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An Anniversary that is Difficult to Remember and Difficult to Forget PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Rahul Pandit   
Wednesday, 01 June 2005 00:00
In this constantly changing geopolitical age, where former dictatorships are being changed into democracies, one region in South Asia has gone mostly unchanged. The year 2005 brought about a silent anniversary that most people did not celebrate with glory.

On January 19, 1990, over 360,000 Kashmiri Pandits began their exodus from the beautiful valley of Kashmir, India. This exodus was forced by the hand of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism that invaded this once peaceful land nestled in the midst of the Himalayas. Kashmiri Hindus, or Pandits, who were the original inhabitants of their ?paradise on Earth? for over 5000 years, were brutally tortured, raped, mutilated, and murdered by the hundreds before they were forced to leave their homeland. Their plight has been one of the most overlooked tragedies in recent history.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 September 2010 03:40
Recovering Pluralism and Citizenship in Kashmir: Possible Solutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Vijay K. Sazawal   
Thursday, 14 April 2005 00:00

Remarks delivered at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at The Johns Hopkins University, as summarized by the Henry L. Stimson Center, the only Washington D.C. think tank with an active program for Confidence Building Measures in South Asia.

  • Defining the Challenge:

Focus: Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK), Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK), IAK plus Pakistan's Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), or the entire former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)?

Issue: Aspirations of people and its attendant consequences as expressed through local constituents with very diverse opinions, and/or views of other collateral stake-holders (Indian viewpoint, Pakistani viewpoint, separatist viewpoints, Jihadi/terrorist viewpoints, elected politician viewpoints, minority viewpoints)?

Solutions: Land-centric solutions (J&K unification, division or integration), people-centric solutions (democratization, prosperity and human development), process driven initiatives, status quo?

Guarantors: India-Pakistan, India-Pakistan-J&K, India-Pakistan-UN, India-Pakistan-USA?

  • Recognizing historical key mileposts that accentuated the problem:

- Indian inability to assess true consequences of "British sell" to India to take the Kashmir issue to the UN (Lord Mountbatten was the Chairman of the Cabinet Defense Committee after India's independence and Pakistani invasion of J&K in 1947 was handled by this Committee of which Mr. Nehru was a member).

- Indian PM's weakness for completely misreading true intentions of an opportunistic politician named Sheikh Abdullah who covertly used Indian goodwill to plan for his "Sheikhdom".

- Pakistan's waffling on implementing the UN Resolutions - it called for Pakistan to reduce its military presence substantially in occupied J&K before India was obligated to initiate the process of plebiscite.

- Pakistani annexation of the Northern Areas (NA) of J&K that did not even register a blip on the radar of global indignation.

- India's repeated efforts to find political accommodation with Sheikh Abdullah even to the point of alienating its own "pro-India" constituency in J&K.

- Sheikh Abdullah's return to power in 1975 which turned into a despotic rule that destroyed multi-religious, multi-ethnic, pluralistic balance in J&K and exposed J&K to externally driven vulnerabilities.

- The "Operation Meghdoot" in 1984 when India occupied the Siachen Glacier, which according to Brig. Gen. Feroz  Khan formerly a senior officer in Pakistani Joint Services Headquarters, prompted Pakistani military command to authorize insurgency in Indian administered Kashmir, and first batches of young male recruits from J&K started  crossing the border to receive terrorist training in Pakistan.

- Massive communal riots in early 1986 that took place in Southern Kashmir (Anantnag district) targeting the minority community which resulted in looting and arson of nearly 300 homes belonging to Pandits and destruction of a few temples. Not only was the incident hushed up by the J&K government, but the entire Indian civil society ignored the tragedy (this phenomenon of "institutional silence" was repeated in 1989-1990 when nearly 95% of the Pandit community became internally displaced). The 1986 incident emboldened Jihadis to try to legitimize their authority and influence by joining the State polity.

- The indifference shown by inept political leadership in New Delhi that was blissfully in a slumber to be woken up only after massive insurgent demonstrations that took place all over Kashmir valley in 1989-1990. Initial Indian response was woefully misdirected - too much force in too many wrong places. The problem caught the world attention (again). 

- Enter the new "American duo" in early 1992 committed to "finally" solving the Kashmir problem. The time appeared to be just right as President Clinton had reached out to insurgents in Northern Ireland and Israel (they are terrorists by today's definition but "9/11" was still far away). The American team consisted of Ms. Robin Raphel (US State Department) and Ambassador Robert Oakley (subsequently replaced by Ambassador Sam Lewis) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), who set to implement their own Track-II process to resolve the problem. The 1992-1993 USIP initiative like many before and after it went nowhere, but Kashmir again became a featured story in the American media and among South Asia policy experts and Think Tanks in Washington, DC.

  • Where do we go from here?

- In 1994, I was invited by Prof. Bob Wirsing (University of South Carolina) to speak at a symposium arranged by him. I made two points: sanctity of the Line of Control (LOC) dividing J&K, and unique demographics that placed the Sunni insurgency in IAK in the smallest "geographical pocket" when viewed with respect to other regions and ethnic identities within the State. My bottom line was that there will not likely be a resolution of the Kashmir issue unless we move away from land-centric solutions to people-centric solutions. Sadly, no one listened then. Today, I believe there is an evolving consensus - having discussed this issue in detail with Dr. Michael Krepon, Prof. Steve Cohen and others - that the analysis I presented 11 years back has withstood the test of time.

- Today we are finally seeing a change in the subcontinent. India, Pakistan and even some separatists agree that the immediate focus of engagement should be on people-centric confidence building measures (CBM's). For some others (including a sizeable number of people in Pakistan and India) Kashmir continues to be a land-centric issue. And yet many feel that there is no urgency in closure until the "trust deficit" between India and Pakistan is eliminated or reduced substantially. For countries that were trading war slogans until just a couple of years back, it will take a very long time to rebuild such trust and faith.

- Dr. Fai took upon a major challenge by reshaping the future discourse on the Kashmir issue and contributing to the reduction of the "trust deficit" by organizing the Peace Conference in New York on 24-25th February 2005. The Final Declaration from that conference, I believe, paves the way for a people-centric approach to resolve the Kashmir issue.

- The solution, in effect, is the process of normalization which puts premium on four (4) key building blocks: peace, prosperity, democratization and human development. The first two goals will require CBM's between India and Pakistan to facilitate elimination of violence and growth in commerce. On the other hand, democratization and human development will involve considerable inter and intra community dialogue to restore composite nature of the Kashmiri identity and make all people of Jammu and Kashmir "equity partners" in their own destiny. This has to be done on both sides of the LOC and involve all five regions of the formerly princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.

- There is nothing that says Kashmiri identity can not be preserved even when land-centric solutions are not feasible. Kashmir is neither the first nor the last former princely kingdom that has been split by rival larger powers. The main emphasis must be on what really matters to people in any part of Jammu and Kashmir.

- The last fifteen (15) years of turmoil have been brutal to Kashmiris in general and to Kashmiri minorities in particular. It has been a civil war of the sorts as the debate in Kashmir has pitted secular minded people of all faiths against rivals deeply driven by religious beliefs. The insurgency has taken its toll on public psyche and most Kashmiris are in a state of poor mental and physical health. The only lesson one can draw is that violence begets violence and terrorism is no substitute for civil discourse and dialogue. People are finally weary and except for those who materially gain during such turmoil, most are longing for peace and normalcy.

- Ten (10) years from now, I see great improvement in ties between India and Pakistan, and increased trade and commerce between AJK and IAK. But the process of democratization and human development on both sides of the LOC would not have achieved its full potential. Thus, the Kashmir issue will still be unresolved, though the degree of impasse would have greatly diminished. But I also believe that ten years from now, the world would be engrossed in dire environmental challenges and students of the South Asia Studies Department will be debating on latest theories of Jared Diamond and others related to impeding collapse of mighty Asian powers under the burden of ecological disasters.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 September 2010 20:22
The Final Solution PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Vijay K. Sazawal   
Tuesday, 15 March 2005 00:00
The shift to a people-centric approach from the real estate aspect of the problem is welcome indeed, and since all politics is local, it is high time to shift the focus from macro to micro issues. The majority community in J&K, not merely the governments, bears the burden of addressing the issue of Kashmiri Pandits and other minorities.

After a very successful visit by the Indian external affairs minister, Natwar Singh, to Pakistan where India and Pakistan announced a number of confidence building measures (CBMs) that have received world-wide acclaim and have been hailed by most people of Jammu and Kashmir, it is important to review these CBMs and whether they are actually a help or hindrance for resolving what has come to be known as the "Kashmir conflict"

The announcement of starting the bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar from April 7 has been universally applauded, with the notable, if not unexpected, exception of Jaish-e-Mohammad (Masood Azhar), Al-mansoorian/Lashkar-e-Tayiba (Umer Mukhtar), Hizbul Mujahideen (Syed Salahuddin), All Party Hurriyat Conference ? Geelani Faction (Syed Ali Shah Geelani) and Duktaran-e-Millat (Asiya Andrabi).

Perhaps no other characteristic defines the value of this major CBM more than the very fact that all terrorist organizations have denounced this announcement, while masses in both Kashmirs have celebrated the news with joy and hope. So in pursuing this CBM, India and Pakistan have served the cause of peace as this news has isolated various merchants of violence and demonstrated how far they are out of touch with the reality in Jammu and Kashmir and with the rest of the world.

In taking up the CBMs in a broader context, one can see value in the two neighbors developing ideas and jointly agreeing on new schemes that strengthen peace and decrease chances of conflict and violence between and within the two countries. Such a climate is necessary to encourage serious dialogue between officials of the two countries and to build the trust so essential to reaching an agreement on the "final solution" of the Jammu and Kashmir problem.

Going beyond real estate

But will these near-term or even long-term CBMs help settle the Kashmir conflict? To answer this question, one has to understand why the Kashmir conflict has remained unresolved for so long. Here I wish to make three points:

First, there is practically no possibility that a solution can be imposed from the outside. If such a solution could not be imposed when both countries were in their formative years, there is clearly no possibility of imposing a solution when both are nuclear powers and one country is on its way to becoming the economic powerhouse of this century.

Second, both countries are determined not to gave an inch of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir under their control and insist that Kashmir problem deals with the disputed territory that is currently occupied by the other country.

And third, the new momentum in the peace process has come from two countries themselves, who now realize that the final solution of the Kashmir conflict is likely to be people-centric, rather than land-centric, as was the tradition in the past.

The net effect is that CBMs will continue until the time is ripe to reach a settlement that involves a lot more than simply the real estate of Jammu and Kashmir.

Complete rejection of 'gun culture'

When you go beyond the issue of real estate (recognizing that Kurds, Pashtuns, Balochis and even Punjabis are in a similar situation, geographically), the resolution of Kashmir conflict translates into protection of Kashmiri identity, restoration of peace and tranquility, and development of human values worthy of the "first world" countries on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir.

This is where CBMs are truly significant. It will require not only CBMs between governments of India and Pakistan, but also among the constituents of Jammu of Kashmir in their own respective regions as well as across both sides of the border.

The first step in any conflict resolution process is the total and complete rejection of "gun culture," so that violence will end and the people of the state can express their views openly and freely without the threat of death hanging over their heads.

In the December 2004 Kashmir Conference held in Kathmandu (arranged by the Pugwash Conferences) that brought players from India, Pakistan and the two Kashmirs together, apart from the usual desire for "sustained dialogue," there was also this cry from valley based representatives at the meeting: "If the whole of J&K is disputed, why is there violence only in our side of Kashmir?"

The elimination of gun culture will not only require a strong denunciation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, but it will also require the public in both Kashmirs to stop making collections in the name of jihad, for authorities in Pakistan to close the 67 terrorist training camps (some in the guise of religious training schools as reported by India Today in the February 7, 2005 edition), and for Indian security forces to stop using excessive force on civilians. Once violence subsides, it will put the onus on governments to improve the quality of life in Jammu and Kashmir.

Poverty and economic hardship

But peace and development are intertwined with poverty and economic hardships that most people on both sides of Jammu & Kashmir have to face today. I did an assessment for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) last year that looked at economy, budget and governance in the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many have suggested in the past that the Indian side of Kashmir is primarily being kept "financially afloat" either by remittances from Kashmiri Diaspora overseas (about Rs. 200 million annually), or by overseas jihadi funds pumped covertly into Kashmir (about Rs. 500 million annually as estimated by the Indian government). Even if these figures are doubled to Rs. 1.5 billion, it is still only a tiny fraction of the official Jammu and Kashmir annual budget of Rs. 150 billion.

In principle, such an enormous sum should be more than sufficient to improve the lives of about 12 million people that live on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir, but in reality nearly 75% of the people ? mostly villagers and rural communities ? hardly see any changes in their daily lives in spite of such huge budget outlays.

Who gains from the trickle-down economy?

The analysis indicated that on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir, there are three broad classes of people that are served by the "trickle down" economy ? the top 5% consists of state bureaucracy and politicians (in power, out of power or even those fighting for power) who get to keep most of the pie; the next tier consists of small businessmen and urban professionals who constitute roughly 20% of the population living a middle class life; and the bottom 75% are a mostly rural population that see very little of the trickle down effect.

Thus many people in the state are alienated, despondent and bitter with the existing situation that does not seem to improve with changing governments. The situation on the Pakistani side is probably identical.

And that is the biggest challenge and opportunity for developing CBMs that will result in a marked change in the human development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Because no matter who gets elected, including separatists within Hurriyat if they were to win in a future election, the majority of people of Jammu and Kashmir will not see much change in their lives.Why? Data clearly indicates that governance in Jammu and Kashmir is extremely poor and there is a nexus between corrupt bureaucracy and opportunistic politicians that circumvents democratic processes, creating a feudal system where oligarchs keep getting rich and poor masses keep getting poor.

The real problems

Specific to the Indian side, I can say that many of the problems exist because the independent Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir lacks adequate protections related to transparency and accountability in governance, development of civil society, due process, worker safety and environment, etc.

On the other hand, some of the Indian national laws extended to the state to rectify such deficiencies have been mostly ignored by the state (a collective process of indifference involving politicians, bureaucracy and the local press) as an act of defiance against usurping the Article 370, which grants political autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. In the era where the Indian economy is booming and yet hardly touching the lives of most Kashmiris, it is obvious that the Article 370 has been abused by powerful lobbies in Srinagar to enslave Kashmiri people into mediocrity, destroyed their entrepreneurial spirit and made corruption and hustling as a way of life.

Quality of life can improve only by reducing state bureaucracy, reducing the control of government on commerce, and encouraging private sector growth. Instead, the powers that be continue to harp on additional autonomy or independence without addressing current inadequacies or even setting a personal example of accountability and transparency in their own personal lifestyle or political organizations to which they belong.

On the Pakistani side there is a unique situation where a major portion of the Pakistan administered Kashmir lacks direct representation. Even though a senior High Court judge in "Azad Kashmir" gave a ruling that the Northern Areas (NA) should be incorporated in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan has ignored public aspirations within the NA.

In a recent assessment made by the independently run Freedom House, titled, "Freedom of the World Report 2005", it rated Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir as having relatively more political freedom than the Pakistani side of Jammu and Kashmir. And yet the same Kashmiris who demand more freedom on the Indian side talk so little about the lack of any such freedoms on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

Kashmiri identity

Then there is the concern about protecting Kashmiri identity. Pakistan is alleged to have eroded Kashmiri identity on their side of Jammu and Kashmir by resettling many retired or retiring security personnel from other parts of Pakistan. On the Indian side, Kashmiri identity is under threat not because of people who have moved into the area, but because of people who have moved out of the area.

While most Muslims in the state live in the valley of Kashmir, there were also a significant number of minorities, especially Pandits (Hindus), Sikhs and Christians who until recently lived in the valley. The term Kashmiriyat implied a certain composite identity that drew on major religions of South Asia to define a culture that was uniquely in harmony with heavenly surroundings of the Kashmir valley. But following the rise of insurgency and terrorism in 1989 and subsequent massacres, most minorities have fled the valley.

The issue today in the valley is one of Kashmiri identity. It is, by and large, a Muslim identity, and the way things are going it is unlikely to change without specific community-to-community CBMs to bring back Kashmiris of non-Muslim faith. If valley based Kashmiris want a return to pluralism and religious tolerance that was once the hallmark of Kashmiri identity (Kashmiriyat), then a lot needs to be done to create conducive conditions for the return of Pandits.

The majority of community CBMs should not merely address security aspects of the problem, but address real issues dealing with sharing of political and economic power in the valley so that Kashmiri Pandits feel that they are also true stakeholders in the future of Jammu and Kashmir. So even after the gun culture ceases, unless and until Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits hold a composite political dialogue, I do not believe there will be any large-scale return of minorities back into the valley. In the famous words of Tip O?Neill, "all politics is local".

Substantive CBMs needed

I have addressed CBMs related to the Kashmir conflict on multiple levels and brought up contentious issues involving the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as governments of Pakistan and India. Resolution of these issues taken together will eventually help resolve the Kashmir conflict. We expect the two governments to announce further CBMs in the future to sustain peace and promote trade and commerce between the two countries.

But the real benefit to the people of Jammu and Kashmir will come from CBMs that are people-centric and address anomalies created by tortured history and ongoing insurgency that have come to represent the Kashmir conflict. For example, the road between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar is welcome news that will promote movement of people and invigorate trade between two Kashmirs, but why not also open road links between Sialkote-Jammu and Skardu-Kargil? And what about a direct road link (even though it has to be constructed) between Muzaffarabad and Gilgit?

People of Jammu and Kashmir have a right to convenient and accessible travel not just between the two Kashmirs, but also within each region.

Similarly, there should be new CBMs to alleviate economic imbalances, alienation and hardship among rural Kashmiris by undertaking a major overhaul of the way the two Kashmirs manage their annual budget. Both sides of Kashmir rely heavily on the federal government to subsidize their annual spending ? in Jammu and Kashmir, in India, the subsidy from the central government is in excess of 75%, whereas in Azad Kashmir the subsidy is about 50%.

Besides a redirection of priorities to promote rural economy and promote private sector in the two regions, major structural changes are necessary in bringing true democracy to the people, including new laws to increase transparency and accountability, improve rights of minorities and women, and strengthen civil society in both regions.

Serious problems exist on both sides of the border. We need to redirect the focus from macro issues related to Kashmir conflict that have received most attention in the last half a century, and focus instead on micro issues that will bring greatest benefit to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Finally, the CBMs must address strengthening of Kashmiri identity that transcends religion as a determining factor for such an identity. The majority community in Jammu and Kashmir, not merely the state government, bears the burden of developing appropriate CBMs to address this issue. A serious inter-community dialogue is only a starting point in a confidence building process that should address long-term retention of minorities in the valley to play an integral part in furthering democracy, nurturing diversity and revitalizing economy of Jammu and Kashmir.

In summary, CBMs constitute an important component of the peace process that will not only advance the cause of peace and normalcy in the subcontinent, but also bring together the diverse people of Jammu and Kashmir in creating new opportunities for economic growth and human development within their respective regions on either side of the border.Once that happens, the two countries can finalize the resolution of the Kashmir conflict at a time of their choosing.

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 September 2010 01:36
CBMs: Help or Hindrance for Resolving Kashmir Conflict? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Vijay K. Sazawal   
Thursday, 24 February 2005 00:00

Text of speech delivered at the International Kashmir Peace Conference entitled "Peace Initiative in South Asia: Exploring Possible Options for Kashmir", organized by the Kashmiri American Council, KAC, and International Educational Development (accredited with the UN ECOSOC) in New York, NY, at the sidelines of the United Nations Headquarters, February 24-25, 2005.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss what we all agree is the most pressing issue of the day. This conference is taking place after a very successful visit by Mr. Natwar Singh to Pakistan where India and Pakistan announced a number of confidence building measures (CBM’s) that have received world-wide acclaim and have been hailed by most people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 September 2010 03:57
Economic Pathways to Normalization in Kashmir PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Vijay K. Sazawal   
Tuesday, 20 July 2004 00:00

A critical review of past, present and future choices during a speech by Dr. Sazawal at the US Institute for Peace (USIP).

I want to thank the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) for giving me the opportunity to review two important papers and offer my views on the subject that has generated considerable interest and scrutiny in the last 55 years.

I will take a moment to digress and take you back to 1992 and 1993 (“the Oakley - Lewis era”) when USIP tried unsuccessfully to develop the framework for a political process to address the future of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). One of the frequent invitees to those parleys was Mr. Bhabani Sen Gupta, an eminent Indian journalist, who reported in his newspaper that “dialogue at the USIP gave an impression that the U.S. was probing, if not promoting, the possibilities of an independent Kashmir.” Of course that was then and this is today. Much water, as one says, has flowed under the “zero Bridge” over the Jhelum River since. But I hope some lessons were learnt from that experience so that there is no reason to repeat mistakes of the past.

The two papers being discussed today have some similarities and yet are very different in other ways. Generally speaking, the two papers dwell on the concept that economic growth may provide a promising alternative pathway to peace in Kashmir, something that did not receive adequate attention in the past. Personally, I would not argue with such a hypothesis, especially since other true and tested methods – diplomacy, war, and terrorism – have all been tried and have failed to change the situation on the ground. I want to congratulate Mr. Wajahat Habibullah and the CSIS team led by Ambassador Tezi Schaffer for their singular dedication to resolution of the Kashmir issue, and for developing these two thought provoking reports.

Let me take the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report first as it is still a “work in progress”. The paper lists seven (7) specific recommendations to develop Jammu and Kashmir’s economy and leverage it to enhance peace in the region. Under each recommendation, the paper briefly describes unilateral, bilateral and, in some cases, multilateral measures that could be taken to implement each recommendation.

The CSIS paper recommendations are highly inter-related covering jobs, economic growth, infrastructure, water and energy resources, tourism, trade and investment, and connectivity with outside world. Recommendations, in some cases, cover certain geographical areas on both sides of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and seem to convey the common perception that the suffering in Kashmir could be alleviated if the governments of India and Pakistan would provide Kashmiris with additional funds, give them complete freedom on how to spend such funds and allow the state to access funds from overseas donors (especially the United States) to improve their life and living in order to compliment and strengthen political peacemaking currently underway between India and Pakistan. In theory, these are all very good suggestions.

The stated goals of the CSIS project, impressive as these seem to be, are contradictory to the vision that was laid out by one of its underwriters, Mr. Farooq Kathwari. In a speech in Geneva at the Pugwash Workshop in May 2003, Mr. Kathwari spoke of his association with the CSIS study and described the project in the following way: “The project will map out a vision of how Kashmir would fit into the regional and world economy following a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir problem.”

Seen from that perspective, the CSIS study does seem to make an implicit argument for a “separate enclave” in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, something that Mr. Kathwari has argued for a long time. The region of interest is clearly the valley and the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) since other regions like the Northern Areas, Jammu, and Ladakh (regions that should play an integral role in the economic development of the state) are hardly mentioned. In this imaginary enclave, the allure of an international airport in Srinagar holds the promise of global identity for Kashmiri Muslims (since the report is mostly silent on other state constituents like Pandits, Dogras, Bodhs and Paharis) so that generous international donors are whisked away with least inconvenience to meet with eager trading partners, willing to invest in a business friendly environment of the enclave. I am sorry to wake you up from this dream, but we need to get real here.

While the report has highlighted the plight of internally displaced people (IDP) within AJK, the fact is that their number is just a fraction of the IDP’s on the Indian side of Kashmir who get no mention in the report. I am sad to say that on the Indian side, the government (both central and state) and public at large have not done much either for Kashmiri refugees (mostly Kashmiri Pandits) other than empty rhetoric about their return to the valley. It is my hope that the final CSIS report would acknowledge the role of Kashmiri Pandits and other ethnic minorities as constituents and stake-holders in the future prosperity of Kashmir.

The CSIS report could be greatly strengthened if it would examine how monies are currently spent in the state, and whether public and private sector institutions on both sides of the LAC have the capability to reform and utilize existing funds efficiently before seeking additional investments. The recommendations presented in the report, which fall between confidence building measures (CBM) and symbolic gestures (SG), have an underlining theme that the state institutions are lacking new ideas and approaches. While I do not know much about the AJK, I do know that in the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir the current and past state governments have held brain-storming sessions on this topic with and without outside subject matter experts. The state is always testing new ideas and approaches. For example, an Agricultural Marketing Act was passed recently to strengthen marketing of horticulture and agriculture products, including creating new marketing centers within the state to assist fruit producers. Similarly, there is an Industrial Advisory Committee to promote forest-based industries like joinery, medicinal and aromatic plants, cricket bats and minerals. A “Silk Park” has been proposed to boost the sericulture industry and government is always looking for new ideas to promote tourism. One recent idea was to promote travel of Indian government employees for vacations in Kashmir whose travel cost would be subsidized by the central government. There is also private industry involvement through the Federation of Industry, Jammu and Kashmir, and the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and industry. The state government is also looking into exports to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and holding discussions on a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In my opinion, the problem of poor economic development in Jammu and Kashmir is neither due to a lack of ideas, nor due to a lack of money, but mainly due to lack of principled political and administrative institutions in the state. This problem will be further aggravated if existing “checks and balances” imposed cursorily by India are done away with under the cloak of greater autonomy to the state. I will return to this theme later.

Mr. Habibullah’s report covers a wide canvass, and being an insider by having served both in the state and at the center, there is very little to argue about his facts and figures. I was struck by his admiration for the American role in Jammu and Kashmir, which I must say is very courageous. It was only recently that Jim Hoagland reminded his readers in the Washington Post that this is not the opportune moment for foreigners to show their closeness to Americans.

There are a couple of points in his report that I think are worth repeating. One is the ambiguity about the India-Pakistan rapprochement which was initiated last year. Mr. Habibullah thinks that it may be for real, but did include a reference to Prof. Stephen Cohen of Brookings who is skeptic about the outcome. My own views fall in the latter category. In January 2004, I wrote a paper where I compared the current peace talks between the Musharraf regime and the NDA government with the 1962-1963 India-Pakistan dialogue, with a twist that conditions in India and Pakistan today are reverse of what these were then. But not withstanding the good intentions of outside facilitators, the reality is that peace between India and Pakistan within existing contours of south asian polity is like a mating dance between a horse and an elephant – it is not going to happen!

Mr. Habibullah himself provides the reason. Quoting the words of Joseph Korbel, chairman of the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) until 1949, who said that “the real cause of all the bitterness and bloodshed, all the …….. that have characterized the Kashmir dispute is the uncompromising and perhaps uncompromisable struggle of two ways of life, two concepts of political organization, two scales of values, two spiritual attitudes ….. a conflict in which Kashmir has become both symbol and background.” Mr. Korbel could have hardly imagined three wars involving Kashmir that have followed his uncanny assessment, but his statement is as valid today as it was then. So perhaps one has to be realistic and agree that if we achieve a détente in the subcontinent and promote economic ties and other CBMs between India and Pakistan, then that may be all that can be expected until the system changes in Pakistan.

But Pakistan did leave its indelible mark in Jammu and Kashmir and one has to live with those ground realities. First, it invaded and annexed part of the state that acceded to the Indian Union in accordance with the India Independence Act of 1947 that was passed by the British Parliament. Second, it capitalized on shifting Muslim outlook in the valley following the return of Sheikh Abdullah to power in 1975. Sheikh had always mixed Kashmiriyat and politics in making his case for independent Kashmir. But back in power after 23 years of wilderness and knowing that he could not get independence from India, he decided to subvert the state from within, inviting Saudi and other middle eastern mullahs to preach in Kashmir. Soon madrassas began to spring up, next the daily wear of people changed followed by frenzy construction of new mosques everywhere. What was basically a south asian “sufi culture” (most local valley Muslims are converts from Hindu faith), was slowly and partially replaced by distinctly pan-Arabic culture. Whereas in 1965, Kashmiri Muslims actively assisted Indian armed forces in rounding up Pakistani armed intruders, by 1985 there were many radical Islamic groups in Kashmir preaching hatred towards religious minorities. And finally they struck – in 1986 there were large-scale communal riots in Southern Kashmir in an ancient town called Anantnag (renamed by believers as “Islamabad”) resulting in burning and looting of Pandit homes and temples, making nearly 1500 people homeless and setting in motion the first waves of refugees who fled in terror. In response to a letter that I sent to the New York Times requesting the paper to investigate the incident, its chief correspondent in New Delhi, Steve Weisman, replied on April 15, 1986, “As you probably know, protesting Moslems …. attacked temples, homes and stores of Kashmiri Pundits. I plan to travel to Kashmir soon to write again about this problem.”

For Pakistan the time was ripe for another intervention and they did. Brig. Gen. Feroz Hassan Khan (retd.), who has served in the strategic division of Pakistan’s Joint Services Headquarters and was previously a commander in the Siachen theatre, remarked at a gathering of south asia experts in Washington about two years back that “once India occupied the Siachen Glacier by force in 1984, the Pakistani military command authorized the new campaign in Kashmir.” In other words, the Operation Meghdoot was reciprocated by Pakistan’s covert offensive in Kashmir. Whatever the reason, the first batches of saboteurs from the valley were on their way to various military-intelligence facilities in Pakistan for terrorist training. The first group of returning insurgents who took the name of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) went on a killing spree, murdering mostly unarmed Kashmiri Pandits and a few Indian soldiers. In 2001, a Pandit film maker, Ajay Raina, visited Srinagar and met with Javed Mir at the JKLF office. Mr. Raina recorded Javed Mir saying the following on the video tape, “yes, we did kill many Kashmiri Pandits at the beginning of the Azadi movement, but today we are a non-violent organization.”

I wanted to bring up these episodes only to correct some of Mr. Habibullah’s perceptions (shared by others) that some how there was a “magical change” in the attitude of Kashmiri Muslims in 1987 following the rigging of local elections, or that it was only the Hizbul Mujahadeen (HM) that has killed Kashmiri Pandits.

A common theme in the two reports, and again the common wisdom among many south asia experts, is that India should reduce its military size in Kashmir. As much as Kashmiris today are begging foreign Islamic warriors to leave their land, I do recall how warmly the foreign Jihadis were greeted at the beginning of insurgency. Similarly, clamoring for reduced military force today will turn into another desperate cry for public safety and security tomorrow. If there is one lesson to be learned in the post 9/11 scenario, it is that bringing peace in lands infested by armed zealots and terrorists is lot more challenging than winning wars. The degree of violence in Kashmir may be down today, but it would be suicidal to take that peace for granted.

Another interesting observation made by Mr. Habibullah is that while recent upheaval has taken a heavy toll on Kashmir’s economy, “the richest source of income has become the threat and use of violence”.  This statement is true for individuals wedded to guns, but the reality in Kashmir is that the greatest source of income for the state has been harnessing “the art of alienation” that has done wonders in getting favorable press attention world-wide and in opening treasury doors in New Delhi.

While Mr. Habibullah admits that Kashmir’s poverty rate is below the national average, what he does not say is that it is among the lowest in India. Only 4% of the state’s population is below the Indian definition of poverty, and when you compare it to nearly 43% being in the same condition in Bihar, you get an idea why there are nearly 100,000 semi-skilled migrant Muslim laborers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that are filling low-grade jobs in Kashmir valley deemed too menial (or low-paying) by unemployed locals (nearly 150,000 were unemployed in Kashmir about two years back).  A local paper, Greater Kashmir even carried a headline in June 2003 noting, “Kashmir – Saudi Arabia for Biharis.”

For any person who has heard various stories of strife and mayhem in Kashmir, the first visit to the valley is a shock. “You expect a Jaffna, you expect a Palestine, you expect a Lebanon, and you find a boom town”, wrote the correspondent for the New York Times when she visited the valley for the first time in October 2002. She noted in her published report that deposits in the State’s largest bank (J&K Bank) had grown from $458 million to $2.29 billion in a decade, and I can tell you from the latest Bank figures that J&K Bank deposits today stand at whopping $4.15 billion. Other press reports have noted that the real estate values have shot up by as much as 1000% in the previous decade, and the number of motorized vehicles has jumped up by 500% in the same period. Indeed, Jammu and Kashmir has one of the highest per capita consumption and one of the lowest GNP among the Indian states. Most of that GNP is created by the export of horticulture and handicrafts to the Indian market that Kashmiris “discovered” out of necessity following the insurgency in 1990’s. Many wisely decided that it was time to go to customers rather than the other way around as it used to be, and Kashmiri traders began their foray into the huge Indian market. This is one of best success stories of Kashmiri entrepreneurship.

Today, according to the “official” budget, Jammu and Kashmir spends nearly Rs. 300 million everyday to meet its budget needs. Nearly one-third of this amount is spent on capital and related projects (aimed at creating wealth and called “works” by the state), the other one-third is spent on services (power purchases, interest payments, state security services and repayment of outstanding arrears) and the remaining one-third is spent on salaries, benefits and pension of state employees. The state employees’ number about 400,000 (includes about 25,000 temporary hires) which is approximately 3.6% of the total state population.

Who pays for this largess? For a state with about 1% of India’s population, India has been quite generous in providing more than 10% of its capital budget to Kashmir every year. To meet the total planned spending, the state believes it can muster about 18% of its needs, 72% is contributed by the central government mostly as a grant, and the remaining 10% is raised from loans provided by either the central government or other institutions.

In addition, there is an “overdraft” (a sort of temporary daily borrowing) to allow for those times when the state may have a cash flow problem. While the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decreed that states can not borrow more than Rs. 100 million on a daily basis, the overdraft in the case of J&K is Rs. 10 billion on a daily basis.

And that is not all. There are national budget schemes outside of the normal state plans like the poverty reduction programs, affirmative action programs (Kashmir is the only state in India where the majority community benefits from such programs), rural development programs, and emergency relief programs that provide additional funding to the state. Even the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, which should be part and parcel of the state’s priorities and a “line item” within its budget, is not included in the state budget and funded separately by the center.

Jammu and Kashmir, having political clout like no other state in the Indian union gets even more special treatment – BJP government had promised another Rs. 11.5 billion this year. And recently the State finance minister, Mr. Muzaffar Hussain Baig (Harvard educated lawyer who made his mark defending Iranian government at the Hague), noted that this year he expects an additional Rs. 6.5 billion for the Baglihar power generation project, Rs. 3 billion for transitioning away from J&K Bank overdrafts and Rs. 12.5 billion loan from the ADB for infrastructure development.

Taken together, the total annual state spending is nearly Rs. 150 billion plus, which excludes money spent by the central government on military and other central security services that also pumps additional sums into the local economy. Contrary to common wisdom, the state security budget is a small fraction of state’s total budget (officially this cost is pegged at Rs. 6 billion annually but analysts believe it is more like Rs. 10 billion). Incidentally, the remittances from Kashmiris settled in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere (amounting to about Rs. 500 million annually) do not even register a blip in the state finances.

So the issue definitely is not money. If alienation of 12 million souls (here I am considering that every man, women and child in Jammu and Kashmir – not just in the valley - is alienated) can not be solved by Rs. 150 billion, then I can not see how more money can help the situation any better. Let me repeat – the issue is not a lack of funds given to the state. Nor is there a dearth of ideas on how this money could be spent.

The real issue is how effectively the money is being used. And when you look at how the state has carefully constructed a political wall around itself (called autonomy or the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution), you realize that the wall is not to preserve regional identity but to manage and run (collectively) an insider operation where politicians of all denominations and local bureaucracy (together roughly about 5% of the total population) are living off the hide of remaining 95% people. Of these, nearly 20% represent the “middle class” consisting mostly of small businesses and professionals (and their families) and another 75% who are mostly living in villages and farms. While the people in the middle have learned how to “grease the system” and be politically pliant and financially healthy under all sorts of challenging conditions, it is the rural poor – the ones who need most help - that are told that India is not providing enough development money and is “treating Kashmir as a step child”. To check how this “feudal operation” works, one has to only review the J&K Constitution and see how it treats human rights, due process, property ownership, transparency in governance and accountability.

One may ask, what are the federal laws that were extended to the state in the past that have undermined its autonomy? This is a favorite topic among people that have nurtured the Kashmir issue to remain as an “issue” until now. In 1958, India extended laws pertaining to strengthening administrative services, extending the British-modeled Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS). Indeed, if that law would not have been applied, Mr. Habibullah would have never served in Jammu and Kashmir. In the same year, the Indian Parliament extended financial oversight by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (comparable to the General Accounting Office in the U.S.) to examine state’s finances. In 1960, the federal laws extended to the state allowed a state petitioner to seek redress in the Indian Supreme Court. In 1961, industrial regulations and environmental laws were extended to the state. In 1965, laws pertaining to welfare of labor, social security and social insurance were extended to the state. No one has explained why these laws, which have enriched the civil society in Kashmir, are injurious to its regional identity.

Indeed, the state has consistently tried on its own to undermine social and gender equality, and minority rights through its distinctly separate constitution. Unlike other Indian states, there is no wealth and real-estate tax in Kashmir. So the rich are getting richer. But before any outsiders jumps up with joy to think that they have finally found their retirement haven, let it be known that state laws for foreigners (that means anyone from outside the state including India) are different from locals and this affects everything from land ownership to tax treatment, from political rights to various other benefits that only locals enjoy. Recently, the state wanted to pass a bill that would have taken away some rights of women if they married outside of Kashmir (no rights were taken from men if they do the same), and it was only after a national outcry and pressure from other regions of the state that put the bill into a freeze. Not unexpectantly, all Muslim leaders in the valley, including separatists, expressed support for this anti-women bill. Similarly, in spite of repeated directives by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to grant a minority status to Kashmiri Pandits, the state government has steadfastly refused to do so. As attractive as additional autonomy appears to my American friends, it strikes fear among women and minorities in the state.

To examine how the insider operation (circumventing Indian laws by claiming autonomy) works in Kashmir, let us look at three specific examples. Lately, we have heard a lot about how well the J&K Bank (the state is its largest share holder) is doing. But the bank has improperly profited from its insider links with the state government. Even though federal laws direct the states to keep budget overdraft under Rs. 100 million on a daily basis and requires that these sums be borrowed from the RBI, the state has set its own rules (claiming autonomy) and borrowed as much as Rs. 12 billion on an aggregate daily basis from the J&K Bank. Currently the daily overdraft amount is nearly Rs. 10 billion.  Whereas, the RBI charges about 5% interest, the J&K Bank has historically charged between 14% and 20% to the state and in the past the Bank has added another 5% interest if the borrowing falls below Rs. 6 billion. In effect there is a disincentive to get off this money spigot. From 1997 to 2001, the state paid Rs. 5.27 billion or over Rs. 1 billion annually to J&K Bank to service this debt. So why would the state agree to such outrageous terms with its own bank? The answer is not surprising when you consider that the interest payments are recovered from Indian tax payer through liberal federal grants to the state every year.

The second largest employer in the state (after the security services) is the Education Department. Part of the reason is mushrooming of new colleges and universities all over the state with mediocre standards of education. These days a 30% grade allows you to graduate to the next class, and at the height of militancy in mid 1990’s teachers were threatened and asked to leave class rooms during tests (which they did) so that students could copy and cheat openly. It is not therefore surprising to read in the CSIS report that a common complaint in Kashmir is that in spite of high unemployment, “qualified people are hard to find.” In 1969, the state exercised its right to split the Jammu and Kashmir University into two universities (to meet regional aspirations) and the Kashmir University was born. Since its inception, the Kashmir University has not prepared its annual accounts so its assets and liabilities are unknown. What is known is that the number of facility and support staff together exceed the number of students enrolled in the University, nearly 10,000 library books borrowed by about 3000 students have never been returned, and an endowment fund started in 1997 by taxing students to pay for development activities has been diverted to hire additional staff. By the way, Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in India offering free education from kindergarten to undergraduate college level. But what is the value? Is this the kind of education that will attract investment and be an incubator for new business growth?

Finally, the “watch dog” that could have helped in cleaning up the financial mess has been totally sidelined in Kashmir. The Indian GAO (called the Comptroller and Auditor General of India - CAG) dutifully audits state financial books (if available) and reports its findings to the state every year. And the state follows its ritual of tabling this report in the Legislative Assembly on the last day of the Budget session just before the session ends. Neither the chief minister nor his cabinet look at the report or discuss its recommendations. It is the “thieves honor” among state politicians (of all denominations) that allows this important report to be ignored in every budget session after budget session. I was specifically told by a state official that the CAG report is “boycotted” because it is an infringement on state’s autonomy.

Again, the reasons are obvious. The CAG report examines how “capital projects”, state public sector undertakings (PSUs) and other government institutions are doing fiscally. One year’s results are hardly different from the next. The common story every year is how massive amount of funds are either misused or appear to be missing, how most PSUs (notable exception is the J&K Bank) are losing money year after year, and how government rolls are fattened up by nepotism and improper hiring. Most of the 24 PSU’s have no financial controls, no internal audits and practically no corrective action is taken for mismanagement. Previous efforts to privatize many of the PSU’s (Indian Government nudged by suggesting the Madhav Gobole Commission), ended the same way as all other efforts to decrease the size of the public sector. No wonder the CSIS study reports that most Kashmiris believe that only state government jobs are “real jobs.” Kashmir is a proof of how excessive government spending, in spite of the best intentions, can actually debilitate citizens who are now biting the very hand that feeds them. For Kashmiris to save themselves and prevent an ecological nightmare that looms from unplanned and excessive growth in its cities, they must change their ways of depending on government dole, improve their civil society, encourage private sector growth and help in reforming the state from within.  There can not be any hope for significant outside investment (even from Indian business houses) until structural changes are carried out in the state, including new laws that ensure transparency, accountability, and a higher quality of governance.

The state cabinet is yet another example of the bloated government. Whereas the rest of the country follows the law that requires a state government to limit the size of its ministry to 15% of the strength of the legislature, the J&K state has argued that its special status (autonomy) allows it to have a ministry of any size.  So the jumbo size J&K government comprises of 36% of the state legislature, spending Rs. 11 million every month on maintaining such a large group of ministers. The bloated ministry is a natural consequence of a bloated bureaucracy mired in inefficiency, mis-management and public rip-off.

But let me not leave you with an impression that there is not suffering and alienation among the people. There is. On one side there are victims of the proxy war, jihad, separatist movement or whatever. That suffering can end only when terrorism and gun culture disappear from the valley. The Indian Army strength in Kashmir from 1947 through 1990 was not very different from what it is today and yet in all those years and through three India - Pakistan wars, we did not hear about a single case of human rights abuse by Indian security forces. However, that does not absolve the Indian security forces or the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the local police from human rights violations that are occurring today due to excessive use of force. Even those who have nothing to do with the gun are affected and need assistance on an urgent basis. For example, medical assistance is needed for treating various psychological disorders and other mental diseases not only among those in the valley today (as Mr. Habibullah has pointed out), but also among displaced Kashmiri Pandits living in various refugee camps. At the risk of sounding parochial, let me point out that there is no higher loss than the loss of your home and hearth, your roots and your culture, all of which have been experienced by Pandit refugees.

Now let me turn to another class of suffering and alienated Kashmiri people who I believe should be the focus of this economic discussion. These are people that many of you may not have met or perhaps even seen. These are poor rural people of Kashmir, mostly illiterates, mostly in poor health and mostly lacking basic necessities of life. The true challenge in Kashmir is to get past the so-called alienated people in its cities and suburbs (who are by comparison elites), and reach out to poor villagers for whom very little has changed in the last 55 years. They lead lives of acute somberness and silence that has less to do with political ideologies and more to do with loss of hope and an utter feeling of helplessness. This sense of alienation is not just limited to Muslims as most Pandit refugees in camps share the same feeling. Any assistance must put emphasis on rural poor and the return of displaced people so that everyone can join the mainstream economy.

Nearly 75% people in the state are directly or indirectly tied to farming and agriculture. The “have-nots” fall mostly in this sector. So if the state has to improve the economy as a whole, it must address the development of this sector. And yet most of the development funds in the state go to other sectors like industry and tourism which so far have brought marginal returns to the overall state economy. A recent op-ed in the Greater Kashmir pointed out this contradiction in state’s priorities. The columnist, Mr. Nissar Bhat, questioned the investment of large amounts in tourism when in fact similar investments in farm sector would pay much higher dividends in the long run.

In summary, let me highlight some of the main points in my presentation.

First, there is no solution to the Kashmir issue other than how the ground is demarcated today. It may not become an international boundary and India and Pakistan may never sign a peace deal on Kashmir, but the demarcation line is not going to change either. So the sooner we get past that mental block, and focus on economic development and growth in terms of the whole region, the better.

Second, the notion that alienation in Kashmir can be overcome by additional financial assistance is not borne by facts. Kashmiris need assistance, but this assistance has to be in the form of advice and expert help that will allow them to step out of their self-imposed isolation and learn about good governance, transparency, accountability, and citizenship responsibilities – basic civil society reconstruction stuff that India should have insisted on as an act of “tough love” but shied away from because of political expediency. If “frustrated youth” turned to gun for lack of economic opportunities, then it is yet another reason why the state needs to overhaul itself structurally and not pass the buck to the center. The truth is that the Article 370 has enslaved Kashmiri people into mediocrity, destroyed their entrepreneurial spirit, turned them into “red tape custodians”, and made corruption and hustling as a way of life.

Third, it is unlikely that there will be any major investment in the state without a redirection of its priorities and what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would call structural changes in the state laws, along with significant improvement in the governance. The public sector growth must be arrested and private sector growth encouraged. But this is easier said than done without a massive overhaul of the system and state institutions. In any case, the change can not happen overnight. You will know whether some of that change is happening when you see major Indian business houses investing in the state.

Fourth, please find ways to help the rural poor in Kashmir because the ruling classes in the state (in government, out of government or against government) and the Indian government have failed in this task. The trickle down effect, no matter how large the Indian generosity is at the beginning of the food chain, never makes it to their level. Oligarchy and sycophancy are alive and well in Kashmir. We need a completely new mind set to bring economic help to disfranchised people - both in the valley and in refugee camps. Political and economic space must be created to allow displaced Kashmiri Pandits to return to the valley and join in creating economic prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir.

Finally, I am tempted to say that as much as the United States believes that India sees everything through the “Pakistani prism”, I am convinced that America itself has a tendency to see everything from the “nuclear prism” in south asia. On this point, my advice would be that America should redirect its focus in the subcontinent and make Indian and Pakistani active participation in the SAARC and the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) as its number one priority. Kashmir can not bloom in isolation because there is no such separate country. On the other hand, if India and Pakistan become peaceful trading partners, there is every reason to believe that people from all regions of Jammu and Kashmir will find themselves in the midst of that trading boom. People will travel at will and fences and boundary will lose their significance. What wars and militancy could not achieve in Kashmir will become reality through peaceful coexistence and growing commerce.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 September 2010 20:51
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