Report of the IPCS Seminar held on 1 March 2004
B. Rajeshwari, Research Assistant
Panelists:Howard B. Schaeffer,
The current India-Pakistan peace process has raised a number of questions in relation to its implications for Kashmir. What has been the response in the Valley as far as the current peace process is concerned? Is the current peace process a stepping stone for finding a solution on Kashmir? What steps should be taken by the various parties in Kashmir to make the current process bring enduring peace between the two countries? How can the economic indicators be positively used to bring peace in the Valley? The Seminar conducted by IPCS on 1 March addressed these issues.
Howard B. Schaeffer
Ambassador Schaffer gave an overall picture of the political situation in Kashmir vis-ÃƒÂ -vis the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan. There was a lot of hope within Kashmir that something tangible would come out of the current dialogue process. The Kashmiris did not seem to take rigid stands on the question of their involvement in the peace process. The peace initiatives between India and Pakistan might have positive implications for Kashmir if steps like opening up of the Muzafarabad roadway and Sialkot to Jammu rail line were taken up. These might have political as well as symbolic importance which could create a better environment in the Valley.
The Hurriyat, which was a divided house, did not have a unified stand on the Indo-Pak peace process. A section of the Hurriyat blamed Indian and Pakistani intelligence services for mishandling the Kashmir Conflict. The Hurriyat was also disappointed on the lack of response from the Indian Government to issues of human rights violations. The lack of consensus within the Hurriyat had weakened its stand and it seemed undecided on its participation in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The present PDP government in Jammu and Kashmir was better equipped to utilize the peace moves by India and Pakistan than its predecessor. There was a more serious effort being made by the Mufti government in bringing stability in Kashmir and this was a positive sign for the success of the dialogue process. The results of Lok Sabha elections in the six constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir would be of significant importance to the future developments in the state.
On the international role particularly of the United States, Howard Schaeffer was of the view that the US role was not going to be very important in the current election year in the US. The Bush administration was not expected to bring about any grand strategies or formulas for Kashmir.
Though there were positive signs in the current process, yet there seemed to be a lack of vision on the future course of the present initiative. There wasn’t much clarity on the question of Kashmir in the dialogue initiative and this could hinder the peace process. Moreover, the first few months after the general elections in India were going to be crucial and would decide the future course of the dialogue and its subsequent implication on Kashmir.
The economic indicators in Kashmir, according to Teresita Schaffer were intrinsically connected to the militant movement. Though the GDP since 1990s had been stagnant, the level of poverty had remained very low. But one needed to be very cautious before relying too much on statistics. The presence of high security and militancy threats had affected horticulture and handicrafts industries of Jammu and Kashmir. Agricultural production had been pathetic since the start of the insurgency. There was a very high level of dependence on the government spending and the state government was the largest employer. The source of income was primarily from the law enforcement sector which had become a private industry. Tourism had also declined due to militancy since the mid 1980s and no longer contributed as much to the overall GDP of the state.
The main economic factor for the promotion of militancy in Kashmir had been unemployment and the absence of government funds for development at the grassroots level. High level of corruption within most of the previous governments in Jammu and Kashmir had exacerbated the situation within the state.
The economic ingredients in Kashmir could be utilized to build a better foundation for the peace process. The primary need would be to improve the environmental situation by providing better sanitation and water facilities. The second step should be to improve the infrastructure and transportation services. The state government should explore the possibilities for export processing of seasonal fruits and other agricultural products. An international access directly to the Srinagar airport could improve the economic situation in Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan should explore the possibilities of promoting the energy sector and encourage investment within Kashmir.
These steps would ensure an economic independence within the state thereby creating a better opportunity for the success of the peace process.
There were three vital issues which emerged out of the discussions that followed the Seminar.
WAS THERE BREAKTHROUGH IN THE INDIA-PAKISTAN RELATIONS AS FAR AS KASHMIR WAS CONCERNED?
WHAT SHOULD BE THE FUTURE COURSE OF ACTION ON KASHMIR FOR GETTING POSITIVE RESULTS FROM THE PEACE PROCESS?
- There were two views widely accepted as far as considering the present initiative by India and Pakistan as a breakthrough. One view suggested that there was indeed a big change as far as the attitudes in India and Pakistan. This was reflected in Musharraf’s and Foreign Minister Kasuri’s repeated emphasis that there were no military solutions to Kashmir. Yet, there was urgency in Pakistan to solve the Kashmir issue as soon as possible. Moreover there was a realization both in India and Pakistan that rigid stands should be given up. Pakistan for its part was ready to give up its stand of solving the Kashmir issue on the basis of UN resolutions and India, on the other hand, had tacitly accepted that Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Northern Areas were a part of Pakistan. The present PDP-Congress government also brought a new ray of hope and the Hurriyat no more believed in the practicality of an Independent Kashmir which would indicate a change in attitude form the Kashmiri side.
- The second perception was an understanding that the present Indo-Pak dialogue was the beginning of a process and it is presumptuous to expect a solution in the near term. There was an eagerness on both the sides to come closer and dialogue is a must to find a way. In India, there was general skepticism as far as Pakistan’s intentions were concerned because of the powerful military establishment and the lack of change in the attitudes of the elites within Pakistan. Moreover, it was a myth that militancy in the Valley had declined. The Kashmiri camp was not only represented by the Hurriyat. Therefore, any understanding on the changed attitude within the Hurriyat camp was irrelevant considering the fact that it was a house divided.
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR, ITS POSSIBLE RELATION TO THE PROBLEM OF MILITANCY, AND ITS IMPORTANCE FOR BRINGING A SOLUTION TO THE KASHMIR PROBLEM.
- There was a certain amount of consensus over the fact that in order to bring in any kind of solution to the Kashmir conflict there was a need to improve the level of governance. Both the Central and State governments failed to address the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in the past which was evident from the inability to bring down the level of corruption in Kashmir. Development was important within Jammu and Kashmir for any kind of future solutions on Kashmir to bear results.
- The problem of militancy was directly connected to the unemployment situation in Kashmir and the poor economic indicators were often exploited to facilitate the cause of insurgents. The opening of the Muzaffarabad road might not yield immediate economic gains but its future positive possibilities were substantial. Opening road communications would likely have substantive symbolic significance. Economic initiatives such as, Pakistan selling electrical energy to Kashmir might help better relations between India and Pakistan and also help in bringing possible solutions to the Kashmir issue. Promotion of tourism and finding possibilities like World Bank investment in Kashmir might aid in bringing about the general development of Kashmir.
- There was an immense scope for improving India-Pakistan relations particularly in the economic field but there was need for sincere efforts form both India and Pakistan. In this context it was important to ensure that vested interests from both sides do not spoil the current positive environment.