By Ali Hassnain
The future of Indian held Kashmir is a subject of much speculation. Indian state works in a very interesting way. They have a policy: do not spend on masses. They build enclaves of prosperity in certain cities and forget the masses. The result is accumulation of wealth. The very essence of “Baniaism” is the root of Indian finance ministry. This year India has (and at the time of writing is) suffering from the worst drought in history and the Indian government is more concerned with suppressing the news than to help the effected.
India is practically opposed to all the possible peaceful solutions available for Kashmir conflict. Two ways which are practical are available. One is UN or third party mediation; Pakistan agrees but India refuses. Second is by bilateral means which too India refuses. They refuse to acknowledge UN resolution on Kashmir despite the fact that it was India which brought UN’s attention to Kashmir dispute and signed the resolution along with Pakistan, but it is still unimplemented.
Kashmir is the only place on which bania is ready to spend. But for how long? Well, for now (2-5 years) they are holding up. And Kashmiris; they have thrown their watches and calendars in Dal Lake. For them the question would not be settled until complete freedom; until the flag of Pakistan is raised in Srinagar. No ifs or buts.
However, Kashmiris are not alone. They have their sympathizers. Indians have theirs. In the technology available today, Mountains of Himalayas are fit for asymmetrical warfare and guerilla tactics. The fact remains that Kashmir is connected to India by a thread, one artery, Jammu Kashmir Highway or National Highway 1 in India. For decades India has tried alternate routes with very limited success and resulting options. If a group of people is to say sabotage Jawaher Tunnel on the Jammu Srinagar highway Kashmir would be cut off from India for days. It is kilometers away from the LoC or the ceasefire line. The other route has been lately built Leh-Manali highway which connects Kashmir to Himachal Pardesh. It is open only for four and a half months a year at best and is affected by natural calamities (landslides etc. a lot). It was observed during the Kargil conflict that Mujahideen could operate in high altitude with great mobility. Repairing it after sabotage is way more difficult and expensive for Indian Government then their main highway. Pakistan almost captured the highway in 1965 by their lightening attack on Akhnur (Operation Grand Slam) but in the wake of all out war decided to withdraw. At the time it was called Kathua road.
It is correct that after capturing the peeks in Kargil Indian supply line came to an abrupt halt and was able to continue in limited numbers, that too at night. I believe Leh Manali highway had not been built at the time.
Even now its one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Often closed to traffic.
After 1965, the only attacks on the highway (except a threat to it from the Kargil war) have been from RSS extremists to choke the Kashmiri economy. That was followed by mass protests, waving of Pakistani flag all over the valley and the famous slogan “Kashmir ki Mandi, Rawalpindi”. When time progresses and things get desperate, bridges would be blown and highways would not be safe. We have seen home-made IEDs are extremely deadly even for the well-equipped US forces. If or when the Kashmiri resistance deploys those tactics to Indian military supplies the cost of occupation of the valley of Kashmir would go up a few times.
Hindu nationalist government would definitely apply draconian tactics like mass punishment, rape as a tool of war etc. That is a two edge sword, it cuts both ways. In the 1990s Mujahideen ambushed Indian forces that were looking for “comfort women”. In many cases the Indian Army was aiming for unarmed civilians and got ambushed by well trained militants.
But all this is dependent on Indian state surviving the next 5-10 years. From where I see it, the land is ripe for revolution; a state which has no empathy for 330 million of its citizens suffering from drought is a state ripe for revolution or faces an existential internal crisis. Israeli style gated community is a waste of money, that works against Palestinians after PLO has been neutralized. They can build Sainikcolonies, Pundit societies. Gated communities cannot stop militants dedicated to bring them down.
Pakistan changed its policy since September 2001, bending over backwards to find some sort of solution to the Kashmir issue. India actually used terror as a weapon; Indian backed TTP even targeted APS Peshawar and killed school children indiscriminately. Zarrar Company of SSG was able to save many but 144 innocent school children were butchered by Indian-backed terrorists and many injured. Those who survived are scarred for life. When such dirty games are being played by India, non-state actors would arise. It is foolish to assume all would be hunky dory in future.
One hopes for peace and understanding, however the current situation is bleak for optimism. I do believe Trump would either come or go or Trumpism would go out of fashion. UNSC might eventually decide to take action and yes there are sane people with international reputation who actually believe in equality. Hoping against hope, I hope one day it would be settled according to the wishes of the PEOPLE of Kashmir via UN.
However, in current scenario Seven hundred thousand Indian troops in Kashmir are as much a liability as much they are assets. Saboteurs have not been deployed by the Kashmiri resistance massively since the 1990s. It would be foolish to assume they would not be deployed in a future low intensity conflict. For now it appears the increase in cost of occupation. Where it leads is a great question of our times and I do think it would be settled as per wishes of Kashmiris, and I do fear it might be settled by Blood and Iron when push comes to shove.