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Kashmir: the Road to Peace


Chandrashekhar Dasgupta

KASHMIR: ROOTS OF CONFLICT, PATHS TO PEACE
By Sumantra Bose
Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 307, Rs. 295.00

LANGUAGES OF BELONGING: ISLAM, REGIONAL IDENTITY, AND THE MAKING OF KASHMIR
By Chitralekha Zutshi
Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 359, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 5-6 May/June 2004

Kashmir is both a cause and consequence of tension between India and Pakistan. Tension preceded the eruption of  the Kashmir issue and a resolution of the issue by itself  will  not remove the underly-ing sources of conflict. It is equally true that a breakthrough in Indo-Pakistan relations will endure over the long run only if there is some movement on Kashmir. The quest for durable friendship and cooperation must be supplemented by measures to de-fuse tension over Kashmir. The books under review seek to provide pointers to the way out of the Kashmir imbroglio.       Previous attempts to resolve the Kashmir issue have envisaged a plebiscite, or a territorial partition, or a combination of the two. All these have proved abortive. In an incisive analysis, Sumantra Bose demonstrates that neither “self-determination” nor partition can provide a solution to the problem.       The search for a solution, Bose argues, must take into account the social heterogeneity of Jammu & Kashmir and the resultant political fragmentation—“conflicting national identities and state allegiances”. On the Indian side of the LOC, the population is divided between pro-independence, pro-India and pro-Pakistan groups while, in the so-called “Azad” J&K areas, there are votaries of the first and third approaches. (Pro-independence sentiments are specially prevalent in the Mirpur area.) The “internal social and political context of IJK and of J&K as a whole,” writes Bose, “thus resembles the Russian matyoshka doll—layers of complexity which render easy “solutions” such as plebiscite or partition impracticable if not dangerous, and which call for a more sophisticated approach.”      “Self determination” is an overly simplistic approach “when the ‘self’ is in fact differentiated, if not fractured, into multiple social groups and contending political segments with very different aspirations.” “Any attempt to impose [through a plebiscite] any of the three perspectives on sovereignty on the other two segments of the population is a recipe for conflict, repression, and violence”. Bose points out the cautionary lesson of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an ethnically divided country where a referendum on sovereignty precipitated a bloody civil war.       Nor will a partitionist approach prove adequate. This approach has several variants – including various map-making formulae that would give Pakistan an additional piece of J&K territory; the carving out of an independent state in the Kashmir Valley; and the immediate conversion of the LOC into a de jure international boundary. None of these offers a realistic solution.        A formula ...


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