In Kashmir, despite tumult and stress, any spark of hope?

International conferences on Kashmir have been held on a regular basis, but the propositions discussed have failed to make a substantive impact on the fragile issue.

Tensions rose this last week in wake of the Indian Army’s operation which killed a militant, but some developments feed modest hope for those who love Kashmir and want true progress for India.
Sunday, students long kept at school sites due to the broader lockdown were allowed to travel (many by train) in the region, getting home to families. Friday brought reports of no new COVID cases in the region, but that welcome lull from expansion of the virus was considered temporary. 

Mobile phone service, long suppressed or disrupted by the government, returned a few days ago – but not mobile Internet.

In this moment of mixed tension and hope, it helps to look back at inconsistent efforts to forge a better future for Kashmir.

Although representatives from both sides of the LOC (the “line of control” divided Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistani-administered Kashmir) make regular appearances at some of the venues where peace and stability is advocated, the prevalent discourse is rather elitist in nature. As in the case elsewhere in the world, the woes of the marginalized remain unheard.

A global discourse that is generated at international forums, such as the Kashmir Summit Meet in Brussels, Belgium (held on April 1, 2008), can do little to formulate constructive programs for the ethnic and religious minorities in the nation-states of India and Pakistan – unless the bonafide effort is to demilitarize the region and rehabilitate the disenfranchised.

It remains important to rehabilitate those who have been languishing in Indian and Pakistani jails without a cause, militancy-affected people, and victims of counter-insurgency repression.
Several political leaders, workers, and ordinary civilians from Kashmir were put behind bars in August 2019. Some of those detainees are senior citizens with ailments, who require medical attention.

Despite frustrations, declarations so frequently made about the desire to settle the dispute peacefully must not be dismissed.

In order to enhance their economic and political clout in the South Asian region, India and Pakistan require stability. Can both countries begin the process of establishing themselves as stable forces by initiating a serious political process in Kashmir in which the people of the state have a substantive say.

NOTE: Nyla Ali Khan, a native of Kashmir, recently became a citizen of the United States. A writer and academic, her articles – both of a scholarly nature and reflections on her family and friends – appear frequently in The City Sentinel, a community newspaper in Oklahoma City, and on CapitolBeatOK, an independent news website.