Ending terror in Kashmir

India and Pakistan: Both need to take confidence-building measures to end tensions, legitimize politics.

January 10, 2002

CALLS ON PAKISTAN to end its support of terrorism in India's portion of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir are reasonable and just. That is not the same as dropping the arguments over Kashmir's status.

Pervez Musharraf, the unelected military president of Pakistan, may have welcomed U.S. pressure to join the war on terrorism in Afghanistan for the very purpose of curbing the Islamist influence that opposed the switch.

Many Pakistani modernists have been looking for ways to reverse the creeping "Talibanization" of their country that the dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq initiated two decades ago.

But nearly all Pakistanis believe that Kashmir belongs in Pakistan, and that Kashmiri insurgency is genuine and justified.

Similarly, many Indians believe that losing Kashmir's Muslim majority would undermine the secular nature of their great republic, which modernists fear might morph into a Hindu state.

Given Kashmir's population of 10 million, its importance to the identity of both nations is overstated by both, however sincerely.

Before the late 1980s, when Pakistan adopted the Kashmir insurgency, much of the political ferment that India was suppressing was for independence as a small Himalyan republic, not for incorporation into Pakistan.

Were India to grant the United Nations-sanctioned plebiscite that it has prevented, independence might win.

India and Pakistan both dread such an outcome.

Pakistan must end its support of terrorism in Kashmir and India, which has undermined the integrity of resistance to Indian rule. That would not end resistance.

A simultaneous confidence-building measure, which Washington should press India to take, would stand down the provocative mobilization along the two nations' 1,800-mile border.

For the Kashmir issue to be taken permanently out of violence, it must be addressed by alternative means, in which all its people would freely participate.

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