مرکزی صفحہ International Studies The Secessionist Movement in Jammu and Kashmir and India–Pakistan Relations 1

The Secessionist Movement in Jammu and Kashmir and India–Pakistan Relations 1

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جلد:
51
زبان:
english
رسالہ:
International Studies
DOI:
10.1177/0020881717710401
Date:
January, 2014
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Article

The Secessionist Movement
in Jammu and Kashmir and
India–Pakistan Relations1

International Studies
51(1–4) 35–55
2017 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0020881717710401
http://isq.sagepub.com

Happymon Jacob1
Abstract
The secessionist movement in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) plays a central role
in India–Pakistan bilateral relations. New Delhi’s ability or the lack thereof to
pacify the internal conflict in J&K has major implications for the larger conflict
resolution process with Pakistan, and the nature of its diplomatic negotiations
with Pakistan on the Kashmir question, in turn, directly impacts the conflict
in Kashmir. Moreover, an unmanaged rebellion in Kashmir could prove to be
expensive for India due to a variety of external and internal factors. The nature,
politics, demands and ideological orientation of the contemporary insurgency in
J&K differs from that of the 1990s in many significant ways. Conflict resolution in
J&K would need to be aware of such differences to be successful.
Keywords
Kashmir insurgency, domestic politics, Pakistan, Indian army, peace process, BJP

Introduction
On 8 July 2016, India’s security forces killed the popular Hizbul Mujahideen
commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir, in the Indianadministered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).2 To the complete dismay of the local
authorities in J&K and the central government in New Delhi, this killing sparked
an unrelenting anti-India uprising in Kashmir, and persisted for several months.
This revolt has grown into the most sustained, and worrying, popular uprising in
Kashmir since the late 1980s when insurgency first broke out in the state.
Associate Professor, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of
International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

1

Corresponding author:
Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament,
School of International S; tudies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, India.
E-mail: happymon@gmail.com

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International Studies 51(1–4)

Since trouble began in July 2016, the Kashmir Valley was under lockdown for
several months, mobile Internet services were suspended and curfew was imposed
by the government for most part of the day. The agitators, disparate groups and
ideologies brought together by their pent-up anger against the Government of
India, followed an ‘anarchic’ protest movement, with uncontrollable crowds
attacking security forces with stones. This was often responded to by the security
forces with disproportionate use of force, leading to deaths, thousands of injured
and many blinded for life.3 Since July, close to 90 people, including two police
personnel, were killed in 2016 alone.
While analysts and officials have been taken aback by the timing and scale of
the uprising, a closer look at the developments in Kashmir in the past decade
could help demystify this surprise factor. There have been many indications since
2008 that Kashmir was becoming restive once again, after half a decade of relative calm. The recent developments have shown that the signs of normalcy in
Kashmir can be misleading: the deep-rooted unease of the Kashmiris with the
Indian state, aided by the active interference of the Pakistani security agencies, was
waiting for a trigger. Last year’s events indicate that Kashmir is perhaps one stop
away from a full-blown insurgency, a throwback into the late 1980s and early 1990s.
This article seeks to do three things: one, explain the causes of the recent
Kashmir uprising in the broader context of the previous uprisings and India–
Pakistan relations since the late 1980s; two, offer a critical appraisal of the potential for conflict resolution in the Valley; and finally, examine the implications of
the Kashmir uprising for India–Pakistan relations.
When discussing the Kashmir conflict, it is important to make a crucial distinction between the conflict in Kashmir (characterized by a deep sense of historical
mistrust between New Delhi and a large number of Kashmiri Muslims), and the
conflict over Kashmir (which refers to the territorial contestation between India
and Pakistan over the erstwhile princely state of J&K). For analytical purposes,
the two conflicts need to be examined separately, even while recognizing that
there is an dynamic link between the two. While conflict resolution in Kashmir
requires a peace process between New Delhi and the Kashmiris, the one over
Kashmir needs a modus vivendi between New Delhi and Islamabad. And yet, the
Kashmir question can only be settled in its entirety, if there is a comprehensive
peace package that addresses all aspects of the conflict.
This article makes six interrelated arguments. First, it argues that notwithstanding the fact that India and Pakistan have multiple conflicts to resolve, including
the Siachen Glacier, Sir Creek, etc., Kashmir continues to be the most significant
dispute in so far as it holds the key to a rapprochement between the two South
Asian rivals. For instance, during the period when Kashmir was purposefully
addressed between the two sides, from 2003 to 2007/2008, the relationship
improved significantly on other fronts as well.
Second, the direct or indirect complicity of the Pakistani state in the terrorist
violence carried out against India forms the key reason why the two sides have
been unable to make any definitive gains from their bilateral parlays.

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37

Third, the article underlines that normalcy in Kashmir can be misleading.
The 2008 uprising came as a complete surprise, given the fact that the previous
insurgency was a failure and India and Pakistan had made positive strides in their
relationship. Since 2008, then, it so appears that normalcy—a situation wherein
people seemingly go about their daily lives without bothering with overt dissident
political activism or protests—is a temporary interlude between major uprisings.
Mistaking such temporary normalcy as an indication of a complete end to the
insurgency in the state is a mistake.
Fourth, this article argues that the new insurgency in Kashmir, that is taking roots today, is quite dissimilar to the one that began in the late 1980s and
tapered off in the mid-1990s. Kashmir today is faced with a new wave of
young, indigenous, educated militants, many of whom seem to be driven by
religious motivation.
Fifth, the Kashmir conflict is a political contestation operating at many levels,
which should be addressed using both symbolic and substantive responses. One of
the reasons why the new BJP-led government in New Delhi has not been able to
reach out to the Kashmiri separatists is due to the clash of symbols that drive their
respective political positions.
Finally, the electoral dynamics in India have a direct bearing on New Delhi’s
ability to resolve the Kashmir conflict. While resolving this conflict in a win-win
manner is indeed the appropriate thing to do from a grand strategic point of view,
it might pose electoral dilemmas for the government in New Delhi, in particular
the BJP government.

Kashmir Insurgency and India-Pakistan Relations:
1987 to 2003
The Kashmir Insurgency in the Late 1980s
The insurgency in Kashmir, which began in the late 1980s, resulted from three
proximate factors: first, the Indian state’s political misdeeds in Kashmir—most
notably, the rigging of the 1987 election to the State Assembly prompting many
members of the Muslim United Front (MUF), which lost the election due to rigging, to take to militancy against India; second, Pakistani interference in J&K
(Haqqani, 2004, p. 35); and third, the winding down of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen
war in Afghanistan. With respect to the second and third factors, one should recall
that Pakistan’s secret service—the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)—shifted
many Afghan Mujahideen fighters, who found themselves without a cause or
funding after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and the USA lost interest there, to Kashmir to fight the Indian state (Blank, 2014). However, the early
phase of the insurgency also witnessed a great deal of local participation: Kashmiri
youngsters would travel to the Pakistani side of Kashmir, get trained in camps set

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up by the ISI and return with weapons and directions to fight the Indian forces
in Kashmir.
Pakistani scholar Pervez Hoodbhoy recently wrote about the Pakistani involvement in the following words:
Pakistan lost little time in hijacking what was then an indigenous uprising. The excesses
committed by Indian security forces were soon eclipsed by those committed by
Pakistan-based mujahedeen. The massacres of Kashmiri Pandits, targeting of civilians
accused of collaborating with India, killings of Kashmiri political leaders, destruction
of cinema houses and liquor shops, forcing of women into the veil, and revival of Shia–
Sunni disputes severely undermined the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom movement
and deprived it of its most potent weapon—the moral high ground. (Hoodbhoy, 2016)

As the insurgency progressed through the 1990s, the local participation became
marginal, thanks to the gains made by India’s counter-insurgency efforts as well
as fatigue setting in within the Kashmiri society (Ramachandran, 2016). Having
seen the toll insurgency had taken on their society, Kashmiri youngsters refused
to join the ranks of militancy. This led to an increase in the influx of foreign fighters, who the Kashmiri population did not see as their own, and led to the eventual
de-legitimization of the armed insurgency itself.
In other words, the Kashmir insurgency declined in the mid-1990s, not because
the underlying political issues were resolved but because India could make
military gains on the ground thereby pushing back the militancy, Pakistan lost
international support for its Kashmir campaign, and the Kashmiris were getting
tired of the violence. However this also meant that Kashmir insurgency, politically unresolved and militarily suppressed, never disappeared completely.

The Indo-Pak Crises of the Late 1990s and Early 2000s
While Kashmir receded into the background after the mid-1990s, the tension
between India and Pakistan did not dissipate significantly. Through the 1990s, the
Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and the International Border (IB) in Jammu
witnessed incessant firing. In May 1998, the two countries tested nuclear devices
and officially declared themselves nuclear-capable. Following the nuclear tests,
India’s then right-wing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to give peace
a chance and made a historic trip to Lahore in February 1999. He signed a number
of treaties and agreements during his meeting with his counterpart, Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan.
However, while Pakistan’s civilian government was talking peace with India,
its army, under General Pervez Musharraf, was intruding in the Kargil Sector of
J&K, which India detected only in May 1999. India used military force to expel
the Pakistani intruders and relations between the two sides slid further into uncertainty, with India accusing Pakistan of backstabbing.

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39

Even after the end of the Kargil War, the LoC and IB continued to be tense.
Firing across the border by the two armies was routine. Prime Minister Vajpayee
attempted to make peace with Pakistan once again and invited Pakistan’s new
military ruler—and architect of the Kargil invasion—General Musharraf to Agra,
in India, for a summit meeting, which unfortunately did not achieve anything
(Parthasarathy, 2004). In December 2001, Pakistan-based terrorists carried out an
attack against the Indian Parliament while it was in session and killed seven security personnel (Reddy, 2004). This led to a mass mobilization of Indian troops
along the border with Pakistan, though no war broke out. Tensions continued to
rise through 2002 due to yet another terror strike against a military facility in J&K
(Puri, 2002). Firing incidents had reached a new height during the period between
2001 and 2003 due to the fence-building by India along the border with Pakistan.
A total of 4134, 5767 and 2841 firing incidents were witnessed in 2001, 2002 and
2003, respectively along the Indo-Pak border in J&K.

Missed Opportunities Post 2003
The Indo-Pak Peace Process (2003–2008)
In April 2003, Prime Minister Vajpayee once again called for a dialogue during
a public speech in J&K. Later that year, in November, Pakistan offered a ceasefire agreement along the border in J&K which India accepted. It may be noted
that the US government had put pressure on Islamabad and New Delhi to engage
in a dialogue process (CNN.com, 2003). This led to a cessation of the firing that
had become routine on the state’s border with Pakistan. During a meeting in
Colombo in January 2004, Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf
agreed to begin the bilateral Composite Dialogue Process, which sought to discuss all the outstanding issues, eight of them in total. Despite the coming to
power of a new government in New Delhi later that year, the political commitment to the peace process continued. If anything, the new Congress-led government under Dr Manmohan Singh tried to strengthen the peace process with
Pervez Musharraf. The two sides specifically, and purposefully, engaged each
other on the Kashmir issue.
The period between 2004 and 2007 witnessed hectic diplomatic and political
activities leading to one of the best phases of the India–Pakistan relationship.
In April 2005, when President Musharraf came to India to watch an India–Pakistan
cricket match, the two leaders claimed that the peace process was now irreversible
(Friel & Zaheer, 2005). The backchannel negotiations on Kashmir succeeded in
negotiating a deal between the two sides without sacrificing the core interests of
either party. A large chunk of the Kashmiri dissident leadership was on board the
proposal, fashioned along the lines of the so-called ‘Musharraf formula’ and Dr
Singh’s idea of ‘making borders irrelevant’ (The Guardian, 2005). Backchannel
negotiators—Indian envoy S.K. Lambah (the former Indian High Commissioner

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International Studies 51(1–4)

to Pakistan) and his Pakistani counterpart Tariq Aziz, an advisor to the Pakistani
President—met at a number of undisclosed locations to discuss and finalize the
details of the peace proposal (Coll, 2009).

The ‘Near-deal’ on Kashmir
Though not officially acknowledged by either India or Pakistan, details of the
proposed solution to the Kashmir stand-off have subsequently surfaced and many
of those involved in the negotiations, including former Pakistani Foreign Minister
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, have discussed them in various public fora. In April
2010, Kasuri stated that ‘the previous Musharraf government had completed
almost 90 per cent of the spadework on the half-a-century old Kashmir dispute by
2007 as the whole exercise just needed the formal signature of all the three parties
to the issue—Pakistan, India and representatives of Kashmir’ (Dogar & Roy, 2010).
He also argued that the ‘near-deal’ on Kashmir was the result of three years of
quiet diplomacy that proposed a formula for peace characterized by ‘loose autonomy
that stopped short of the azadi (freedom) and self-governance aspirations (…) to
be introduced on both sides of the disputed frontier’, which was understood to be
‘between complete independence and autonomy’ (Dogar & Roy, 2010).
According to Kasuri, the deal was to be signed in March 2007 when Singh
would have been invited to visit Pakistan to do so. However, by early 2007,
Musharraf started losing his power and legitimacy in Pakistan, and Singh realized
he did not have the political support from his own party in India, the riskaverse Congress Party, to see the deal through (Dulat & Sinha, 2015, p. 320).
Developments in 2008 deteriorated the relationship, as India experienced a series
of terrorist attacks of Pakistani origin. After the July 2008 car bomb attack on the
Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 57 people, including senior Indian officials,
Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon stated that the peace process was ‘under
stress’ (BBC, 2008). Then, after terrorist attacks in Bangalore (Karnataka) and
Ahmedabad (Gujarat) during the same month, Menon declared while launching
the fifth round of the bilateral Composite Dialogue in Colombo that ‘India–
Pakistan relations were at a four-year low’ (Ministry of External Affairs, 2008).
However, many elements of the Composite Dialogue were sustained.
What really broke the camel’s back was the Mumbai terror attack committed
by the Lashkar-e-Taiba—a Pakistan-based terrorist organization—on 26 November
2008. Between November 2008 and February 2009, the world witnessed the serious
possibility of a military confrontation between the two countries. In January 2009,
New Delhi cancelled previously scheduled talks on the Sir Creek maritime dispute,
and the Composite Dialogue remained officially suspended for over two years.
In less than 12 months, the relationship deteriorated so much that from signing a
peace deal on Kashmir, India and Pakistan almost went to war. This shows how
accident-prone the relationship is and how much of an impact Pakistan-based
terror organizations have on the bilateral relationship.

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A New Political Climate in Kashmir
During the period from 2004 to 2008, Prime Minister Singh initiated several confidence-building measures with the Kashmiris. In 2006, he organized three crucial
Round Table Conferences with the Kashmiri political leadership, although key
dissident leaders boycotted them. He also announced the setting up of five working groups to examine various aspects of the Kashmir conflict. The groups were
tasked to deal with ‘improving the Centre’s relations with the State, furthering the
relations across the Line of Control (LoC), giving a boost to the State’s economic
development, rehabilitating the destitute families of militants and reviewing the
cases of detainees and ensuring good governance’ (Bukari & Kumar, 2008).
By early 2008, there was a feeling that Kashmir was changing for good, especially due to the improved relationship between the Kashmiris and New Delhi,
and between India and Pakistan. Even the 2008 agitation, which started out as an
agitation by Kashmiri Muslims against the transfer of land to a Hindu shrine, the
Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, by the J&K government, followed by an economic
blockade of Muslim-dominated Kashmir by Hindu-dominated Jammu did not
fundamentally transform the positive vibes that were visible in Kashmir.
In other words, after 20 years of insurgency, Kashmir was changing for the
better. The differences between 1989 and 2008 were huge. I had argued elsewhere
in 2009 (Jacob, 2009), reflecting on these changes, that in 1989, India found itself
on the losing side of the Cold War, weak and friendless. The international
community was negatively disposed towards India vis-à-vis the Kashmir issue.
The Kashmiri dissidents, Pakistan and the militants in Kashmir had managed to
‘internationalize’ their cause and garnered significant levels of sympathy for it.
India was being pushed into a corner. This was no more the case by 2008. India
was an emerging power and considered to be a key stabilizing player in the South
Asian subcontinent. The international community was no longer keen to discuss
Kashmir or force a solution; it knew India would not be pushed in that direction.
Furthermore, unlike in the late 1980s, Pakistan was a much-weakened power in
2008 without many reliable strategic partners and widely feared to be heading for
failure, primarily due to the fallout of its promotion of terrorism. And for the
international community, Kashmir was no more a pet issue.
Over the years, Kashmiri views on Pakistan had changed. Kashmiris had entertained a certain fascination for Pakistan, especially due to the iron hand used by
the Indian state in putting down the insurgency. This was also changing in the late
2000s, thanks to the existential problems that Pakistan was facing, the atrocities
that Pakistan-sponsored terrorists had committed in Kashmir and the general perception that joining Pakistan may not be the best option for Kashmir. Hence,
Pakistan no longer enjoyed much support in the Valley in the late 2000s.
More importantly, by the end of the decade (2007–2008), the political climate
in Kashmir had also undergone radical transformation. The ‘mainstreaming of
dissent’ was a significant phenomenon that started taking roots in the Valley. From
being completely anti-India in the early 1990s, separatist politics and ‘azadi’

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sentiments became more nuanced, more complex than before and manifested in
many forms, ranging from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Set up in 1999, the PDP was widely seen as a ‘pro-azadi’, ‘separatist’ or even
‘soft-separatist’ party. However, having ruled the state for three years, the PDP
was very much a mainstream Kashmiri political party with clear links to the
Indian state. On the other side of the divide, the dissident APHC often raised
governance-related issues. This crossing of traditional political boundaries by the
hitherto opposed political groups indicated the complexity of Kashmir’s new politics (Jacob, 2009).
In other words, there was a feeling by the late 2000s that it was perhaps possible to chart a new future for Kashmir given the changes underway in the Valley
as well as bilaterally. The events from 2008 until the 2016 uprising indicate that
this favourable atmosphere has been wasted. Among other things, the non-serious
manner in which the central government treated the reports submitted by the
working groups appointed by the Prime Minister’s Round Table Conferences had
a negative impact on the Kashmiri polity.
There was yet another uprising in Kashmir in 2010. It was triggered by the
killing of three civilians in an alleged fake army encounter. Subsequently, with the
killing of a Kashmiri student, Tufail Mattoo in June 2010, Kashmir witnessed an
unrest that claimed 130 Kashmiri lives. In the words of Shujaat Bukari, a Kashmiri
journalist, ‘The wounds were deep and even though order was restored after
months, the scars remained and the anti-India sentiment did not fade away’
(Bukhari, 2016). New Delhi responded by appointing a team of interlocutors to
hold discussions with Kashmiris and suggest solutions to the conflict, which they
did, but the government refused to act on the report (MHA, 2011).
Then, in February 2013, the Congress government in New Delhi executed
Mohammad Afzal Guru, convicted by the Indian Supreme Court in the 2001
Parliament attack case, leading to protests and shutdowns in the Kashmir Valley.
The incident deepened the divide between New Delhi and Kashmir, as the separatists and the general public in Kashmir called Guru a martyr (Vij, 2016).
The LoC and IB continued to witness incessant ceasefire violations (CFVs) by
both sides, with scores of casualties and civilian displacement. From 21 CFVs in
2007, the number went up to 347 and 583 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Attempts
were made to break the bilateral stalemate, but without any success.

Renewed Hope under the BJP-led Government of Narendra Modi
When the new BJP-led government in Delhi came to power under the leadership
of Narendra Modi in May 2014, there was some hope that India–Pakistan relations would improve since it was believed that it would take a strong leader to
make a lasting deal with Pakistan. This belief was strengthened when Modi
invited the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to Delhi for his swearing-in

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ceremony in May 2014. However, this bonhomie did not last long as terror strikes
against India continued, and so did the CFVs. But, Mr Modi’s surprise visit to
Pakistan in December 2015 to meet Nawaz Sharif in a private function was seen
as a breakthrough, which took place after the two National Security Advisors
started holding private parlays between themselves to iron out the key differences
(Razdan, 2015).
Kashmiris in the meantime were upset once again when relief from the union
government did not reach them in time during the 2014 Kashmir floods (Sharma
& Najar, 2014). What upset them even more was the PDP, the so-called soft-separatist party, entering an alliance with the BJP to form a government in J&K.
Given how vigorously the PDP had campaigned against Mr Modi and his party,
many Kashmiris were convinced that this was an opportunistic alliance purely for
the sake of gaining power. And yet, when these two ideologically opposed parties
came together to form a coalition government in early 2015, there was hope that
things would get better for J&K, given the PDP’s popularity in south Kashmir and
the BJP’s historic mandate at the national level. Close to two years since the coalition came to power, there is a great deal of scepticism today about the ability of
the coalition to fulfil the hopes of Kashmiris.
The PDP leadership repeatedly reminded the BJP of the need to deliver on
the promises enshrined in the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ (Ahmad, 2016), including
‘to facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal
stakeholders, which will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilections’. However, the key objectives outlined in the document have not been taken up for implementation by the coalition so far (Jacob,
2016a). This has led to a de-legitimization of the elected government in J&K.
Indeed, according to an account, ‘Police records confirm that some of the young
men who have recently become militants had actively canvassed for the PDP in
the 2014 general elections’ (Bukhari, 2016a).

‘Reaching Out to Kashmiris’
The feeling among the Kashmiris that New Delhi has never been serious about
ending the conflict in the Valley is not entirely out of place, as the latter has tended
to use talks to buy time and defuse a crisis in hand. In February 2003, the Vajpayee
government appointed retired Home Secretary N.N. Vohra as the government’s
interlocutor for J&K. He held discussions with several separatists. Thereafter, in
June 2004, the centre held talks with the Kashmiri separatists.
In May 2006, Prime Minister Singh set up five working groups to resolve the
issues confronting J&K. All the groups gave their recommendations, but most of
them have not been implemented. In 2008, when Kashmiri unrest erupted, an allparty delegation headed by the then home minister visited Kashmir to bring the
uprising to an end. Again, during the 2010 uprising, a 39-member all-party delegation visited Kashmir after more than 120 lives were lost due to firing by the

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security forces. Based on the suggestion of the delegation, a team of three interlocutors was appointed in October 2010. In their report in October 2011, the interlocutors gave several suggestions for conflict resolution in Kashmir, none of
which was systematically followed up by the government (Naqshbandi, 2016).
Kashmiri journalist Muzamil Jaleel feels that the successive governments in
New Delhi were never serious about conflict resolution in Kashmir; they were
only desirous of conflict management. According to him, since the early 1990s,
New Delhi’s policy has been ‘rooted in the belief that managing the conflict,
maintaining status quo and delaying resolution will ultimately tire out the majority in Kashmir and end the political problem’ (Jaleel, 2016). The combined result
of this mishandling has been a sharp, and worrying, spike in the number of homegrown militants in the Valley today.

Kashmir on the Precipice
A New Kind of Uprising
The uprising in 2016 is widely perceived to be different from the earlier ones of
2008 and 2010, as well as the one in the late 1980s and early 1990s. M. K.
Narayanan, India’s former National Security Advisor, wrote an alarming piece
about what he sees as the new insurgency in Kashmir:
No evidence has surfaced that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or the Jaish-e-Mohammed
(JeM) are involved in the violence, though Hizbul Mujahideen cadres are present in
sizeable numbers. (…) in marked contrast to earlier phases of trouble in Kashmir, the
present movement is almost entirely home grown. The spontaneity of many ‘miniuprisings’ demands a different explanation from earlier ones, for it smacks of near total
alienation of an entire generation of young Kashmiris angry with the present state of
affairs. Many are even willing to commit suicide to vent their anger. (Narayanan, 2016)

Senior journalist Harinder Baweja agrees with this assessment when she notes
that: ‘the locals are once again outnumbering what the security establishment
refers to as “foreign terrorists”’ (Baweja, 2015). Referring to official figures, she
indicates that there are an estimated 66 local and 44 foreign terrorists in north
Kashmir and 109 local and 7 foreign terrorists in south Kashmir. In other words,
while the Valley may still have Pakistani influence, much of what is happening
there is spontaneous and locally driven.
One phenomenon that puzzles Indian security agencies and analysts alike is the
leaderless agitation that often takes place in Kashmir as it did in 2016, quite unlike
in the 1990s. Indeed, Narayanan writes: ‘The movement gives the impression
today of being on autopilot, without any known leaders’ (Narayanan, 2016).
Moreover, this uprising shuns the use of weapons. Senior journalist Prem Shankar
Jha calls it ‘The Rise of Kashmir’s Second “Intifada”’ (Jha, 2016a).

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While the local youths who joined the ranks of militancy did pick the gun
against security forces, during the uprising itself, no arms were used by the protesters on security forces: they were merely using stones or bare hands, unlike in
the late 1980s and early 1990s when the use of weapons was routine.

Educated Militants
What is even more troubling is the character of the new age militant who is educated, hailing from well-to-do families and religiously motivated. Bashaarat
Masood wrote in The Indian Express how youngsters from middle class families
were joining the ranks of militancy, which disproves the argument that the insurgency is a result of unemployment:
Burhan belongs to a wealthy, educated family of Tral. His father Muzaffar Ahmad Wani
is a school principal, his mother Maimoona Muzaffar is a science postgraduate and
teaches the Quran, his brother Khalid, who was killed allegedly by the Army in April
this year when he went to meet Burhan in the forests, was a postgraduate in commerce,
and his two other siblings go to school. It’s a profile that’s common to most young local
militants. (Masood, 2015)

Religious Radicalization
Kashmir has traditionally been home to a tolerant Muslim community, with a
great deal of Sufi influence, where Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony for the
most part. Islam practiced in the state has not only accommodated other religions
but has indeed incorporated from other religious practices. Kashmiris have traditionally been proud of their ability to co-exist peacefully with other religions: the
notion of Kashmiriyat (syncretism of Kashmir) is widely considered to be the soul
of the Kashmiri way of life (Khan, 2016). Over the years, however, the talk about
Kashmiriyat has become less significant in the Valley. In the 1990s, religious
extremism from Pakistan started transforming the local political landscape.
During insurgency, many of the Pakistan-based terror organizations brought an
intolerant form of Islam into Kashmir.
Slowly but steadily, radical Islam is taking root in the Valley. A prominent
Kashmiri columnist Arjimand Hussain Talib points out that
Mosques which would traditionally be run by people of Hanafi thought, highly
influenced by the Sufi ways of religious practices, are increasingly being overtaken
by Wahabi ideologues. This is happening not only in Kashmir’s countryside but in
Srinagar city as well, including the Old city—considered a strong bastion of Hanafi
Islamic thought. Although this transition does not necessarily mean outright religious
radicalisation, however, it leaves scope for transformation which over a period of time
attains a degree of radicalisation—both social and political. (Hussain, 2010)

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It is important to note that radicalization in Kashmir has increased together with
the emergence of Hindu radical politics in India. The rise of the BJP, in the past
quarter century since the early 1990s, seems to have strengthened radicalization
within Kashmir.

Social Legitimacy for Militancy
There is also a disquieting rise in the legitimacy for armed militancy among the
civil society and the educated classes of the Valley—Burhan Wani’s father, who
remains convinced of the righteousness of his son’s mission, is symbolic of that
radical change. A society that was exhausted by violence and gun culture of the
1990s has suddenly started justifying it. Even Pakistani terrorists are getting support from the population of the Valley today. For instance, when Abu Qasim, a
Pakistani commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was killed by the Indian security
forces in early 2016, his funeral was attended by more than 30,000 Kashmiris
(Bukhari, 2016b). The funeral of Burhan Wani, who was called a dreaded terrorist
by the Indian state, was attended by tens of thousands of Kashmiris.
A decade of mishandling Kashmir has fundamentally damaged the liberal
political space that could have countered the return of militancy. Even the moderate Hurriyat factions find it difficult to engage the youngsters shouting for azadi,
throwing stones and ready to die (Jacob, 2016a). Social legitimacy and religious
influence have together led to a certain fearlessness among those picking up a gun
against the state.

Set to Return
The July 2016 uprising is already dying down and the Government of India will
weather the storm with its patience and military might. Moreover, there is no
sympathy in the international community for insurgencies such as this, and no one
takes Pakistan’s complaints of human rights violations in Kashmir seriously. If
such normalcy is eventually achievable, should there be a cause for concern?
Kashmir watchers disagree that the Indian state will be able to bring an end to
the uprising in Kashmir in the long run. Prem Shankar Jha, an astute Indian analyst on Kashmir, argues:
Kashmiris cannot keep fighting and protesting forever. Ultimately they will have to
choose between the loss of work, the loss of education for their children, the loss of
sales, mounting debt and interest burdens, and increasing shortages of fuel, medicines,
and other things in life that make peace so precious. But that will only bottle up the rage
that is consuming the youth of the Valley. If the government does not open a valve for it
to escape through, an increasing number of youth will take Burhan’s way out—snatch a
rifle or kill a government functionary and become a militant. (Jha, 2016b)

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Similarly, Siddiq Wahid, a well-known Kashmiri intellectual, argues that
Kashmir’s azadi struggle will not die down easily even though the present uprising would eventually go away, only to return again:
Given the limits of pain and loss that civil society can endure, the protests will subside,
people will exchange notes on the details of as yet unknown brutalities perpetrated in
the countryside and the anger will deepen (…). The municipal corporation government
will continue for a couple of years, the protests will then return with greater ferocity and
be put down once again by even greater state violence. The cycle will repeat until the
perilous confrontation is sucked into conflagration. (Wahid, 2016)

In short, the Kashmir insurgency has taken a life of its own, with its own momentum and there is no way to predict what might happen next and when. And that is
the real worry, of yet another popular uprising waiting to happen. As academic
Sumantra Bose puts it, ‘the Kashmir issue is—to use two worn but valid clichés—
both a festering sore and India’s Achilles’ heel’ (Bose, 2016). New Delhi’s inability to pacify Kashmir will not only ensure that the uprising will return but more so
it could potentially be a setback for India’s larger geopolitical and developmental
goals.
Another related problem is the ill-treatment of youngsters by the government
which adds to the pent-up anger in the Valley against the Indian state. A ‘concerned citizens’ delegation, including senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which
recently visited Kashmir reported the rampant misuse of special legal provisions
against minors (The Indian Express, 2016b).

The Clash of Symbolisms4
BJP’s Inability to Resolve the Kashmir Conflict
As pointed out above, New Delhi’s failure to deliver on its political promises,
account for human rights violations and stem the erosion of political rights,
along with Pakistan’s attempts at aiding and abetting armed militancy in the
state, have historically contributed to the Kashmir insurgency. Each of these has
differently impacted various sections of Kashmiris. Conflict resolution, therefore, is far more complicated and difficult today than ever before. The difficulty
also comes from the fact that the ruling regime in New Delhi does not find it
imperative to politically resolve the Kashmir issue or address it bilaterally with
Pakistan: this seems to be an emerging policy choice of the government, indeed.
This absence of a desire to resolve the Kashmir conflict both internally with
Kashmiris and bilaterally with Pakistan, in one sense, comes from the BJP’s
own ideological positions.
The BJP government in New Delhi approaches the Kashmir issue either using
a Pakistan angle (insisting that the Kashmir uprising is propped up by Pakistan) or

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from a Hindu–Muslim perspective. Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s attempts to
blame the unrest entirely on Pakistan and to rope in Delhi-based Muslim clerics to
reach out to Kashmiris are indicative of these flawed approaches (Chhibber, 2016;
PTI, 2016). The reality is that neither do Indian Muslims have anything to do with
what happens in Kashmir nor is the ‘azadi’ struggle in Kashmir a purely Islamic
religious movement.
This inability of the BJP to meaningfully respond to the ongoing turmoil in
Kashmir, at a very fundamental level, is the result of a clash that exists between
the BJP’s politics of symbolism and what Kashmir’s ‘azadi’ movement symbolizes. While some of the demands made and positions taken by both the BJP leadership and the Kashmiri dissidents are indeed substantive, the fact is that there are
thick layers of symbolism that surround these substantive arguments, with the
latter almost clouding the former. This issue of symbolism is not only preventing
the BJP from reaching out to the Kashmiris but also frustrates its talks with
Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

BJP’s Ideological Baggage on Kashmir
In BJP’s nationalist cosmology, Article 370 of the Constitution,5 and the separate
flag and constitution, which symbolize that special status of J&K in the Indian
union, run counter to its idea of Indian nationalism. Right-wing ideologue Syama
Prasad Mukherjee’s evocative slogan ‘Ek vidhan, ek nishan aur ek samvidhan’
(one country, one emblem and one constitution) forms BJP’s political approach to
Kashmir. In reality though, the J&K flag and its constitution are not privileged
over the Indian national flag or Constitution, and Article 370 of the Constitution
has lost all meaning over the years. In other words, while in the Kashmiri political
imagination, the flag, constitution and whatever is left of Article 370 form a crucial part of Kashmiri nationalism and even its ‘azadi’ demand, the BJP, a party that
rides high on exclusivist political symbolism, finds it hard to accept. For the
Kashmiri nationalist, abolition of Article 370 would be symbolic of complete
‘Indian occupation’; for the BJP and its associated organizations in the Sangh
Parivar, it would be in line with bringing Kashmir into the Indian mainstream.
Consider, for example, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA. To
Kashmiris, laws like AFSPA are symbolic of Indian oppression, whereas for the
BJP, withdrawing AFSPA would be a symbolic defeat at the hands of Kashmiri
separatists. The reality, however, is that revoking AFSPA from a few districts in
Kashmir or even partially amending it would be a symbol that Kashmiris would
find greatly encouraging. Moreover, doing so may not affect the army’s operational capability there.
The same logic applies to the withdrawal of central forces (paramilitary
forces of the central government and the Indian Army) from the residential areas
of the Valley. The BJP finds it difficult to heed to such demands due to its
nationalist baggage, which the Congress Party could if it willed it, even though

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49

it did not. However, doing so would make a great deal of difference to Kashmiris
since, for them, the gun-totting soldier frisking civilians, day after day, represents Indian oppression.
The only BJP leader who played to the Kashmiri nationalist symbolism, if not
doing anything about it, was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who by merely uttering the
magic mantra that every BJP leader takes refuge in today—‘Kashmiriyat, jamhooriyat (democracy), insaniyat (humanity)’—transformed the discourse on the
relationship between New Delhi and Srinagar. Later, another encouraging sign
emerged when the BJP managed to form a coalition government in the Valley with
the ‘soft-separatist’ PDP despite declaring in its 2014 election manifesto that it
would abrogate Article 370. The BJP could take that step precisely because it
managed to not only go back on its hard-line positions but also address some of
the key symbols of Kashmiri nationalism in its ‘Agenda of Alliance’ with the PDP
(Daily News and Analysis, 2015). Unfortunately, the party was not able to pursue
that approach.
The earlier Congress regime, on the other hand, was adept at symbolically
playing to Kashmiri demands. Most of its Kashmir initiatives from 2004 to 2011
show that it used symbolism with an occasional sprinkling of substance: Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh engaged the separatists without any hesitation (unlike
the BJP), organized Round Table Conferences in Kashmir, set up working groups
on key themes linked to the ‘azadi’ question, and, after the 2010 agitation, sent a
group of interlocutors to Kashmir who went out of their way to meet all the key
separatists in the Valley. While nothing came out of any of these initiatives,
Dr Singh managed to convey to Kashmiris that he was willing to engage them in
an ‘out of the box’ manner without riding high on aggressive nationalism.

BJP’s Inability to Address Pakistan’s Demands on Kashmir
The BJP’s nationalist baggage also prevents it from talking meaningfully to Pakistan
on Kashmir. The India–Pakistan dispute over Kashmir is a substantive issue pertaining primarily to the state’s territoriality, and yet there are strong symbolic aspects of
the dispute that can indeed transcend the substantive claims. Armed with the unavoidable realization that a territorial change of the Kashmir border is impossible due
to a variety of reasons, Pakistan has been looking for an ‘honourable exit route’ from
the Kashmir quagmire, a conflict that has had immeasurable adverse implications
for its own society and polity. This explains the thought process behind the so-called
Musharraf formula, a solution that hinges on resolving the bilateral Kashmir dispute
without changing its currently existing borders.
Prime Minister Singh understood the symbolism behind the Musharraf formula
and offered to work with the Pakistani leader to ‘make borders irrelevant’ in
Kashmir. Both proposals were full of symbolism, with hardly any substantive territorial transformation in it. Singh could pursue it because the symbolism behind his
politics, and that of the Congress Party, did not clash with the proposed solution.

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How fundamental is Kashmir to Pakistan’s identity? There was a time when
Kashmir was bandied about as the ‘jugular vein of Pakistan’. Pakistan continues
to do so, but of late there is a recognition that it needs to focus more on its own
internal conflicts rather than Kashmir (though the current stand-off may help
reverse it). Pakistan also regularly refers to the UN resolutions on Kashmir, but
that is essentially to put New Delhi on the mat rather than being reflective of its
seriousness about the resolutions, which would require Pakistan to first vacate
the J&K territory under its control. In short, it is not impossible for India to
address Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir, if preceded by a proper peace process.
The BJP, however, due to its nationalist baggage and absolutist claims about
Kashmir, may find it hard to address Pakistan’s need for a ‘symbolic resolution’
of the Kashmir dispute.

Domestic Political Constraints
BJP’s inability to resolve the Kashmir issue also stems from its domestic political
compulsions. Having often termed the Kashmiri separatists as ‘Pakistan-backed
terrorists’ (Daily News and Analysis, 2016), it has become difficult for the BJP to
proactively reach out to the separatists. Home Minister Singh, for instance, failed
to reach out to the separatists despite two visits to the Valley in August and
September 2016 (The Indian Express, 2016a).
More importantly, the BJP’s Kashmir policy will continue to be dictated by
electoral compulsions. Its electoral campaigns tend to ride high (along with the
developmental promises) on nationalist symbols, national pride, national power
and civilizational greatness. Such high-octane symbolism does not go well with
attempts at negotiating with the Kashmiri ‘terrorists supported by Pakistan’, especially when the party is bracing for Assembly elections in crucial states such as
Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat in 2017. Because of this inability to resolve
the Kashmir conflict, stemming from ideological reasons, there is a feeling in
New Delhi that it is easy to contain the Kashmir issue rather than go through the
difficult and costly conflict resolution process. Hard-line strategies then seem to
be what the government is depending on.

What Needs to Be Done?6
Between India and Kashmir
Given the extent of anti-India feelings in the Valley and the belief that New Delhi
has never been serious about resolving the Kashmir conflict, it may not be easy at
this point to reach out to the Kashmiris. And yet, it is pertinent here to examine the
short-term and long-term ways to resolve the conflict. In the short term, there is a
need to repeal or at least amend AFSPA, release political prisoners, institute a

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51

broad-based inquiry into extrajudicial killings and open a result-oriented dialogue
with the Valley’s dissidents to discuss the larger political questions as promised by
the ruling coalition (Jacob, 2016b).
In the intermediate term, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) could
be set up in the state to help Kashmiris come to terms with their past and to
advance the cause of justice and reconciliation. The most important aspect of this
political package should be the adherence to Article 370 of the Constitution in
letter and spirit. Most of the key features of the Article have been distorted or
removed to such an extent that it is no longer recognizable. Indeed, the Jammu &
Kashmir National Conference -appointed State Autonomy Committee had, in
1999, recommended that the President of India should strike down all orders that
infringe on the 1950 Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, and the Delhi
Agreement of 1952 (Satp, 2001). This recommendation was not heeded by the
then BJP-led government (Bukhari, 2014). It may now be revisited in conjunction
with other recommendations from political parties such as the PDP.

Kashmir and India–Pakistan Relations
A permanent solution to the Kashmir issue is unlikely to emerge without the
involvement of Pakistan. In the longer term, therefore, there is a need to revisit the
backchannel decisions reached by the two countries on J&K that can be implemented in the state in consultation with the people of the state. Kashmir easily
constitutes the most significant and challenging issue in the India–Pakistan relationship. Whenever bilateral discussions on Kashmir have improved, as was the
case between 2003 and 2008, the general bilateral atmosphere has also been positive, and conducive for resolving other conflicts.
Even though both India and Pakistan have in the past come down from their
absolutist positions on Kashmir, Pakistan’s use of terror as a state policy has been
the single most significant cause for the lack of improvement on the Kashmir front.
Some analysts have argued that Pakistani security establishment is unlikely to give
up on its traditional positions on Kashmir. Sumit Ganguly argues, for instance, that
Pakistan is a greedy state and that ‘its desire for expansion does not stem from guaranteeing its own security. Instead it can be traced to its commitment to incorporate
the state of Jammu and Kashmir (…) This irredentist claim has remained a constant
in Pakistan’s foreign and security policy’ (Ganguly, 2016, p. 20).

Conclusion
The 2016 uprising has shown that the insurgency in Kashmir is far from over. The
key reason why the insurgency, which was contained in the mid- to late 1990s,
started getting a new lease of life is because of the failure of conflict resolution
between India and Pakistan as well as India’s political mishandling of the internal

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dimensions of the Kashmir conflict. Today the Indian state faces a major security
threat from the repeated uprisings in Kashmir even though the government in
New Delhi does not seem to have seriously diagnosed its implications.
The current policy of using force to dissuade protesters and of waiting for them
to tire out does not seem like a long-term strategy. An unmanaged rebellion in
Kashmir could prove to be expensive for India due to a variety of external factors.
Pakistan’s behaviour in the past one year has shown that it would utilize any given
opportunity to fan the flames in Kashmir, both materially and politically. More
significantly, with the new insurgency showing clear signs of being influenced by
religious dogmas, unlike in the later 1980s and early 1990s, New Delhi would be
ill-advised not to resolve the conflict politically while it still can. The ISIS factor,
though not yet a serious threat in the context of Kashmir, could potentially make
the insurgency harder to handle in the years ahead.
While it is true that the Pakistani involvement has ensured that the Kashmiri
demands are still heard by New Delhi and the international community, it is also
true that Pakistani involvement has made it difficult for New Delhi to make any
concessions due to domestic political/electoral implications. In other words, had
the Kashmir issue not had a Pakistan angle to it, it would have been easier for the
government in New Delhi to resolve it. Paradoxically, however, it would have not
have bothered with Kashmir had there been no Pakistan angle to it.
In 2016, the BJP government signed a peace accord with the Nationalist
Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN (IM), the Naga insurgents
in the northeast of the country, which has been demanding for ‘a “Greater
Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland’,
including several districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, ‘as also a
large tract of Myanmar’ (Kashyap, 2015). The government in New Delhi was able
to make peace with NSCN (IM) because of the lack of domestic political costs
and external angle to the issue. But there is nothing to indicate that Pakistan is
likely to wind down its involvement in Kashmir in the days ahead making it
exceptionally hard for New Delhi to resolve Kashmir.
Conflict resolution in J&K is easier said than done. Since the beginning of
2016, and especially the outbreak of the latest uprising in Kashmir, India and
Pakistan have hardened their positions. There is hardly any talk about the
Musharraf formula nor are the backchannel parlays working. This will pose a
major challenge for the bilateral resolution of the conflict over Kashmir.
Notes
1. An earlier version of this article was published by Institut Français des Relations
Internationales as The Kashmir Uprising and India–Pakistan Relations: A Need for
Conflict Resolution, Not Management, Asie.Visions, No. 90, December 2016.
2. Hizbul Mujahideen is one of the largest jihadist groups operating in Indian-controlled
Kashmir.
3. Indian forces have used pellet guns to quell protests in Kashmir. These weapons, which
are described as ‘non-lethal’, have caused serious eye injuries.

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4. This section draws arguments from my previously published article: Kashmir and
the Clash of Symbolisms’, The Hindu, 29 August 2016. Retrieved from http://www.
thehindu.com/opinion/lead/kashmir-and-the-clash-of-symbolisms/article9043025.ece
5. After the J&K state acceded to the Indian Union in 1947, Article 370 was introduced
in the Indian Constitution in order to define the relationship between New Delhi and
Srinagar. As per this article, the union government of India can make laws applicable
to J&K only in those areas that are specifically mentioned in the Instrument of
Accession that the Maharaja of J&K signed in 1947. In the Instrument of Accession
under section ‘the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may
make laws for this State’, the subjects mentioned are: defence, external affairs and
communications. The spirit of Article 370 has, however, been chipped away over the
past six decades.
6. This section borrows from my previous writings, in particular, Kashmir Needs a Political
Package, The Hindu, 22 September 2010. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/
opinion/lead/kashmir-needs-a-political-package/article777311.ece

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