August 8, 2019: On August 6, the Indian government abolished the special status and limited autonomy Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed since soon after India became independent. The action was generally popular in India, but was greeted with shock and anger among Kashmiri muslims and in Pakistan. This article gives you my take on this recent action.
But we also offer a look back. As many of my readers know, Howard Schaffer tracked developments in Kashmir for much of his long Foreign Service career. The account he gave of his first trip to the Kashmir valley in 1964, linked here from the Web site of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, is fascinating in light of the subsequent history. Continue reading “Kashmir: Upheaval…and looking back”
February 17, 2016: A deadly avalanche that killed ten Indian soldiers earlier this month on the disputed 20,000 foot high Siachen glacier in Kashmir received extensive coverage in the Indian and Pakistani media. The avalanche prompted some commentators in both countries to call for an early settlement of what seemed to them and to many others (including ourselves) a senseless dispute.
Their voices were largely drowned out in India by an outpouring of patriotic fervor that cast the dead soldiers as “Bravehearts” who had died for their country. The Indian Defense Minister publicly dismissed pleas that both sides pull back from the 47-mile long glacier where they have confronted one another since 1984. Possibilities for a settlement seem remote.
I always enjoy coming back to the Boston area. I spent four happy years here as an undergraduate at a college on the Charles in the late ninety-forties. This is something that Harvard fund-raisers and football team promoters never let me forget.
Coincidentally, it was during those times so long ago that Kashmir first came to the world’s attention. A classmate, one of the few Indian undergraduates then studying in this country, assured me that the problem was the result of Pakistani mischief, that India was completely in the right, and that the United States was at fault in not recognizing these verities. I am sure that if there had been a Pakistani in my class at Cambridge – unfortunately there was not – I would have gotten a very different story. India and Pakistan have embraced sharply conflicting narratives of what happened way back in 1947 and 1948. Their ideas on the role the United States should play have been similarly at odds with one another. As we’ll see, this U.S. role has taken many different forms and shapes over the years, sometimes to the liking of one side or the other, sometimes to the liking of neither, as far as I can recall never to the liking of both.
June 1, 2012: In the summer of 2010, riots of youth throwing stones and calling for “azadi” – freedom from Indian rule – convulsed the Valley of Kashmir. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pleaded eloquently to “give peace a chance,” and appointed a panel of three “Interlocutors” to assess public opinion in the state and make recommendations to resolve its seemingly intractable problems. On May 24, the Indian government finally released the report the panel had submitted to it seven months earlier. The long delay suggests that the report, despite the good sense in many of its recommendations, will join a long list of missed opportunities to transform political relations between New Delhi and Srinagar.
Neither India, nor Pakistan, nor the Kashmiris seem to understand the major change in the international community’s view of the Kashmir issue brought about by the introduction of nuclear weapons into South Asia. The specter of a catastrophic nuclear war between India and Pakistan has made regional peace and stability the primary goal the United States and other interested outside powers now pursue in Kashmir.