Chasing a Mirage of Victory

They have fought wars and played games against each other. They have done everything in their capacity to destroy each other. They are in the arms race despite being poor. Apparently, they are being exploited by a third party as a result of their conflicts. However, they do help each other during election time. Yes, I am talking about India and Pakistan.

The significant bone of contention between the two countries is, Kashmir. Well, Kashmir is a dispute between India and Pakistan and has been the cause of wars and rivalry between the two nations. More importantly, it has been a source for deep suffering for the people of Kashmir.  Both countries while chasing a false vision of glory, have done everything to make the lives of the common Kashmiri folk, miserable. The amount of money spent on defence and wars could have been better utilized for development and welfare.

The people of Kashmir want peace and conflict resolution. Now, who so ever calls Kashmir as it is an integral part or jugular vein should be seen as antagonist to peace in Kashmir.

Since the beginning of armed resistance in Kashmir, New Delhi has done everything to crush it. It has used all its military might, given free hand to the army, fought rebels, bribed people and politicians, ignored governance, rigged elections, played games, etc. On the other hand, Pakistan has provided all kinds of support to the movement against Indian rule. However, it is worth mentioning here, that India has only made half hearted efforts to reach out to the people of Kashmir. Specifically, it has not made a sincere attempt to have a political solution of Kashmir. It must be understood that political problems can’t have military solutions and attempts to continue the military approach will only keep the violence cyclic.

The recent fidayeen attack in Pulwama, Kashmir, has brought both the countries to a war-like situation. In the media, war rhetoric has become the norm, and promises of action and retaliation are buzzing around.

The question which arises here is what options India and Pakistan have with regard to Kashmir? I believe that there are four options: a full scale war; any act short of war; status quo; and political solution of Kashmir through dialogue.

The first option is to go for a full scale war. Nuke each other and be done for ever. The two countries have taken the option of war in past, without any significant achievement though. Even Pakistan got divided into two, but all that proved to be futile.  Peace has not prevailed between the two countries since their birth after the freedom struggle. Now, with the advancement in the accuracy and lethality of weapons, along with nuclear weapons, the two countries can easily wipe each other out. The ones thinking of emerging victorious in such a misadventure should really be joking.

Option two is to take any action short of a full-scale war. Now, this option is the one that is much talked about and probably considered by both the countries and is even being presently implemented. This option can take any shape, like armed insurgency in Kashmir or Baluchistan, Kargil War, terrorist attacks against each other, mobilization of troops, surgical strikes, cross LOC firings, arms race, diplomatic efforts against each other, propaganda against each other, economic ruination of each other, etc. However, this option, though tried much more than any other, has only increased hostility between the two countries. It has made them lock horns and forget about welfare, development, and prosperity of their own people.

The third option is to maintain status quo. For Government of India it means a continuous military approach in Kashmir, a free hand to army, no efforts to reach out to the people, no talks with Hurriyat and Pakistan, and no political space in Kashmir. For Pakistan, it means continuous support to the insurgent movement in Kashmir against the Indian rule. However, such an approach will continue to frustrate the people in Kashmir, especially the youth, and will lead to an increase in militant activities. The Pulwama attack can be understood as the outcome of such an approach.

The fourth and last option, in my opinion, is achieving a political solution to the Kashmir issue through meaningful, consistent and time bound dialogue. I am not an expert on conflict resolution to deliberate on the modalities of such an option, but my simple question to the people, at the helm of affairs, in both the countries, is that if United States can talk to Taliban and find a political solution to the Afghan problem after 17 years of war, why can’t India and Pakistan take the same route, after four wars and around 70 years of rivalry?  If this option is not opted and valued, then the other options will simply ruin them. Any spark may lead to a full-scale nuclear war. Peace in such a situation will only be a myth, and victory, just a mirage.


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