmir- will remain until there is significant change in the power differential India and Pakistan. That is, until and unless each country feels confident  of  power and power differentials  as the arbiter of Kashmir’s status. This obviously means war and has systemic and structural consequences.
 It is then that the international community will get involved. But, waiting for or ignoring the conflict in and over Kashmir till the conflict assumes a structural character that has wider systemic- global or regional- consequences is a short sighted and blinkered approach.
 Prudence suggests that powers that be lean on both India and Pakistan to arrive at some kind of a satisfiscing solution to the vexed conflict. The nature of this solution must consider the interests and aspirations of all stakeholders to the conflict- India, Pakistan and Kashmiris. Yes, harping for/over a solution might be as clichéd as can be and is easier said than done, but there really is no way out. For the sake of Kashmir, Kashmiris, global and regional peace and stability, a framework for peace and conflict resolution over Kashmir is a necessity. Kashmir and the subcontinent does not need crisis diplomacy; it needs an approach informed by sobriety and prudence by all.
 

 

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