Friends and foes alike no longer know where the United States stands. As Washington overpromises and underdelivers, regional powers are seeking solutions on their own – both through violence and diplomacy.
Why—on February 14th— did a 20-year-old Kashmiri villager blow himself up, taking with him the lives of 46 Indian security personnel? What should the Indian government do in response to the deadliest attack on its forces in Kashmir since the insurgency began in 1988?
India’s Kashmir Valley has been the scene of a Pakistan-backed insurgency since the 1990s. The Indian army and its associated security forces have been engaged in fighting this insurgency and assisting the civil administration in maintaining law and order. On July 8, the Pakistani terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s commander in Kashmir, Burhan Wani, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Wani’s death plunged the state into deep turmoil, pitting Indian security forces against a large number of disenfranchised Kashmiri youth sympathetic to Wani’s anti-India resistance movement and calls for jihad. A full-blown confrontation between incensed youth and Indian security forces followed that resulted in 68 civilian deaths and over 2000 injured protestors, leaving an embarrassed Indian state facing a crisis of governance with no clear plan to prevent escalating violence. Exposing the fragility of the Indian state further, the Indian military publicly declared its frustration with political directives. In an unprecedented step, a strict curfew imposed in the Kashmir valley during Eid celebrations has renewed a fresh cycle of violence between protestors and security force, killing two protestors and injuring several more. New Delhi appears to be running out of options to de-escalate levels of violence.
In her new book, Swati Parashar looks at the subjectivities of militant women in two protracted South Asian conflicts: Kashmir and Sri Lanka. She reveals that women who do not fit the stereotypical bill of wailing victim or mother are silenced by a dominant social discourse, which translates into the absence of women in peace building processes and post-war politics. Parashar draws on her qualitative research, International Relations, feminist literature and a vast number of multidisciplinary sources on gender and war to shed light on the mutual effects of politics and gendered understandings of female identities and bodies. Her book is divided into several chapters introducing the topic of silencing, gendered nature of wars, issues connected to her fieldwork, her findings from Kashmir and Sri Lanka, and finally the politics of remembering.
The Kashmir conflict is usually considered an interstate problem between Pakistan and India. In my opinion both governments should recognize that the matter is less about New Delhi and Islamabad – but about Kashmir. High-level talks are important but not enough. The key to stability lies in dialogue between the two central governments and Kashmiris themselves.
Many problems in Indian-Administered Kashmir are homegrown and can only be tackled at the domestic level, rather than the international one. At present, the situation is bizarre: in the first place, the Valley remains heavily militarized. The capital, Srinagar, looks as if it were under siege, and its commercial airport doubles as a military airfield. And curfews, arbitrary arrests, and police brutality all contribute to the atmosphere of mistrust, hatred and unrest. So what can be done?
In a recent article in Strategic Analysis, John Wilson — a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi — makes four suggestions for how the Indian central government could improve the overall situation in the Valley: