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Contemporary Political Developments in South Asia
The complex peace process between Pakistan and India

By Sohail Mahmood (for Safe Democracy)

Sohail Mahmood writes on the history of relations between Pakistan and India and underlines the essential need for dialogue at all costs. Despite the existence of many contentious issues --from Kashmir, to Siachen, to the destabilizing United States-India partnership--. Mahmood believes that much progress has been made in creating peace in South Asia. But in order for negotiation to work, both sides must set aside their long history of enmity, and build trust. Only then can the incredible potential of Pakistan and India, wasted for so many years by senseless conflict, be realized.

Sohail Mahmood is the Associate Dean of the Department of International Relations at Preston University in Islamabad. With a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northern Arizona University, he is one of the leading experts in the world on Musharraf and Pakistan and has published dozens of books and articles on the issue.

THE CURRENT PEACE PROCESS BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND INDIA was initiated by the BJP government when Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Lahore in 1998. At the time, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif received Vajpayee graciously, and the meeting resulted in the issuance of the Lahore Declaration. Yet, immediately following 9/11, relations began to sour. The Vajpayee-Musharraf Summit of 2001 was inconclusive at best, and the Islamist attack on the Kashmiri legislative assembly and Indian Parliament only raised tensions more.

India and Pakistan began to deploy troops along the border again, mobilizing a mutual total of one million soldiers. On the brink of war, the United States stepped in and defused the crisis. Yet, Kashmir continued on as a manner of great contention. In 2004, a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was held in Islamabad, and dialogue attempts were renewed.


Ever since, negotiations have been steadily improving. Composite talks on visa liberalization, consular access, the facilitation of pilgrimage, and the creation of a cultural exchange program, have gained momentum, as well as dialogue on the mutual interests of agriculture, health, education, environment, science and technology. In 2005, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri of Pakistan, and Natwar Singh of India, made a pact to continue the peace process at all costs.

Now in the spring of 2007, despite the setback caused by the July 11th, 2006 bombings in Mumbai, the dialogue process has expanded to include some eight areas of cultural, political, and social exchange. Most recently, the Indian and Pakistani governments signed the following agreements: The Missile Test Warning Accord, the Coast Guard Hotline Accord and the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI)


At the time of Partition in 1947 the princely state of Kashmir had a Hindu ruler although Muslims constituted a majority of the state's population. India and Pakistan went to war over the territory in 1947-1948, concluding in a UN brokered ceasefire in 1949 that divided the country in two. In the Simla Agreement of 1972, India and Pakistan decided to resolve the issue through bilateral negotiations rather than international forums. Since then, Kashmir continues to pose a serious problem for both countries: 1/3 of Kashmir is under Pakistani control, the rest under Indian jurisdiction.

On April 2, 2007, Pakistan Foreign Minister Kasuri met with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss the issue of Pakistan. Both agreed on taking a sincere, purposeful, and forward-looking approach to the issue for a peaceful settlement. Musharraf maintained that Pakistan’s infiltration of Kashmir had ended, and stressed India’s need to improve its human rights record as a confidence building measure (CBM).


Many different solutions have been discussed over time. One suggested the handover of Kashmiri Muslim districts, currently under Indian jurisdiction, to Pakistani control. Another, the Chenab solution, proposed the inclusion of all of the land west of the river Chenab (the Srinagar valley) into Pakistan, while the Hindu-dominated Jammu and the Buddhist-dominated Ladakh would remain in India. While widely supported in Pakistan, it is unlikely that India will support such an agreement. The Chenab solution offers no new land to India, and instead requires the country to give up territory that it already controls.

Also important in this debate are the perceptions of the Kashmiris themselves. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, claimed that what the Kashmiris wanted most was the demilitarization of the region by Indian troops. And many, even those within the Indian government itself, share this desire. Mufti Mohammad Saeed, leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has warned that his party would quit the government if India does not reduce the number of troops it has deployed in Kashmir.

Without a settlement in Kashmir, there can be no peace between India and Pakistan. Kashmir, however, is not the only contentious issue complicating peace.


At 6,300 meters (20,700 feet) Indian troops continue to try and defend the 78-kilometer Siachen glacier at an estimated cost of up to $1 million a day. Siachen glacier, in the northernmost region of Kashmir, is an icy wasteland, and was left out of the peace agreement following the 1971 War because it was considered uninhabitable. Since 1984, when Indian troops inhabited the zone to preempt a Pakistani takeover, the two countries have held 11 rounds of talks in an attempt to resolve the conflict. There has been no fighting on Siachen since the November 2003 ceasefire. But while both countries have agreed to withdraw troops from the Siachen glacier, neither has been willing to move first.

At the 11th round of talks, held on April 8 2007, Pakistan’s Defense Secretary Kamran Rasool reportedly walked out of the meeting on the demilitarization of Siachen. Pakistan maintains the opinion that India should withdraw its troops to their 1984 positions. Yet, the Indian delegation has refused to make the first move, instead demanding that Pakistan sign a road map for peace, and authenticate the location of its troops. As an editorial in The Dawn successfully summarized, The stumbling block is the historical mistrust between the two countries.


In 2004, the United States and India agreed to expand cooperation in three specific areas: high-technology trade, civil space programs and civilian nuclear activities. This newly formed partnership has created yet another impediment to the peace process in South Asia. Before nuclear technology could be shared with India, the Congress had to approve the deal, which constituted a violation of US law banning civilian nuclear cooperation with countries that have not agreed to the Non Proliferation Treaty. India remains outside the NPT, but it has agreed to submit 14 of its 22 planned reactors to the inspections of the IAEA. The 8 power reactors exempt from inspections can provide 130-kg of plutonium-239 annually, equipping India with the capability to produce 25 to 40 nuclear weapons annually.

India’s present stockpile was estimated at about 100 nuclear bombs. There was no provision for a weapons cap in the agreement. India agreed that eventually 80 percent-90 percent of the country’s nuclear system would be under international safeguards once the deal was implemented.


What are the implications of such an agreement on Pakistan? Although the United States-India agreement concerns the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, US assistance will undoubtedly contribute to an Indian military build-up. And if India steps up the production of its nuclear material, Pakistan will undoubtedly follow suit, as will China. The agreement, therefore, subverts the NPT and may well lead to a nuclear arms build-up throughout South Asia.

The US has already assisted India’s military development in a big way. It has sold maritime aircrafts (P3Cs) as well as UAVs to further augment India’s surveillance and offensive capabilities. The US has also offered to sell F-16 and F-18 aircrafts to India along with long-term manufacturing rights. And as India continues its rapid military buildup with US support, the danger of the destabilization of the entire region is increasing drastically.


US involvement has further complicated the proposed IPI Project between Iran, Pakistan and India. In an attempt to garner favor among the Americans, India has moved to sanction Iran’s nuclear enrichment program in the United Nations, while at the same time reaffirming its commitment to the IPI project. The US, meanwhile, has taken a stance of strict opposition to the proposed pipeline, despite its importance as a CBM in the building of peace between Pakistan and India.

With the catastrophe of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the hypocrisy of sanctioning Iran while ignoring Israel, the US has turned the public opinion of the world’s Muslim population against it. In order to improve its legitimacy as a world power, and reduce pressure on Pakisan and India, the US should normalize relations with Iran and support the IPI project.


Both Pakistan and India desperately need peace in the region. Each has ambitious economic plans, which have earned them great admiration from abroad. India’s economic development has been spectacular, with a growth rate of over 8 percent for the past three years, and a massive reduction of poverty. Pakistan too has reached growth rates of 7 percent, and seen tremendous economic progress. But the conflict continues to limit the progress of both countries.

Although terrorism has caused many setbacks to the negotiation process, it is essential that dialogue be continued. Pakistan has realized the urgent necessity for negotiation, and has given much leeway to India. The Pakistani government no longer demands the fulfillment of UNSC resolutions as a prerequisite to negotiation. India, meanwhile, must fulfill its side of the bargain, and provide CBMs to move the peace process forward even more.

A long history of enmity is not easy to reverse. But once a resolution is reached, valuable energy and resources can then be diverted to solve the economic and social problems of the teeming millions living in abject poverty and helplessness in both India and Pakistan. India must step away from its path of self-aggrandizement and earnestly negotiate with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute. South Asia has enormous potential. But only through peace, can this potential be realized.

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India and Pakistan: Quest for peace in South Asia

By Sohail Mahmood (for Safe Democracy)

Sohail Mahmood discusses the growing need for a peaceful solution to the age-old conflict between India and Pakistan. Although enmity runs deep, and the issue of Kashmir will be difficult to resolve, by establishing an environment of patience, trust, credibility, and goodwill, peace may be possible in South Asia. It is time that the people of both Pakistan and India unite with the international community in sending a message of peace to their leaders. In Mahmood’s opinion, a lasting peace is long overdue, to enable both countries to be able to address the important issues of economic and political development, like economic growth, the strengthening of political institutions, and finding a solution to widespread poverty.

Sohail Mahmood is the Associate Dean of the Department of International Relations at Preston University in Islamabad. With a Ph.D. in Political Science from Northern Arizona University, he is one of the leading experts in the world on Musharraf and Pakistan and has published dozens of books and articles on the issue.

WITH FOUR WARS UNDER ITS BELT, rampant international terrorism, and continuing hostility over the Kashmir region, the conflict between India and Pakistan has been one of the main destabilizing factors in South Asia for decades.

Peace in this region of the world is sorely needed; but the process is easier said than done. Many obstacles continue to impede the progress of peace.

The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai aroused suspicions of a Pakistani connection among the Indian media, who linked the bombings to the so-called terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, once based in Pakistan. As a result, President Manmohan Singh immediately called off all peace talks.

Recently, however, Singh met with General Musharraf in the United States, raising hopes that the stalemate in the peace process between Pakistan and India had come to an end. The two countries have until recently considered each other bitter enemies. Future difficulty lies in overcoming those sectors of the population that want continued war.


Reality is perceived in numerous ways by various parties to any dispute; therefore, understanding perceptions, and for that matter misperceptions, is very important. We can perceive reality only through our own ideological lens or frameworks, which in turn shapes our perceptions and changes how we may think or feel on a certain issue.
Some Indian circles perceive Pakistan to be behind the attacks in Mumbai. This is not the first time that Pakistan has been implicated in terrorist attacks on Indian soil: in 2001, 38 people were killed in a devastating attack on the Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar; later that year, an armed attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi left 14 people dead. For both of these attacks, Pakistani–backed Kashmiri militants were believed to be responsible, resulting in a build-up of troops along the Indo-Pakistani border, military exchanges, and heightened fears about the danger of a growing conflict.

Then, in January of 2002, President Musharraf gave a keynote speech pledging that Pakistan would not allow terrorists to operate on Pakistani soil. He called on the government of India to resolve the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir through dialogue. And in January of 2004, the new Congress-led coalition Indian government rekindled peace talks with General Musharraf’s regime in Pakistan. Soon after, a composite dialogue resulted in a number of confidence building measures, and a greater flow of travel between the two countries.


Peace is possible in South Asia, but one of the main stumbling blocks is the issue of Kashmir. The burden of history is heavy in this part of the world: some 80,000 people have been killed in Indian Kashmir since 1989, when a Muslim separatist revolt against Indian rule erupted. India has consistently maintained that Pakistan has been training and supplying weapons to these militant separatists. Since 2003, a fragile ceasefire has managed to stop the fighting. But the people of Kashmir have suffered enormously, and deserve a peaceful solution to so many years of bloodshed.

Kashmir is the key element in building a lasting peace between Pakistan and India. Pakistan has declared itself ready to negotiate a settlement, provided that it reflects the aspirations of the Kashmiris as well as being acceptable to both India and Pakistan. Yet, India will have to make huge concessions in its policy on Kashmir before peace can be possible.

The United States, meanwhile, have encouraged the continuance of dialogue, and offered to facilitate talks on Kashmir. With outside assistance many feel that a real breakthrough may be possible.


In order to accomplish peace, the Indian army must reduce the number of its troops in the Kashmir Valley and a third party must enter the country to stop the human rights violations constantly perpetrated by Indian security forces. Pakistan has already dismantled the militant organizations based in Kashmir but it must consider active cooperation with the Indian army to prevent militants from crossing over into Kashmir.

In the long run an autonomous Kashmir must be created, for peace to be achieved, with a minimum of Pakistani and Indian control, thus adopting the principle of diluted sovereignty. Learning from South Tyrol’s own bid for autonomy in 1972, the Kashmir Muslims must organize and come to recognize the moderate APHC --All Parties Hurriyat Conference-- as their legitimate representative. A committee, made up of Indians, Pakistanis, Kashmiris, and some third-party representatives like the UNO, should be pieced together in order to achieve this autonomous shift. The local population deserves the right of self-determination, and with proper planning this part of the world will be able to move forward in peace and justice.


Peace is very important for the growth and development of the Pakistani government and economy. Pakistan needs time and proper planning to rebuild and strengthen its institutions, and to put its economic plans into effect. Economic cooperation over such issues as Iran’s gas pipeline should be able to create an environment of mutual understanding. Without peace with India, the development of Pakistan will be greatly hindered. Pakistan, therefore, must concentrate on the next phase of the composite dialogue: on building up mutual trust and commitment.
Provoking Pakistan now over the allegations regarding the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks would be both needless and counterproductive. The peace process is extremely fragile, and must be handled delicately.

The ideological divide between Muslims and Hindus is vast, and a long history of enmity is not easily reversible. But taking the lingering economic and social problems of the two countries into account, there should be a greater desire for peace simply to be able to divert valuable energy and resources to solve the issue of poverty. The scarce resources of both countries are being squandered on the construction of larger and larger defense initiatives. If peace is established, the areas of domestic politics concerning human development can be given the attention and resources that they so direly need.


Pakistan needs help from abroad. The people of South Asia must send a clear message of their desire for peace to the entire world. The support and resources of the international community will be invaluable in forging strong relations between Pakistan and India, and in beginning a global movement for peace.

The governments of both nations have failed in bringing peace to their people so far. They have ignored pressing social and economic issues in order to bolster their defense budgets. General Musharraf has hidden behind the façade of democracy, whose economic gains have failed to reach down to the masses.

Peace will not be easy in South Asia. The process is long, and an environment of patience, trust, credibility, and goodwill is essential for progress to be made. The stakes are high, but times are changing. General elections in Pakistan are going to be held next year, so it is time for the people to rise up and send a clear message to their country. By organizing themselves massively using the Internet, and other modern tools of communication, their message will not be ignored: We, the people, yearn for peace and justice for all.

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