Kashmir - the festering wound

We are publishing here Chapter Seven of the book 'Partition, Can it be undone?' by Lal Khan. We are publishing it because of its relevance to the present conflict between India and Pakistan. This chapter analyses the historical background and the economic and strategic interests that have led to the present situation.

(We are publishing here Chapter Seven of the book 'Partition, Can it be undone?' by Lal Khan. We are publishing it because of its relevance to the present conflict between India and Pakistan. The whole book, 'Partition, Can it be undone?', can be ordered from Wellred Books on this web site.)

The recognition of the right to self-determination
does not exclude both propaganda and agitation
against separation or the exposure of bourgeoisie nationalism.

V.I. Lenin, The National Programme of the R.S.D.L.P.
Collected Works Vol: 19.pp 400-401

The Mughal Emperor Jehangir had called Kashmir, 'Paradise, on earth'. The Kashmir valley has been font of much florid British and Mughal poetry. Today this lovely Vale, whose name had been the last words of a dying Mughal, is drenched in blood. Since 1947 Pakistan and India have gone to war thrice, Kashmir being the main dispute. First in 1948, then in 1965 due to Kashmir and in 1971 the Bangladesh war in which Kashmir was again the main bone of contention in the Western front.

Flash Point

Kashmir is not the only flashpoint in the subcontinent. If you take a look at the map of the subcontinent there is hardly a place, which is not witnessing volcanic eruptions. From Baluchistan to Manipur and from Assam to Sri Lanka there are insurgencies and civil wars going on.

Yet Kashmir is the main focal point of the conflict in the region, mainly because it serves the ruling classes. Partition was not only a crime against the people of the subcontinent but even the process was flawed and truncated in itself. In its policy of divide and rule, British imperialism made it sure that some major thorny issue was left behind which continued the process of hatred and spite.

On Friday 24th August Mohammad Ali Jinnah sent his military secretary to Kashmir. Exhausted by his week of difficult negotiations, weakened by the unforgiving disease in his lungs, Jinnah had decided he needed a vacation. He instructed the Secretary Col. William Birnie, to go to Kashmir and arrange for him to spend two weeks resting and relaxing in mid September.

The choice of Kashmir for his holiday was entirely natural. To Jinnah, as to most of his countrymen, it seemed inconceivable that Kashmir, with a population over three quarters Muslim, could become anything but a part of Pakistan.

The British officer, nonetheless, returned five days later with an answer that stunned Jinnah. Hari Singh didn't want him to set foot on his soil, not even as a tourist. The reply gave Pakistan's leaders a first indication that the situation in Kashmir was not evolving as they had complacently assumed. Forty-eight hours later, Jinnah 's government infiltrated a secret agent into Kashmir to evaluate the situation and determine the Maharaja's real intentions. The report he brought back was a shocking one: Hari Singh had no intention of acceding the state to Pakistan. That was something the founders of Pakistan could not tolerate. In mid September, Liaqut Ali Khan convened a secret meeting of a select group of collaborators in Lahore to decide how to force the Maharaja's hand.

They dismissed immediately the idea of outright invasion. The Pakistani army was not for an adventure, which could well lead to war with India. However two other options were considered. Col. Akhbar Khan, a Sandhurst graduate with a taste for conspiracy, had outlined the first. He proposed that Pakistan supply the arms and money to foment an uprising of Kashmir's dissident Muslim population. It would require several months, but by the end Khan proposed, they would see 'forty or fifty thousand Kashmiris' descending on Srinagar to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan.

The second option was far more intriguing. Its sponsor was the Chief Minister of the Frontier Province, and it involved the Pathan tribesmen of the Northwest Frontier.

The gathering closed with a stern warning from the Prime Minister. The operation must be a complete secret. Finance would be provided by secret funds from the Prime Minister's Office. Neither the officers of Pakistan's army, her civil servants, nor, above all, the British officers and administrators in the service of the new state, were to be given access to the secret.

Just before five o'clock on the afternoon of Friday, 24 October, Maj-Gen. Douglas Gracey, replacing General Messervy who had been sent to London, got his first intimation of what had happened in Kashmir through a secret intelligence report. It gave the raiders' strength, armaments and their location. Gracey did not hesitate. He immediately went to his predecessor's private quarters and communicated that precious information to the last man Jinnah would have wanted to receive it, the man who commanded the only force which could deny Kashmir to the raiders, the commander-in-chief of the Indian army.

Lt.-Gen. Sir Rob Lockhart, a Scot and Sandhurst classmate of Gracey's, was stunned by his old friend's report. He in turn communicated it to two more people, both of them English: the Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, and Field Marshal Auchinleck.

Mountbatten received the news as he was dressing for a banquet in honour of Thailand's Foreign Minister. When the last guest had left, he asked Nehru to stay behind. The Prime Minister was stunned by the news. There was scarcely a piece of information that could have upset him more. He loved his ancestral home. To Nehru Kashmir is like 'a supremely beautiful woman whose beauty is almost impersonal and above desire'. He loved 'its feminine beauty of rivers and valleys and lakes and graceful trees'. Time and again during the struggle for freedom he had gone home to contemplate the 'hard mountains and precipices and snow-capped peaks and glaciers, and cruel and fierce torrents rushing down to the valley below'.

The Governor-General was to discover another Nehru on the Kashmir issue. The cool, detached intelligence, so admired by Mountbatten, disappeared, to be replaced by an instinctive, emotional response fuelled by passions even the Kashmiri Brahmin could not control. 'As Calais was written upon the heart of your Queen Mary,' Nehru would cry out to him one day to explain his attitude, 'so Kashmir is written upon mine.'

Still another stormy interview, this one with Field Marshal Auchinleck, remained for Mountbatten. The supreme Commander told the Governor-General he wanted to airlift immediately a bridge of British troops to Srinagar to protect and evacuate its hundreds of retired British officers and their families. If they were not evacuated, he warned, they would be the victims of the frightful orgy of rape and massacre.

'I am sorry,' Mountbatten said, 'I cannot agree.' However ghastly that prospect was, he could not endorse the use of British soldiers on the soil of a subcontinent that has become independent. If there was going to be military intervention in Kashmir, he declared, as far as he was concerned it would have to be by Indians, not British, forces.

The following afternoon a DC3 of the Royal Indian air force landed on the abandoned dirt strip of Srinagar airport. It carried V.P. Menon, the civil servant who had presided over so many princely accessions to India, Colonel Sam Manekshaw of the Indian Army, and an Air Force Officer.

Mountbatten had realized that India should not send her troops into Kashmir until the Maharaja had officially acceded, thus making his state legally a part of India.

Shortly before midnight on Saturday, 26 October, yet another refugee joined the greatest exodus in history. To the ten and a half million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who had fled their homes that autumn, was added one more figure, Hari Singh the Maharaja of Kashmir. His bullock cart was a comfortable American station wagon leading a caravan of trucks and cars into which his most precious belongings had been packed.

After a difficult seventeen-hour trip, the Maharaja's caravan reached Jammu. The exhausted Hari Singh went immediately to his private quarters to retire. Before going to sleep, he called an ADC to issue his last order as a ruling Maharaja. 'Wake me up only if V.P. Menon returns from Delhi,' he said, 'because that will mean India has decided to come to my rescue. If he does not come before dawn, it will mean all is lost.'

As soon as they had returned to Delhi, V.P. Menon and the two officers who had accompanied him to Srinagar made their report to another meeting of the Cabinet's Defence Committee. Their words made sombre hearing. The Maharaja was ready at last to present Kashmir to India, but the Pathan raiders were only 35 miles from Srinagar and could at any moment seize the only airport in Kashmir on which India could land her troops.

The British commanders of India's army and air force both raised objections to military intervention. It would be a distant, dangerous operation in the midst of a population, which could well prove hostile. Sensing the intensity of Indian emotion on the issue, Mountbatten overruled them. He warned that the operations they were embarking on could be long and involve far more men and resources than anyone might foresee. While the frenzied preparations for the operation were under way, Mountbatten ordered V.P. Menon to fly to Jammu. Hari Singh would not die of a bullet in the brain on the first night of his flight. V.P. Menon reached his bedside before the expiration of the ultimatum the Maharaja had given his ADC. With him, awaiting only Hari Singh's signature, was the Act of accession, which would provide a legal framework for India's action.

V.P.Menon was back in his Delhi home late on the evening of that same Sunday, 26 October. Alexander Symon, Britain's Deputy High Commissioner, joined him for a drink a few minutes after his return. Menon was jubilant. He poured them each a stiff drink. As they sat down, an enormous smile spread across his face. He raised his glass to Symon. Then he pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and waved it gaily towards the Englishman.

'Here it is,' he said. 'We have Kashmir. The bustard signed the Act of Accession. And now that we have got it, we will never let it go.'

Used and abused, once again

The local rulers needed that for their own purposes. For the last 54 years, the rulers of India and Pakistan have used and abused Kashmir in order to perpetuate their misrule. Kashmir has become a festering wound on the body of the Indian subcontinent. There have been three wars and endless rounds of negotiations, parleys, dialogue and debate. Yet the process of resolution of the so-called Kashmir dispute has not moved an inch. In fact it is worse than what it was at the time of independence. With the passage of time it has become more complicated, bloodier, gruesome and painful. The reality is that the ruling elites on both sides of the divide do not want to and cannot resolve it. Its resolution will end their main external contradictions, which they have consistently and meticulously used to quell internal dissent. But now the problem for the ruling classes is that the Kashmir issue has erupted with a vengeance. It is spiralling out of control rapidly and leading to internal conflicts within the state and ruling elites on both sides. The economic crisis has forced certain sections of the ruling class to end these conflicts and put more resources into the economy to save it from a total collapse. Other sections of the ruling elite consider the continuation of the hostilities in Kashmir and its status as an external conflict as a source of their survival. With the rising impact of this paralytic globalisation there are new dimensions and attributes being given to the Kashmir conflict. Kashmir has been divided with almost two thirds

under Indian occupation and the rest under Pakistani domination. In 1972 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi signed an agreement at Simla. According to the 'Simla Accord' a line of control (LOC) was devised as a temporary border. There have been several proposals made to solve the dispute. None of them is acceptable to the parties involved in the conflict. Nor can any of the possible solutions within the existing system put forward reach any comprehensive settlement of the dispute. From a purely Kashmiri perspective, there actually are three Kashmirs: the Indian controlled Kashmir [ICK], Pakistan controlled Kashmir [PCK] and Chinese controlled Kashmir [CCK]. The "Greater Kashmir" has a total land area of some 220,000 sq Kilometres whereby almost 90 percent of Kashmir is mountainous. Of the 220,000 sq Km, around 100,000 sq Km are currently under Indian control, 80,000 sq Km are controlled by Pakistan while more than 42,000 sq Km are under Chinese control. In 1962, China also wrested part of the Ladakh area of eastern Kashmir from India during its victory in the Sino-Indian War. With a total population of over 10 million, close to 80 percent resides in the Indian-controlled region [that also has most of Kashmir's arable land area] and no more than 3 million live in the Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir.

The so-called United Nations has yet again failed in Kashmir to provide any outlet of the crisis. The main solutions put forward are the following.

Option one

The continuation of the status and recognition of the line of control as an international boundary would not be acceptable to the vast majority of the Kashmiri people. Apart from the suffering of severe socio-economic distress and wounds of war they face a strong feeling of nationalist exploitation by Delhi and Islamabad. They would never tolerate such an outcome.

The Kashmiri struggle would defeat the Indian army and liberate the Indian held Kashmir. In this scenario a plebiscite would be held and the Kashmiris (who are pre-dominantly Muslim) would opt for Pakistan. Ultimately Kashmir would decide to join Pakistan and end up as its 5th province.

This scenario is wishful thinking of the Pakistani ruling class and its stooges in the Kashmiri conflagration. By every passing day this seems to be a utopian and absurd idea. More and more leaders even in the Pakistani held Kashmir have now renounced this idea. Not only that this has become an almost unviable war but the intrusion of Islamic fundamentalism and flirting by the ISI with the liberation struggle have distracted, confused and disorientated the movement. The internal conflicts within the Kashmiri movement are no less than the conflict with Indian military aggression.

Option two

Another option put forward is the scenario of an attack by India with full force, which would take over the Pakistani dominated so-called Azad Kashmir. By this act India would inflict a decisive defeat (as in 1971 Bengal) on the Pakistan army and the whole of Kashmir would be inducted into the Indian union.

Although it is said "war is the only serious solution to political problems", the conditions here on the ground are very hostile towards an outright Indian victory. This is not only wishful thinking of the hawks in Delhi but it is also a sheer utopia to even conceive of such an outcome.

Firstly a full-fledged war in Kashmir would not remain there. Sooner than later it will spread across the 1500 miles Indo-Pak border. And a war of what intensity would it be? The wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971 would seem to be child's play if we analyse the arms build up that has taken place during the last 30 years in the Indian subcontinent. Leaving aside the nuclear weapons, the so-called 'conventional' arsenal has assumed unmitigated destructive power. Pakistan and India both possess long and medium range missiles. These are being developed and manufactured indigenously. They produce advanced tanks, field guns, and mortars, APC's and are even assembling fighter aircraft. There is no doubt that India far outweighs Pakistan in weaponry, military hardware and armed personnel, but despite this a military victory for India would not be easy. Even if Pakistan gets close to a defeat in the event of a war, there is no guarantee that the Pakistani generals (God forbid if a fundamentalist general is at the helm) would refrain from pressing the nuclear button. Imagine the stupidity and madness of the nuclear race in the subcontinent. If a nuclear device were detonated in Lahore, Delhi would not be saved from the heat and radiation - and vice versa. Similarly if Bombay is bombed with a nuclear weapon how could Karachi escape the effect of that nuclear explosion - and vice versa. By the use of nuclear weapons mutual destruction of India and Pakistan is a total certainty.

If we hypothetically analyse a scenario where the nuclear weapons are not used and the war is restricted somehow to the use of conventional weapons, what would happen then? The devastation may not have the heat and radiation effect; nonetheless the destruction would be of unprecedented proportions. The war would be equally fought at the fronts as well as in the hearts of the cities and towns faraway from the borders. With the present state and strength of the missile technology all cities deep inside Pakistan and India are within range of these missiles and can be easily targeted.

A full-scale war would devastate the already fragile economies of the subcontinent. The mass genocide, the economic ravages of war would be impossible to repair for generations to come. Such would be the scale of destruction that the state, and law and order could collapse alongside the demise of civilization. Serious sections of the ruling classes are terrified of such a scenario. But the irony is that the system through which they rule again and again brings this disastrous outcome to the fore.

From a political hypothesis if we conceive a situation where India takes over the rest of Kashmir and not much else happened then what would be the outcome? If we see the present conditions there is one soldier to every 5 people in Kashmir. India has deployed more than 600,000 troops there. Yet it is facing enormous difficulty in con-trolling the situation. Such a massive military force has utterly failed to crush the insurgency in Kashmir. There is lot of demoralization, dissent and desertion in the Indian army deployed in Kashmir. How would it be possible for the Indian state to control, subdue and crush a larger population of the whole of Kashmir? History has proved time and again that brutal military force, however huge, can never crush a rising people, no matter how strong it might be. The story in East Bengal was different. A whole people had revolted against the Pakistani army. The reality is that the Pakistani army was already defeated by the time the Indian army went into East Pakistan. It was the resistance of the Mukti Bahani with the support of the vast majority of the population that defeated the Pakistan army. The Indian army did not defeat the Pakistan army, in reality it went to crush the workers' councils (Soviets) formed by the workers, students and peasants in the struggle and war of liberation against the Pakistan army. In Kashmir the situation is totally different for the Indian, as well as the Pakistan army. Hence the total accession of Kashmir by the Indian military aggression is neither a solution nor a possibility. The serious strategists of the state know this. Hence they opt for the cease-fires, negotiations and half-hearted gestures of peace by Vajpayee and Musharraf. They are hoping against hope that they might be able to keep the conflict lukewarm or on the back burner and yet keep control over the situation. The conditions and the stalemate have become more and more intolerable for the masses and downtrodden of Kashmir.

The only reason that has kept the liberation struggle in Kashmir from striking a decisive blow and breaking the stranglehold of the Indian state is the infringement by the Islamic fundamentalists and intrigues of the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) in manipulating the movement itself. Paradoxically, the ISI serves the cause of the RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) and vice versa. The ideological and organizational conflicts between diverse Kashmiri groups and, of course, the lack of a proper perspective, strategy, methods and leadership have hindered a victorious outcome of the struggle.

Option three

The 'third option' being put forward is the balkanisation or the trifurcating of Kashmir. This option is to divide Kashmir into three or more portions. The Hindu majority areas of Kashmir are accepted as a part of India, Azad Kashmir to be declared as a part of Pakistan and the valley comprising Kashmiri Muslims be declared as an autonomous region under the United Nations. A Balkanised Kashmir under the United Nations, if accepted by Pakistan today, would nullify Pakistan's avowed stand on Kashmir. A day will not be far off then when people of the independent Valley would ask for unification with their brethren in Azad Kashmir. This would be one scenario.

The thinking in some circles of Pakistan is that an autonomous Kashmir is a better option than the one under India 's direct rule. But the trifurcating of Kashmir has also been a demand of Hindu fundamentalists. The Times of India reported on September 4, 2000 that according to the RSS spokesmen, M.G Vaidya, "the RSS was in favour of trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir." "Most of the problems will be solved by creating a new state of Jammu and giving Union Territory status to Ladakh. The development of Jammu and Ladakh will be accelerated and these two regions do not require special status by Article 370 of the Constitution." Only the Valley demanded special status, he added. The general body of the RSS adopted a resolution on March 18, 2000 formally supporting the demand. This is a revival of a demand the RSS political arm, the Jan Sangh - ancestor of the BJP - made at its very birth 1951.

The views of Karan Singh, Hari Singh's son, are no less revealing. Shortly before he was sworn in as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on February 26, 1981, B.K Nehru met various people. "The only real briefing that I got was from Tiger (Karan Singh) who put the State of Jammu and Kashmir in correct perspective for me. He explained that the State was a wholly artificial creation, its five separate regions joined together by the historical accident that Raja Gulab Singh had conquered all the territories over which his father Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling at the time of independence and partition. Those five different entities had nothing in common with each other. The hill area of Gilgit, Baltistan and Skardu and the Punjabi speaking areas of Muzaffarabad etc., were already in the hands of Pakistan. In the State, there were three clear divisions - Jammu, which was Hindu, Kashmir, which was Sunni Muslim and Ladakh, one part of which was Buddhist and the other Shia Muslim. Because of the lack of commonality between these three divisions, the sooner they were separated the better it would be for the future. My own knowledge of Kashmir was next to nil except for what I had been forced to learn about it during my ambassadorship in Washington."

The option of trifurcating Kashmir is outrightly reactionary from beginning to end. This is not Utter Pradesh or any other province of the subcontinent. Kashmir is too delicate an issue to be treated like that. The ruling class has built it up, blown it out of proportion and played with it for the last fifty years. They have raped and vandalised Kashmir. It is a sentimental, emotional and a passionate issue for the Kashmiris in the subcontinent and far away lands. The balkanisation of Kashmir would further deteriorate the situation. It will create more bloodshed and conflagration in the region than it can solve. The example of Yugoslavia is a horrifying reminder of such attempts at balkanisation. Those who have been aligned to this issue for generations will never tolerate its trifurcating or balkanisation. Kashmir has to move forward towards higher forms of human unity and solidarity. The clock cannot be turned back. Balkanisation is no solution. Like all other bourgeoisie manoeuvres it will invite disaster and catastrophe.

Farce Utopia, what solution really matters

The most popular option, for the solution of the Kashmir issue is the total independence of Kashmir. The formation of an independent state of Kashmir. It has a sentimental and nostalgic attraction among Kashmiris, more so amongst those living in Pakistan and far away from Kashmir. From a Marxist point of view the Kashmiris like any other oppressed nationality have a right to self-determination including secession. But this is only one aspect and side of Lenin's position on the national question. From here the process of the Marxist solution to the national question begins. It does not end here. The condemnation of the national repression of the oppressed nation and the support of the right of self-determination from a Marxist standpoint means the linking of the rivers of the national liberation movement to the sea of class struggle. As Lenin pointed out, the national question is fundamentally a question of bread. This means that the real emancipation of the oppressed nationality is only possible through the social and economic transformation. The semi-capitalist semi-feudal system and conditions cannot provide the prerequisites necessary for the formation of a modern state. The system is economically incapable of providing the necessary infrastructure and other means to forge unity in such a rugged terrain where there is a population so diverse in colour, race, language, religion, culture and tradition. If we take a deeper look at the Kashmir issue, then in spite of its sentimental importance the formation of Kashmir is not a viable and possible solution in the present scenario.

Firstly the secession of Kashmir would inflict drastic blows on the Indian and Pakistani states. Their ideological foundations would be shattered and yet that would severely dent the basis on which these states were set up and have perpetuated their rule. There is intense national, ethnic and communal strife in the subcontinent. The secession of Kashmir would invigorate the national liberation movements from Baluchistan to Nagaland and from Assam to Sindh. Such a scenario would be intolerable for the ruling classes and existent bourgeois states of the subcontinent. The centrifugal forces will raise sharply pulling apart the weak and decaying state structures. Hence the ruling classes will never tolerate such a situation, which could trigger the demise of their rulership. This means that the war and aggression in Kashmir would intensify. If we imagine an independent Kashmir then the question is: 'what would be the social and economic foundations of the new state?' If the new Kashmiri national state is based on capitalism or what they call a 'democratic', "United States of Kashmir", what prospects will it have then? The Indian and Pakistani ruling classes who have imperialist designs of their own, would aggravate the exploitation of the people of Kashmir more harshly.

On a capitalist basis Kashmir would inevitably be strangled under the fetters of the IMF and other imperialist institutions. How could it not become a prey to the monster of world imperialism, which in its death agony is trying to suck the blood of the peoples around the world? In a modern global world how will the newly independent state of Kashmir survive? The only option would be to beg for 'aid' or loans. This would lead to further impoverishment of Kashmir resulting in renewed conflicts on ethnic, religious, racial and linguistic basis within the state of Kashmir.

There are 8 official regional language recognized in the constitution of Indian held Kashmir. If we add the areas held by Pakistan, including Gilgit and Baltistan, the linguistic and ethnic diversity will further expand. Already Kashmir is composed of these main distinct regions, the valley, Jammu and Ladakh, under the domination of 3 different states, Pakistan India and China. Ladakh with a population of 200,000 mainly concentrate in Leh, is cut off from rest of the subcontinent. Its only links is the Zojila pass 3,450 metres above sea level and mainly comprises of Tibeto-Mongolian peoples. Jammu has a majority of mainly Aryan peoples, while the valley inhabitants are mainly Dardict and non-Aryans. In addition religious and other differences are enormous. To unite a people that diverse and a terrain so scattered and rugged is a Herculean task. This could only take place with the most rapid development of the economic and social basis to raise the living standards of these peoples who are in dire straits. At the same time massive investment is needed to build up the huge infrastructure needed to link up the areas in such wilderness. In a situation where much larger units of India and Pakistan, with huge resources, have failed to complete these tasks, how can these be achieved by capitalism in Kashmir?

Another notion being nurtured by some of the nationalist leaders in Kashmir is that an Oslo like settlement could be reached. This from their point of view would take place under the auspices of the USA and UN. Associated to this, is the possibility of a negotiated settlement on Kashmir. Illusions run high on the outcome of the talks, between India and Pakistani leaders.

The inevitable failure of these talks will again bring in the trumpets of war. Even if there is a partial agreement it will fade into oblivion and new political and diplomatic tensions will emerge putting the whole process into jeopardy, with new conflicts and clashes becoming the order of the day.

Firstly we have to see what happened to the Oslo and Madrid accords. The Palestinian situation at the moment is even worse than it was before the signing of these accords. Every accord signed by the opposing parties under the auspices of the UN or the American imperialists has ended up in a disaster. The diplomatic crisis of the U.S. statesmen reflects the economic and social crisis. The superpower is faced with volcanic eruptions in the immediate future, both at home and abroad. Secondly the US imperialists would never take any step, which would annoy the rulers, especially of India. With the lust of the Indian market and exploitation of the masses in the sub-continent they need the connivance of rulers here. The recent U-turn of the US foreign policy in the region has clearly shown that. The question of Kashmir becoming a strategic base for the US against China is absurd. There is no guarantee that the US masters would treat the Kashmiris any better than their Pakistani or Indian counterparts. But this notion is a blatant insult to the struggle and sacrifices of the Kashmiri people over more than 5 decades.

A negotiated settlement of Kashmir is out of the question. Even serious strategists of the bourgeoisie are beginning of concede this fact. Negotiations are intended to diffuse the situation, vent the emotions and to water down the heat of the struggle. They are never meant to solve the issue. They know they cannot solve it. The only thing they can do is to give a new twist to the situation. The ruling elites end their negotiations and make symbolic gestures that they can agree to disagreeÉ peacefully. Is that all that bourgeoisie diplomacy is about? Along with wars and tensions that have dominated the past half century of Indo-Pak relations, there has also been a constant saga of negotiations, peace efforts and diplomatic manoeuvres as an auxiliary to the other strategies to perpetuate capitalist rule. The negotiations have been as indecisive as the wars. There has been track I, track II and several other diplomatic channels that have been operational in this whole period. In periods of serious class upsurge these channels are used to negotiate joint strategy to overcome the challenges thrown up by the class struggle. Of late, US imperialism has started playing a greater role in the subcontinent's diplomatic games. This was shown during the Kargill crisis. In January 1998 a senior American official dealing with South Asia leaned back in his chair as he explained how Kashmir figured in Washington. "Sometimes we're concerned about war in South Asia," he said, "but we don't lose sleep over Kashmir." Across the beltway, officials and specialists said the same: 'Kashmir? Fairly minor issue.' Three years later Kashmir has become an official focus. Indian and Pakistani nuclear explosions in 1998 shook Washington policymakers to the core - not least because America did not have advance intelligence that the Indians would conduct nuclear tests. The fighting between India and Pakistan near Kargill in the summer of 1999 reminded the world that Kashmir was a live issue. The Kargill war prompted a serious crisis between the two new nuclear-armed powers and - in the end - American diplomatic intervention to cool rising passions. Clinton forced Nawaz Sharif to a humiliating withdrawal from this sector of the Kashmir front in the summer of 1999. This led to a serious conflict within the Pakistani establishment. The internal struggle that ensued from this diplomatic blunder ultimately lead to Sharif's demise from power.

The traditional American position on Kashmir has been noncommittal. But American interests in the region run wider than Kashmir. To that end, there has been a subtle shift in America's attitude towards the region: the once frosty relations with India have warmed slightly. Indo-American trade has also developed and economic ties, helped by a productive bilateral relationship, continue to grow. India is a major market, and it is not only Indian software that appeals to Western investors. Telecom privatisation and a broadening consumer base for luxury imports make India an attractive market for American business. Lust for markets and pursuit for economic conquests ultimately shapes the foreign and diplomatic policies of U.S imperialism. The Americans want peace in Kashmir to capture the market of the subcontinent. Plutarch said long ago that, conquerors were always lovers of peace, they liked to enter your cities unopposed. But as an aside, let us examine this new imperialism. The cold war was an affair bewteen West and East. But the Rome and Carthage of the 20th century imposed their mutual hostility upon the rest of the planet. Now that the nature of the game had changed, a new set of values, without regard to individual differences, is again being imposed from above. The gospel changes; the commandments undergo a revision. But the fury of the reigning prophets remains the same.

Both India and Pakistan have active reactionary lobbies that make substantial concessions on Kashmir fraught with political danger. But in this case, with any regime it could then be outflanked on the Kashmir issue and accused not of just weakness, but also the abandoning of long-held national positions on Kashmir makes the cost-benefit analysis favour inertia. And this inertia partly explains the intractability of the Kashmir issue.

As the militant groups themselves admit, Pakistan can probably cut off their access to Indian Kashmir. But this would be a major undertaking; as Brain Cloughley, a Western defence analyst puts it, "the Pakistani army along the Line of Control would have to be willing to shoot members of the more Islamite militant groups". No matter how intact military discipline could be, he thinks that such orders might be disobeyed. The real problem is whether action can be taken to curb the activities of radical militant groups in Indian Kashmir when Pakistan itself is most vulnerable to their activities. As the government searches for investors and domestic political stability, it cannot afford the uncertainties these actions could bring.

Although India formally lays claim to the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, it does not really expect to rule the nearly all Muslim northern territories and Pakistani Kashmir. What it would like is recognition by the West, and by Pakistan, of its current hold over Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This may be reflected in serious divisions inside the Indian cabinet; with Home and Defence Ministers L.K. Advani and George Fernandez arguing the cease-fire process was delivering little. There are also divisions between those dealing with Kashmir. Officials in the prime minister's office, led by national security advisor Brajesh Mishra, support the process. But their counterparts in the Home Ministry are said to be critical, perhaps in part because their responsibilities for Kashmir have been diluted. As the status quo power, India is seeking to legitimise the situation on the ground. It is a question of getting a legal title to Kashmir, or what different segments of Kashmir are to be submitted to this compelling reality. Moves towards peace are likely to founder here. Even the bourgeois analysts accept that in the present set up, peace process or not, the future of Kashmir looks much the same as in the past.

Kashmir has a distinct history of five thousands years. In this there is a 364 years non-Kashmiri rule commencing with Akbar's Mughal invasion in 1586. In the present epoch that nostalgia of the past won't solve the problems. It would not be able to raise the oppressed of Kashmir from their hampering geography and primitive social and economic conditions.

This very primitiveness and bias is being exploited by Islamic fundamentalism. But a fundamentalist acquisition of Kashmir would kill the beauties of culture and turn it into another Afghanistan. The people of Kashmir will not tolerate such an outcome either. That is why there is a rising conflict between the Kashmiri youth in struggle and so-called 'Afghans', the Islamic fundamentalists as a backlash of the 'Afghan Jihad'.

But in spite of everything, since the movement re-erupted fiercely in the Kashmir Valley in 1988, the problem has continued unabated. Led by young nationalists from the JKLF, it was supported by hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris, who flooded into the streets in early 1990 to demand a plebiscite on the future of Kashmir. India responded with force; it called the insurgency a proxy war by Pakistan and sent security forces into the state. Pakistan in turn supported the militants. A JKLF cease-fire in 1994, however, helped turn the militancy more Islamist as groups like Lashkar-a-Taiaba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen joined, bringing hardened fighters from the Afghanistan War. But it is the general population of Kashmir in struggle which the Indian and Pakistani rulers are more worried about. It might not go on with the same intensity and rhythm, but it will continue with its ebbs and flows. The common people of Kashmir have made enormous sacrifices. The vast majority of those in the struggle are from the deprived classes. They are the ones who have suffered the most. More than 65,000 people have been killed in the last decade. The conflict has created more than 100,000 orphans. There are more than 300 reported cases of suicide, 77% of those were women. It is certainly the case that each and every family in the Kashmir Valley has been touched by the state of siege that has endured there. And while Kashmiris are generally tired of the violence, there seem to be few alternatives. India pinned many of its hope to resolve the militancy and restore Kashmiri support with the local assembly elections in September 1996, which despite a poor turnout produced a Kashmiri state government led by Farooq Abdullah.

Promising jobs and autonomy, Abdullah's arrival led to a brief spurt of optimism, and some dampening of militancy, between 1996 and 1998. But all too soon this facade of normalcy crumbled. Economic development is out of the picture since the government depends on subsidies from New Delhi just to pay official salaries. And Abdullah's proposals for autonomy, presented to the Indian government in 2000, were unceremoniously rejected. As a result - and aided by continuing Kashmiri resentment - the militancy has picked up once more.

Each year the insurgency has continued, fresh graves have been dug in Kashmir. Families across the valley bury their sons, while Indian families receive news that their sons too have fallen in the fighting.

In this background the solution of the Kashmir conflict goes beyond the confines and boundaries of the present system. Neither war, nor peace, neither diplomacy, nor negotiations can solve the Kashmir issue. A much more radical option has to be envisaged, developed and fought for the liberation of Kashmir. No less than a revolution, can free Kashmir from the clutches of the subcontinental imperialists, and from the primitiveness, poverty and misery of its cumbersome past, which still haunts it. In other words the liberation of Kashmir needs the overthrow of the capitalism and its auxiliaries, which are the real oppressors of Kashmir. This seems to be a gigantic struggle against the Indian and Pakistani states oppressing Kashmir on the one hand and to rid the movement from the leaders of the Kashmiri elite who in one way or other are stooges and agents of the dominating states and imperialism. But it is not as difficult as it seems. The resilience exhibited by the youth, students, women, workers and peasants of Kashmir shows that this fight could be won. But this struggle ultimately is the struggle for a socialist Kashmir. In spite of the heroic role of the Kashmiri people in their struggle 50 years on it has not gone much further. The movement has been prey to ideological and programmatic confusion of the movement's leadership.

The so-called world opinion and international recognition are basically the opinion of the rulers around the world. The UNO is a collective body of these rulers dominated by imperialism. They have no sympathy with the people of Kashmir; all their diplomatic actions are dictated by their financial and power interests. Similarly the Pakistani and Indian rulers have wept crocodile tears, but the media hype given to Kashmir is not for its people but for the strategical interests of their states. The actual support for the liberation struggle of the Kashmiri people would have to come from the oppressed classes of India, Pakistan and other countries of the subcontinent. But this support has to be galvanised from the workers of the advanced countries and from around the world. This means that the struggle for the actual liberation of Kashmir has to be linked on a class basis. Primarily their agony and their emancipation is the same. An injury to one is an injury to all. This is the real basis of class solidarity. This means that the struggle for national liberation has to be linked and transformed into class struggle at a very early stage. An independent socialist Kashmir can only be created on this basis. Carrying through a socialist revolution is the task of a class, not a nation. To sustain it and its development is also a class question. A Socialist Kashmir cannot survive within the confines of the boundaries of whatever is the geographical perception of Kashmir. If Socialism couldn't be built on more than one fifth of this planet's territory, in the Soviet Union, how could it be accomplished in a land-locked statelet. Hence it is a scientific necessity to expand the Socialist revolution in Kashmir and elsewhere on the subcontinent and vice versa. A socialist revolution in Kashmir can become a beacon of light for the working classes and the oppressed peoples on the subcontinent and beyond. This could lead to the formation of a voluntary socialist federation of the Indian subcontinent, leading to a socialist world.

The oppression of the Indian and Pakistani states can be decisively broken when the working classes of those countries rise against these states from within. This support for the oppressed of Kashmir on a class basis can ignite revolutionary movements in these countries themselves. Such a scenario can bring a change, which is desperately needed not just by the oppressed classes of Kashmir but by the working masses in every nook and corner of the subcontinent and far beyond.

Kashmir has been betrayed by the UN, by the subcontinental rulers and by the Kashmiri leaders themselves. A socialist Kashmir would be the revenge of Kashmiri people of all these oppressors. Its impact would be far greater and far beyond the Himalayan glaciers, towering mountain peaks, rushing rivers, picturesque lakes, green valleys, and the fascinating beauty of Kashmir. A Socialist Kashmir will give a human face to this raw beauty of this 'paradise on earth' - a tranquil Kashmir for the people from all over world to see, enjoy and cherish in its beauties. A Kashmir, free of poverty, misery, disease, hunger unemployment and ignorance. With today's resources and technological development, under a Socialist plan of production every Kashmiri and every human being on this planet could enjoy Kashmir, as the Great Mughal Jehangir did four centuries ago. Perhaps even more!