The politics of relationships

About a lost pattern of relationships and the birth of a conflict

Inksight

MEHMOOD UR RASHID

After the end of the cold war it was deemed that conflicts generated from the hostility between the cold war rivals would come to an instant end. Surprisingly that did not happen. New things went on into giving life to those conflicts. Meanwhile academics and analysts were compelled to deconstruct the conflicts in some newer ways. The theoretical paradigms provided by International Relations were already applied but a new way of looking at the conflicts emerged. It was thought that the idea of Relationships can not only help understand a conflict but also discover the possibilities of finding solution to a conflict. How is that idea of Relationship applicable to Kashmir? 
Almost all the accounts and commentaries on Kashmir conflict start with a note of exhaustion. The fixation of adjectives like, intractable, complex, entwined, entrenched has become an accepted way of beginning any talk on Kashmir conflict.
The books, journal articles, newspaper columns and TV commentaries on any aspect of this conflict reinforce the impression that it’s a difficulty of insurmountable enormity. It poses a question: Is this conflict past any solution? Do we hit a dead end?
Towards the end of the first half of the twentieth century, Kashmir witnessed a massive popular mobilization; identity and politics slipping into each other. It was the time when the undivided India was fighting for its freedom from colonial power – the British rule. The Indian freedom struggle finally saw the end of colonial rule, but not before the territory was divided and the two independent countries – India and Pakistan – came to existence.
From the womb of this partition was born the conflict of Kashmir. The territory of J&K, as it was when it was a princely state, could become part of none, conclusively and entirely, but got divided between the two, with each part uncertain about its relation with the respective Union. It became a land contested by the two countries, with the people living in its different regions delinked from each other. 
The Partition, and the Kashmir Conflict devastated the earlier pattern of relationships. It happened at two levels; between the two peoples living in Indian and Pakistan, and between the people living in different parts of the erstwhile princely state of J&K. If the relationships between the two countries, and the people living in different regions of the contested land, are restored, will it transform the conflict?
Since the relations between India and Pakistan, ever since the two came into being as independent countries, have mostly remained hostile, and the dispute over Kashmir has manifestly played a pivotal role in it, the atmosphere of mistrust has thrown an impregnable ring around the already incompatible positions. Also overtime, in both the countries, the public opinion has been excessively fed on the exclusivity-of-facts supporting each country’s case on Kashmir. All this has cumulatively resulted into two absolutist positions on Kashmir. Both the countries stake claim to the entire geographical territory that was the state of J&K before 1947 partition of the subcontinent. Each considers the other as the usurper for the part of territory under its control.
Apart from the two states, there are the people who live in the conflicted territory. There have been consistent demands from the people living in different regions of this territory that they be considered as primary party to the conflict, but the opinion within this people is not unanimous. Some support the absolutist positions of either of the two countries, while others favour none, and consider J&K as a nation unto itself that deserves complete sovereignty. This has led to a phenomenon that can be named as the triangularity of the positions.
Since the conflicted territory is divided into various regions amongst which the movement of people is either completely disallowed or extremely limited, the public opinion within J&K is largely guided by the absolutist positions promoted by the two states of India and Pakistan. The absence of contact between various regions has also contributed to the formations of enemy images with J&K. This has added to the difficulty of both the countries – India and Pakistan – to reconsider their stated positions.
Teresita C. Schaffer in her forward to My Kashmir- The dying of Light by Wajahat Habibullah, encapsulates this feature of Kashmir conflict as: “It is a deeply entrenched dispute involving a divided province and two estranged neighbours.”
It underlines that the possibilities of conflict transformation lie in reducing the hostility between the two neighbouring countries and connecting the divided people within the territory of J&K. By reducing the element of estrangement between India and Pakistan, and at the same time linking various regions within the territory of J&K, the lost pattern of relationships can be restored.   
Though efforts in this direction were undertaken in the earlier decades also but they either failed, or aborted. The end of the cold war, India and Pakistan turning nuclear, and the war on terror led by US – the sole superpower of the post cold war world - brought back the emphasis on transforming the conflict of Kashmir by bringing the two neighbors close and connecting the divided people of the contested land.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 1 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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