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Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies

Kashmir

A Principle-Based Approach Against “Chronic Impasse” in Kashmir

Not even two weeks after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s official visit to the United States[1], on 5 August 2019, the Indian Parliament adopted a law abolishing all privileges granted to the autonomous region of Jammu and Kashmir. [2]

This initiative, along with the conjuncture in the context of great power competition, is considered to be a move that can bring the Kashmir problem to the brink of a chronic impasse, which is already impossible to solve in the near future.

Kashmir map

Kashmir region has borders with India, Pakistan and China / Wikipedia Commons

 

1. Recent Developments in the Context of Great Power Competition

From the perspective of the great power competition between the USA and China, it can be said that there are different motivations in the background.

Trump responded positively to Imran Khan’s request for US President Donald J. Trump to be a mediator on Kashmir[3]. However, the Indian administration opposed this proposal. Trump stated that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made such a request from him. The Indian administration did not hesitate to deny the President of the United States. [4]  In general, it seems that India does not have a strong desire to solve the problem.

On the other hand, the fact that both China and the US administrations did not react strongly to India’s decision to abolish all privileges granted to the autonomous region of Jammu and Kashmir shows that both superpowers are not willing to resolve the Kashmir problem in favor of any party.

China attaches high importance to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) [5], one of the six corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative[6] (BRI). Without Pakistani Kashmir, CPEC cannot be fully operational.[7] Moreover, Sino-Pakistani relations have been at a very high level in recent years, and both China and Pakistan are very satisfied with this level of relationship. [8]

For the United States, India is vital to containing China and balancing China’s power in the region. The positive progress of the peace talks in Afghanistan[9] also shows that the US will need Pakistan less and Pakistan’s strategic importance for the US will diminish in the coming period.

Trump Imran Khan Kashmir

Trump and Imran Khan met in Washington in July 2019 / AP, AFP

The fact that Trump had found out that Pakistan had no intention of going into a war for Kashmir during a meeting with Imran Khan may have led India to a known Kashmir decision. Considering all these conditions, it is clear that the US will stand with India without hesitation if it has to make a choice between India and Pakistan.

 

2. Jammu and Kashmir Puzzle

India-Pakistan relations, which came to the brink of war after the Pulwama Attack, were re-strained this time with the abolition of the Jammu and Kashmir autonomous status which was defined in Article 307 of the Indian Constitution. The status of the region is defined in Article 307 of the Indian Constitution as follows: “Changes in constitutional status and sovereignty are subject to the approval of the autonomous government.” [10]

The autonomous administration of Jammu and Kashmir did not have a government for over a year. [11] This has led to a rapid bypass of the legal aspects of this abolition. This constitutional guarantee constitutes the main reason for the statements made by the UK and EU countries that this decision taken by India is not legal. [12]

The US partnership policy towards Pakistan has lost its importance along with the Afghanistan negotiations process. In addition, India has become a stronger candidate for the United States than Pakistan[13], as the US has brought up the Indo-Pacific expansion as a need to balance China’s rising power. From this point of view, with the Afghanistan War, the US accused Pakistan of not being determined in the fight against terrorism and the partnerships began to lose altitude. India, on the other hand, is evolving into an important geostrategic partner for the US in the long-term Asian policies. It is considered that the US Indo-Pacific approach is not only a naval action plan but that the United States will continue to approach India economically and politically with a geostrategic approach.[14]

 

3. Kashmir Problem on the Brink of “Chronic Impasse”

Attitudes are becoming more and more evident in the great power competition between China and the United States. The two superpowers are expected to engage in tougher competition with Southeast Asia as their epicenter in the coming period. The fact that Pakistan is on the side of China and India on the side of the USA emerges as a situation dictated by the current conjuncture. The current attitudes of the US and China confirm this.

The Kashmir problem, in which many regional and international actors play a role, has not been solved for over 70 years. Pakistan and India see the region as an integral part of their territory. The fact that India does not allow the intervention of international powers also leads to a deadlock. Hundreds of people lost their lives and 1.5 million people became homeless in the region where frequent clashes took place.

According to the 1941 census, 77% of the population in the region was Muslims, 20% was Hindus and 3% was Buddhists and Sikhs. According to 2011 data, 68.3% of the population is Muslims, 28.4% is Hindus, 1.7% is Sikhs, 0.7% is Buddhists and 0.5% is Christians. In 2018, the estimated population of the region has exceeded 14 million.[15]

Forty-five security guards of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in the terrorist attack that hit Kashmir’s Indian-controlled town of Pulwama on February 14, 2019. Following the suicide bombing undertaken by the Jaysh-i Muhammad organization, Indian forces carried out a 16-hour operation and brought the tensions between the two countries to the breaking point.[16]

 

Conclusion

Following the Pulwama Attack, the possibility of a hot conflict in India-Pakistan relations has started to be mentioned. All the developments in the post-Pulwama period and finally India’s decision to change the constitution led the Kashmir Problem to an impasse.

India’s latest move will not only harm the ownership approach of almost 190 million Muslims living in the borders of the country but will also overshadow India’s claim that it is the “world’s largest democracy”. The fact that New Delhi, which has been shown as an example of the sustainability of democracy in Asia, concedes this post-election approach may also lead to very grave consequences in terms of international relations.

From this perspective, it is clear that the nationalist Modi government is causing much greater problems than the Kashmir context. The consequences of such a crisis, which could undermine India’s territorial integrity, have the potential to have negative effects on the 1.3 billion population and the entire Indo-Pacific region.

Within the framework of great power competition and regional relations, the following conclusions can be reached:

  • India does not seem to have a strong desire to solve the problem.
  • It seems that both the US and China are not willing to resolve the Kashmir problem in favor of any party.
  • The US’ need for Pakistan and the strategic importance of this country are expected to decline in the coming period.
  • Finally, the Kashmir problem is on the brink of a “chronic impasse” as a result of the preferences of regional and global actors.

 

Policy Recommendations

In terms of both regional and world security, a mechanism involving all the parties responsible for the peaceful settlement of the problem is essential. However, if the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) is not suitable for finding a better alternative, one should consider freezing the problem. However, this should not lead to an exception regime that justifies the human rights violations faced by the Kashmir people indefinitely.

BAAM published a policy paper (in Turkish) with the title “After the Pulwama Attack: What’s at stake for Turkey with regard to the tension in South Asia?”, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama Attack on February 14, 2019. Policy Paper concluded that “given the continued instability creates a favorable ground for terrorism, Kashmir problem should be carefully monitored in terms of its economic and political impacts on both its neighboring countries and Turkey.” This publication included a number of policy recommendations for political decision-makers and civil society in Turkey. BAAM had urged the civil society and academia in Turkey and proposed to examine the Kashmir problem in all its dimensions and that Turkey shall develop a strategy based on peace and stability.

In this context, BAAM organized an international panel on 21 August 2019 in Ankara with the title of “South Asia in 21st Century International Politics: Pakistan and India’s Role in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Kashmir.” [17] In the panel, chaired by BAAM Senior Researcher MD Nazmul Islam, Umar Kerim, a London-based researcher at the Royal United Institute of Services (RUSI) and Iftikhar Gilani, senior journalist for the Anadolu Agency, spoke and shared his views on the solution of the Kashmir issue. In the panel, it was pointed out that an approach of “Kashmir without Kashmiris” made the problem chronic.

BAAM reiterates its call and declares that it is ready to cooperate with the institutions in our country in the context of examining the Kashmir Problem and developing solution alternatives.

 

 

BAAM presents the following policy recommendations for the solution of the Kashmir Problem at the regional and global level:

 

  • India should abandon its repressive policies in Jammu and Kashmir

Prime Minister Modi continues his populist policies at the expense of the constitution. These populist policies are likely to lead to instability, leading to consequences that can fuel conflicts. The Modi Government, which refrained from making a serious statement to the international public, put India and the region into a difficult situation with the abolition decision. India must immediately abide by the fundamental principles of national and international law.

  • Freedom of expression of Kashmiri actors must be guaranteed

The approach of “Kashmir without Kashmiris” not only postpones the resolution of the problem but also increases the likelihood of conflict and fueling instability in the region. The views of political parties and civil society organizations that are legitimate representatives of the Kashmir people should be represented on an international level. Pakistan and India, the parties to the problem, should ensure the freedom of expression of the Kashmir people.

  • Turkey should handle the “chronic impasse” with a principle-based approach.

China and the United States’ approach, which sees the lack of solution as the lesser evil, will open the door to a low-intensity conflict between India and Pakistan, especially in Kashmir. Turkey, as a state with political and economic interests in the region, should take place alongside peace and stability instead of explicitly take a position on any side.

 

  • Turkey should continue to promote peace and stability with Asia Anew Initiative

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a speech at the opening of the 11th Ambassadors Conference held in Ankara and announced Turkey’s “Asia Anew” initiative. The goals of the initiative have been listed as follows: To reinforce the unifying position of Turkey between Europe and Asia, to contribute to sustainable development and to make a progress as a knowledge society. The initiative will be the basis for a new policy that will look after Asia’s differences but can look at the region in a holistic way. With this initiative, our country has shared its strong will with the world to capture a whole new energy through equality, mutual respect, principles expressed in the UN Charter, common values and harmony with Asia. Within the scope of this initiative, it is planned that Turkey will take steps to improve political, economic and cultural relations with Asian countries.

In this context, Turkey should encourage all relevant parties to engage in a dialogue based on the principles of peace and stability. Turkey should develop multidimensional strategies to deepen economic, social and cultural relations with all countries in the region, especially India and Pakistan.

In order for “Asia Anew” initiative to be successful, a structure that will contribute to the development of relations with the region should be established with the participation of public institutions, universities, think tanks and civil society in our country. This structure will beneficial for Turkey to create and develop its strategy in Asia.

 

References

[1] The Guardian, “Imran Khan hopes to win over Donald Trump in first US visit”, 21 July 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/21/imran-khan-hopes-to-win-over-donald-trump-in-first-us-visit.

[2] BBC, “Kashmir in lockdown after autonomy scrapped”, 6 August 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49246434.

[3] Gulf  News, “Imran Khan: Time right for Trump mediation on Kashmir”, 4 August 2019, https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/imran-khan-time-right-for-trump-mediation-on-kashmir-1.65628184.

[4] BBC, “India denies PM Modi asked Trump to mediate in Kashmir conflict”, 23 July 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49079716.

[5] For detailed information on CPEC: Mehmet Enes Beşer, “Çin-Pakistan Ekonomik Koridoru: Kuşak ve Yolun Kilidi”, Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies, 14 August 2018, http://bogaziciasya.com/cin-pakistan-ekonomik-koridoru.

[6] For detailed information on BRI: Mehmet Enes Beşer, “Çin’in Dünyaya Açılma Girişimi: Kuşak ve Yol Girişimi”, Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies, 29 May 2018, http://bogaziciasya.com/cinin-dunyaya-acilma-girisimi-kusak-ve-yol.

[7] For an analysis discussing the impacts of BRI on Kasmir problem:  Haşim Türker, “Belt and Road Initiative: Does it Contribute to the Solution of the Kashmir Problem?”, 5 March 2019,  http://en.bogaziciasya.com/belt-road-initiative-kashmir-problem.

[8] Imran Khan made his first official visit to China between 2-5 November 2018. During this visit, the Pakistani leader met with Chinese president Xi Jinping, vice-president Wang Qishan, ministers, government and corporate sector representatives.” Kübranur Korkmaz, “Çin-Pakistan İlişkilerinde Yeni Dönem: İmran Khan’ın Ziyareti”, Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies, 14 November 2018, http://bogaziciasya.com/imran-khan-cin-ziyareti.

[9] For detailed information on Afghanistan peace talks:  Ebru Alagöz, “Hiç Bitmeyen Öykü: Afganistan Barış Müzakereleri”, Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies, 28 June 2019,  http://bogaziciasya.com/afganistan-baris-muzakereleri.

[10] Indian Constitution “भारत का संविधान”, https://www.india.gov.in/hi/my-government/constitution-india/constitution-india-full-text.

[11] The Wall Street Journal, “India Ends Kashmir’s Special Status”, 5 August 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/india-moves-to-end-jammu-and-kashmirs-special-status-11564988843.

[12] The Guardian, “India’s cancellation of Kashmir’s special status will have consequences”, 5 August 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/05/india-cancellation-of-kashmir-special-status-will-have-consequences.

[13] US Department of Defense, “Esper Emphasizes Importance of Indo-Pacific to United States”, 4 August 2019, https://www.defense.gov/explore/story/Article/1925131/esper-emphasizes-importance-of-indo-pacific-to-united-states.

[14] “Especially since 2017, the US’ view of the region from the “Indo-Pacific” perspective has led to an inevitable change in China’s perspective.” See Haşim Türker, “National Defense Strategy of China”, 29 July 2019, http://en.bogaziciasya.com/national-defense-strategy-china.

[15] For detailed information on Kashmir Proble: Kübranur Korkmaz, “Kashmir Problem in the Triangle of Pakistan-India-China”,  Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies, 17 February 2018, http://en.bogaziciasya.com/kashmir-problem-in-the-triangle-of-pakistan-india-china.

[16] Fort he policy paper published after the Pulwama attacks: Mehmet Enes Beşer & Doğukan Doğu, “Pulwama Saldırısının Ardından: Güney Asya’daki Gerilim Türkiye’yi Neden İlgilendiriyor?”, 26 February 2019, http://bogaziciasya.com/pulwara-saldirisinin-ardindan.

[17] Anadolu Agency, “India’s Kashmir move may produce dire results: Experts”, 6 August 2019, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/india-s-kashmir-move-may-produce-dire-results-experts/1550434.

 

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**Authors: Mehmet Enes BEŞER & Dr. Haşim TÜRKER & Doğukan DOĞU

besermehmetenes@gmail.com