By Abdullah Khan
Tension along the Line of Control in Kashmir started to mount during last quarter of the year 2012 and now with two deaths from both sides has transformed the issue from usual but random skirmishes to one that can hinder peace-building processes between the two countries. Pakistan is at the verge of declaring India most favored nation though the initial deadline of 1st January, 2013 has passed without materializing the commitment Pakistan had made to India. The recent tension started when Indian troops entered into Azad Kashmir area from Darra Haji Pir area and killed one Pakistani soldier and injured another. Within days, one of the Indian soldiers was killed and reportedly, beheaded at Mandhar sector of the LOC.
Both sides are blaming each other for violation of the cease-fire. Regardless of the weight in these allegations, this fact has once again proved its worth that until Kashmir issue is not resolved according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir and acceptable to both the nuclear-armed states of South Asia, normalization of relations on any other issue will be temporary and unstable. Imagine that if Pakistan grants MFN status to India but armed forces of both the countries engage in eyeball-to-eyeball contact then what will be the worth of MFN. Traders and producers from both sides will suffer heavy economic and business losses in case of any conflict between the two countries.
American efforts to deescalate tension between Pakistani and Indian armed forces express the level of concern on the issue at international level. It is now in the larger interest of U.S. and its allies that relations between India and Pakistan become normal, as tension along eastern border has always made it challenging task for Pakistan to excel its full attention in war against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. India itself needs better relations with Pakistan if it is serious to play any role in reconstruction of Afghanistan in post-withdrawal era. Normal functioning of transit route from India to Afghanistan and ultimately to central Asia through Pakistan is only conceivable when India has improved relations with Pakistan.
Now India has two choices to deal with Pakistan. Either relates all relations with egoistic posture by pushing Pakistan to act against the accused suspects of Mumbai Attacks or come out of the emotionalism, and normalize and stabilize its ties with Pakistan to safeguard and promote its economic and geo-political interests in the region. The Indians need to comprehend that whether they like or not but whenever Mumbai Attacks are highlighted the Kashmir issue automatically become underlined. Kashmiri militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is blamed for perpetrating Mumbai Attacks. LeT’s major area of operation is Kashmir –A fact Indians cannot hide from the world.
As Pakistan has proved its relevance in Afghan issue consistently, it will have a prime role in exit strategy or ‘end game’. Now it is test of its foreign office that how effectively it exploits the opportunity and readjusts the ‘displaced’ Kashmir issue back into the attention of international community. India’s stakes in Kashmir are related mostly to intangible aspects such as its secularism, ego of being ‘world’s largest democracy’, which cannot be defeated by a ‘failed state, war torn’ country. India fears that if it allows Kashmiris to use their right of self-determination, freedom struggles in its northeast and other parts will be encouraged –a fear which is apparently based on illusions. On the other hand, Pakistan has tangible interests in Kashmir as it is lifeline for Pakistan’s agriculture and Hydral power generation. It is already suffering from Indian dams on Kashmiri rivers and diversion of water of Sutlaj, Bayas and Ravi rivers –the three rivers which were handed over to India in Indus-Basin Water Treaty also known as ‘Sindh Taas’ treaty.
Pakistan cannot afford another war on Kashmir issue with India but at the same time, it will not let the Kashmir issue die without proper resolution. Now it is time for Pakistan to rearrange its Kashmir initiative, as the world –willingly or unwillingly- is ready to listen to its demands.
Both the countries have opportunities ahead to benefit their economic and political interests. Let us see who will play its cards well in coming days.
Abdullah Khan is Director at Conflict Monitoring Center, which is an Islamabad, based think tank monitoring anti-state insurgencies and security situation in South Asia he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org