India Uncut

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Part of the problem

Anit Mukherjee writes in the New York Times:
During his trip to South Asia, President Bush has done his best to whistle past the diplomatic graveyard of Kashmir, issuing only bland encouragements to the leaders of India and Pakistan to resolve the status of the disputed territory. That's a shame, because instead of ignoring Kashmir, Mr. Bush and his administration should be studying it as a case study in dealing with an insurgency.

"I joined the insurgents only because of you," the young Kashmiri man told me, sobbing, "because of the way you humiliated me, they way you tormented me. To regain my honor, I picked up the gun." It was one of my more shocking encounters during my two and a half years of counterinsurgency duties as an Indian Army officer in Kashmir. Shocking, because it was the antithesis of everything I had worked toward. The self-awareness that inevitably dawns on all soldiers in a combat zone came upon me: I was not a part of the solution; I was the problem, or at least part of the problem.
Mukherjee emphasises, correctly, that "an insurgency can never be militarily defeated. It can only be managed until a political solution is found."

But where will this political solution come from? On one side of Kashmir there's Pakistan, where the political space is dominated by the military, which has vested interests in keeping the Kashmir conflict alive. On the other side is India, where nationalistic rhetoric is routinely whipped up over Kashmir, and any government will be afraid to make bold concessions because of the possible political cost. For a solution to the Kashmir issue to emerge, the political space of both countries has to be transformed, which is not something that the main players on either side will want. But, in the long run, economics might just change politics. That's my hope.
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