Can India ever defeat Pakistan in war?
The mountains of Kashmir are of a beauty that could enchant people from all over the world. The area in the western Himalayas would have long been a magnet for tourists from east and west if extremist violence and the chronic hostility between the nuclear powers India and Pakistan did not destroy the prospect of peace again and again. India has now launched a sensational push that allegedly seeks to bring about peace - but could exacerbate the conflict.
Delhi deprives Kashmir of its autonomous rights and reorganizes the administration of the region. The Hindu Nationalist Movement celebrates the move as a stroke of genius, but the cheers mask the dangers posed by this policy. It is a questionable experiment that provides extremists with more ammunition and weakens moderate forces.
Kashmir has been hotly contested since the Indian subcontinent was divided more than 70 years ago. Violence and a lack of prospects dominate the strategically important region, which is predominantly populated by Muslims. India and Pakistan fought three wars for Kashmir, the area is divided. And it is one of the bitter certainties of recent South Asian history that the crisis zone can only find peace if a comprehensive reconciliation between the rivals India and Pakistan is on the way.
But it doesn't look like a thaw. On the one hand, terrorist attacks by Islamist groups fuel hatred and distrust; these forces have their refuge in Pakistan; on the other hand, the iron grip of Indian troops has alienated the people of Kashmir from Delhi; many despise the military as an occupying power that does not have to fear punishment for illegal attacks. The feeling of powerlessness among the Kashmiri is likely to increase now that the area loses autonomous rights.
The Kashmiri identity is slowly being crushed
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party campaigned with a promise to treat Kashmir like any other Indian state; After the clear victory in May, Modi feels encouraged to take the drastic step quickly. This policy is popular in India and is seen as a sign of strength. The course should lead to Indians from other regions also being able to acquire land in the contested mountains. The Hindu nationalists put all of this in a rosy light: Kashmir could soon flourish, develop, and conquer poverty. But have you ever asked the Kashmiri what future they actually want?
Their identity is being crushed in the ongoing conflict between Delhi and Islamabad. A referendum like the one the United Nations once promised never took place after the messed up decolonization. Delhi insists on its claim that Kashmir belongs immovably to India, Pakistan is the Muslim patron saint, but otherwise does little to resolve the conflict. The Pakistani hardliners even find it useful to weaken India.
In this respect, the Indian urge for new paths is very understandable. But the course that has now been taken will not stop the violence, it will only cement the division. The prospect of some cashmere that can someday manage itself in peace is becoming more and more distant.
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