Hope for Peace: The Cost of Conflict in South Asia – Nyla Ali Khan

On 26 October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, monarch of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, signed the “Instrument of Accession” to India, officially ceding to the government of India jurisdiction over defense, foreign affairs, and communications. The accession of J & K to India was accepted by the last British Viceroy and first Governor- General of India, Lord Mountbatten, with the stipulation that once the region was stabilized, a referendum would be held in which the people of the state would either ratify or interdict the accession. In January 1948, India referred the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations.

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Subsequent to the declaration of the ceasefire between India and Pakistan on 1 January1949, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two portions. The part of the state comprising the Punjabi-speaking areas of Poonch, Mirpur, and Muzaffarabad, along with Gilgit and Baltistan, was incorporated into Pakistan, whereas the portion of the state comprising the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and the large Jammu region was politically assimilated into India. Currently, a large part of J & K is administered by India and a portion by Pakistan. China annexed a section of the land in 1962, through which it has built a road that links Tibet to Xiajiang. The strategic location of Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir underscores its importance for both India and Pakistan. The state of Jammu & Kashmir borders on China and Afghanistan.



Although Pakistan distinctly expresses its recognition of the status of Jammu & Kashmir self-determination for the entire former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir would irreparably damage Pakistan’s political and military interests.



Jammu and Kashmir is cradled by the Himalayas in the South and the Karakoram range of the Pamirs in the North. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is so geographically located that it depends for its economic growth on an unhindered flow of trade to both countries. Kashmiri arts and crafts have found flourishing markets in India for decades. At the same time, the rivers and roads of Kashmir stretch into Pakistan. Prior to 1947, Rawalpindi used to be Kashmir’s railhead, and Kashmiri traders would use Karachi as the sea-port for overseas trade. The welfare of the people of the state can be guaranteed by securing the goodwill of the political establishments of both India and Pakistan, and by the display of military discipline and efficiency at the borders. The e role of the armed forces of a country, to the best of my knowledge, is national security, not national interest or foreign policy.



If the political evolution of a society is nipped in the bud by a belligerent military establishment, state policies always fall short of becoming coherent. The more the military establishment makes incursions into democratic spaces, the more shaky institutions of state remain and the more fragmented the polity becomes. Once a populace begins to question the validity of the choices it exercises in the electoral process because processes of electioneering and institutions of democratic governance lack transparency, the sociopolitical fabric is ripped to pieces. The “sovereign” role played by the General Head Quarters in Pakistan is an example of such a scenario. In civilized societies, political dissent is not curbed and national integrity is not maintained by military interventions. . . It is an egregious mistake and one that has severe ramifications to allow the military of a nation-state to bludgeon its democratic processes.



A strong and prosperous India is a guarantee to peace in our region, but a strong and prosperous Pakistan would strengthen that guarantee. So gloating over the instability n either one of these countries serves no purpose and proves detrimental to peace in our region. The goal should be to find a practical solution to the deadlock that would enable preservation of peace in the Indian subcontinent, while maintaining the honour of everyone concerned The translation of a political and social vision into reality requires an efficacious administrative set-up and vibrant educational institutions, which produce dynamic citizens while remaining aware of the exigencies of the present. A political movement that pays insufficient attention to the welfare of the populace, good governance and rebuilding democratic institutions ends up leaving irreparable destruction in its wake. Sabre rattling by the representatives of India and Pakistan is futile, and there will be no headway until the process of political negotiations and accommodation begins.



Obviously, an important challenge then and now is the restoration of a democratic process in both India and Pakistan, the validation of a secularism that recognizes diverse religious identities and allows for the accommodation of those identities within a secularist framework, creating new openings for people, including the young, to discuss public issues and become active participants. The youth in India and Pakistan clamour for democratic rights, efficient governance, a stable infrastructure, and a much less fractious polity, which would restore pluralism in South Asia. The electoral principal is discussion, not autocratic decisions.



It is essential to create either conceptual frameworks or political and sociocultural discourses in which the young people of today would be energized and persuaded to actively participate. It is imperative that civil society actors work in collaboration with one another to focus on the rebuilding of a greatly polarized and fragmented social fabric to ensure the redress of inadequate political participation, insistence on accountability for human rights violations through transitional justice mechanisms, reconstruction of the infrastructure of the productive capacity of both India and Pakistan, and resumption of access to basic social servicesWe require a quality education for these mammoth tasksThis is where we need to bridge the divide between the civil society of India and that of Pakistan in order to pave the way for the education of the younger generation. In order to create democracy, there must be a minimum of participation and adequate pluralism in a society. Democratic, social, and educational institutions cannot function in a country without participation by citizens. Nurturing a civil society that bridges regional and communal divides is a prerequisite for the effective and legitimate functioning of educational institutions.




The identity of a state or a nation cannot be built on unquenchable hate and certainly not on cashing in on the pain and grief of other people..The perpetuation of a politics that emphasizes, reinforces, or creates cultural myopia and monocultural identities, in societies as diverse as those of South Asia, would be the bane of our existence.



Dissatisfaction with the policies of the Governments of India and Pakistan should not encourage the glorification of reactionary politics. The last thing that South Asia needs is Taliban ideologues in any guise, either civil, or political, or military. Such an extremist ideology or even a mild form of it confuses local, national, and international observers, and ends up encouraging reductive interpretations of the politics of India and PakistanThe truth is that it is time to summon up the courage to initiate a politics of construction. Can we begin the process of developing a cohesive society with coherent state policies? A fragmented society cannot accomplish anything, either politically or socioeconomically. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1858, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.Not just in my state, Jammu and Kashmir, but in many parts of the world, women can play an important role in establishing a more inclusive democracy and new forums for citizen cooperation. Female leaders can lead the way by offering new ideas, building broad-based political coalitions, and working to bridge organizational dividesPerhaps it is time to seriously consider a new regional order which would be capable of producing cross-economic, political, and cultural interests among the people of the region. Women in civic associations and in government can lead the way toward a peaceful pluralistic democracy and support international negotiations for a sustainable peace in the region.



Nyla Ali Khan is a faculty member at the Universitynyla ali khan
of Oklahoma and a member of the Scholars Strategy
Network. She is the author of The Fiction of Nationality
in an Era of Transnationalism (Routledge, 2005),
Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India
and Pakistan (Palgrave Macmillan,
2010), Parchment of Kashmir: History,
Society, and Polity (Palgrave Macmillan,
2012), and The Life of a Kashmiri
Woman: Dialectic of Resistance and