Kashmir Falls Off The Global Radar
Kashmir Falls Off The Global Radar
9 July 2013
: When German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner made his country’s position on the conflict of Jammu and Kashmir clear during his recent visit to Srinagar, his statement reflected not only how Germany perceives the political problem but it also somehow portrayed the position of international community vis-a-vis this issue to a large extent. “German position on Kashmir has not changed. We will not take a position, which can be in any way seen as interference,” Steiner told journalists on the sidelines of a function at Kashmir University on July 2. He was categorical in saying that Germany fully recognized the legitimate institutions in Kashmir. By institutions he meant the Assembly, the office of Chief Minister etc. The German Ambassador’s assertions are obviously that of his government and may not be fully construed as the position of rest of the world. But the fact is that this is the strand of thinking that has prevailed on the minds of the world powers in the past over one decade. Germany is also part of European Union and in 2004, this “consortium” of European countries stunned the international community by declaring Kashmir as “world’s most beautiful prison”. The expression, profusely used by the Kashmiris to highlight the adversities of militarization had been made by the European Parliament's Ad Hoc Delegation from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, headed by John Walls Cushnahan, a former Member of European Parliament. The delegation had extensively toured both parts of Jammu and Kashmir across the Line of Control. This statement by the EU delegation had portrayed India in a very bad light at the international level and the case for de-militarizing Kashmir had become stronger. Not only the EU, but also the international human rights organizations and the countries, which have interest in the region, had been occasionally expressing concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir, thus putting it on the international radar. It is interesting to note that Germany’s position on Kashmir is in tune with that of New Delhi, which is vehemently opposing third-party intervention in resolving Kashmir. India has made it clear that it was a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan, thus rejecting the people on both sides of divide with contempt. Steiner’s statement is significant as Germany is part of the same EU. Over a period of time the EU delegation in India has made efforts towards the development in Jammu and Kashmir. Before the volatile political unrest in 2010, the EU delegations would regularly visit Kashmir to create a space for investment in areas like Agriculture, Horticulture and Floriculture. During informal meetings with this writer, they would always complain how tough it was to work with the bureaucracy here as the implementation of decisions took a longer time thus threatening the scope of widening the investment base in Kashmir. So their interests had long back changed from politics and security to development, as they would see Kashmir fast transforming into a peace zone. Same was the case with United States of America’s embassy in Delhi, which had diverted more towards the issues of economic development in Jammu and Kashmir. This change did not take place only because violence plummeted to a low level and that the institutions, to which German Ambassador referred, came up shaping fast but it was more because of the dynamics of change that took place in the South Asian region in the aftermath of September 11 attacks and the subsequent so-called “War on Terror”. These developments played a significant role in not only changing the thinking of the international community but also redefining the equations in the region. Emergence of this changed equation was further “stabilized” with Pakistan’s internal disturbances. Since Pakistan was seen as the “mother of terrorism” by the West, though they had no option but to ally with them only to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban, but it gave a severe jolt to the political nature of the problem called Jammu and Kashmir. Untill 1999, when Kargil war threatened a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan, powers such as US were wary of the imbalance and for that, they always used the subtle way to talk about Kashmir as an important problem in the region, which needed a solution. But with the serious engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the violence becoming the focal point of their foreign policy, Kashmir could not be seen out of the “international terror network”. This also helped New Delhi to further build the case that Pakistan had always used terror to “wrest” Kashmir from her. With the violence becoming the most “hated way” to achieve the political objectives, Kashmir’s unfortunate bracketing with this idiom, even pushed the serious human rights issues to the background. In early 90’s, India was always on back foot and it had become difficult for New Delhi to seek a defence at the International level. Though focus shifted to Gulf War in 1991, it continued to invite attention at the world forums. In 1994, sanctions were almost imposed against India when a resolution by Organization of Islamic Conference in the United Nations was withdrawn at the last moment by then Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhuttoo after Iran’s intervention. The resolution, if passed, would have put India in a very bad situation. However, the efforts by Iran prevailed upon Bhuttoo coupled with the work done by a highly erudite Indian delegation led by former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee with Farooq Abdullah as its deputy leader thus saving New Delhi from the biggest ever-diplomatic crisis. But now the interest of world powers in seeing Kashmir as the flashpoint has decreased to a great level and that also is reflected in how New Delhi sees the situation. Not acknowledging the transition from violence to non-violence as a space to resolve the issue also has a lot to do with this changing global discourse but many experts believe that non-resolution of Kashmir issue would continue to threaten the peace in the region. In his latest book “Avoiding Armageddon: America, India and Pakistan to the Brink and Back”, veteran CIA official Bruce Reidel argues that resolving Kashmir is not only important for preventing a nuclear conflict between two countries but also for prosperity of both India and Pakistan. Even as he believes that “history has shown that American actions can make a bad situation worse, and it has shown only limited evidence that they can make things fundamentally better”, but at the same time makes a case for non-formal initiative to make the two countries amenable to a resolution. Howard B Schaffer, a former Ambassador, has also been talking on same lines saying that Kashmir issue is too important to be neglected but maintains that the issue has been too resistant to US intervention. Such a situation is, however, unlikely to emerge at least until the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. It depends a lot on how the situation unfolds. Risks are too much in having a spillover effect in Kashmir and that only may force New Delhi to see the writing on the wall. But as of now Kashmir is off the international radar and at the regional and local level both India and Pakistan are too incapacitated to resolve it too soon. Looking for an international “miracle” to settle the issue at this stage will be just an illusion.