NORMAN — The road to Kabul from India and Pakistan runs through Kashmir, my homeland. Central and Southern Kashmir shares borders with India, Pakistan, and China. Pakistan-administered Northwest Kashmir shares a border with Afghanistan and China.
China administers the Northeast Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram tract in the northeast. Various territorial disputes persist. Thus, a crucial step to winning peace in Afghanistan is to ensure the empowerment and stability of Kashmir’s culture, economy and democratic institutions.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is so geographically located that it depends for its economic growth on an unhindered flow of trade to both countries. Kashmiri arts and crafts have found flourishing markets in India for decades.
At the same time, the rivers and roads of Kashmir stretch into Pakistan. Prior to the partition of India in 1947, Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, used to be Kashmir’s railhead, and Kashmiri traders would use Karachi, part of Pakistan, as the sea-port for overseas trade.
Jammu and Kashmir has been marred by a long history of violent political and ethic struggles. On September 25, just days ago, at least nine people were killed when militants attacked a police station and an army camp.
As Kashmir is vigorously discussed at the United Nations General Assembly by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, I am of the firm opinion that the welfare of the people of the state can be guaranteed by securing the goodwill of the political establishments of both India and Pakistan, and by the display of military discipline and efficiency at the borders. The forte of the armed forces of a country, to the best of my knowledge, is national security, not national interest or foreign policy.
I recall a conversation that I had with an interlocutor nominated by the Government of India about the role of the Indian Army in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I asked rather acerbically how the Army had become a stakeholder in the Kashmir imbroglio, and she hurriedly and just as acerbically replied that, “there are good stakeholders and there are bad stakeholders, and armed forces are, inevitably, stakeholders in an insurgent zone.”