EFSAS speaks on Jammu & Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations at the University of Groningen
The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) participated in a Lecture, titled ‘The Conflict in Kashmir’, organised by the Student Association for International Relations (SIB) at the University of Groningen. The event proved to be very well-attended and engaging as it addressed a large group of students, academicians, researchers and professors from international relations, political and economic academic backgrounds, who had profound interest in the historical and geopolitical realities of the Jammu & Kashmir conflict.
Mr. Junaid Qureshi, Director EFSAS, provided an analysis and insight into the history and cultural sensitivities of the region of Jammu & Kashmir. In his lecture, he explained the ethno-religious makeup of the erstwhile princely State of Jammu & Kashmir and narrated the events starting from the partition of British India, which have led to its current fragmentation and political division. Mr. Qureshi stressed that the region of Jammu & Kashmir, in essence, is an amalgamation of diverse cultures, ethnic groups, languages and religions establishing the cornerstone of the ethnic identity of its inhabitants. Mr. Qureshi explained how the independent but militarily incapable Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, unable to desist invaders from Pakistan in 1947, acceded to the Union of India by virtue of signing a legal document, the Instrument of Accession. As a result, and at the end of the first military combat between India and Pakistan in 1948, this led to the State’s accession to India, with Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh being administered by India while the territories under Pakistani administration are currently referred to as Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir.
Mr. Qureshi illustrated how Pakistan aroused communal passions among the Muslim majority population while it militarily and financially supported and trained terrorists to fight Indian rule in the Kashmir Valley. The violence in the Kashmir Valley was religious in character rather than political, being dominated by group of militant leaders acting increasingly under a Pan-Islamic ideology.
The forced migration of the Pandits, tantamount to communal partition, not only altered the demographics of the Valley but gave rise to a grotesque political culture where power of abuse and lawlessness became the norm. The people of Jammu and Ladakh, meantime, claim their status of marginalization and neglect, emanating from the Kashmir-centric politics in the State.
Mr. Qureshi concluded by saying that the political discrepancy existent within the State owing to overlapping ideologies and diverse identities, has created an enormous need for dialogue which none of the regimes in the State have initiated so far. This dialogue, ideally, should go beyond the exclusive positions of any sections, groups or subgroups; representing the aspirations of the people, way towards workable, secular pluralism in the State. All the State Subjects irrespective of their ethnicity deserve their share of “political limelight“ and a legitimate share in the economic, political and social processes of the State. Peace in the region should be the ultimate aim and superior to anyone’s ideology or stated positions. The conflict has been going on for seven decades and cannot be solved without co-operation of all concerned parties which include India and Pakistan.
Ms. Yoana Barakova, Research Analyst EFSAS, deliberated upon the current escalations of tensions between India and Pakistan, alongside with Pakistan’s financial dealings with China, which risk to put the country into a colossal debt trap due to Beijing’s debt-trap diplomacy. Ms. Barakova examined the terrorist attack in Pulwama in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir, which took place on 14 February 2019 and killed more than 40 personnel of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. According to her, this barbaric act of aggression not only exposed Pakistan’s willingness to protect terrorists on its soil but in addition almost brought the two countries to the brink of war.
She continued by saying that following the Mumbai terrorist attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in 2008 and the Pathankot and Uri attacks by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in January and September 2016, public opinion in India had progressively reached a tipping point, which has put the Indian government under acute pressure to shed the restraint exercised by it so far and respond more forcefully than it has done in the past to continuous Pakistani provocations through its terrorist proxies. She argued that the core message delivered to Pakistan following the events post-Pulwama was that India was willing and capable of acting against anti-India terrorist groups harboured by Pakistan, and while it was not inclined to provoke the Pakistani Army, it was currently seriously intent on protecting itself no matter what the potential response from Pakistan would be.
Ms. Barakova further highlighted how Pakistan has failed to foresee that the impunity it had begun to consider the norm, would eventually come to a halt, and the retribution that would follow would be severely damaging. This is visible through the country’s current listing on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list on account of the shortcomings in its counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering regimes. Since FATF officials have specifically mentioned JeM and LeT, Ms. Barakova warned that Pakistan needs to demonstrate adequate progress against these groups before the next FATF plenary which is due in June 2019, or else it faces blacklisting and banking isolation, which is something that its fragile and highly vulnerable economy cannot afford.
In addition, Ms. Barakova deliberated upon China’s debt trap diplomacy in Pakistan, illuminating how the ambitious infrastructural endeavour, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has pushed Pakistan’s deficits to unsustainable levels and is progressively subjugating the country to Beijing’s terms and conditions.
Ms. Barakova concluded by saying that Pakistan has rarely in its history been confronted with such wide spectrum of challenges as it faces today as a consequence of its support for terror and the question remains whether the country is genuinely willing to take firm, decisive and demonstrable action against the terrorist empire it has created and nurtured over decades, or whether it will continue to use terrorism as a tool to further its political goals, all the while denying that it is doing so in the face of irrefutable evidence and isolation.
The event was followed by a very thought-provoking Q&A session, during which the public and speakers engaged in a vibrant discussion on issues pertaining to the history of the region of Jammu & Kashmir, the current Chinese investments in Pakistan and the repercussions on the latter’s economy, the illegalities of the CPEC in respect to the region of Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan’s support and sponsorship of terrorism.