Kashmir: precious and deadly gems

(To Gino Lanzara)
09/08/19

We also raise the curtain on a theater that, for most Italians in particular, more than a geographical area, calls for trips new age, expensive wools and clothing: Kashmir, a loci that, over the years, has always been the scene of a latent conflict at medium-low intensity; only the distance has so far kept Kashmir away from the spotlight, a distance that did not prevent the USA from defining it as the most dangerous point and militarized on the planet.

Lord Mountbatten's hurried British decolonizing work, which has deprived the British crown of its most precious gem, has given way to regional instability which, immediately, has shown inconsistencies and points of friction destined to lead to open conflicts and not1, and which has never considered the possible geopolitical and economic evolution of both regional actors and other hegemons interested in maintaining control over an area that has always been strategically important, and with remarkable geopolitical and geo-economic perspectives, permeating both local dynamics, both with a global connotation.

The current clash between India and Pakistan, should it take on warlike aspects, could cause several domino situations to explode, with a domino effect, at the moment in a phase of precarious balance.

Religion, politics, ethnic groups, economics, evolved armaments: everything is contributing to creating the potentially perfect mixture for igniting the spark of a war with unpredictable results, a war that, in the intentions of the belligerents, could complete the British division work , or regrouping India or completing the Pakistani Umma.

With Enduring Freedom the international coalition sees (belatedly) that Kashmir is an area of ​​very high risk, as it constitutes, with Afghanistan and Pakistan, the ideal axis for the Taliban transit and, last but not the least, remains the geopolitical junction point of two political subjects with nuclear weapons. Afghanistan is revealed for what it has always been for all the hegemons, a quagmire from which to extricate itself is practically impossible; the consequence has consisted in having moved to the East an impossible point of equilibrium that has even more involved Pakistan, consequently Kashmir, but without liberating the West.

Kashmir itself, politically, constitutes a perfect Anglo-Saxon paradox: although inhabited by a majority Muslim population, as a result of agreements entered into in the 1947 with the Marajah Hindù Hari Singh, it decides to temporarily adhere to India, bound thus to oppose the raids of Muslim militias from Pakistan. Kashmir remains in New Dehli, more than ever aware of not being able to cede even an inch of such a strategically important area.

In fact, Kashmir constitutes the first failure of Gandhi's policy, aimed at demonstrating a difficult coexistence between ethnic groups, potentially linked only by an ecumenical ideal of impossible realization. To date, the UN resolution of 5 January 1949 remains a dead letter, and the planned referendum on self-determination remains an impossible political utopia; to this must be added the arrival of China, which has taken control of the north-east area, one of the most populous. Indian revocation of the autonomy granted pursuant to art. 3702, with the simultaneous Pakistani downgrading of diplomatic relations and the proposed division into two territories, thus awakens never-ending conflicts; although belonging to the Indian State, Kashmir remains, in the Pakistani collective imagination, the land to be reconquered.

Is it just an Indian responsibility? Difficult to say; if it is true that the majority nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (PJB), must exercise the mandate for which it was rewarded in the last elections, it is equally true that Pakistan has little or nothing to pacify an area that sees an increasingly growing Islamic brand interventionism, and where the search for a true national identity is still alive.

Jihad and centrifugal thrusts

The history of Kashmir is twisted; artificially created by the British in 1846, it is assigned to 1 / 3 to Pakistan, and for the rest to India: subject to border adjustments, conflicts with China, it basically represents a geopolitical risk for the nations that border the India; a pacified New Dehli could rise to volitional partner; on the other hand, there is also a hypothetical risk linked to the fact that the sudden absence of the historic Pakistani enemy could lead to dangerous thrusts aimed at breaking up Indian unity.

From the 1989 the Indo Pakistani conflict took one unconventional way, a form of permanent insurrection between pro-Pakistani mujahidin jihadists and Indian forces, committed to thwarting and violently suppressing the commitment provided by the international Islamic community.

Impasse solutions do not appear to be within reach, so much so that Kashmir has sometimes been seen as a kind of new Northern Ireland, with political actions never really incisive and marked or by immobilizations or sudden and dangerous accelerations, sometimes to generate direct contrasts on the spot, or terrorist actions on the Indian territory.

What to expect? Kashmir remains isolated, and further violent disputes cannot be ruled out, with a sure repression that cannot fail to take into account neither the killing, in February, of Indian aircraft committed to attacking alleged jihadist bases in Balakot in Pakistan, nor of the last attacks carried out with arms of Pakistani origin by members of the group Jaish and Mohammed, which have rekindled the ever dormant anger of New Dehli, which cannot even neglect the claim of Isis3 to have created a province corresponding to the southern area of ​​Kashmir. All this can only lead to a reaffirmation in a nationalist key of Indian foreign policy, which would seem to point to a change in the Kashmira demographic base, an operation that, in the future, could determine the results of a hypothetical referendum.

Finally, it is not possible to neglect the war for water. The Indus is an important river for both India and Pakistan, and is the only water resource in a largely arid or semi-arid territory. Pakistan and India draw resources from the river to provide both irrigation and hydroelectric production.

According to Pakistan, Indus control is a vital problem, given that it has no other waterways, and given the fact that India enjoys strategic positions to control water flows. If Islamabad renounced its claims on Kashmir, it would automatically renounce even the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, and then depend entirely on India for fresh water supply.

The others...

Given the historical position and history, US actions cannot be excluded; if it is true that Pakistan often remains the keystone of American initiatives in the area, we cannot forget the decision taken about the withdrawal of fighting units from Afghanistan, nor the principle of shifting the Indian political axis towards the States United due to the Chinese proactivity in the area, nor Xi Jinping's wish that no area interested in the New Silk Road could be involved in destabilizing activities.

China cultivates relevant interests in the Indian area of ​​the Brahmaputra, carefully avoids direct political confrontations, and certainly the passage of its Silk Road in areas potentially upset by a conflict at least at medium intensity, cannot induce calm sleep, also given the importance of the investments made and already planned, based on which Pakistan will have to act as a link between the land lines and the naval lines with the port of Gwadar.

The Chinese problem, at the moment, is that of being able to reconcile the Pakistani Indo opposites, given that part of the infrastructure necessary for the OBOR will have to transit on the Pakistani part of the disputed territory with India; finally, China knows perfectly well that any equilibrium that is independent of Indian interests can only be precarious, also in light of the restrictive positions taken by New Delhi (one of the first Chinese trading partners) on Huawei, and given the strong pro-Pakistan position it has assumed from China on the Kashmir dispute.

The Indian position towards China should not be overlooked, aimed at avoiding indebtedness to local communities and the consequent possible practices of land grabbing. In the background, the Russian French commercial interests towards India.

Conclusions?

Both countries have the same interest in controlling the region, be it strategic, economic, religious, political and social. The solution hypothesized to transform the Line of Control into an international border by accepting the status quo, has not found convinced proselytes.

Despite the presence of strong supranational interests, the Kashmiri crisis must necessarily make us reflect on possible evolutions that can go beyond the usual Western vision; both countries have similar nuclear weapons, but only India has formally adopted the policy of not first use. The alternative could be that of a clash at least initially of a conventional type, where, however, the different numerical entity between Pakistan and India could favor the subsequent use of more incisive means, also taking into account the aggressive declarations of the Pakistani prime minister Imra Khan .

The economic landscape, if possible, is even more fluid and dangerous: in the face of a tangle of Sino-Pakistani interests, the assertive Indian position is opposed which, also, does not neglect neither Chinese import export, nor the possible and interested American support which, in a sort of double oven policy, maintains collaborative relations also with the Pakistanis.

Note of interest: In War without limits - the art of asymmetric warfare, already in the 1999 the Chinese examined Kashmir and its latent conflict. Not bad for a country that is always talked about in strategic terms related to Sun Tzu, but of which little or nothing (officially) is known about the current orientation.

1 1949 first Indo-Pakistani conflict; the conflicts continued between the second half of the 60 years and the first half of the 70 years, with the interest of the current Bangladesh; 1999 "war of Kargil'

2 It prohibited, among other things, permanent Indian settlements and the purchase of land

3 May 2019

Photo: Indian Army / web