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Published by: OutlookMagazine on Sep 15, 2011
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Although India suffers from several militant regional separatist movements, the Kashmir issue
has proven the most lethal and intractable. It also poses the most serious international dilemma,
given competing territorial claims with Pakistan. Gun battles and bomb blasts in India’s Jammu
and Kashmir state reportedly killed an average of five or six people every day over the period

Conflict over Kashmiri sovereignty also has brought global attention to a potential
“flashpoint” for interstate war between nuclear-armed powers. Yet—despite a peaceful uprising in
the summer of 2008, a resurgence of international attention to the issue following the late 2008
terrorist attack in Mumbai, and another round of sometimes lethal street demonstrations in mid-
2010—the number of militant incidents in the state has been falling continuously and is now at its


Sunil Dasgupta and Stephen Cohen, “Arms Sales for India: How Military Trade Could Energize U.S.-India
Relations,” Foreign Affairs, March 2011.


See Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, “The Drag on India’s Military Growth,” Brookings Institution Policy Brief

#176, September 2010.


“India Says Kashmir Toll Over 41,000, Others Differ,” Reuters, December 7, 2006. In 1999, a bloody, six-week-
long battle in the mountains near the LOC at Kargil cost more than one thousand lives and included Pakistani army
troops crossing into Indian-controlled territory.

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service


lowest point since the violence began. Critics continue to accuse New Delhi of using brutal tactics
to squash true democracy in the region.257

India has long blamed Pakistan for supporting “cross-border terrorism” and for fueling a
separatist rebellion in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley with arms, training, and militants
through an “terrorism infrastructure” on the Pakistani side of the LOC. Islamabad, for its part,
claims to provide only diplomatic and moral support to what it calls “freedom fighters” who resist
Indian rule and suffer alleged human rights abuses in the region. New Delhi insists that the
dispute should not be “internationalized” through involvement by third-party mediators and India
is widely believed to be content with the territorial status quo.258

Islamabad has sought to bring

external major power persuasion to bear on India, especially from the United States.

The longstanding U.S. position on Kashmir is that the issue must be resolved through
negotiations between India and Pakistan while taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri
people. When asked about Kashmir while in New Delhi in November 2010, President Obama
described a “longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan” upon which “the United States
cannot impose a solution.” He did, however, reiterate the U.S. government’s willingness to play a
role in reducing tensions in whatever way the two parties think appropriate.259

The United
Nations refrains from playing a role in the Kashmir issue unless both India and Pakistan request
its engagement.


The Kashmir problem is rooted in competing claims to the former princely state, divided since
1948 by a military Line of Control (LOC) separating India’s Muslim-majority Jammu and
Kashmir state and Pakistan-controlled Azad [Free] Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known
as the Northern Areas) (see Figure 2). The dispute relates to the national identities of both
countries: India has long sought to maintain its secular, multi-religious credentials, in part by
successfully incorporating a Muslim-majority region, while Pakistan has since independence been
conceived as a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims. India and Pakistan fought full-scale
wars over Kashmir in 1947-1948 and 1965. Some Kashmiris seek independence from both


London-based Amnesty International released a March 2011 report decrying the Indian government’s detention of
up to 20,000 people under the 1978 Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for years-long
detentions without trial. Amnesty contends that the PSA violates India’s international human rights legal obligations by
depriving detainees of rights otherwise applicable under Indian law (Amnesty International, “A ‘Lawless Law’:
Detentions Under the J&K Public Safety Act,” March 2011). See also Mirza Waheed, “On Kashmir, India Acts as a
Police State, Not as a Democracy” (op-ed), Guardian (London), May 29, 2011.


The Indian government still officially claims the entire formal princely state. New Delhi officials reportedly forced
India’s distributors of Economist magazine to put a white sticker over a map of Kashmir appearing in a May 2011
issue, saying it incorrectly depicted a territorial dispute involving claims by India, Pakistan, and China. The magazine’s
publishes accused the Indian government of “hostile censorship” (“Economist Accuses India of Censorship Over
Kashmir Map,” BBC News, May 24, 2011).


“Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh in Joint Press Conference in New Delhi, India,” White
House release, November 8, 2010. Many critical observers urge the U.S. government to be more active in pressing both
India and Pakistan—whether overtly or, perhaps more effectively, in private—to settle their Kashmir dispute in the
interests of regional stability, especially with regard to Afghanistan. At least one senior analyst argues that U.S. policy
“sabotages” a process in which India’s aspirations for major power status could be used as leverage in finding a
settlement on Kashmir. First, the argument goes, U.S. policy does not address the political grievances underlying
“terrorism.” Second, it approaches the Kashmir issue as a bilateral dispute (between New Delhi and Islamabad), thus
giving short shrift to Kashmiri concerns and “delegitimizing the only approach which would make Pakistani territorial
concessions domestically acceptable” (Robert Grenier, “Losing Kashmir” (op-ed), Al Jazeera (online), July 14, 2010).

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service



Spurred by a perception of rigged state elections in 1989, an ongoing separatist war
between Islamic militants (and their supporters) and Indian security forces in Indian-held
Kashmir is ongoing and has claimed tens of thousands of lives.261

Soon after the armed
insurgency began, much of the Kashmir Valley’s indigenous Hindu population fled.262

At least

8,000 Kashmiris have “disappeared” during the conflict; some of these may occupy the unmarked
graves discovered in 55 villages over a three-year study.263

Some separatist groups, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), continue to
seek an independent or autonomous Kashmir. Others, including the militant Hizbul Mujahideen
(HuM), seek union with Pakistan.264

In 1993, the All Parties Hurriyat [Freedom] Conference was
formed as an umbrella organization for groups opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir. The Hurriyat
membership of more than 20 political and religious groups has included the JKLF (originally a
leading militant force, now a political group) and Jamaat-e-Islami (the political wing of the
HuM). The Hurriyat Conference, which states that it is committed to seeking dialogue with the
Indian government on a broad range of issues, calls for a tripartite conference on Kashmir,
including Pakistan, India, and representatives of the Kashmiri people. Hurriyat leaders demand
Kashmiri representation at any talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. The Hurriyat
formally split in 2003 after a dispute between hardliners allied with Islamabad and moderates
favoring negotiation with New Delhi. Subsequent efforts to reunify the group failed. In 2005, the
Congress Party-led government renewed high-level contact with moderate Hurriyat leaders begun
by the previous BJP-led coalition. Two years later, however, Hurriyat leader and noted Kashmiri
cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said talks between the Indian government and moderate Kashmiri
separatists had suffered a “complete breakdown of communication,” and he accused New Delhi
of lacking the will needed to find a political solution to the problem.265


Both Kashmiri separatists and most of the Indian nationalists who insist that the territory is an integral part of India
share a core belief that the Indian state represents a monolithic Hindu identity. For both sides, this belief thus provides
an unshakeable justification for their respective causes (Rohini Hensmen, “Mapping the Debate,” Outlook (Delhi),
December 1, 2010).


Most estimates list from 41,000 to 77,000 related deaths. The Pakistan-based Kashmir Media Service claims that
more than 93,000 Kashmiris have been “martyred” in the fighting.


During the early years of the Kashmir insurgency, hundreds of thousands of indigenous Hindu “Pandits” were
driven from the region in what amounted to a form of “ethnic cleansing.” Up to half a million Kashmiri Pandits,
accounting for the vast majority of Hindus then living in the area around Srinagar, fled their homes after coming under
threat from Muslim militants. For many Indians, the Kashmir dispute cannot be resolved without arrangements for the
return of these refugees, more than 100,000 of whom continue to live in camps with government support. Resolutions
in the 110th

Congress (H.Con.Res. 55 and S.Con.Res. 38), the 111th

Congress (H.Res. 1601), and the 112th

(H.Res. 387) have called for the safeguarding of the physical, political, and economic security of Kashmiri Pandits.


“India: Investigate Unmarked Graves in Jammu and Kashmir,” Human Rights Watch release, August 25, 2011.


A 2007 public opinion survey found nearly 90% of the residents of Srinagar, Kashmir’s most populous and Muslim-
majority city, desiring Kashmiri independence from both India and Pakistan. In the largely Hindu city of Jammu,
however, 95% of respondents said Kashmir should be part of India (see http://www.indianexpress.com/story/
210147.html). A 2008 survey conducted in both India and Pakistan found a majority of respondents expressing an
openness to a range of possible outcomes for Kashmir, including outright independence. While such an outcome was
described as “unacceptable” by half of the Indians surveyed, the pollsters concluded that, “If a majority of all
Kashmiris were to choose independence, a majority of Indians and Pakistanis would find such independence at least
tolerable” (see http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/jul08/Kashmir_Jul08_rpt.pdf).


“Kashmiri Separatist Says India Talks Break Down,” Reuters, August 30, 2007.

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations

Congressional Research Service


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