The most recent cache of US State Department cables released by Wikileaks, specifically the cables from the New Delhi Embassy, paints a clear picture of how India and Pakistan have kept the Kashmir conflict alive and well for a myriad of reasons. The direct involvement of both countries’ government, military, and intelligence apparatuses in the six-decade-old conflict led to the senseless killing of over 100,000 lives, not to mention disrupting the communal harmony that once led to rock anthems about Kashmir’s ephemeral beauty, and known simply as ‘Shangri-La’.
In 2006, then US Ambassador to India David Mulford wrote a classified cable titled “Kashmiri Politics as Filthy as Dal Lake”, along with a host of other significant cables specifically regarding the conflict. Amb. Mulford stated that “Corruption cuts across party lines and most Kashmiri’s take it as an article of faith that politically-connected Kashmiri’s take money from both India and Pakistan.” Mulford added that “money from Pakistani and Indian intelligence agencies and from Saudi and other foreign extremists has further distorted Kashmiri politics, incentivized leaders to perpetuate the conflict, and perverted state and central government institutions.” As someone who worked on the issue at the Kashmiri American Council, I know first hand how money, power and influence has directly undermined the prospects of peace.
The unspoken truths commonly understood by those working on the issue from the inside, and confirmed via the released cables, are that two human tragedies and development complications exist due to the childish nature both sides continue to play. First, the average Kashmiri lives every day in fear not knowing if the next time he or she steps out their door, it may be their last. Moreover, that the person who will ultimately kill, rape, or torture them may or may not where an authorized uniform, but certainly will not suffer any form of prosecution or arrest for doing so. In fact, they may even get a bonus if they are lucky.
The dysfunction created by India and Pakistan resulted in an insurrection communally cleansing the Valley of the Pandit population over a rigged election in 1987. The result of this to the present day is the death of over 100,000 Kashmiri’s, both Muslim and Hindu, thousands of which are buried in mass graves. Then there are the billion plus South Asians in general, who are continually held hostage to the threat of war, terrorism or retaliatory communal killings throughout both countries outside of the Kashmir region. Ultimately, what it shows is that both India and Pakistan view any casualties of the conflict as ‘collateral damage’, and in many cases more dollars to be secured for the military industrial complex. The irony of all this is that the one person who started and led the insurrection, comes off looking like the only non-state actor not on the corruption dole.
Surprisingly, Ambassador Mulford acknowledges that India admittedly rigged the Kashmiri elections in 1987. This resulted in Yasin Malik, Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and a pollster for the party who lost the election, to pick up arms, and wage war against not only the Indian Military, but unleashed his wrath on the Pandit population as well. This was accomplished via direct training, funding, and logistical support by the Pakistani military, and more importantly the ISI. However, for the past fifteen years,, Mr. Malik has engaged in his own form of ‘truth and reconciliation’ by visiting the refugee camps in Jammu, asking for forgiveness and for the Pandits to return to the Valley. Finally, given his background as a militant, he has served as an interlocutor of sorts between militants and the two governments. It must be acknowledged that funding and support via the ISI has continued from Pakistan, where militants seem to choose between fighting the Indians or going to Afghanistan and fighting their ever expanding Jihad.
In actuality, Mr. Malik has engaged in a six-year campaign to root the corruption out of Kashmir. His saving grace from steering clear of the corruption results from two key aspects; he’s secular and he’s from extremely humble beginnings. His ability to maintain legitimacy and relevance in Kashmiri politics stems from one reason; he has actually fought for his people and not just stood behind the walls of privilege like his counterparts in both the mainstream and separatist movements.
Having worked on the Kashmir issue for the last six years either as a government relation liaison, or as an independent analyst, I can say without a doubt the US government fully understands and appreciates the twisted reality of the Kashmir problem. Additionally, the US Government understands the hypersensitivity that India has towards third party intervention due to it’s own complicity in corruption, rape, and murder inside Kashmir. Unfortunately, the economic relationship between the United States and India appears for now to be trumping the ability to apply the necessary pressure to force India and Pakistan to finally bring the conflict to its rightful conclusion.
I spent six weeks on the ground in Kashmir in 2008, visiting with Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Syed Ali Geelani. All three gave contrasting views, and in hindsight, the analysis from the former Ambassador was spot on. With the release of the cables from former Ambassador Mulford, one could only hope that both India and Pakistan will begin to see the writing on the wall. Otherwise the cables to be released may find some of the military and civilian leadership spending some time in Holland at the ICC.