Atomic Humanitarian Crisis: Jammu-Kashmir
By Randy Derstine
Conflict and disputed territories have been common throughout recorded human history. As time continued, conflicts were resolved, and borders were redrawn. However, few regions have failed to find resolutions through war or diplomatic solutions. These regions are of strategic economic, military, and cultural importance. Globalization, economic development, and technological advancements have catapulted information sharing, trade, and foreign relations into the unprecedented circumstances of today’s world. The beautiful Jammu-Kashmir region has been disputed long before globalization exploded and has only become more infamous for violence, aggression, and failed political conflict resolution since its inception. Recent acts of aggression and potential human rights violations hurled Jammu-Kashmir into the international spotlight (Dai, 2021).
The Jammu-Kashmir region’s enduring and increasingly unstable condition presents a credible threat of nuclear war, human rights violations and threatens U.S. national security in Southeast Asia. The failed United Nations’ attempts at mediation and India’s open declaration against third-party intervention creates a compelling demand for U.S. influence on conflict resolution in the region between India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the Great Power Competition (GPC) with China forces U.S. intervention in resolving the overdue dispute in Jammu-Kashmir. The U.S. must counter China’s efforts in successfully establishing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which China plans to use for access to the Indian Ocean and will solidify China’s position in Southeast Asia (Chowdary, 2019; Dai 2021). The purpose of this paper is to identify transregional threats to U.S. national security and provide a recommendation based on an analysis of singular issues that compounded to create devastating effects. Additionally, the paper is structured to provide key background context that supports an analysis of critical issues within the region and supports the relevancy of the recommendation.
The Jammu-Kashmir region has a storied history and suffers from decades-old disputes. The region’s rich culture and physical beauty have been plagued by failed political resolutions from competing interests between India, Pakistan, and China. Obtaining a contextual understanding of Jammu-Kashmir’s physical anatomy, location, culture, political dynamic, and deadly capabilities will illuminate the ticking time bomb that awaits from the continually failing attempts at resolutions (Dai, 2021). Additionally, quick intervention from the U.S. is more important now than ever before. Great Power Competition (GPC) has gained tremendous momentum in strategic planning cells of the Department of Defense down to tactical level operations. Therefore, political and diplomatic action about this region is paramount to national security.
Physical Geography and Borders
Within Southeast Asia, a small but complex area is situated at the northwest corner of the Himalayan Mountain range named the Jammu-Kashmir region. The region shares its borders with India to the South, Pakistan to the Northwest, and China to the East (Dai, 2021). Within the region, there are technically three disputed areas of landmass. These three areas or provinces are the Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh territories. However, the entire region is often referred to as merely the Jammu-Kashmir region or the Kashmir valley. It is significant to understand that there are three different areas within the region because the complexities regarding the context of conflict in the region are connected (Khalique et al., 2020).
Additionally, the three bordering countries of India, Pakistan, and China lay claims to certain rights within the region (Dai, 2021). The primary claims within the region are not simply by proximity. For example, China claims rights to the eastern portion of the region, but India and Pakistan have yet to agree on specific boundaries within Jammu and Kashmir (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). The region is also equipped with a diverse physical landscape of beauty and natural resources (Dar & Khuroo, 2020).
The Himalayan region of Jammu-Kashmir is recognized as being a “biological paradise” (Dar & Khuroo, 2020). The region encompasses three biogeographic zones comprised of all the world’s major ecosystems. The vastness of its resources is so plentiful that full documentation and measurements are yet to be completed, but it is considered rich for agriculture (Dar & Khuroo, 2020). The three named regions of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh each have unique habitats. For example, Jammu is mountainous, Kashmir is a compact valley, and Ladakh is a high-altitude desert (Chowdhary, 2019). However, the main livelihood of the inhabitants is through farming and livestock rearing. An additional characteristic attributing to the region’s diversity is various altitudes that have tremendous effects on climate. The climate is sub-tropical with harsh winters, torrential monsoon seasons, and relatively neutral summers. The mountainous terrain divides landscapes and creates independent weather systems within the valleys in the region (Dar & Khuroo, 2020). Although Jammu-Kashmir’s ecosystem and physical geography are diverse, the complexities and diversity of its inhabitants are even more nuanced.
Culture and Religion
Jammu-Kashmir has diverse cultures and religions intertwined throughout its history and varied physical landscapes. The culture within the region is multifaceted and exists at many different levels. These levels include regional, cultural, and linguistic matters (Chowdhary, 2019). Additionally, within the levels of diversity exists another layer of tribal and caste-based system identities. The diversity is simplified into the three major Southeast Asian religions in Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh: Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. However, there are a small amount of Sikh and Christian populations. The Muslim population makes up the majority, with a staggering 68.31 percent of the total population.
Meanwhile, the second-largest portion of the total population is Hindu at 28.43 percent. The third-largest concentration is Sikh, with only 1.87 percent of the total population. Additionally, there is a minuscule 0.89 percent Buddhist population that is primarily located within the Ladakh province and a 0.28 percent Christian population. The remaining 0.22 percent of the total population falls into a religion not stated category. The state has an obvious Muslim majority after review of the population percentages. The complexity is further added by the population percentages of the specific regions within the state. For example, most districts within the three regions (Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh) have a 95 to 99 percent Muslim population (Chowdhary, 2019, p. 43).
According to Chowdhary (2019), “A large number of the Kashmiri Muslims are converts who trace their lineage to the Kashmiri Pandits” (p. 45). The Kashmiri Pandits were a specific group of Kashmiri Hindus living in Kashmir valley before Muslim influence came to the valley. However, there was a cultural divide when former Kashmiri Pandits decided to convert to Islam and keep their Hindu family names. Although the valley is representative of most Muslim converts, there is a perception of Muslim outsiders such as the Arabs, Mughals, and Pathans Within the state’s northern areas of Jammu and Ladakh, religious plurality exists due to the more extensive representation of Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu populations when compared to the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley. However, Jammu is more complex because of a larger Hindu population of 62.55 percent than its 33.45 percent Muslim population (Chowdhary, 2019, p. 47). This disparity creates more substantial competing interests and cultural differences amongst the region’s demographics. For example, further division comes internally to the tribal and caste system within the Muslim and Hindu communities (Chowdhary, 2019).
From varying religious identities within the regions comes cultural diversities that serve as strengths and weaknesses for the inhabitants. Although commonality is found under similar religious ideologies, there are clashes from regional, cultural, ethnic, and caste identities. Three dominant regional-cultural markers are Kashmiri, Dogra, and Ladakhi identities. These regional-cultural markers are not constrained by religious ideology but are in linguistic and ethnic fabric dating back 5,000 years (Chowdhary, 2019, p. 47). Additionally, eight recognized regional languages include Kashmiri, Dogri, Balti, Dardi, Punjabi, Pahari, Ladakhi, and Gojri but the three dominant languages are Kashmiri, Dogri, and Balti. Kashmiri and Dogra identities include Hindu and Muslim faith within the context of the respective language to the identity. For example, Hindu and Muslim faiths are included in the culture of Kashmir if the inhabitants are Kashmiri speakers. The Ladakhi identity includes Buddhists or Muslims who speak Ladakhi. The complexity continues with a nomadic and semi-nomadic community known as the Gujjars. This community is exclusively Muslim and spread throughout Jammu and Kashmir. The Gujjars are tribal people that migrate between Jammu and Kashmir but have a linguistic affinity towards Pakistani administered territory (Chowdhary, 2019).
The three regions: Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, have religious, linguistic, and regional loyalties. Every region has its own identity based upon its distinct history, uniqueness, and geography. However, a similarity between Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh is that they are each culturally unique and have a direction for their politics (Chowdhary, 2019, p. 49). Analyzing the culture of Jammu-Kashmir illustrates the multiple layers of complexities within religion, tribe, caste, language, and regional considerations.
History of Governance
Inhabitants of the Jammu-Kashmir region were ruled by outsiders beginning in the fourteenth century (Chowdhary, 2019, p. 50). Chronologically the rulers were the Mughals, Pathans, Sikhs, and Dogras. Any commonality in a shared history between the areas did not begin until 1846, when Dogra rulers took over because of the British triumph over the Sikhs. The state of Jammu and Kashmir officially marked its existence on March 16, 1846, at the signing of the Treaty of Amritsar between the British East India Company and the Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh. The treaty was the beginning of an official governing entity over the region. However, the existing internal complexities regarding religion, tribe, caste, language, and regional ties continued to be friction in ruling the newly formed state (Chowdhary, 2019).
Each region had its direction of politics, and no attempt was made to develop a sense of unity within the region. Compounding issues in the regions turned into political strife, internal rebellions, tribal invasion, and war. These issues created further division, but eventually, India and Pakistan attained their independence from Britain and sought to obtain their respective areas of the princely state of Jammu-Kashmir. Pakistan was intended to be a Muslim state for the Muslim population of British India (Luka, 2021). After the invasion of Pakistani tribes into Kashmir, the Hindu ruler of the majority Muslim Kashmir valley sided with India. This action became known as Accession Day. On October 26, 1947, the Hindu ruler formed a union with India that gave India dominion over Jammu-Kashmir. Ultimately, this sparked an even more complex and violent situation within the region (Chowdhary, 2019; Luka, 2021).
Given the internal fighting and long history of violence within Jammu-Kashmir, there is no doubt that a nuclear option has been discussed. India became a nuclear power in 1974, and Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998 (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021, paras. 1-2). Although neither side has taken nuclear actions, the international community anxiously analyzes the plausibility of a nuclear fallout between India and Pakistan. The Indian government declared a No First Use policy, a voluntary agreement never to use nuclear weapons first (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021, paras. 4-5). However, this does imply that India will use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack. Notably, Pakistan has not agreed to the same policy, which ultimately equates to nuclear options being a possible course of action.
Declaration of War by Accession
The primary catalyst of violence and separatism plaguing Jammu-Kashmir originates from the British occupation in 1846. However, the spark of the present violence and internationally recognized conflict is traced to the Accession Day in 1947. According to Luka (2021), the “British colonial era laid the time bomb along ethnoreligious contours which exploded in 1947 thereby giving rise to the balkanization of India into two separate states, that is India and Pakistan” (p. 1). The already divided regions were forced to the conformity of a state-run enterprise. The applied force further divided the region by polarizing Hindu and Muslim populations. However, the region’s inhabitants did not understand the concept of a united region.
Additionally, Muslim converts and new rules promoting acrimonious Hindu-Muslim exchanges exacerbated the issues (Luka, 2021). The poorly executed leadership from an outsider making decisions, policies, and overall development of the area failed to understand Jammu-Kashmir’s intricacies (Luka, 2021). The Hindu Ruler of the majority Muslim Kashmir valley decided to act because of a significant invasion into the Kashmiri valley from a Pakistani tribe. Understandably, the local ruler felt the need to attach to a larger entity for protection. The feasible option for him was to unite with India. Siding with India was not a solution for the region but rather a self-preservation reaction to a glimpse of certain doom at the hands of the Pakistani tribal militia invading the local ruler’s territory. This act invoked a counterattack from the Indian military, marking the beginning of the first Indo-Pakistani War until 1949 (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). Adding to the perpetual violence was a growing Muslim population against an increasingly popular idea of Hindu nationalism (Luka, 2021). These variables laid the foundation for separatism to spread uncontrollably.
Prior to the emergence of the British, the area was known for religious pluralism and illustrates that fundamentalism and religious nationalism were introduced along the exact timeline of British influence (Luka, 2021). Luka suggests that “there were natural and agricultural resources in Kashmir that the foreigners craved for, which is an indication that their economy attracted foreign aggression” (para. 17, 2021). The development of the conflict in Kashmir includes socio-religious expansion and economic empowerment (Luka, 2021). Moreover, the insertion of foreign influence and forced unity with the Indian government was a wedge that split India and Pakistan for good. The inability to find common ground solutions to conflict has mainly impacted the inhabitants of Jammu-Kashmir.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan devise vindictive plans to punish others through localized actions within Jammu-Kashmir, targeting the demographics that fit their plans (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). The region’s struggle with infighting and ineffective conflict resolution attempts has enabled further competing for foreign interests. In the era of globalization, this presents an enticing new opportunity for the bordering country of China.
Great Power Competition
China’s involvement in the Jammu-Kashmir region has gained recent attention, but it is not a new concept. China’s inspiration for interest in Jammu-Kashmir is ancient and is linked to the old Silk Road. The road was used as a network of trade routes linking the ancient regions during the Han Dynasty (Dai, 2021). The ancient concept of establishing a network of trade routes provides economic power, leverage, and influence from regional areas to worldwide access. Additionally, establishing these networks monopolizes key terrain and prevents competing interests from presenting a threat. China launched a new project named the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. The BRI is an old concept reborn with 21st-century technology. Therefore, the network China seeks to construct will include roads, shipping lanes, runways, and valuable tactical military sites (Dai, 2021). Underneath the BRI umbrella is a collateral project named the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The CPEC is a direct threat to India and U.S. national security. Construction of the CPEC will place a large-scale network of roads that run from China through the contested areas of Jammu-Kashmir into Pakistan. The establishment of the CPEC will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean. After the war between India and China ended in 1962, the relationship between China and India had been relatively cordial and diplomatic. China observed while India and Pakistan waged wars between each other. However, a border dispute between India and China was diplomatically handled (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). In 1993 an agreement was signed that established a Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LAC acted as a mutually agreed disputed corridor but remained vaguely defined (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). However, India unilaterally redefined borders due to India’s lack of strategic ability to forecast second and third-order effects of their decisions. China retaliated with a more aggressive approach and sought a new partnership (Mitter, 2019; Wagner & Stanzel, 2020).
On August 4, 2019, the Indian government unilaterally redrew the maps by revoking Article 370 in its constitution. Indian government officials divided the state of Jammu-Kashmir into two separate Union territories (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). This decision came at the election promises of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since Kashmir has a Muslim majority population, India gave special autonomous authorities beginning on Accession Day in 1947. However, the autonomy contrasted India’s domestic political policies. Therefore, New Delhi viewed this as an irritating political issue. Declaring Jammu-Kashmir as a Union territory would legally place Jammu-Kashmir under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). Creating Union territories takes control from the Muslim majority in Jammu-Kashmir and places all power back to the Indian government (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). The Pakistani response was a map that depicted all of Jammu-Kashmir residing within Pakistan’s control. Additional tensions were added when the Chinese government terminated the status quo of the LAC in September 2020 (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020).
The actions of China indicate the declaration of an alliance that had existed but remained quietly in the shadows. The outward act to abolish the status quo with India highlights the tension between China and India. Inadequate diplomacy throughout decades of tension has built and solidified a strategic plan for China to obtain economic power and military advantage over India (Dai, 2021; Khalique et al., 2020; Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). With the immense mountains of the Himalayas separating India and China, the CPEC provides the perfect solution to achieve China’s objective of economic and military advantages over India (Dai, 2021; Khalique et al., 2020; Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). Furthermore, the establishment of the CPEC will fortify China’s position and influence in the Great Power Competition between China and the U.S. within the Middle East, Indian Pacific region, and the continent of Africa (Dai, 2021; Khalique et al., 2020; Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). Significant concerns regarding U.S. national security will be China’s ability to access and transport energy resources from the Middle East and within Jammu-Kashmir to fuel its massive economic development. China will also solidify its dominance in the Indian Pacific through political and economic influence.
Additionally, strategic terrain will be accessible to construct, test, and operate intercontinental ballistic missile sites by China and other countries with anti-democratic principles such as North Korea (Dai, 2021; Khalique et al., 2020; Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). Great Power Competition is of grave concern for the U.S. within the Jammu-Kashmir region. However, additional accusations and outcries are human rights violations that obligate U.S. intervention. Over the past several years the international community has begun focusing on the human rights issues of India and China.
The failed diplomatic solutions resulted in aggressive and vindictive actions from India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, at the cost of the inhabitants in Jammu-Kashmir as their political punching bags. Both countries strike at one another without regard for adverse effects on those caught between the crossfire. Without any state protection, Kashmiris were forced to create a protective force. Protection came with establishing three major terror groups that began operating in the Kashmir valley: Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (Snedden, 2019). The collection of terror group membership ranges from local militias to alleged Pakistani equipped groups to fight a proxy war with India (Snedden, 2019).
Moreover, the formation of terror groups acting on behalf of regional, cultural, and religious identities maim and kill innocent bystanders as collateral damage in their proxy attacks against their opposition. Nevertheless, again, Kashmiri inhabitants are victims to outside influences that have catastrophic effects only inside the disputed territory. Direct violence will become worse as unethical tactics create unprecedented circumstances in a fight for survival for the inhabitants of Jammu-Kashmir.
One of the single most threatening issues for humanity in Jammu-Kashmir is water. The only preventative measure from keeping India’s threat of withdrawing water access to Pakistan is the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 (Snedden, 2019). The water crisis is over three rivers that flow through the disputed region of Jammu-Kashmir: the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum. The Indus Water Treaty provides India and Pakistan access to three rivers each. However, the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum flow through Indian controlled Jammu-Kashmir (Snedden, 2019). Pakistan understands the vulnerable situation it places Kashmiris and Pakistanis in. For example, India plans to construct hydroelectric dams at the cost of diverting water flow into Pakistan (Snedden, 2019).
Considering Pakistan receives 65 percent of its water resource from the Indus, it poses a massive threat for life sustainment in a rapidly growing population of Pakistanis (Snedden, 2019). Currently, the Indus Water Treaty brokered by the World Bank serves as the only longstanding agreement between India and Pakistan (Snedden, 2019). Unfortunately, India threatens to renegotiate or violate the treaty’s terms because of alleged Pakistani-sponsored terror attacks within the Jammu-Kashmir region. According to Slater (2019), “Ever since a Pakistan-based militant group claimed responsibility for an unprecedented attack on Feb. 14 in Kashmir, India has sought ways to punish its neighbor” (para. 1). India’s threat of diverting water from Pakistan is unethical and violates the human rights of the inhabitants of the impacted region. Violation of the treaty would place India in a similar category as China regarding human rights violations. For example, China refuses to enter any water-sharing agreements and continues to build dams along rivers without regard to downstream impacts on those dependent upon water access (Snedden, 2019). The tension compounds through terror attacks, potential water sanctions, and strengthening relations between Pakistan and China. Diplomatic solutions fail and leave nuclear-capable countries with a possibility of a fight for survival. As Pakistan contemplates planning for survival, the nuclear option begins to illuminate as a potential solution (Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019; Wani & Parpiani, 2021).
The surmounting pressures for a solution to Jammu-Kashmir’s long conflict begin to look increasingly grimmer as violence increases and threats to survival are normalized. India and Pakistan possess nuclear capabilities but have no experience with the employment of nuclear weapons. This lack of experience brings positive and negative outlooks. Although both countries lack the experience of nuclear employment, it presents the idea that each country does not fully comprehend the severity of a nuclear war (Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019). The intimidation of a nuclear fallout will inevitably result in grave losses for both sides, which dissuades nuclear actions. However, projections of full nuclear intention and capability of both countries are only left to estimations (Khan, 2019).
Pakistan has approximately 160 warheads. This number exceeds the projection made by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in 1999 that Pakistan would have 60-80 warheads by 2020. If the current growth trend continues, Pakistan’s arsenal could grow to 220 to 250 warheads by 2025 (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021)
Furthermore, Pakistan’s lack of agreement to the No First Use policy and growing nuclear stockpile indicates nuclear weapons as a viable option (Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019). Pakistan does not have as large of a conventional military force and relies on more agile tactical forces (Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019). Once again, the situation alludes to the employment of nuclear weapons if India launches a conventional campaign. Following the revocation of Article 370, which further degraded relations between India and Pakistan, India also indicated the potential to revoke its No First Use agreement (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021; Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019). Nuclear terrorism is also a concern that fails to be addressed. The increased violent acts from terror groups, retaliations, and continual procurement of nuclear warheads present a tertiary threat. The potential for terror groups to acquire nuclear capability increases every day the instability continues. Nuclear terrorism would be a transregional and global threat to all countries (Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019).
The international community has dismissed the idea of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan based on the premise that both countries having nuclear capabilities is a deterrence. According to Khan (2019), “One of the key lessons in the South Asian nuclear states is that neither nuclear weapons nor the third-party role has significantly addressed the prevailing longstanding issues between India and Pakistan” (p. 611). Ongoing crises are increasingly pointing towards a nuclear threat. Although it may have served as deterrence in previous decades, India is weaponizing water, and China’s growing alliance with Pakistan was unprecedented until 2019. Moreover, competition between China and the U.S. brings momentum to China’s objective to increase its alliances with nuclear-capable countries that share anti-democratic political principles (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021; Khan, 2019; Slater, 2019; Snedden, 2019).
Several assessments regarding issues within Jammu-Kashmir suggest that religion is the main point of contention (Luka, 2021), the CPEC will bring prosperity (Khalique et al., 2020), and nuclear capabilities are the deterrence (Khan, 2019). There are truths to each of these assessments, but they fail to address the holistic issue and only polarize fragments of the conflict.
According to Luka (2021), “it will not be wrong to affirm that religion plays a key role in the conflict between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir” (p. 8). However, Luka also assesses that “Hindus and Muslims in the region of Kashmir and northern India once lived in a religiously pluralistic context” (p. 8). Religion is deeply rooted in Kashmiri culture. Although for several centuries before the British, there was harmony. The previous harmony draws attention to another variable introduced into the region to cause the division. Luka attributes the fallout to fundamentalism and Hindu nationalism (2021). While this assessment is correct, it was not by Hindu or Muslim influence but by the British. The British emergence was due to expansion for power and monetary exploits (Chowdhary, 2019). Therefore, it is the variable of Kashmir’s attractiveness to foreigners for power and money that created the divide amongst Hindu and Muslim populations in Jammu-Kashmir. Third-party attempts at solving the Kashmiri problem became polarized on religion but failed to analyze the harmonious relationship of Hindu and Muslim relations prior to the British occupation in 1846 (Chowdhary, 2019). The next issue adding to the conflict is China’s claims.
According to Khalique et al. (2020), the CPEC aims to provide development and stability to Pakistan. This assessment overlooks the contention between China and India. Additionally, the CPEC is a concern to U.S. national security. Khalique et al. conclude that “this cooperation has been extended to a larger scale to focus on trade investment and energy cooperation” (p. 1). Reasonably, the project will develop the area and create prosperity. CPEC will add some economic stability and new opportunities, but it will come at a cost. China and India’s relations degraded to the point of violent aggression along the LAC due to the withdrawal from Article 370 (Bona, 2021). It is no coincidence that as relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated, China escalated its actions against India. The CPEC will further exacerbate the relationships in the region and provide strategic resources and terrain for China’s dominance in Southeast Asia (Dai, 2021). The extended severity of a violent situation is the nuclear capabilities of India and Pakistan.
Kahn (2019) concludes that “the arrival of nuclear weapons in South Asia has significantly reduced major wars and, perhaps, it also provided an incentive for third party role in terms of managing the issues between India and Pakistan because of the fear of military escalation” (p. 610). With the arrival of nuclear capabilities beginning in 1974 for India and 1998 for Pakistan, the conclusion that nuclear capabilities have reduced major war is a hyperbole (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021). Considering the rapid development of India and Pakistan’s nuclear programs surpassed U.S. Defense Intelligence projections by nearly two decades, there was no nuclear deterrence. Instead, the nuclear capabilities were not yet developed adequately for employment (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2021). With an estimated even number of nuclear warheads between India and Pakistan, the possibility of a nuclear war has a higher probability than ever before. Additionally, the withdraw of Article 370, weaponizing of water, and aggression along the LAC create more significant tensions in the region than years prior (Bona, 2021; Khan, 2019; Slater, 2019; Wagner & Stanzel, 2020).
Jammu-Kashmir is a complex and dynamic region. Intertwined in the competing interests is the misunderstanding of the cultural dynamics. The demographics within the region are complicated and require a deeper understanding of how identities are inferred within Kashmir. Bouzas (2019) interviewed an inhabitant of the Kashmir valley who stated, “I am Kashmiri. My ancestors came from Punjab in the nineteenth century, but we are State Subjects. We are from this soil. I speak Kashmiri although I use Punjabi at home” (p. 175). The statement provides a succinct snapshot from one of many complicated cultural identities within Kashmir by a Sikh inhabitant. Therefore, becoming polarized on fragments of the holistic situation is how conflict resolution became solely crisis management (Idrees et al., 2021; Khan, 2019). Analyzing the issues of Accession Day, the great power competition, human rights abuses, and the mounting nuclear tensions it is clear Jammu Kashmir needs resolution. Moreover, the lack of U.S. interest to resolve the conflict perpetually threatens U.S. national security.
When examining the Jammu-Kashmir region, it is imperative to analyze the history, culture, natural resources, and third-party involvement from other nations to understand its complexities. Furthermore, the perpetual instability from the absence of humane, diplomatic, and selfless conflict resolution will lead to devastation. This area began as a regional issue that has endured decades of inept leadership from India and Pakistan. The Jammu-Kashmir conflict has evolved into a transregional threat that compels the U.S. for direct intervention to stabilize the region before a global catastrophe emerges. Threat of nuclear war, human rights violations, and the CPEC project threaten U.S. national security in Southeast Asia. The people of Jammu-Kashmir seek independence from continual harassment by India and Pakistan. Additionally, China seeks to undermine and disregard democratic values and principles actively. For far too long, U.S. foreign policy has maintained a reactionary approach to solving major issues. The time to enact aggressive foreign policy is now.
Autonomy from Outsiders
The bottom line for a recommended solution to the Jammu-Kashmir conflict is creating an independent and sovereign state of Jammu-Kashmir. The independence will be accomplished through direct U.S. pressure on the United Nations. There are several reasons for the creation of the state and direct intervention from the U.S. Turmoil sparked out of control, beginning with British colonization in the region that brought greater violence and separatist ideology in 1846 (Chowdhary, 2019). By 1947 the divide became too great for outside governance because the cultural sensitivities were far too complicated to understand by outsiders. Third-party intervention by the United Nations failed because the focus has always been crisis management instead of conflict resolution (Idrees et al., 2021; Khan, 2019). The cultural complexities demand a Kashmiri elected leader to bring stability and cultivate the region’s rich economic potential.
Jammu-Kashmir is assessed to have abundant and highly valued resources. However, due to the conflict, these resources remain untapped. The region possesses desirable mining resources such as gold, potassium, coal, and rubies (Dai. 2021; Dar & Khuroo, 2020). Additionally, it has three biogeographic zones that create different ecosystems providing varieties of agricultural opportunities such as industrialized farming (Dar & Khuroo, 2020). Having rich natural resources provides the region the ability to sustain locally without imports. However, it also enables foreign trade and export to draw foreign direct investment into the area for further development (Dai, 2021). Being situated within the Himalayan Mountain range also offers unique tourism opportunities that have not been available because of violence and instability. Jammu-Kashmir also has a history of self-governance before 1846 and rich cultural history, which are characteristics of establishing a sovereign nation (Chowdhary, 2019; Majid, 2019). Before British emergence in 1846, the region functioned harmoniously and shifted from Hindu to Muslim leadership (Chowdhary, 2019; Majid, 2019). According to Luka (2021), “there was no record of a revolution of any kind and the transition from the Hindu to the Islamic rule was said to be accepted through gradual conversion and the influx of adventurers from the south and central Asia” (p. 4).
Another reason for independence is the demonstrated history of the inability to resolve conflicts between India and Pakistan. For example, the human rights violations by India and state-sponsored terror attacks from Pakistan are profoundly concerning. According to Idrees et al. (2021), the European Parliament committee report “mentioned that the Indian government is responsible for human rights violations of Kashmiri people, which includes the cases of severe violation like torture, disappearance, rape, and illegal detention (p. 112). The relations have only degraded as time went on. The most recent escalation of political aggression began in 2019 when India revoked Article 370 (Wagner & Stanzel, 2020). Ultimately, Jammu-Kashmir possesses all the necessary components for becoming a sovereign state, and there is no dependency on India or Pakistan (Majid, 2019).
The U.S. needs to become directly involved in granting Jammu-Kashmir’s independence by pressuring the United Nations to recognize its sovereignty. The case for sovereignty is based upon the region’s history of self-governance, natural resources, population, and unique culture (Dai, 2021; Chowdhary, 2019; Majid, 2019). U.S. foreign policy seeks to gain influence in the Indian Pacific by strengthening relations with India. However, the human rights accusations create an ethical dilemma by supporting a nation that does not practice ethical policymaking. According to Wani and Parpiani (2021), “The Trump administration maintained the longstanding U.S. policy of recognizing India’s stance against internationalizing the Kashmir matter” (p. 10). As the global superpower and symbol of freedom, the U.S. must exercise caution in aligning with India before addressing the ethical dilemma of India’s treatment towards Pakistan and the Kashmiri people (Wani & Parpiani, 2021). Currently, the U.S. has a resurgent focus on human rights issues in India and China. The Kashmiri people will remain hopeful that U.S. attention will prevent further violations. Ultimately, the people of Kashmir desire autonomy and a choice to decide their politics (Majid et al., 2019; Wani & Parpiani, 2021).
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