The Secessionist Movement in Jammu and Kashmir and India–Pakistan Relations1

Published date01 January 2014
Date01 January 2014
AuthorHappymon Jacob
Subject MatterArticles
The Secessionist Movement
in Jammu and Kashmir and
India–Pakistan Relations1
Happymon Jacob1
The secessionist movement in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) plays a central role
in India–Pakistan bilateral relations. New Delhi’s ability or the lack thereof to
pacify the internal conflict in J&K has major implications for the larger conflict
resolution process with Pakistan, and the nature of its diplomatic negotiations
with Pakistan on the Kashmir question, in turn, directly impacts the conflict
in Kashmir. Moreover, an unmanaged rebellion in Kashmir could prove to be
expensive for India due to a variety of external and internal factors. The nature,
politics, demands and ideological orientation of the contemporary insurgency in
J&K differs from that of the 1990s in many significant ways. Conflict resolution in
J&K would need to be aware of such differences to be successful.
Kashmir insurgency, domestic politics, Pakistan, Indian army, peace process, BJP
On 8 July 2016, India’s security forces killed the popular Hizbul Mujahideen
commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir, in the Indian-
administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).2 To the complete dismay of the local
authorities in J&K and the central government in New Delhi, this killing sparked
an unrelenting anti-India uprising in Kashmir, and persisted for several months.
This revolt has grown into the most sustained, and worrying, popular uprising in
Kashmir since the late 1980s when insurgency first broke out in the state.
International Studies
51(1–4) 35–55
2017 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0020881717710401
1 Associate Professor, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of
International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament,
School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, India.
36 International Studies 51(1–4)
Since trouble began in July 2016, the Kashmir Valley was under lockdown for
several months, mobile Internet services were suspended and curfew was imposed
by the government for most part of the day. The agitators, disparate groups and
ideologies brought together by their pent-up anger against the Government of
India, followed an ‘anarchic’ protest movement, with uncontrollable crowds
attacking security forces with stones. This was often responded to by the security
forces with disproportionate use of force, leading to deaths, thousands of injured
and many blinded for life.3 Since July, close to 90 people, including two police
personnel, were killed in 2016 alone.
While analysts and officials have been taken aback by the timing and scale of
the uprising, a closer look at the developments in Kashmir in the past decade
could help demystify this surprise factor. There have been many indications since
2008 that Kashmir was becoming restive once again, after half a decade of rela-
tive calm. The recent developments have shown that the signs of normalcy in
Kashmir can be misleading: the deep-rooted unease of the Kashmiris with the
Indian state, aided by the active interference of the Pakistani security agencies, was
waiting for a trigger. Last year’s events indicate that Kashmir is perhaps one stop
away from a full-blown insurgency, a throwback into the late 1980s and early 1990s.
This article seeks to do three things: one, explain the causes of the recent
Kashmir uprising in the broader context of the previous uprisings and India–
Pakistan relations since the late 1980s; two, offer a critical appraisal of the poten-
tial for conflict resolution in the Valley; and finally, examine the implications of
the Kashmir uprising for India–Pakistan relations.
When discussing the Kashmir conflict, it is important to make a crucial distinc-
tion between the conflict in Kashmir (characterized by a deep sense of historical
mistrust between New Delhi and a large number of Kashmiri Muslims), and the
conflict over Kashmir (which refers to the territorial contestation between India
and Pakistan over the erstwhile princely state of J&K). For analytical purposes,
the two conflicts need to be examined separately, even while recognizing that
there is an dynamic link between the two. While conflict resolution in Kashmir
requires a peace process between New Delhi and the Kashmiris, the one over
Kashmir needs a modus vivendi between New Delhi and Islamabad. And yet, the
Kashmir question can only be settled in its entirety, if there is a comprehensive
peace package that addresses all aspects of the conflict.
This article makes six interrelated arguments. First, it argues that notwithstand-
ing the fact that India and Pakistan have multiple conflicts to resolve, including
the Siachen Glacier, Sir Creek, etc., Kashmir continues to be the most significant
dispute in so far as it holds the key to a rapprochement between the two South
Asian rivals. For instance, during the period when Kashmir was purposefully
addressed between the two sides, from 2003 to 2007/2008, the relationship
improved significantly on other fronts as well.
Second, the direct or indirect complicity of the Pakistani state in the terrorist
violence carried out against India forms the key reason why the two sides have
been unable to make any definitive gains from their bilateral parlays.

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