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Political Information Last Updated: Jan 14, 2020 - 12:07:47 PM

The Kashmir Endgame
By Syed Ata Hasnain
Nov 12, 2019 - 3:06:58 AM

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India's parliament canceled Article 370 of its constitution on August 5, 2019, effectively bringing Jammu and Kashmir fully into the Indian union. Pakistan's reaction was swift and angry. Pakistan's diplomatic efforts to paint India as an aggressor in its own territory have not gained traction with the international community, further frustrating it. In addition, with its economy struggling, Pakistan's options for building support for its narratives regarding J&K, upping the ante in the streets of Kashmir and boosting terrorism there, are running out.

The issue of J&K is complex and it's not well understood around the world. India has sincerely adhered to and pursued bilateralism as the core mode of finding peace between itself and Pakistan.The magnanimityIndia displayed after its overwhelming military victory over Pakistan in December 1971 -- which created the independent nation of Bangladesh, and during which India captured 93,000 prisoners of war -- is little known to the international community. Even less known is that India returned all 93,000 prisoners of war after signing the Shimla Agreement in July 1972. India could have exploited that moment to coerce Pakistan into accepting many other conditions to facilitate the return of its captured soldiers.

One of those conditions could have been a settlement of the territorial issues concerning J&K. Under the Shimla Agreement, India accepted an assurance from Pakistan that the two countries would pursue bilateral efforts to resolve J&K. It was broadly understood that third party intervention was passé and even the UN Resolutions no longer held, although no formal action was taken to rescind the resolutions. As per UN Security Council Resolution Number 47 of April 21, 1948, Pakistan was to secure the withdrawal from the state of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident there, who had entered the state to fight in the war. It also asked India to reduce its forces to minimum strength, after which the circumstances for holding a referendum would be put into effect.

Since Pakistan did not withdraw its forces, the starting point for conducting a referendum was never met. Pakistan's attempts to use force to alter the status of J&K over the last 30 years have sealed the fate of the UNSC resolution. India does not adhere to its provisions any longer and follows the policy of bilateralism for resolution of all disputes with Pakistan. The basis of its claim over the territories of J&K (including those not in its current possession) are the Instrument of Accession signed by the former ruler of the princely state of J&K on October 26, 1947, and the February 22, 1994 Joint Resolution of both Houses of India's Parliament.

The international community is also little aware that India signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 with Pakistan, so a legitimate share of the waters of the Indus River flow to it as a lower riparian state. Despite Pakistan's 30 years of proxy war in J&K, India has done nothing to terminate or rescind this treaty. India could use the waters of the Indus as political weapon, but as a larger and responsible nation it continues to display magnanimity.

At the outset of the problem in the 1950s, when the UN was interceding in the J&K issue, India agreed for a special constitutional status for J&K until final resolution of the alleged dispute. Under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution it afforded J&K its own constitution and did not enforce several Indian laws. Article 35A accorded powers to the J&K legislature to frame rules and conditions for the grant of permanent resident status for citizens. Over the last seventy years Articles 370 and 35A may have helped retain J&K's demographics, but they have also created aspirations of secession among some of the people of the Kashmir subregion.

In 1989, once Pakistan's frontier with Afghanistan became a less prominent security issue and India's strategic effectiveness was at a low point, Pakistan launched a proxy hybrid war in the state of J&K. That proxy war continues. Initially employing transnational "mujahideen" freed from the war against the Soviet Union, Pakistan transited to a system of infiltrating Pakistan-based terror groups such as Lashkar e Taiyaba (LeT) and Jaish e Mohammad (JeM). These groups are internationally banned and Pakistan has done nothing more than pay lip service to curbing their illegal activities, even under international pressure. Currently Pakistan faces investigation by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on the extent of measures it has taken to dismantle its financial support for transnational terror groups. If Pakistan is unable to prove it has taken adequate action it is likely to be placed on the FATF blacklist. This will make it extremely difficult to get beyond Pakistan's challenging internal financial issues. Future bailout packages will be subject to it escaping the blacklist.

Unfortunately, instead of renouncing violent extremist activity and entering into talks with India, Pakistan has continued to believe that it can use separatism in Kashmir as a political tool. India has never refrained from talks but the precondition always remains the withdrawal of terror sponsorship and ending separatist activity. However, Pakistan's deep state believes it can continue using both to break J&K away from India and absorb it into Pakistan. The relevance of the deep state, which includes the Pakistan Army leadership, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) wings, is contingent upon the level of violence and anti-Indian sentiment in J&K. However, Pakistan must realize that the constitutional provisions within India which assisted in promoting the exclusivist nature of J&K, now stand rescinded. Threats of war, including Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's threat to use nuclear weapons, are intended to draw the attention of the international community to the dangers of the subcontinent. These are irresponsible statements. Pakistan can ill afford to talk of war with India, given the state of its economy, the overall capability of India and the position India holds in the international community.

Prime Minister Modi's visit to the U.S. prior to his speech at the UN General Assembly, and President Trump's joining him on stage at a large gathering of Indian-Americans in Houston, should be an adequate message to Pakistan. Its efforts to show India in poor light at different forums within the international community have failed. India's actions are legitimized by the conferring of major honors on Prime Minister Modi by several important nations of the world, some of which are Islamic nations.

Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain is a retired General of the Indian Army. His last assignment in service was as the Military Secretary of the Indian Army.  In 2018, Hasnain was appointed Chancellor of Central University of Kashmir.

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