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In Another Lifetime: A Roadmap to Peace for Pakistan and India –part 3



The third and final part of this paper deliberates on the roadmap to peace itself.

Roadmap to Peace

The road map includes the following and should be followed linearly.

  1. A Novel Kashmir Approach With Some “Give and Takes”
  2. Independent Overseer/Investigator
  3. Economic Relations Take Centre Stage
  4. Political, Cultural, Military CBM’s
  5. Outside the Box Approach for Kashmir

A Novel Kashmir Approach With Some “Give and Takes”

The paper suggests that rather than deliberating and bickering on whom Kashmir belongs to (and to hold a plebiscite), there should be no such discussions for at least 10 years. Let the territorial status quo maintain and instead of debating upon the territorial qualms, both countries should solely work towards improving Pakistan-Indian economic relations in the first 5 years and in the next 5 begin focusing on socio-cultural, military, and political CBM’s.

This kind of strategy seems to find favour with Lt. General Singh of India, who suggests freezing of the situation with regards to Kashmir and then gradually opening the borders for economic cooperation and increased people-to-people contact. This emphasis on the economic relations initially and then commencing political, social, and other CBM’s on its foundations must be extended towards the entirety of Kashmir as well.

Unfortunately, Kashmir, on both sides of the LoC, has suffered due to two regional powers playing tug of war with it. The issue has not come close to being resolved in more than 70 years and due to the historical militarization, the proliferation of proxies and hostile politics, Kashmiris have been the main fatalities. This should not be considered as deprioritizing Kashmir and furthermore should not be discerned as counterproductive and controversial.

Kashmir is interwoven with the emotions of all Pakistanis, but the reality is that with a weak economy and modest international stature, Pakistan cannot effectively deliberate the Kashmir issue (especially since India is second only to China in terms of economic and international stature in the region). This needs to be communicated effectively to the people of Pakistan especially the Kashmiris.

The major Kashmiri political and religious parties such as the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (JKPDP), APHC, the Pakistani government, and the Indian government must work jointly towards this end. It should not be seen as Pakistan forsaking Kashmiris but only that the traditional “Kashmir first policy” in a weak position will and has caused greater harm to Pakistan and Kashmir in totality.

What should be communicated to the Kashmiris and the rest of the country is that Pakistan and India would work together for the sake of Kashmir – both countries should strive to develop better educational and health facilities, improve the networks of roads and infrastructure, augment intra-LoC trade, liberalize visas so Kashmiris on both sides can move easily. This human development side of the new Kashmir policy will benefit not only Kashmir but will bring both nations closer.

“Give and takes” means that both countries need to give each other space for this roadmap to succeed. As India has always acknowledged Kashmir to be one of the issues while Pakistan has signalled it to be the primary issue, this new stance of Pakistan will be welcomed with much glee by the Indian government.

Pakistan has blamed India’s brutal machinations in J&K as the key cause of dissent, while India has continually blamed Pakistan for supporting proxies and instigating the Kashmiris in J&K. The truth, however, as mentioned earlier is that Pakistan has significantly clamped down its proxy efforts in J&K especially since 9/11. The September 11 attacks and the ensuing environment of zero tolerance for terror-based violence made organized violence a less attractive route.

Pakistan has militarily decimated the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main terror outfit in the country, as well as other groups in the past decade. The problem for the country lies with the pro-Pakistan militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that the country has supported against India in the past. These groups cannot be dismantled in one sweeping motion as they have a huge welfare network across the country.

In addition to having a well-established network of educational facilities across the country, LeT offers blood banks, mobile clinics and ambulance services. Therefore, abolishing a militant organization such as LeT would not only cause the group to turn anti-state but would also mobilize the masses in certain areas of the country to their support – this would lead to another insurgency similar to the one Pakistan faced after 2001.

Conversely, the country must neutralize these militant outfits somehow, as international pressure regarding this issue is immense. The international community, however, especially India, must not turn a blind eye to sacrifices made by Pakistan and its population vis-à-vis terrorism. As stated, this new Kashmir policy will expressively signal to India that Pakistan truly wants better relations and also suggests that the country has not only been trying but will expedite its policy of eliminating militancy.

India has stated that dialogue shall not initiate until Pakistan eliminates its support for terrorism across the LoC and other parts of India. The ball, then, so to speak, would be in India’s court. Under the new Kashmir policy, Pakistan will be providing massive space to India by disclaiming that the territorial status quo should be unchallenged for 10 years. India would realistically be pleased by this decision and hopefully would see the need to reciprocate in kind to meet Pakistan’s huge step.

Pakistan should demand that India cease hostilities in Kashmir and maybe even reduce its military presence in the region. This allows pressure off Pakistan from its own public as India’s decision would alleviate the stress on the Kashmiri people. Furthermore, it will reinforce that the decision taken by the Pakistanis is a sound one as it has loosened the noose around the Kashmiri people.

Cordial relations and economic ties with India will benefit the whole of Pakistan including Kashmir – and of course India as well. Without the reassessing of myopic policies, Pakistan will only suffer. Pakistan does not gain an inch of territory by inciting troubles in Kashmir and it subsequently jeopardizes talks on the bilateral level.

At the same time, it does not help that India’s hard-line security policy and its own disregard towards Kashmiri discontent has led to yet another Kashmiri uprising in Indian controlled Kashmir. To ensure this new Kashmir policy succeeds, Pakistan should cease any funding and training of insurgent groups, while India should focus on reducing military and providing strong institutions and a pure sense of democracy in the region.

Independent Overseer/Investigator

To ensure the peace process and CBMs that would initiate after the first facet is implemented are not derailed, an independent international organization should oversee and investigate any attack or any triggering event that could potentially disrupt the peace process. Setting up such a body is integral due to each country’s history of blaming the other when a triggering event occurs and this leads to the dissolution of the peace process.

Both countries should jointly decide which countries’ nationals be a part of the group, how many members the body should have, and other technicalities. After these formalities are completed, both countries should sign a formal document that empowers the overseer body with pre-determined powers which includes investigatory powers, and also that its decision should be final and accepted by both countries.

On several occasions in the past, India has blamed Pakistan for orchestrating an attack even before starting an investigation and vice versa. Due to the fragile nature of Pakistan-India relations, any slight misunderstanding can lead to hyperbole, and due to prejudices produced by the “enemy syndrome,” many peace initiatives have collapsed on various occasions.

For example, the 1992 bilateral peace process between both countries was halted by the desecration of Babri Mosque by Hindu extremists in India; in 1992, the Lahore Declaration ceased due to fighting in the Kargil sector; and the Composite Dialogue between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2003 was paused due to the Mumbai train bomb blasts in 2006.

It should be ensured that baseless allegations are not made against either country and that third parties (such as Islamic and Hindutva extremists) do not hijack the peace initiative as they have done in the past. The international organization tasked with the investigation should be the one to pin the blame on the perpetrator and not the states themselves.

Eventually, if relations drastically improve, an unbiased joint-investigation team consisting of members from both countries should replace the international overseer. It is counterproductive for any country’s international reputation and economic safety to initiate a peace process consisting of CBMs and simultaneously conduct terrorist attacks (including false flag attacks) on the country they are trying to make things work with.

However, if Pakistan or India are short-sighted enough to make such mistakes, the overseer will act as a further deterrent to each country since it would weaken its own international repute if found involved in sabotaging a peace process that they themselves initiated. Furthermore, if an attack is found to be conducted by an entity other than Pakistan and India, the non-state actors responsible would become highlighted and swift action can be taken against them by the respective state.

The preceding is especially true as there are various militant groups and proxy organizations in both countries that do not want any kind of peace process – as it is within their interests for both states to remain hostile. Although India has maintained traditionally, that a third party is superfluous and that talks should be conducted on a bilateral level, this was mainly true only for when Kashmir was being discussed.

Moreover, the third-party overseer will only come into action during an attack or after events that could possibly destabilize relations. The overseer need not have any kind of other authority over bilateral talks and CBMs of both countries. It would be advantageous for both countries to take this step to ensure the peace process has a significant chance of succeeding in this region filled with raw emotions and distrust.

To further guarantee that the states themselves do not sabotage the process, a peace accord or ceasefire should also be signed preferably ratified by certain important nations.

Economic Relations Take Centre Stage

Economic ties should be the premier focus for both countries in the first 5 years of the decade long roadmap. India has been pursuing a Pakistan-declared MFN for many years, but they must also remove non-tariff barriers on Pakistani goods. The opportunities section thoroughly detailed what both countries must do to better their economic relations – from digitizing security at the border to the removal of the list system.

All of these recommendations must be adopted. Currently, Pakistan needs better trade relations to receive cheaper exports from India and to send out its own exports directly to India’s huge market. India, on the other hand, can benefit not only by trading with Pakistan but also by taking advantage of CPEC. Therefore, Pakistan, India, and China should sit down and decide India’s role in CPEC.

As mentioned above, if executed effectively, India gets a gateway of new and improved infrastructure links in Pakistan and to Afghanistan and Central Asia, while China finds a new route connected to India and can tap the Indian energy and other markets more effectively. Furthermore, Kashmir, across the LoC, as discussed must be developed economically. Intra-LoC trade is considered the best CBM but the recommendations stated earlier must be adopted.

Since CPEC will pass through the northern areas of Pakistan to China, Kashmir, Gilgit, Skardu, etcetera would be getting important economic spillovers, improved roads, and infrastructural networks. CPEC would also augment employment in these areas. Both countries should promise to earmark money for the development of Kashmir especially in the first 5 years of this framework.

Furthermore, economic CBM’s should be strived upon during this period. For example, regular meetings between Finance Ministers to pursue economic cooperation; India granting greater concessions (decreased non-tariff barriers) to Pakistan; promoting regular Chamber of Commerce contacts on each side; formulation of a joint commission to discuss initiatives for trade improvement and non-tariff barriers.

Improvement of economic relations has dual advantages as it not only aids the economy of both nations but automatically aids in achieving healthier political and cultural relations as well. Trade is beneficial for Pakistan-India bilateral relations and that improved bilateral trade can act as a deescalating factor for both nations, contrasted with the economic isolation policy both countries have pursued so long.

Pakistan and India’s mode of cooperation would automatically benefit Kashmir as well since LoC violations would cease (or at least reduce) to the relief of the Kashmiris across both sides. The goal is to reach some extent of economic interdependence with each other within the first 5 years. This goal is integral, as it acts as a deterrent for either country trying to pursue proxy war tactics on the other’s soil.

Maintaining good trade and economic relations while trying to malign each other from behind the shadows will be counterproductive to each in the short and long term. The restrictions towards trade and other economic opportunities as cited in the aforementioned “Opportunities” section should become the focus of both countries. Not only will economic interdependence improve the economic conditions of both countries but will also lead to a strong foundation where further, more direct, political, and socio-cultural CBM’s can finally be implemented.

The premise is thus that rather than directly focusing on political and social misgivings (without a solid base) initially, only economic connectivity should be worked upon. This sole focus on economics will create a less complicated agenda for both states and will eventually allow the trust deficit to be gapped.

Political, Cultural, Military CBMs

Only after the trade and economic CBMs have played their part in fixing economic relations and setting the groundwork for further developments, can the peace process enter the next stage – i.e. mending political, socio-cultural, and military reservations. Throughout their turbulent history, Pakistan and India have found meagre success through peace dialogues and CBMs – not without a lack of trying, however.

The paper delineates some of the most important and successful ones: In 1999, the ground-breaking Lahore Declaration was signed which would ensure strategic nuclear restraint – but a few months later the limited war on Kargil ruined any progress made. The Agra Summit resulted when President Musharraf visited Agra in 2001 to meet his Indian counterpart.

The summit was a landmark peace process and both countries came close to signing a joint declaration. Both leaders discussed CBMs, Kashmir, economic activity, and so on but due to the age-old tug of war of “Kashmir” (for Pakistan) and “cross-border terrorism” (for India), the talks faltered.

India’s Lt. General Singh, however, notes that due to the internal dynamics on the Indian side, the opportunity presented by the Agra Summit on compromising on contentious issues was missed. In 2004, the Composite Dialogue began; India placed 12 CBMs to Pakistan including sports resumption, reopening rail links, visas, tourism, increasing embassy staff, etcetera. Pakistan accepted all CBM’s (it amended three) and added two more.

The Composite Dialogue in 2004 also saw the inclusion of terrorism as an agenda item for the first time. It also consisted of the “mother of all CBMs”, the Kashmir bus service, which started operations in April 2005. The strong point of the dialogue was that it continued uninterrupted for four years and that it even continued after the Ayodhya attack in 2005.

Furthermore, the authors state that there was flexibility shown from both sides and that India had agreed to continue the dialogue even if a triggering event occurs. Pakistan, under Musharraf, showed an extreme degree of flexibility on the Kashmir issue (i.e. he did not insist on a UN plebiscite to solve the issue). However, the Indians seemed reluctant to discuss Kashmir at all, to the dismay of the Pakistanis.

Although these three peace processes might not have achieved long-term prosperity, lessons should be learned from their successes and failures for future talks and CBMs. Since, with respect to the roadmap offered by the paper, Kashmir’s territorial aspect will not be discussed for 10 years, it should not hinder the dialogue as it did during the Agra Summit and others.

This paper suggests that the flexibility shown from both sides during the Composite Dialogue should be emulated especially because it continued even with the triggering events – this time, however, with an international overseer to aid things if necessary. With the increased economic activity and the improved trust deficit achieved due to the road map’s initial economic focus, a structured, multifaceted, and continuous back and forth between the two states (like the Composite Dialogue) could do wonders for both countries.

The issue of liberalizing visa regimes must be seriously contemplated. Currently, it is extremely tedious and bureaucratic to visit either country. This must be extended to Kashmir so their people can travel more seamlessly through the border. The potential of religious tourism is huge across the subcontinent with a plethora of Shrines, Mosques, Temples, Stupas, and Sikh Gurdwaras.

Familial ties can also be reinforced through familial tourism. Improving tourism offers multiple benefits as it allows citizens from the other country to not only enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the host country but more importantly helps engage them in people-to-people contact. Pakistan and India can also promote tourism in Kashmir on both sides of the border.

This would allow the average Pakistani and Indian to experience Kashmir in its totality and would aid the economy of the underdeveloped region as guesthouses, hotels, and restaurants, etcetera would be utilized. Tourism creates cultural links that can eventually heal the “enemy syndrome” mentality amongst the general populous of both countries.

Regular meetings between foreign and prime ministers (Track I diplomacy) should become a staple of Pakistan-India relations. This will also improve SAARC’s credibility and strength as turbulent relations in the past have undermined the regional organization. Track II diplomacy has found success in recent times and this should be encouraged more so. In the recent past, students, lawyers, teachers, journalists, NGO workers, and celebrities have visited each country to exhibit trust and build a lasting peace.

Track II diplomacy should run parallel with Track I diplomacy and play a supportive role to it.In 2018, Indian and other journalists were invited to 7 Division Headquarters at Miranshah, North Waziristan, which was a safe haven for terrorists, to showcase how the Pakistani armed forces have not only cleared the area of terrorism but also introduced development initiatives such as a new cricket stadium, orphanages, schools, and even a golf course.

Initiatives like these are very important because they highlight Pakistan’s struggle against terrorism. These images and narrative must penetrate through to the Indian and other international media outlets rather than the “double game” or “do more” rhetoric that constantly undermines Pakistani efforts in combatting terrorism since 2001.

Sports resumption, and as mentioned earlier, the inception of annual sports tournaments will allow people-to-people contact to increase. Initiatives like the bus service from Delhi-Lahore (commenced in 1999), and the Samjhauta Express should be reinforced, and like-minded initiatives should be started throughout. Concerning Kashmir, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service (launched in 2005) was a breakthrough in terms of CBM’s.

The bus called the Karvan-E-Aman runs weekly and has helped thousands of divided families to reunite with one another. Creating a new bus schedule that allows the bus to run throughout (or most of the week) would help even more people meet loved ones. The long-term plan should be to streamline the bureaucracies such as tedious visas, wait times, security checks, at the border and make it as easy as possible for the Kashmiris to travel back and forth on their land.

Military contacts must also be emphasized. The DGMO (Director General Military Operations) hotline (established in 1990) should be an uninterrupted line of communication between both countries especially in times of a crisis. This hotline should not be disbanded as it has been in the past due to political tensions. Nuclear CBMs should also be improved upon – for example, greater transparency towards one another’s nuclear facilities and programs should be addressed. This point cannot be stressed enough as Pakistan and India, both nuclear-armed countries, have been engaged in a decades-old arms race and a security dilemma that might not cease anytime soon.

Pakistani and Indian soldiers go abroad for training purposes in various military institutions such as the National Defence University (NDU) in America. This endeavour is also conducted in Pakistan and India but usually without the rival nations’ officers. Pakistan’s version of the NDU hosts many officers from the entire world and India should be included in this list (and vice versa). Defence cooperation must be initiated between both countries.

Lt. General Singh (2018) emphasises that India has only conducted defence cooperation in a superficial manner, especially with its neighbours – instead India should take a leaf from America’s book who proactively sought to engage with the Pakistani Army due to its pertinent position in the country. Other than this, film, TV, and journalists should contribute towards building strong ties. Pakistani and Indian media thrive on sensationalism and bashing the other.

A regulatory framework should be adopted and applied by each government that keeps the independent media sensationalism in check. A priority should be given to news that features positive developments between both countries rather than scandalous and exaggerated ones. These are only some specific examples of CBMs ranging from cultural to political that could take Pakistan-India relations to new zeniths.

Outside the Box Approach for Kashmir

While easier said than done, if the pre-requisites are present and the roadmap is followed to a certain degree at least, it would create amicable relations and a sturdy foundation for future relations. Unfortunately, the Kashmir issue without an outside the box solution will remain a dispute no matter how much the relations improve.

Even if both countries use the 10 years to shrink the economic, political, and cultural deficits, Kashmir would still be too “black and white” to solve. Pakistan will never hand over Azad Kashmir to India, and India will never hand over Jammu &Kashmir to Pakistan as a gesture of goodwill no matter how amicable relations are.

Realistically, to resolve the territorial aspect of Kashmir, both countries must leverage good bilateral relations achieved by following the roadmap and come up with an “outside the box” solution. President Musharraf displayed this when he suggested a 4-point formula in 2006 that strayed away from the historical UN plebiscite demand from the Pakistani side.

The 4 points included demilitarization in phases from both sides of the LoC; no change in the border or redrawing of borders but the movement of Kashmiris and trade will be free across the LoC; self-governance or autonomy in Kashmir without full independence; overseeing the progress via a joint supervision mechanism consisting of representatives from Pakistan, Kashmir, and India.

The paper suggests that a similar approach should be adopted if not the same. This kind of approach thinks of Kashmiris first rather than Pakistan and India — and hence is more humanitarian and selfless in its approach.


The paper deliberated on the opportunities for friendship with regards to Pakistan and India. The logic of doing this was to highlight and subsequently contemplate the contentious nature of the relationship and how to use the opportunities to overcome it. The barriers consisted of proxy wars, terrorism, international interference, Hindutva machinations, and trust deficit faced by both countries while the opportunities consisted of CPEC, trade, and collaborations in other sectors.

Keeping these barriers and opportunities in mind, the final section provides a roadmap that the paper considers applicable if certain pre-requisites and sequencing of events are done. The roadmap states that Kashmir’s territorial dispute should be put on hold for 10 years at least. An independent overseer must be involved to oversee and investigate any triggering incident that could potentially disturb the peace process.

During the 10-year time, economic relations should be the prime focus (for 5 years) after which political, socio-cultural, and military CBM’s should commence. There are obviously myriads of things that could go wrong or regional and global shifts that could hamper or even aid the process – nonetheless, a concerted and conscious effort must be made from both sides to resolve not just the Kashmir dispute but to create a lasting friendship that can be cited as a miraculous example by history.

Sarmad Ishfaq works as a research fellow for the Lahore Centre for Peace Research. He completed his Masters in International Studies and graduated as the 'Top Graduate' from the University of Wollongong in Dubai. He has several publications in peer-reviewed journals and magazines in the areas of counter-terrorism/terrorism and the geopolitics of South Asia and the GCC.

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Changing complexion of “militancy” in the occupied Kashmir



Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

Two teachers, Supinder Kaur and Deepak Chand, were shot dead in Srinagar on October7, 2021.The Resistance front owned the killing. The name implies that this organisation like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front does not have religious moorings. The front explained that “they were killed because they harassed and warned the parents with dire consequences if the students did not attend the school function on August 15 (India’s Independence Day).

In a tweet, the Inspector general of Kashmir police disclosed that 28 civilians had been killed din the valley during 2021”. Five persons belonged to local Hindu and Sikh communities. . Two persons were non-Hindu labourers (

Each killing follows massive crackdowns, cordons and searches, and rounding up of innocent people as suspects mostly members of Jammat-e-Islami now banned, and Hurriyat members.

Who the Resistance Front is?

Very little is known about the Front. The Resistance Front publicly emerged in the aftermath of August 5, 2019, when the Central government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories.  The Article 15-A also was abrogated. This article guaranteed special protections to Kashmiri people defined as “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Front came into limelight when it owned a grenade attack in October 2019. Eight civilians on Srinagar’s busy Hari Singh High Street were injured in the attack. The Front is shy of social posts. But, it did announce its debut on the chat platform, Telegram.

India attributes the April intense gunfight between with security forces in the Keran sector (Kupwara district) to this Front.  It left five personnel of the army’s elite Special Forces dead.

Another encounter has continued for five days until October 19 in Mendhar sector.  India admits having lost several soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer, in the fight The Indian forces dared not enter into the forest. They were content to use heavy guns from the outside. The Indian forces’ initial impression was that the front uses only pistols and improvised explosives. That has been proved wrong.

 To disguise their ignorance about the Front, the forces say, ‘These acts are committed by newly recruited terrorists or those who are about to join terrorist ranks’.  

IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar says, ‘A total of 28 civilians have been killed by terrorists in 2021. Out of 28, five persons belong to local Hindu and Sikh communities and two persons are non-local Hindu labourers.’

India shaken

The non local Kashmiri migrants have no faith in police protection. They are returning to their home towns. The remaining persons are being shifted to army camps.

India’s home minister has planned a visit to Srinagar to familiarize himself with the situation. Indian prime minister Modi is being blamed at home and abroad for emergence of the Resistance Front. The critics point out that Kashmiriat had been the crucible of several civilizations. But India’s reign of terror compelled the native Kashmiri to become xenophobic.  

Modi ventilated his ire at rights criticism in his speech before the National Human rights Commission.

He stressed that welfare measures like providing electric connection, alleviating poverty were more important than human rights.

The NHRC is a statutory body that was constituted on October 12, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act. It takes cognisance of human rights violations, conducts enquiries and recommends compensation to victims from public authorities besides other remedial and legal measures against the erring public servants. However its present chairman is believed to be BJP stooge.

Kashmir, a Guantanamo Bay

Even Mehbooba Mufti, a former BJP ally, has been compelled to call Kashmir a Guantanamo Bay prison. She called for lifting ban on Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Jama’at-e-Islami, withdrawal of `sedition’ or `terrorism’ cases against Kashmiri leaders or ordinary folk. Her voice proved to be a voice in the wilderness.  What else could Mehbooba call Kashmir _ `Kashmiris feel that they are literally imprisoned in a cage from which almost all exit routes are barred save one, to India, which is also not without peril. Kashmiris are distrusted and treated poorly in many parts of India, whether as students or as traders’ (A.G. Noorani, Kashmir, a prison, Dawn January 12, 2019). Trade across the Line of Control has been stopped and `terrorism’ charges slapped on some traders. Even the tyrannical Dogras and their British overlords facilitated Kashmir trade with Central Asian and other states. Kashmiri markets used to be flooded with foreign traders and their merchandise _books, shawls, gold tillas, Russian textiles, Kokandi silk, Bukharan rumals (handkerchiefs) and coral.  Trade from British India would flow through Kulu via the Chang Chenmo route to Yarkand, bypassing the maharaja’s customs officials in Leh. In 1870, Maharaja Ranbir Singh signed a special treaty in Sialkot with Viceroy Lord Mayo to accept this route as a ‘free highway’, later known as Treaty Route.  Central Asians intending to perform hajj used to travel through this route to Karachi or Bombay sea-ports to board ships.  To facilitate pilgrims, highway provided rest houses, and supply depots jointly supervised by British and Kashmir officials. Now, even the Kashmir Highway stands closed to civilian traffic during military-convoy movement.. A minor, violating road closure, was brutally crushed by an Indian army vehicle.”

Mehbooba revealed her government was dismissed for expressing ennui at central-government atrocities, not returning dead bodies of `encounter’ victims and burning them, not allowing funeral prayers, demanding talks with Pakistan, registering an FIR against an army officer, resisting change in Kashmir’s special status, and so on (Indian Express dated April 18. 2019). A cursory look at Kashmir press is horrifying _ Sedition cases were slapped on three Aligarh- university Kashmiri students for trying to hold prayers for Hizb militant Wani, Kashmiri students and traders at Wagah border are forced to chant anti-Pakistan slogans and post them to face book. Kashmir students and traders were attacked or looted throughout India. About 700 students, including girls, fled to Valley. Even holders of PM Modi’s merit-based competitive scholarships had to rush back to Valley for safety. Kashmiri journalists in Indian states were roughed up, mercilessly beaten, and told to go back Meghalaya governor officially directed to boycott everything Kashmiri. Some Kashmiris petitioned Supreme Court to intervene. In its order, the Supreme Court directed 10 states and various institutions to take remedial steps, but in vain.

Fake encounters

People have lost trust In India’s claims of success in “encounters”, mostly fake. In July last year, security forces in Kashmir claimed to have killed three “unidentified hardcore terrorists” in a gunfight in Amshipora village of Kashmir’s Shopian district. They had last made phone calls to their families on July 17, 2020, a day before the purported gunfight had taken place.

An army inquiry and a police probe into the encounter established that the three suspected militants killed in Amshipora were shot dead in a fake encounter.

Indian army stages such encounters to earn reward of Rs. 20 lac per encounter. A year has gone by but the captain accused of masterminding and executing the fake Amshipora encounter is still unpunished.  He abducted three labourers from their homes and shot them dead as “terrorists”. Those killed in Shopian in July 2020 were Mohammed Ibrar of Tarkasi village, Imtiyaz Ahmad of Dharsakri village, and Ibrar Ahmad.

Concluding remark

It is obvious that it is not all hunky dory in Kashmir as India claims. The changed dimension of “militancy” is an incurable headache for the Modi’s government.

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A Peep into Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Tricky Relations with Afghan Taliban



To understand the interesting relationship between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as Pakistani Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban, one must look into the history to know how the linkages were developed between the two entities and why the Afghan Taliban are not responding in equal measures to take the decisive action against the TTP.

The TTP has waxed and waned over the years. Under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud (1972-2009), 13 militant outfits, some estimations guess 50, assembled in December 2007 to exact the revenge of the Lal Mosque operation. The Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan is the largest group in the TTP. There were many precursors group of the TTP, such as Sufi Muhammad (1933-2019) who established the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi and led thousands of militants against the occupational forces in Afghanistan. Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Mullah Nazir also joined the Baitullah-led TTP faction in 2008, both having links with Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has launched several operations against them, namely Operation Rahe-e-Rast (2009), Rah-e-Najat (2009), Zarb-e-Azab (2014) and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (2017). In the past, Pakistan claimed a complete victory against the TTP.

The TTP orchestrated a campaign of suicide bombings against Pakistan from 2006 to 2009. On 16 December 2014, TTP gunmen stormed the Army Public School in the northern city of Peshawar and killed more than 150 people, while 132 of them were children. After the capture of Kabul by the Afghan Taliban, the TTP is active again and claiming it carried out 32 attacks in August 2021 against Pakistan. Islamabad and Beijing held the TTP responsible for the July 14 suicide attack that killed nine Chinese engineers working on a hydroelectric project in Kohistan district. Pakistan accuses the Indian secret agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) of funding and supporting the TTP. Reports confirm that the TTP has sanctuaries in Kunar and Nanghar provinces of Afghanistan.

It is very difficult to measure the relationship between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban. Michael Kugelman, Asian deputy director at Washington Wilson Centre says, “The two groups have been separated from the same ideological cloth.” For the Afghan Taliban, the TTP has boosted their membership. For the TTP, the Afghan Taliban enhanced their resources and legitimacy. The factor of having links with the TTP reduces the Afghan Taliban’s chances to rely on Pakistan.

The TTP is eager to show its relations with the Afghan Taliban. TTP’s media showed the pictures of Hakim Mullah Mehsud and Maulvi Nazir with Mullah Sangeen Zardan, a key commander of the Haqqani network. Like the Afghan Taliban, the TTP has established its links with Al Qaeda; however, its main branch still adheres to the Afghan Taliban.

The TTP members were trained and educated at the same religious seminaries that produced the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan’s long ties with the Taliban might have generated hopes that the Islamist group would help rein in the TTP’s cross-border violent activities from their Afghan hideouts. But they say those expectations could be shattered, citing the ideological affinity between the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban.

The Afghan Taliban also released 800 TTP militants, including its deputy chief Maulvi Faqir Muhammad. According to a recent report prepared for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban have carried on “relations mainly as before”. The TTP supported the Afghan Taliban militarily against the Afghan government forces in the recent takeover. TTP’s new rhetoric is consistent with the Afghan Taliban’s position of not recognizing the Durand Line as a legal border and opposing its fencing by Pakistan because it has divided the Pashtun tribes.

Amir Rana, Director at Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), says, “The Afghan Taliban triumph has emboldened Islamic militants, including those in the TTP and boosted their morale. The wooing back of the disgruntled group and release of prisoners have increased TTP’s capability and military strength, hindering Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate terrorism within its borders.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, Spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban, said in an interview, “The relationship between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban will continue to be dictated by religious-ideological convergence, ethnic-fraternal linkages and close camaraderie.” But he denied there was any collaboration between them. The Afghan Taliban and the TTP known to share the ideal of governing by ‘sharia’ or Islamic law. However, the Afghan Taliban have not spoken openly against the TTP.

Michael Kugelman commented, “For Pakistan, getting the Taliban to curb the TTP amounts to a daunting task. The TTP has long been allied with the Afghan Taliban, and it has partnered operationally with them. The Taliban are not known for denying space to its militant allies, and I do not see the TTP being an exception to the rule.”

The TTP has rejected Islamabad’s amnesty overtures. In an exclusive interview with Japan’s oldest newspaper Mainchi Shimbun, TTP leader Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud welcomed the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan after 20 years of absence. “We are hopeful for a strong relationship between two of us. The TTP views the Doha Accord 2020 as a major win for all the Jihadists and their ideology.”

The TTP also differs from the Afghan Taliban in its goals and attitude toward the Pakistan government. In 2009, the Afghan Taliban denied having ties with the TTP attack on civilians. Some Afghan Taliban have sympathies with the TTP. But it is clear that the Afghan Taliban do not want to develop their official ties with the TTP, and nor do they want to be involved in the tussle between the TTP and Pakistan government. Its permissive treatment of the TTP could be a matter of internal politics. Cracking down on foreign fighters might create rifts in the rank and file of the Afghan Taliban who view these fighters as brothers in arms.

Columnist Kamran Yousuf writes in Express Tribune, “Pakistan has handed over to the Taliban ‘a list of most wanted’ terrorists affiliated with the banned TTP. Islamabad seeks a decisive action against them. Hibatullah Akhundzada, supreme commander of the Afghan Taliban, has established a three-member commission to investigate the Pakistan claims. Afghan Taliban leaders Mullah Umar and Sirajuddin Haqqani had repeatedly attempted to convince the TTP to focus on the Afghan Jihad. But these efforts had always been fruitless because waging of the Jihad against Pakistan forms the basis for TTP’s separate identity.

Noor Wali Mehsud said, “We will free our land region from the occupation of Pakistan forces and will never surrender to their atrocious rule. We want to live on our land according to the Islamic law and tribal traditions. We are the Muslims and the Pashtuns. The independence of Pakhtunkhwa and Pashtun tribal areas is national and religious duty of all Pashtuns.” (DAWN, 23 March)

Another possible and perhaps more likely outcome is that the Afghan Taliban avoid interference in the TTP-Pakistan conflict, preferring to stay neutral and maintain their historical ties with the TTP as well as Pakistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid noted, “The issue of the TTP is one that Pakistan will have to deal with, not Afghanistan. It is up to Pakistan, and Pakistani ulema and religious figures, not the Taliban, to decide on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of their war and to formulate a strategy in response.” (Geo TV, Aug 28)

Noor Wali Mehsud said, in a recent interview with CNN, that his group will continue its war against Pakistan security forces and its goal is to take control and free the border region. Mehsud also admitted that his group has a good relation with the Afghan Taliban, hoping to benefit from their victories across the border.

Despite an ideological convergence, there appears many differences between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban condemned the killing of children in APS Peshawar. Condemning the attack, Zabihullah Mujahid said, “The killing of innocent people, children and women are against the basic teachings of Islam and this criterion should be considered by every Islamic party and government.”

The Afghan Taliban emerged in 1990, while the TTP in 2007. The TTP has a separate chain of command. Although the two groups’ aims overlap, they do not match. The TTP, unlike the Afghan Taliban, has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US. The two has different sponsors. The TTP is closer to the global jihadist agenda of targeting the far enemy. The Time Square bombing in 2010 and killing of Chinese nationals are the examples in this regard.

Both work with Al Qaeda. In the case of the TTP, this relation is stronger. Al Qaeda has played an instrumental role in the foundation, rise and expansion of the TTP. Although both are the Pashtuns, but the Taliban belong to Afghan tribes and the TTP is from the Mehsud tribe. The Afghan Taliban are more unified than the TTP.

Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University for International Security and Cooperation, said, “Both Jalal and Siraj Haqqani mediated ‘jirgas’ to resolve the organizational issues and factionalism in the TTP.”

The TTP has also tried to diversify its recruitment and banned groups like the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) as well as Balochistan insurgency. The TTP makes it clear that ‘it does not entirely agree with the ideology of those movements but has sympathies with those being targeted by Pakistan establishment’. (Faran Jeffery)

The Diplomat reported that the Haqqani-sponsored talks between Pakistan and TTP had failed in 2020. The Taliban have generally been hesitant to push the TTP too hard. Rahimullah Yousufzai, a security analyst, said, “The Afghan Taliban, or for that matter, the Haqqani’s, could have done more to restraint the TTP from attacking Pakistan but that has not happened.” Asfandyar Mir said, “The Afghan Taliban have never meaningfully condemned or restrained the TTP from carrying out violence in Pakistan.” (TRT)

After the withdrawal of US-led coalition forces from Afghanistan, the evolving security situation of the region requires that Pakistan should play a more proactive role in manipulating this delicate balance between TTP and the Afghan Taliban. Otherwise, the chances of peace for the region are not sure.

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South Asia

The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas



Source: Twitter

The Blitzkrieg winning back of Afghanistan by the Taliban with the concomitant US pullout established Taliban 2.0 in Kabul. But this has created a number of dilemmas for the stakeholding states. The latter include Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, viz. Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast and Pakistan to the east. Russia is also affected since it considers former Central Asian Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its backyard and since Moscow has its own share of extremist-secessionist problems in Chechnya. It is also worried about Islamic fundamentalism spreading to its Muslim population concentrated around its major cities and the Caucasus.

The dilemmas are as follows:

I. If the US-led withholding of economic aid and international recognition continues in essence, then conditions– as it is they are bad enough in Afghanistan—will further deteriorate. This will lead to greater hunger, unemployment and all-round economic deprivation of the masses. Such dystopia will generate more refugees in droves as well as terrorists who will spill out to seek greener pastures beyond the country’s borders.

Such condition will in turn mean a life-threatening headache for not only Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours like Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan but also for more distant lands. The liberal democracies of Europe. Germany, France, Italy, the UK and others have already had their share of refugees—and terrorists—when waves from an unsettled Syria hit them way back in 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel even decided to act magnanimously and opened Germany’s doors to a million fleeing the civil war in Syria. Such acceptance of refugees from Asia and Africa in Europe, however, boosted right-wing parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other movements throughout that continent. As a result the easy cross-border movements within the European Union came to be partly restricted in order to keep unwanted refugees out. Calls went out for hardening the external borders of the EU against more refugee invasion. The EU also made arrangements with Turkey to absorb and manage the refugee onrush in exchange for fat amounts of the Euro.

The prospects of a second such wave of refugees desperate not only to escape the clutches of the medieval Taliban but to find a promising future and remarkably better living conditions in the advanced lands of Europe are giving nightmares to the governments of the latter countries.

There seems to be a growing consensus among many in the international community that not only purely humanitarian but also larger economic aid to the Taliban-run Afghanistan should be extended—and without delay, if only to keep a lid on refugees—and terrorists—spilling across the borders. Islamabad apparently scored a remarkable ‘victory’ over New Delhi when its protégé Taliban replaced the pro-Indian Ghani government. Nevertheless, it is worried about the spillover into its territory across the Durand Line to its west. Pakistan, hence, leads this school of thought most vociferously[i]. It fenced its border with Afghanistan to a significant extent in anticipation of more refugees pouring in.  It has been joined in the chorus by Russia, the EU, China, and others. China, for instance, has emphasized the need for releasing funds to Afghanistan at its talks with the G-20 on 23 September.[ii] However, no such stipulation is seen in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) declaration released at the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 17 September, though the document mentions explicitly the need for an “inclusive” government that includes the left-out minorities. India’s presence at the meet may have prevented the inclusion of a funds-release clause.

II. But even if the US unfreezes the $9.25 billion Afghan assets under its control, and allows the IMF and the World Bank to make available other funds and assets to the funds-starved Taliban’s Kabul, a major problem will still linger. This is the question of ‘inclusive’ government, which the Taliban had promised among other things in its February 2020 agreement with the USA at Doha. The composition of the current Taliban government shows the mighty influence of the hardliners within the Taliban, elements like the Haqqani network and the secretive hardcore Kandahar Shura—as opposed to the seemingly more moderate Pakistan-based Quetta Shura. The Prime Minister of Taliban 2.0, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is on a UN-designated blacklist; its Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is on the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list with a multi-million dollars reward hanging over his head.  

Although the Taliban did not officially take a formal position, a member of the new government in Kabul has also defied calls from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and from other quarters for forming a more ‘inclusive’ government. That would mean more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and women holding important positions in the government, a phenomenon markedly absent in the current governmental setup dominated by male Pashtuns. The Taliban member shot back that the current government was as much ‘inclusive’ as it was possible to make and that the Taliban did not care for others to dictate to it what kind of government would suit Afghanistan.

If Taliban 2.0 remains essentially as it is today, with the minorities ignored, this would still create unrest and insurgency in the country. A civil war in the not too distant a future cannot be ruled out. This is the reason that even Pakistan, which certainly would not like to see its protégé Taliban’s power diluted, keeps harping on the ‘inclusive’ clause along with Russia and others.

A civil war will not be confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan but will attract intervention by neighbouring states and other more distant stakeholders like the USA.  Tajikistan will continue to back the Tajiks living astride its southern border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan will do the same with the Afghan Uzbeks. Shia Iran will  stand up for the Shia Hazaras while the Western world will, in general, wish to see ‘human rights’ and especially ‘women’s rights’ given full leeway. The Chinese seemed to have cut a deal. They would extend economic aid to Kabul in exchange for assurances that no terrorism or separatism would go out of Afghan territory.

But Taliban 2.0, despite its smooth assurances at Doha and elsewhere, shows no signs of stretching significantly from its understanding of the Sharia law, which it said it wished to uphold as a framework within which all these rights would be respected. There are reports that the US is in talks with Russia seeking a base on Russian territory or again in Tajikistan for its future ‘over-the-horizon’ operations in Afghanistan, starting with monitoring purposes.

In sum, while option I, outlined above, promises an immediate disaster for South Asia and even beyond, option II holds out  only marginally better prospects. It still has the Damocles’ sword of the probability of a civil war hanging over the head. The ideal solution would be to widen the Taliban 2.0 government to include the deprived minorities with an eye on keeping an effective lid on social instability. But the prospects for such a solution seem far-fetched, given the apparent domination of the hardliners in Taliban 2.0 and the long-standing animosity between the northern non-Pashtun Afghans and the Pashtun Taliban.. Also, the attacks by other extremist groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), al Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and so on will unlikely cease, even if option II is fully implemented. These extra-Taliban extremist groups will only encourage the radical elements within the Taliban to opt for more aggressive actions, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders.

The future in and around Afghanistan looks grim indeed.

[i] Incidentally, the Pashtuns living on both sides of the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893  do not recognise it, and that includes the Taliban)

[ii] Reid Standish report, of rfe/, 27 September 2021, accessed 14 October 2021, 09.07 Indian Standard Time (IST)… All times henceforth are in IST.

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