The dispute over the territory of Jammu & Kashmir has been a focal point of Indo-Pakistani antagonism for more than a half century. Indo-Pakistani bilateral relations the Cold War and post-Cold War eras have been deeply affected by the divergent perceptions, goals and interests regarding this persistent trouble spot. A settlement on Kashmir has not been achieved due significantly to the actions of both the Indian and Pakistani States themselves. Both the Indian and Pakistani Governments have conducted relations over Kashmir within a straitjacket of potential gains and losses perceived in zero-sum terms over the disputed territory.
These strained bilateral relations have been accompanied with grandiose rhetoric aimed at passionate domestic constituencies who for different reasons on either side of the territory see Jammu & Kashmir as an integral part of their nation. The aim of this essay is to analyse how and why international factors have accounted for the longevity of the Kashmir conflict. Putting Indo-Pakistani bilateral relations to one side allows for discussion of the influences of a range of extra-regional actors. It is argued that extra-regional factors have impacted directly and indirectly on the Jammu & Kashmir in a way that has prolonged the conflict.
The impact of the policy of the United States will dominate the analysis within this framework. The structure will centre around thematic issues. This essay will describe, critically analyse and evaluate. After a brief recapitulation of the background to contextualise the conflict as it has stood in the post-Cold War era and a clarification of terminology, the following issues will be addressed. How the geopolitical conditions of the Cold War have had a continued influence in the post-Cold War environment. Within this theme, the crucial role played by alliances will dominate the analysis.
How the policies of state actors from outside of South Asia which directly or indirectly account for the longevity of the Jammu & Kashmir conflict. The states to be included are inclusive but not exclusive to the United States (US), China and Russia. This paper will also analyse the roles of a key Intergovernmental Organisation the UN, as well as conventional and nuclear arms and finally the international environment after the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the position of US policy within this environment.
The roots of the conflict in Jammu & Kashmir (henceforth referred to as Kashmir) lie in the decolonisation of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947 and the subsequent partition into two new sovereign states, namely India and Pakistan. The British system of governance in the Subcontinent was based on sovereign governance over several hundred nominal rulers of ‘princely states’. When independence was achieved in 1947 the Maharajas of these princely states acceded to one of the new states of India and Pakistan.
Although this potentially highly difficult process largely occurred without significant turmoil and bloodshed, some disputes inevitably emerged. No dispute was more divisive than Kashmir. Both the Indian and Pakistani Governments made demands on Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to their state however Hari Singh was indecisive. A turning point came when in 1947 “… Pakistan sent tribesmen and its own troops to capture Kashmir,… Maharaja Hari Singh appealed for help to Lord Mountbatten, then the Governor General of India, and later signed the Instrument of Accession with India.
Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu who governed over a largely Muslim population, made a difficult and unexpected (as perceived by Pakistan) decision by acceding to India which would impact on the geopolitics of this region for generations to come. Following Kashmir’s accession to India, Lord Mountbatten added a caveat to this legal instrument stipulating that it should be ratified by the Kashmiri people. Following this, Indian troops were dispatched to the region in order to consolidate its favourable position and to continue to resist with force incursions emanating from Pakistani territory.
In 1948 both India and Pakistan came before the Security Council of the United Nations. The UN Security Council Resolutions 38, 39 and 47 (look over) which followed had several parts. The first called for a cease fire, the second called for complete and partial withdrawal of troops and irregular militia by Pakistan and India respectively. Furthermore a Commission on Kashmir was to be established and finally Kashmir’s future was to be decided along the lines of self-determination by the Kashmiri people themselves.
However only the provisions regarding the ceasefire were followed and no significant progress has been made regarding the others. 4 Following the ceasefire and to this date Kashmir has been partitioned with Indian-administered and Pakistani-administered parts separated by a de facto Line Of Control. 5 Since these early events of the decolonised era which put in place a framework within which the subsequent Kashmir conflict would be played out, India and Pakistan, India and China and both states pitted against non-state actors have engaged in numerous conflicts of varying intensity and gravity.
However the resulting underlying pattern of these various conflicts has remained constant; Kashmir is still a region where two South Asian states are locked into zero-sum antagonism over which little significant bilateral progress towards resolution has been made. Having sketched a broad history of the Kashmir conflict, attention is now drawn to the role played by international factors the first of which is the impact of the conditions of the Cold War era upon the post-Cold War era.
An overview of the Cold War period is important to understand the post-Cold War context. The Cold War rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union impinged upon many regional conflicts throughout the world and Kashmir is no exception. A global order polarised between two mutually antagonistic camps in terms of their political, economic, social and security ideologies necessitated alliance relationships as part of a broad objective of restraining each other’s influence.
According to P. S. Palit, “India’s proximity to the USSR led to American patronage of Pakistan on Kashmir as a natural corollary of the Cold War dynamics. As a nation, Pakistan was crucial to the US in determining the balance of power in South Asia. Its strategic location, in terms of links with the Middle East and Central Asia, made it a geopolitically sensitive entity and shaped the history of superpower intervention in South Asia. “6 Indeed the geopolitical prominence of Kashmir itself is not to be underestimated.
According to Bose, “Kashmir is one of the world’s great frontier regions”7 and has been the battleground for competing ancient powers in the region for centuries. In the Cold War environment Kashmir had (and continues to do so) geo-strategic significance, being wedged between India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. “Prime Minister Nehru of India had reminded Lord Mountbatten even before independence of the ‘great strategic importance of that frontier state… Liaquat Ali Khan, the Pakistani Prime Minister, for his part invoked much the same theme.
In a radio broadcast made within days of Kashmir’s accession to India, he described the accession as a ‘threat to the security of Pakistan’; and in a cable to Nehru on 16 December 1947, he observed that ‘ the security of Pakistan is bound up with that of Kashmir. “8 This regional strategically important state was thus thrown into the global dynamics of a bipolar world with the swift superimposition of a global upon a regional conflict. Kashmir was embroiled in a transformation and an internationalisation and while the associated effects were great on both India and Pakistan they took different forms.
For the Pakistani Government, a competitive bipolar international environment came more as a blessing than a curse since it emerged from colonialism in a relatively weaker position in relation to its Indian rival in terms of total geographic area, total population, aggregate military strength and industrial base. 10 Disadvantaged in the regional balance of power and sensing potential gain from the superpowers’ search for clients,”… Pakistan’s rulers hastened to present their country to the Americans as an ‘Islamic barrier against the Soviets. The appeal eventually succeeded; and in less than a decade of Pakistan’s creation, it had achieved a rather spectacular standing as Washington’s ‘most allied ally’ and as a lynchpin of the West’s anti-communist alliance system on the rimland of Asia. ”
Diplomatic support from a superpower, it was perceived, could force push India towards holding a plebiscite in which the Kashmiri Muslim majority would realign with the Pakistani State. Furthermore military assistance from the US could move the military disequilibrium in the region in favour of Pakistan. However only the promise of an enhanced defensive capacity ever came to fruition. The United States consistently appeared reluctant to use the full potential of its diplomatic clout to push a Kashmiri plebiscite on to the agenda.
The record of India’s engagement in the relationships of the bipolar world order was somewhat different with a lasting legacy after this order broke down. “The Cold War clearly presented India, too, with opportunities. Having inherited far greater self-sufficiency than their counterparts in Pakistan, India’s leaders were able to piece together an independent or non-aligned foreign policy that avoided at least formal commitment to either the Communist or non-Communist bloc while at the same time facilitating far-ranging contacts with both.
At the time of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, India reneged on its vocal commitment to non-alignment and graciously accepted injections of American military assistance to counter the expansionist threat. This display of short-term pragmatism did not translate into a more stable long-term relationship. Sensing a position of enhanced diplomatic leverage in South Asia, the US and Britain pushed for a bilateral re-opening of the Kashmir question. These efforts however met with opposition especially from the Indian side of the border (return to this later) and Western interest in India’s security problems quickly faded.
However, Indian foreign policy showed a distinct bias towards the Soviet Union. Both India and the USSR shared common interests as regards limiting both China’s and the US’ ambitions in Asia. The USSR’s relationships with India were positive for military co-operation and also the USSR came to diplomatic endorsement of Kashmir’s accession to India. A further actor to be considered is the role of China, undoubtedly a big player in Asia’s broad security relationships. Due to geographic proximity, China perhaps played the most intrusive role during the Cold War in the Kashmir dispute.
China’s favour deliberately tilted towards Pakistan as part of a counter-encirclement strategy following the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 over the mountainous and remote ranges of Askai Chin and the subsequent conclusion of the Sino-Pakistani Border Agreement of 1963. “The Border Agreement, which for the first time expressly signalled China’s support for the Pakistani contention that Kashmir was disputed territory, implicated China directly in the Indo-Pakistani boundary dispute over Kashmir. 15 Pakistan with a foreign policy of accommodating pragmatism walked a fine line between its US and Chinese alliances and succeeded in benefiting from both in areas where there were no inherently irreconcilable problems between them. The ushering-in of a triangular, trans-Himalayan security complex in South Asia has impacted on the Kashmir dispute ever since. However, as with other issues and actors concerning Chinese foreign policy in the Cold War era, one can discern inconstancy and Kashmir is no exception.
Towards the end of the Cold War, Chinese policy had demonstrably shifted towards a neutral straddling position advocating bilateral settlement according to past agreements and according to relevant UN resolutions. The preceding analysis of the Cold War era is crucial for an understanding of the complexity of the post-Cold War era. There is certainly room for disagreement as to the short-term and long-term impact of the linkage between the global (great power) and regional (Indo-Pakistan) dimensions of the conflict over Kashmir in the Cold War era.
Some argue that extra-regional military and diplomatic relationships exerted a constraining force and kept India and Pakistan from one another’s throats over Kashmir. Others interpret these events as militarising a delicate regional balance, dragging India from a non-aligned to an engaged position within global Cold War dynamics and precluding India from ceding to a Kashmiri plebiscite. Wherever one stands great power intrusion in South Asia certainly impacted on the broader Indo-Pakistani dispute with knock on effects on the conflict in Kashmir in the post-Cold War era.
A series of ‘unnatural alliances’16 born out of Cold War necessity persist today. The end of the Cold War has not spelled the end of the Kashmir dispute. 17 The actors have changed and the international order they operate in has evolved also. However as discussed below powerful international actors such as the US continue to be drawn to various degrees and impact upon the international dimensions of this dispute with constraining and enabling effects on the progression of the Kashmir conflict.
Attention is now drawn towards the international role in the bilateral instruments of negotiation. Numerous actors of which the US is a prominent example have played a part here mainly following policies of action or inaction in coercing? or encouraging India and Pakistan to the negotiating table. The record of meditative interventions in the Kashmir conflict is certainly mixed. In the post-Cold War era limited progress has been made at the bilateral level in negotiating sustained peace and policies of external actors have had a part to play in this. The conflict has had equally broad impact, however, on a whole range of long-term US policy efforts in the region, including nuclear non-proliferation, promotion of economic development and the protection of human rights. “18 US policy though reflects Washington’s perceptions of the stake it has in any settlement over Kashmir. The situation in the Kashmir region, released from the constraints of bipolar global struggle, modified the extent of US involvement.
Fears of inevitable disinterested decline of US involvement in South Asia in both India and Pakistan proved to be unfounded however exaggeration of the role actively played by US foreign policy is equally misleading. The US in a bid to avoid costly entanglement in this issue has displayed surprising even-handedness between both sides. Perhaps surprising given the Cold War legacy of US ties with Pakistan and estrangement with India. Declarations on US policy in the early post-Cold War era demonstrate a less Pakistan-centred policy on Kashmir to the delight of New Delhi.
The US framed the Kashmir question within the bounds of the unrealised plebiscite in the region and human rights violations committed by Indian security troops based in Kashmir thereby striking a balance of criticism. A crucial feature of US policy towards Kashmir was insistence that although the US could, if desired by both parties, provide assistance to any process, it was up to India and Pakistan themselves to initiate and sustain a dialogue.
Whilst this appears to be fair to both sides of the border one can perhaps read into this a distinct pro-India slant. India is the status-quo power in the Kashmir conflict and has showed consistent distrust and suspicion towards any possible international intermediary role. The strategy of leaving both sides to reconcile their differences within the Shimla framework has not provided the necessary incentives for reconciliation despite several attempts made by India and Pakistan to settle their differences.
Intervening variables in the South Asian region have proven effective in blocking this process and it is to these variables that we turn to next. Therefore “Since the end of the Cold War, Washington has been faced with the not inconsiderable task of designing an approach on Kashmir that took account both of its diminished interest in the South Asian region and, at the same time, of the need to find the middle ground among the politically very prickly issues of which the Kashmir dispute was made. “19