March 14, 2005

EVENTUALLY, ALL THINGS MERGE INTO ONE:

Kashmir's real story? A river runs through it (Philip Bowring, March 8, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

As of Tuesday, India and Pakistan are again playing each other at their shared national obsession - cricket. Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is expected to visit India to watch the game. More remarkably, this time next month there should be a bus service operating between the two parts of the disputed territory of Kashmir, partitioned since 1949 along the Line of Control.

This progress toward normalization accords with majority sentiment in both countries. It also reflects the changes in the international landscape since Sept. 11, changed relationships with the United States, the ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan and both countries' commitments to outward-looking economic policies.

But can accord be achieved on the basis of small confidence-building measures while leaving Kashmir to some final settlement, accepting the Line of Control as a de facto border for the foreseeable future? Can this dispute be left to history to resolve?

Desirable though that may seem to be, in practice it may stumble over an issue that receives scant attention: water. It is possible to envisage Pakistan permanently keeping its jihadis under control. Equally one can envisage the Muslim majority in Indian-held Kashmir enjoying peace and autonomy under an elected government. But, as a new paper by the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group asks, can there be peace without a much broader settlement of issues like that of the waters of the Indus and its tributaries?

On the face of it, Kashmir is an issue about identity: India's identity as a secular state, Pakistan's as a Muslim one, and for Kashmiris, whether they would prefer just to be Kashmiris. For reasons more to do with Pakistan politics than anything else, it has also become a cause for jihadis.

But control of Kashmir also gives the ability to control the rivers that are the lifeblood of Pakistan and of India's part of the Punjab region.


The rapproachment between India and Pakistan is perhaps the most underrated achievement of the first Bush term--in foreign affairs at least.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2005 5:03 PM
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