Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

On the Brink of War in Kashmir

By Meghan FlykePublished February 20, 2015

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The relative peace that has existed in Kashmir over the past decade was disrupted again early this year when economic pressure and changing policies led to cross-border fire on both sides. The renewal of the conflict raises human rights concerns and questions of the involvement responsibility of superpowers like the United States and China.
By Meghan Flyke, 02/20/15

The relative peace that has existed in Kashmir over the past decade was disrupted again early this year when economic pressure and changing policies led to cross-border fire on both sides. The territorial dispute has caused significant turmoil for the diverse ethno-religious peoples within the region and along its Indo-Pakistani borders, especially as the probability of all-out war climbs steadily. 

Kashmir is an ambiguous territory that divides India and Pakistan in the northern region of both countries. Failed UN resolutions in the past have managed to establish the tentative ceasefire agreements that are easily violated by militants on both fronts. Recently, heightened tension has led to newfound violations of the armistice policies and accusations of human rights abuses. 

India occupies over two-thirds of the region, despite the fact Kashmir is predominantly inhabited by Muslim Arabs who have voted consistently for both control by Pakistan and independence. Ethno-religious problems, therefore, are not new to the region. The Hindu culture of India, along with a global spread of Islamophobia, has led to a smothering of Kashmiri identity, rejection from many Western countries, and terrorism within and around the territory.

Violence broke out in Kashmiri border villages on January 6, leaving 1500 civilians either displaced or injured, as well as 20 dead. Several media sources report that the Indian, American, and Israeli forces that monitor security checkpoints and other aspects of Kashmiri life have utilized sexual violence and unwarranted tear gas as means to threaten and coerce those involved in the conflict. For Kashmiris, India is branded as the mastermind behind terrorism in the region. The United States has also garnered a severely negative reputation following indiscriminate drone strikes and one-sided wars in South Asia and the Middle East.

The dispute over Kashmir has developed a global scope since its foundation in the 1940's, after the partition of the British Indian Empire. On January 8, China issued a statement voicing concern over the violent outbreak and urging the nations to show restraint. The United States and other Western countries have encouraged India and Pakistan to engage in talks.

International trade and finance play a significant role in the proliferation of the conflict, particularly as India's economy becomes one of the largest in the world. Pakistan's economic viability relies on compliance with Indian trade preferences and working diplomatic relations to some degree. On February 8th, trade halted across Kashmir as 22 Pakistani trucks were found to be carrying illicit materials. Indefinite suspensions of trade and production will lessen the quality of life and increase resentment among the Kashmiris. 

The ethno-religious, political, and economic problems in Kashmir have reached a certain height in recent months. Thus, the prospects of war are becoming more attractive to both Pakistan and India every day. In the meantime, the United States should avoid restrictions on foreign aid to Islamabad and carefully monitor the human rights concerns in the region. Allying too closely to India could encourage the uprisings in Pakistan that lead to inevitable war.