Kashmir is in international news once again. The killing of Burhan Wani followed by fresh mass uprising has provided a fresh impetus to the issue locally as well as internationally. The Fidayeen attack on Indian brigade headquarters at Uri and the subsequent alleged Indian surgical strike across LOC has stirred the hornet’s nest once again. Though the two Countries appear to be exercising a strategic restraint at the moment but nothing can be said about future. A small incident on either side may become an instant recipe for a war between two nuclear armed neighbors, which God forbid, will not only wipe out both of them from the global map but will devastate the whole South Asian region.
On the other hand a worst human tragedy is unfolding in Kashmir. Nearly one hundred lives have been lost in a span of less than three months. Nearly one thousand young men are estimated to loose complete eyesight. Countless people have been maimed and injured. It is under these circumstances that UN General secretary, Ban-Ki-Moon has offered a mediation between the two Countries for resolving the Kashmir issue, a festering wound which is eating into the vitals of both the Countries along with Kashmir. While Pakistan is receptive to the offer, India has been paranoid at the thought of third party mediation, international interference, or even a remote interest, in the Kashmir issue. Any such act is looked as interference in its internal matters. It does not bear any international gaze in its dealings in Kashmir. Not even from International human rights organizations like “Amnesty International” or similar other organizations.
An internationally recognized dispute like Kashmir, stands good chance of being solved by some give & take method but certainly not by an intransigent attitude adopted by India. Adopting that stand certainly means perpetuation of a policy which can prove a disaster for India, domestically as well as internationally.
Why does India oppose a third party mediation or international interference on Kashmir issue? Firstly India has never really been sure that the world, by and large, accepts the legitimacy of its control over Kashmir. There are other reasons for India’s hesitation which have been articulated often by different representatives of the government. Some of these are:
- That Kashmir being its integral part, is India’s internal issue which brooks no outside interference. The reason that this is reiterated at any given opportunity is essentially because New Delhi worries that the mediator may impose a solution to Kashmir issue not to its liking.
- India, being a pluralistic society, is afraid that it might follow the fate of the Soviet Union once it is compelled to offer concessions on Kashmir. Indian elite considers Jammu and Kashmir, the only Indian state where the majority of the population is Muslim, to be the weakest link in a Hindu-majority country.
- India is also apprehensive that any concessions given to Kashmir will, in turn, open the floodgates for demands in other states.
Are India’s above concerns or apprehensions genuine? The last decade has witnessed India making a big leap forward. It is not just a regional player. It is now being counted as one among giant world powers. Its views & opinions about various global issues are being taken with respect. It plays an important role in multilateral organizations and is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions. It is an aspiring candidate for a permanent seat in UN security council and major world powers are receptive to this wish. If we link these to the fact that it is a big democracy, there is need for a strategic relationship. It is, therefore imperative that its ties with Pakistan are improved, its thinking on Afghanistan rational and its relationship with other neighbourers warm & cordial.
It is in this context that India needs to solve the Kashmir issue, sooner the better. Since attempts to solve it bilaterally with Pakistan has not yielded any result for last more than sixty years, the attention should move to alternative methods & one of them certainly is a third party mediation. Adopting this methodology has many benefits, some of which are listed below:
- It is an accepted fact that both in india & Pakistan, no political party can expect to survive in power, if it is perceived, even slightly, offering concessions on Kashmir. Third party decision on the issue will rule out any such possibility.
- Two agreements between India & Pakistan, mediated by third parties, have already stood test of time. One is “Indus water treaty” mediated by world Bank in 1960 & the other is “ Rann of Kutch agreement” mediated by British sponsored Tribunal in 1968. It is worth mentioning here that In India, a no-confidence motion was moved against Indira Gandhi’s government in February 1968 for entering into such an agreement with Pakistan but was defeated by 203 to 72 votes. She carried the day by asserting the Indian government should not always proceed on the basis of hostility towards Pakistan and no matter how torturous the road, India & Pakistan must learn to walk together.
- Another issue is that a lasting Bilateral approach can only work between equals. Two nations do not necessarily need to be of the same size but they have to have political and constitutional systems that are comparable in their stability and consistency. This situation is absent in case of India & Pakistan. The former is a democracy & the later a hybrid system of democracy & dictatorship where Army exercises a veto power over all decisions of the Govt.
- Even Shimla agreement entered into by two Countries in 1972 provide for such a mechanism when it says ‘That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them’. The words ‘other peaceful means’ clearly refer to third party mediation.
- While a few decades ago mediation as a formal conflict management method was limited largely to labor-management relations, today, mediation is applied across virtually all conflict domains.(Lious Kriesberg in his book ‘constructive conflicts’-chapter 8 page 215). Arguably Kriesburg is the most acclaimed & respected authority on the theory & practice of global conflict resolutions.
It is, therefore in India’s interest, to engage Pakistan over Kashmir through a third party. Pakistan still reiterates its demand for such a mediation on Kashmir, and thus would be hard-pressed to reject this approach. Third party mediation or facilitation on Kashmir can move forward only if there is a mutual will to settle the issue. Both India & Pakistan have everything to gain and nothing to lose in the event of third party mediation.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant & can be mailed for feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)