Monday, January 14

KAC / Kashmir Center Announced the Results of International Essay Contest on Kashmir

Washington, D.C. June 30, 2006. Dr. Ghulam-Nabi Fai, Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council / Kashmir Center announced that the panel of judges of the International Essay Contest, namely, Professor Stanley Wolpert, University of California, Los Angeles, [Chair], Mr. Ved Bhasin, Editor-in-Chief, Kashmir Times [Member] & Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad, University of Hampton, Virginia [Member] declared the final results of the essay contest on Kashmir. The theme of the essay was "South Asian Stability Post President Bush's Visit” and essayists were assigned to incorporate any one of the following sub-themes: Kashmir: New Hopes and Aspirations; Is Self-Governance a means towards Self-Determination?; Demilitarization: First step towards setting a stage for settlement; and Kashmir: Human Rights Dimension.

Dr. Fai reported that the Chairman of the Panel, Prof. Stanley Wolpert, included the following comments along the final results to the Executive Director of the Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir Center "I hope you agree, and congratulate you on your scrupulous care and complete fairness. Please convey my heartiest congratulations and thanks as well to Judges Ved Bhasin and Dr. Ahmad, and to each of the brilliant prize-winners for their inspiring work in helping all Kashmiris find the elusive road leading to a just and lasting Peace."

Here are the results:

Undergraduates: First Prize: Hyder Syed, (United States); Second Prize: Ousman Noor (United Kingdom); Third Prize: Iqbal Hussain Mir, (Kashmir)
Graduates: First Prize: Gazala Paul, (India); Second Prize: Bhaskar Dasgupta, (United Kingdom); Third Prize: Ahmed Nazeer Motta, (Kashmir)
Professionals: First Prize: Amit Chakraborty, (India); Second Prize: Falendra Kumar Sudan, (Jammu); Third Prize: Nasir Hussain Munshi, (Ladakh)

Dr. Fai explained that the Panel of Judges considered all perspectives and viewpoints, regardless of the inclinations of the writers. There were 27 essays submitted in total, out of which 12 were for the Undergraduate Category; 7 for the Graduate Category and 8 for the Professional Category. The contestants consisted of 20 males and 7 females. The contestants were from various countries including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Kenya, and Malaysia. Dr. Fai emphasized that winners of the essays of the three categories had clearly addressed the theme and sub-themes as stated above, and that they constructively complemented their arguments through the usage of proper objective criteria in support of their positions.

Dr. Fai pointed out that winners of the top nine essays would receive cash prizes as follows: Undergraduate students [US$ 500.00], Graduate students [US$ 800.00], and Professionals [US$ 1,000.00]. In addition, the top winners in the three categories, namely, Mr. Hyder Syed, Ms. Gazala Paul and Mr. Amit Chakraborty will be invited to read out their winning essays at the Sixth International Kashmir Peace Conference to be held on July 20-21, 2006 at the Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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Here's the essay in question (this was written 12 June 2006):

What next for the Kashmir Conflict?

The Kashmir conflict is one of the most stubborn geopolitical challenges in the world, akin to the Israeli–Palestinian crisis. The conflict has antecedents going back sixty years, with roots of the issue planted hundreds of years ago. While it would have been difficult to resolve in 1947, each subsequent political and military step by the various parties has pushed the issue into even more stubborn territory. Though the background to the conflict is public, it is useful to review some key points before we can explore some short and medium term initiatives which can possibly decrease the severity of the conflict if not offer a resolution.

Background to the conflict

It is difficult to generalise the background to the Kashmir conflict because of the bitterness of the fight and the deep divisions among the various parties involved. A cause which may be trivial to a particular party is of importance to another. But most parties agree on the following:

· Kashmir, a Muslim majority state ruled by Hindu kings, contains: Gilgit and Baltistan in the north; a block of land ceded to China in the north-east; Leh and Kargil in the east; Kashmir Valley and Jammu.

· The principle behind the post partition division of geographical units to India or Pakistan was based on the religious majority in geographical areas and will of the state ruler. That said there were princely states where this principle did not hold, such as Junagarh, Hyderabad and of course, Kashmir. A promised plebiscite on the future of the state never took place. India claims the Jammu Kashmir State Parliament voted on this issue, so a plebiscite was needless, while Pakistan does not believe the state parliament vote adheres to the spirit/letter of the original plebiscite. Some Kashmiris say the original plebiscite is wrong, as it only offers accession to India and Pakistan without mention of independence.

· Major ethnic units in Kashmir are Shia and Sunni Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and tiny minorities of other ethnicities (Christians and Sikhs).

· India and Pakistan have fought three wars (1948, 1965, and 1999) over this territory.

· Kashmir was an indirect reason for the 1971 war.

· A militant campaign has been raging in the state since 1989.

· Since 2002, a ceasefire between India and Pakistan has held, although terrorism has not ended. Intermittent talks took place between the three main groups, India, Pakistan and Kashmiri groups with some Confidence Building Measures (CBM) performed.

What do the main stakeholders want?

Given the long history of the conflict, a polarisation and fragmentation of the various groups (with a direct or indirect stake) in the conflict happened. Before we talk about various solutions, it is important to know the direct groups involved:

· Pakistan: Created as a homeland for Muslims, distinct from that of Hindu Majority and Secular India. Kashmir is the last unfinished business of the Partition. Until Kashmir is part of Pakistan, Pakistan’s raison d’être is incomplete. The letter K in Pakistan stands for Kashmir, so attainment of Kashmir is core to the identity and ideology of Pakistan. The Kashmiri cause gives the army reason to grab disproportionate state resources. In addition, because of the religious based foundation of the state, non-state actors, namely the religious parties, are a major and vocal stakeholder in the Kashmir issue.

· India: A strongly democratic secular country, the presence of a Muslim majority state within the ambit of the Indian constitution gives strength to the secular state (both the central government and the local Jammu and Kashmir state government) ideology. The central and state government are not always 100% aligned in their objectives, but both work together. A big security force is present in the state, comprising of regular army troops, paramilitary forces, counter–terrorist forces, state police forces and a myriad of intelligence agencies. The security forces are accused of many human right abuses, but the situation is slowly improving.

· The Kashmiri’s. There are many groups involved and while it is impossible to mention all of them, broadly speaking, we can classify them as follows:

o The militants belong to three groups: the secular independence seeking terrorists (rapidly dwindling in number and influence); the native Kashmiri militants (slowly reducing under diminished Pakistani support and better Indian counter-terror measures) and the foreign militants (usually Pakistani but also from the international jehadi brigades). These militants are not aligned to the Kashmiri political parties and the Pakistani state shows strong yet sporadic control over them.

o The Kashmiri Hindu’s are the largest state minority, despite ethnic cleansing from Kashmir proper since the latest uprising. They are either in refugee camps in India, the Jammu region or have subsumed themselves in India proper. They have little political power and suffer from the flip side of secular India’s objectives (Secular India cannot be seen to provide any major relief to Hindus for fear of being seen as partial to the Hindu majority)

o The Muslims in Kashmir consist of Shia Muslims in Pakistan Kashmir, who resent the pogroms by the hardline Sunni militia and the Sunni Muslims in Indian Kashmir, who criticise Indian rule.

o The Buddhists, a small but significant minority, are mostly present in north-east Kashmir in Laddakh and Leh. Despite their usual non-involvement in the issue, tensions are rising between them and the Muslim population as their sympathies lie with Secular India.

o The Political parties (in Indian Kashmir only, as the political parties in Pakistani Kashmir are not real political parties as we know them, but rather nebulous Pakistani state sponsored groups) include the Indian aligned groups such as the Congress I, National Conference (and variants), People Democratic Party, the secular groupings such as the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and the Pakistani aligned breakaway grouping of the Hurriyat Conference, such as headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Though they have a following within the Valley itself, it is difficult to know their support base, as only the Indian aligned political parties have contested municipal, state and central elections.

o The general populace is, of course, tired of the decade’s long fight and yearns for normality and economic growth. The local state economy is growing (but not as much as it should) after huge central government funding, the India-Pakistan ceasefire and increasingly efficient counter-terror measures.

The external indirect stakeholders are a motley collection of organisations and countries noted for their ineffectual role in resolving this crisis. For example, while the United Nations was present in Kashmir since the first ceasefire in 1948, it is, for all practical purposes useless and ignored by all. Similarly, Pakistan uses the Organisation of Islamic Countries to raise the Kashmir issue regularly and is repeatedly ignored or diplomatically managed away by India. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation cannot resolve bilateral issues.

The United Kingdom retains a role by dint of its colonial history, the presence of large number of Kashmiri origin immigrants and groups in the UK itself and London being one of the world’s diplomatic capitals. America, on the other hand, has kept a low-profile in Kashmir, although it has much more influence and depth inside Pakistan (witness the role of President Clinton during the aftermath of the Kargil War). China is another strange participant. On one hand, it controls Kashmiri territory as well as supports Pakistan’s Army. It has provided funding and materials to build the Karakorum Highway connecting Pakistan with China. While difficult to draw independent conclusions about the influence coefficient of all these organisations and countries, clearly international organisations will simply never be able to play a big role in resolving the Kashmiri issue. The only two countries which have some influence on Pakistan are the USA and China. India, on the other hand, is prickly about its international standing and has not and never will accept any form of public intervention by any other country.

What is the solution?

The BBC ( has put together a set of pages with various solutions such as Kashmir accedes to Pakistan; Kashmir accedes to India, Kashmir becomes independent and variants of the status quo by adjusting the Line of Control (the 1948 ceasefire line) up and down, etc. The site briefly explains each proposed solution and mentions the challenges and difficulties of each. An interested and independent observer would note that none of the solutions are palatable to all direct stakeholders and the important point is that none of the stakeholders will agree to compromise on the key issues.

In other words, it has become a question of “izzat” (honour) and of a perception of identity and survival to the various parties involved. If India accepts a plebiscite, then it is certain that it will lose and no Indian central government can accept that, in addition, it will violate the secular ideology of India. If Pakistan accepts the LoC as the international border that means denying the core ideology of Pakistan. For the Kashmiri jehadi’s to accept political control by India over Kashmir (in any form) is to violate their religious precepts. Given the identification of the other competing stakeholders as the enemy, any compromise is simply not possible. Once you factor in the degree of militancy and the possibility of murders of leaders who dare even suggest a compromise, talk of a solution is plainly impossible as compromise is labelled as selling out to the enemy and leading to the extinction of national/group identity.

A political solution involving territory between two parties is usually only reached after a war, where one party is defeated and thus has to accept the solution, or else, a third-party or parties force/mediate between the two to accept some territorial swaps. Kashmir, as we have seen, does not have a defeated party and no external party has enough leverage to force neither Pakistan nor India into a political solution. Once we include existential reasons such as national survival/identity, religious or secular ideologies, the chances of a lasting political solution are near zero if not negative. Negative in the sense there is a strong chance the current peace process (if the desultory talks and halting steps can be considered as such) can get derailed after some dramatic terrorist attack on a high-profile target or a serious and public human rights violation.

Pushing for a solution now will be useless due to deeply entrenched political positions based on maximalist objectives of all the parties involved. A solution has to be a win-win one, but because of this maximalist perspective, no party is willing to give up any positions/points for the greater good. In other words, everybody is out to get all they can get and damn the rest. None of the solutions will be acceptable because of the intransigence of all the parties involved in the current climate.

If no solutions are acceptable, then what?

One looks at the entrenched positions, the history of the conflict and simply fails to think of a good, reasonable solution acceptable to all concerned. For sake of brevity, one can lessen the challenge to trying to reconcile three mutually incompatible objectives, wish for independence by the Kashmiris, wish to keep Kashmir within India for secular reasons and wish to get Kashmir for Pakistan for religious reasons. Given a limited territorial space and incompatibility of the objectives, there can be no solution. But if no solutions are acceptable to all parties right now, that does not mean there can be no mutually acceptable solutions in the future. So the ground rules have to change.

How can we change ground rules?

When a state gets subsumed into a supranational state, then territorial conflicts change character and become more diffuse, examples such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Cyprus within supranational European State spring to mind. These conflicts have lost much potency once the idea of states fighting over territory got included into the overarching European identity. They have not been resolved, but the maximalist positions became much less. Another example is to convert hard, fenced, land mined borders into soft ones. When men, material, money and machines can move freely over borders, then hard nationalistic or identity politics lose much of their edge. There is, of course, the violent alternative of having an all-out war, where one party defeats the other and essentially removes it from the equation, but no sane person would agree to the last alternative. Irrespective of which option is selected, the objective remains the same, namely to try moving people and parties away from their entrenched positions into fertile soil to allow a solution to emerge in time.

This means that instead of just aiming for a final solution, slow interim steps should be taken to change the ground rules. Of course, for communication and public appetite, a constant reassuring stream of high-quality messages must be transmitted by all senior leaders. Some of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) that can be launched:

1. Economic measures: A Free trade agreement between India and Pakistan would be valuable. Special attention can be given to Kashmir, so Kashmiri made products can be given tax exceptions, for purchase and sale in both India and Pakistan as well as for export. Tourism also provides great optimism, as Indians going to Kashmir for tourism can be allowed access to say the northern areas for extending their stay. Subsidies and tax exemptions can be given to foreign investors.

2. Social measures: Allowing greater movement of citizens across the border will be worthwhile. The bus, truck and train CBMs notwithstanding, greater openness is suggested. Security can be a concern, but the movement (not only for Kashmiris) has to be intensified. In addition, cross regional marriages should be encouraged, educational opportunities – such as reserved seats, scholarships, etc. opened to people from both sides of the border.

3. Cultural measures: Exchange of music, drama, film and other mediums should be strongly encouraged to highlight the overarching theme of a common identity and Kashmiriat..

4. Politics and Governance: Political parties should be governed under a code of conduct which stresses peaceful resolution of issues, renounces violence, etc. On both sides of the border, true local governance has to be set up. For example, on the Indian side, other than the border areas, all security forces should be brought under local political control. On the Pakistani side, a true local Kashmiri polity should be allowed to develop rather than being led from Islamabad.

5. Law & Order: The judiciary on both sides should be strengthened. An independent body will review reported human rights crimes by all parties (security forces and militants). An independent Kashmir wide Human Rights Council (with possible observer status to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International etc.) granted powers and wide participation from both sides of the border.

6. The media: The media must play a big role, and open transparency is essential. Allowing private channels in radio, TV and internet will help to provide a diversity of opinions. Internet and mobile communications to be increased in penetration and improved.

7. International Relations between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan can take many steps on the diplomatic side to allow commonalities to rule rather than differences to divide. Such as a public announcement that both India and Pakistan’s WTO working groups will work together. Or announce that India and Pakistan will work on commonalities such as a joint UN peacekeeping force (perhaps not peace enforcement initially); technical aid to poor countries; law of the sea, environmental issues and the Kyoto treaty; water management; etc.

What are the risks and how to mitigate them?

As mentioned earlier, even these small interim ground rule changing steps can be threatened by many events. There are three major possible events (with a reasonably high probability of happening over the next 3-5 years) which can seriously put the peace process into reverse.

1. A big terrorist strike in Kashmir or India

As noted before, the militant groups in Pakistan are not under the full control of the Pakistani Army and intelligence services. In other words, for this peace process to work, the militants have to be reined in to allow social and economic life to begin. This is not easy as the jehadi toothpaste, once squeezed out, is difficult to return into the tube. While not impossible, the Pakistani Army will have to increase the pressure on these militant groups to reduce their activities. It is, of course, impossible to imagine the groups can be made to disband; dialling down their activities will allow the CBMs to launch and take root.

2. A big human rights issue emerges in India because of the security forces

While the Indian armed forces are improving their control over human right abuses, there is indeed a chance that a serious incident might happen which can seriously risk the CBMs. The militants could take up arms again, rebelling against the Pakistani Army authority, and ordinary folks turn off the entire peace process. The current human rights management process within the Indian security forces has to be strengthened and made transparent to the public.

3. Change of government in India

Although both the BJP and the Congress led coalitions are committed to the peace process and are determined to find a solution, it is not inconceivable that a hardline government takes power after the current one. This new government may roll back the peace process, halt it or even embark on a full war, especially if a big terrorist strike happens (or for example, a high-profile political leader is assassinated). While mitigating actions against such an eventuality are difficult to note, the best defence against it is to let a thousand CBMs flower. More CBMs will lessen the chance of all of them being rolled back. Also, the more of India is involved (by greater tourism, economic links, educational links, etc.), the more difficult it would be for the hardline government to roll back the process.

4. Change of government in Pakistan

While currently General Musharraf is in charge of the Pakistani Army, there is a possibility of an internal army revolt/coup where a hard-line officer takes over. Or there is a national movement by the Pakistani religious parties which forces the army to hand-over power to the civilians as has happened before. In either case, the peace process can be rolled back and the jehadi reins loosened. Given the democratic deficit and tradition of autocratic rule in Pakistan, even an increase in the number of CBMs is no defence against all of them being stopped. The only possible mitigation is American pressure and for this, USA can be asked to be a discreet and unofficial guarantor of these CBMs.


It will take political will, persistence and mainly dedication to seek a true peace and stability across all sections of the stakeholders. It will require patience and understanding to deal with mistakes and mistakes will be made. Given the current leadership of Pakistan and India, there is hope that by carrying out some or all of these CBMs, the first faltering steps towards resolving the horrendous Kashmir Conflict can be taken.

Submission by:

Bhaskar Dasgupta,

Graduate PhD student,

Department of War Studies,

Kings College London, UK


Ousman said...

Hi this is Ousman Noor,
Just like all readers to know that despite winning 2nd prize in the undergraduate essay contest and after 6 emails sent over 5 months of requesting the prize money, The Kashmir American Council never sent any money and began ignoring me completely.

Dhoofy said...

Tut Tut @ The Kashmir American Council.. Shame on you!!!