Good Vibes at SAARC: Is Kashmir Ripe for Resolution?

Posted on April 29, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations
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Adil Najam

Let me confess that the real reason for the post is this photograph above. It shows the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders in an informal moment of exchange at the 2010 SAARC Summit (L to R): Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives, Manmohan Singh of India, Madhav Kumar Nepal of Nepal, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Jigme Yoser Thinley of Bhutan.

I just love the picture: the colors, the composition, the symbolism. Maybe it will turn out that all of the above are exaggerated. So be it. Sometimes you want to hope.

And speaking of hope, I just published a short op-ed (co-authored with Moeed Yusuf) that reports on the deeper academic research paper we had written in Third World Quarterly which analyzes all the proposals made on the resolution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. This is not different from facts that we keep finding out about how close India and Pakistan were to at least a partial resolution, how recently. As in the original paper, and as I have noted here before, we also note in the op-ed in The News that “Windows of opportunity, by definition, are temporary. Unutilized ripeness can turn into staleness and, ultimately, stalemate”:

… the events surrounding the Kashmir dispute have been transpiring – for some time – in a manner that makes the situation ‘ripe’ for resolution. Ripeness increases the potential for conflict resolution and occurs when the subjective perceptions of all parties converge to create a window of opportunity; the latter represents moments in policymaking processes during which breaking the stalemate becomes possible. Ripeness does not guarantee resolution, but it does mean that there is an opportunity and the potential for possible headway.

…Having analyzed nearly 50 proposals recommended throughout the dispute’s history, the research has highlighted an emerging trend in opinion among policy experts. We find that the zone of convergence has increased significantly since the 1990s. Perhaps the most consequential dimension of convergence is the emerging trend on the issue of autonomy as the central pillar of any final resolution. Since the onset of the insurgency in Indian Kashmir in 1989, granting autonomy to all or part of the state has by far been the most recurrent theme in the proposed solutions. This reflects the realization that the current context does not allow either India or Pakistan to dominate Kashmir through a tightly monitored, centralized formulation.

…The general findings highlighted in this article are only to stress that although the issue may be ‘ripe’ today, it will not remain ripe forever. Like other windows of opportunity that have existed in the past, this too will have an expiry date. The key challenge is to move quickly from the broad consensus around autonomy towards specifics about the nature of autonomy, means of actual implementation, defining the precise roles of India, Pakistan, and Kashmiri authorities in an autonomous Kashmir, and mechanisms for future dispute resolution.

…Ultimately, ripeness can only be translated into resolution if the political leadership on both sides can muster the political will required to conceive and implement an agreement on the basis of the latent zone of convergence. Our research finding is that the zone of possible agreement clearly exists and is evident to all sides. Whether the political leadership on the two sides has the political will to capitalize on this ripeness remains to be seen.

The idealist in me would like to believe that the picture above is cause of hope. But there is also a part of me that is realist enough to realize that history is not judged by photo-ops, but by the real actions that those photo-ops signify.

It is good – very good – that the leaders of India and Pakistan are talking. The next step, of course, is to turn talk into action.

25 Comments on “Good Vibes at SAARC: Is Kashmir Ripe for Resolution?”

  1. Haroon says:
    April 29th, 2010 10:33 pm

    It is a nice picture. Gillani seems to be holding his own.

  2. Osman says:
    April 29th, 2010 11:20 pm

    Good article. I think if we could get Kashmir resolved so many other good things will follow. Both countries will be better off if it is given independence as a separate country.

  3. Anwer says:
    April 29th, 2010 11:45 pm

    Almost all – Mohamed Nasheed of Maldives is hidden behind Karzai and so one cannot be sure – seem to be wearing dresses commonly worn in their countries, with one exception.

  4. Sandy says:
    April 30th, 2010 12:12 am

    How easily and conveniently, 26/11 has been forgotten.

  5. Pervaiz says:
    April 30th, 2010 12:19 am

    The best resolution for Kashmir has always been an independent Kashmir.

  6. Jamshed says:
    April 30th, 2010 1:07 am

    The proposal for increased autonomy has been around for a long time.Accepting it would involve a major departure from Pakistan’s established position and would be to India’s advantage.

  7. ASAD says:
    April 30th, 2010 1:13 am

    @Jamshed. That is not correct. Pakistan’s position has been, from the 40′s really, that the people of Kashmir should decide and have a say in how they are governed. Autonomy is exactly that, giving the people of Kashmir the right to run their own affairs. This would be a greater departure for India, which considers Kashmir a part of their “being”.

  8. kaladhar from india says:
    April 30th, 2010 5:07 am

    i support the peace between india and pak,its solution is india occupied kasmeer govern by india and pak occupied kasmeer governed by pak. another solution never will accepted by indians.

  9. mustafa kamaal says:
    April 30th, 2010 5:11 am

    @Pervaiz & Asad:

    Both of yoy forget that it is Pakistan and Pakistani soldiers who have shed their blood for Kashmir. Only idealists like you can be under illusion that Kashmir can remain an independent entity. As an independent nation, it will be a non-starter from the day 1. An independent Kashmir will be devoured by India before it is created. You seem to have taken no lessons from history. It was through sheer cunningness and twisted logic that India enslaved Kashmir. What guarantee is that it would not do so again?

    Kashmir’s interests can only be protected by a strong nuclear nation like Pakistan. Anything else is a wishful thinking.

  10. Tanzeel says:
    April 30th, 2010 8:07 am

    Initially I was in support of Pakistani occupancy on IoK but now keeping the “halat” of Pakistan’s economy and law & order situation in mind I would suggest to handover IoK permanently to India.

    Managing Azad Kashmir is itself a big achievement for us. Lets be happy with one part of Kashmir.

  11. libertarian says:
    April 30th, 2010 8:47 am

    Adil with all due respect, your thesis is a lop-sided triumph of hope over reason and experience.

    Symbolism is good. But what the Indian leader should have been saying to the Pakistani representation is “Take me to your Leaders” …

  12. AHsn says:
    April 30th, 2010 10:39 am

    You will find another colourful picture of 2002 SAARC meeting when Musharraf offered sustained talks and had a very warm Handshake with Vajpayee the then Indian Prime Minister. Does any body remember what happened after?

    AHsn, Strasbourg

  13. Meengla says:
    April 30th, 2010 12:29 pm

    1. Javed Naqvi who is’s India-based journalist asserts that Indians and Pakistanis are not ‘intelligent’ enough to make peace possible. Perhaps, but I also think the territorial disputes between India and Pakistan has yet (thankfully!) to force them to the disastrous wars similar to the Europeans of the 20th century.
    2. It looks Pakistan has moved far away from its insistence on the UN Resolutions regarding Kashmir, starting with Musharraf. Similarly, Manmohan Singh has also publicly called for making the borders ‘irrelevant’. Perhaps something like the Andorra solution is going to be found?
    3) Are the supposed ‘peace-dividends’ really that great for the whole South Asia should India and Pakistan bury the hatchet? I would like to think they are?
    4) Water is emerging as the bigger concerns for Pakistan–more than the territorial claims or ideological associations with Kashmiris. If that water is indeed the dispute of the highest concern then lets discuss it objectively–it will perhaps help in reducing some of the ‘heat’ which inevitably creeps in when ‘religion’ becomes the major topic.

  14. Rashid says:
    April 30th, 2010 1:21 pm

    What impressed me most is that Gillani is speaking and others including Manmohan Singh are listening.

  15. Salman says:
    April 30th, 2010 3:21 pm

    Since there has been no “annoyance” from our Army regarding the so called talks..

    … so we should abandon all hope..

    Its only when our Army feels threatened of peace between the two nations, that we can hope something REAL is happening..

  16. Sridhar says:
    April 30th, 2010 8:07 pm


    Is water really an issue or is it another one of the manufactured ones? The Indus Water Treaty is by any measure a success-story. It has held for over 40 years without significant problems and has survived two and a half wars and three decades of proxy war.

    Even the so-called disputes today are manufactured ones created partly by a hyperventilating media and partly by the establishment for its own reasons. The last such “dispute” was one that involved the Baglihar project, which the independent arbitrary ruled to be consistent with the Indus Water Treaty, with only very minor modifications. In that case, the mechanisms provided within the treaty were used for resolution of the dispute.

    Hence, I disagree with the notion that somehow water is likely to be a huge cause for tension in the future. Whatever dispute there is on water is a symptom of the tensions between the two countries, not its cause. Water will be in short supply in the future due to global warming, but if there is an amicable relationship between the two countries, they will find solutions together. If there are tensions between them, it will manifest itself in water-related disputes as well.

  17. Ambuj says:
    April 30th, 2010 11:35 pm

    If only we can deal with the cynicism of people across both sides, then “All IS Well”

  18. Faraz says:
    May 1st, 2010 12:13 am

    I find it hard to imagine that in the above photograph Gilani is saying something intelligent, something worth listening to. But we can all hope…

  19. Jabbar says:
    May 1st, 2010 12:16 am

    You know, I read the comments here and elsewhere, like the one by Faraz above, and wonder that for a people who are always complaining that the world does not respect us and that the world only sees negative things in us, the fact is that we do not respect ourselves and we ourselves only see bad things in ourselves.

    Seems like out image in the world is bad, but our image of ourselves is even worse!

  20. ShahidnUSA says:
    May 1st, 2010 1:32 am

    You hear this from the self proclaimed “King of all Visuals”.

    When a person talks a lot, it always doesnt mean that he knows a lot. It could be the embarrasment he or she is hiding.

    Its not the attention `he’ is getting, its the compassion.

  21. Ek budhiman says:
    May 3rd, 2010 8:02 am

    @Rashid(“What impressed me most is that Gillani is speaking and others including Manmohan Singh are listening.”):
    There is a Sanskrit saying, which means something like- “Jahan medhak (frog) tar-tarate hain, wahan buddhimaan log (intelligent people) khamosh rahate hain.”… :-D :-D :-D

  22. Amna Zaman says:
    May 4th, 2010 7:55 am

    @faraz. I would agree with you. I hope these people wake up and save Pakistan from going into the hands of the militants. The issue of Kashmir is a very valid one too. The main reason why Pakistan is suffering today is terrorism. We must capture these militants asap.

  23. A.W. says:
    May 9th, 2010 7:54 pm

    Prof. Najam, your article in The News was also picked up by Times of India.

  24. Watan Aziz says:
    May 9th, 2010 8:48 pm




    My father was younger than my eldest when Jinnah and Pandit Nehru agreed on the 1948 resolution.

    If there are conditions, it is not peace, it is talk.

    Resolutions and declarations or “walks” and photo-opps are peaceful, but not peace.

    And true peace has no victims, just winners. If the idea is to set the tone with who has exclusive on victimhood, then there is an age old wisdom, “natch na jaNay, angHan tayRah” (“does not know dancing, claiming floor crooked”)

    I would very much like that the Kashmiris can start to live in peace before my youngest turns older than my father’s point of reference.

    Not much time left. Hurry!

    There is never a perfect time for peace, except now.




  25. Calculating_Misfit says:
    May 10th, 2010 1:49 am


    Are you seriously suggesting that Pakistan would accept an autonomous Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian Union?

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