It has been 15 years since Kargil War ended and yet there does not seem to be any substantial improvement in the estranged relations between India and Pakistan. Let us take a sneak preview of the last 15 years to see the recurring events and compare them with the fundamental trends. This is an essential exercise, to see where the existential rivalry between India and Pakistan stands today, which has not helped the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in so far as inter-state axis of the issue, is concerned. The so called peace process or the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan has been more of a roller coaster ride, as the obstacles in the peace process have not abated, even till date.
In that context, military crises between India and Pakistan are nothing new. Since the 1980’s, there have been four major military crises between India and Pakistan, which includes Brasstacks from 1986-87, the Compound crisis of 1990, the 1999 Kargil War and the 2001-02 crisis following the Indian parliament bombing. The Kargil War of 1999 which was construed as a limited war at the time as India did not declare an all-out war on Pakistan yet fought a war to defend its territory in the interest of national security. This was a watershed military crisis between India and Pakistan as it happened just a year after they tested their nuclear weapons in 1998. The apprehension of an all – out nuclear war between India and Pakistan, which also evoked an international response, forced the two to de-escalate the crisis and respect the ceasefire line as agreed upon during the Shimla Agreement of 1971.
The Kargil War also unveiled a disconnect between the civilian and military leadership in both the countries especially Pakistan, which culminated in a military coup in which General Parvez Musharraf took the reins of Pakistan in his hand. Before the Kargil War in 1999, India and Pakistan signed the Lahore Declaration, in which the two reiterated their commitment to peace between the two, while the Pakistani Army was preparing for an infiltration into the Indian Territory and the crisis began in May, 1999. Despite this, the willingness remained but it did not last long enough as again there were apprehensions on the Indian side that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism on the Indian soil, which was followed by the 2001-02 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament. India, however after this, conducted a mass military mobilization at the borders called Operation Parakaram. India considered this exercise of coercive diplomacy as a success but this did not serve any purpose rather wreaked havoc, as it could not prevent another terrorist attack from across the border in 2008 on Mumbai popularly known as 26/11. Therefore as a recurring event of this sort happened, it can be reasonably construed that the pre-emptive attacks from across the border did not abate, which stalled the peace process between India and Pakistan that began in 2004.
In 2009 during the Sharm-el-Sheikh accord between India and Pakistan, again the two reiterated their willingness to make peace and resolve the areas of discord between the two. However, this willingness did not get much domestic support in both the countries and also did not bridge the trust deficit between the two as the memory of Mumbai terror attack was still vividly represented in the collective conscience of India. In 2012, there was again hope of revival of the peace process between the two as they resumed the composite dialogue which was stalled in the wake of terror attack on Mumbai. However, since January of 2013 ceasefire violations became a common ground, further perpetuating the distrust and mutual hatred, shrouded in negativity. Media has its role to play in aggravating that perception of negativity which further does not allow the two to de-escalate the tensions between them. While media could have played a constructive role in crisis management and even peace building, but they have been presenting a distorted picture of the ground reality which is obvious in the way people continue to remain oblivious of the situation in Kashmir.
Now, the future of peace process between the two seems to be in doldrums again in the backdrop of continued ceasefire violations underscored by Government’s order UNMOGIP to end their mission in Delhi. The primary mandate of UNMOGIP of monitoring the ceasefire line between the two could play an important role in international crisis management which could provide grounds for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute as between India and Pakistan. Despite the limited mandate UNMOGIP has, it has failed to deliver in the earnest after the Shimla Agreement of 1971, and in that sense has become irrelevant as far as the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is concerned. The significance of UNMOGIP as far as Kashmir is concerned remains a moot point, but the fact that it has failed to deliver on its mandate has put a question mark on its existence as the oldest peace keeping mission of the UN in the world, which was established in 1947. However symbolic its value has been for Kashmir, it does not concretise into something that would substantially help the peace process between the two.
In the end, it is important to mention here that symbolism that the UN represents in the minds and hearts of people of Kashmir has to be turned into something more concrete. The scrapping of UNMOGIP from Delhi evoked a lot of debate on its value and significance, but it is a non-issue if we look at the larger picture. The larger picture should comprise of an initiative from India and Pakistan as far as Kashmir dispute is concerned because without that even mediation would not help.
Mediation requires consent of the conflict parties involved and in this conundrum, India has always shown unwillingness of accepting any outside intervention, while Pakistan on the contrary always supports to internationalise the issue which may or may not be a stance taken by them for meeting the interests of Kashmiri people. However ambiguous the stance taken by the two is, the fact is and remains that negotiation continues to remain the best possible option to find a way out of the Kashmir dispute, provided the two don’t indulge in negative sum bargaining. Despite the willingness from both the countries to engage in a constructive peace dialogue, trust deficit, mutual hatred and suspicion between the two has hindered any steps towards resolving the issues between them. The two states should sincerely work towards the resolution of the dispute by keeping their inflated egos in check and by detaching themselves from the political symbolism attached to Kashmir coupled with confidence building measures which would bridge the trust deficit between the two. Without this any step towards resolving the dispute would be a non-starter and it is high time that we acknowledge it now.