BtH: Is Resolution Possible in Jammu and Kashmir?


The Beyond the Headlines @BUPardeeSchool, or BtH, series returned on October 16, 2017, with a panel discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan — now the oldest unresolved international dispute on the United Nations docket.

The panel included Jayita Sarkar, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School, Amit Kapoor, of the Indian Council on Competitiveness, and Monish Verma of InCircle. The discussion was moderated by Pardee School Dean Adil Najam. The discussion examined the various facets of the 70-year dispute, and the intricate political and security manifestations for both countries, and for the region’s and the world’s stability. 

Sarkar began the discussion by outlining the history of the dispute between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, dating back to the partition of British India in 1947.

“The question of Kashmir and the conflict in Kashmir is really embroiled in the rivalry between these two countries, India and Pakistan, born from the very painful process of partition of British India along religious lines,” Sarkar said. “The two countries have gone to war multiple times over Kashmir — first in 1947, again in 1965, and then once again there was a confrontation between Indian and Pakistani forces in 1998 only months after the two countries tested their nuclear weapons.”

Verma said he is optimistic that a solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will be reached because the current situation in the region is not sustainable.

“The one reason why I am confident something needs to be done and will be done, is that the current status quo is obviously not the answer. People think it’s an answer, but the current status quo has to change. It is just not sustainable,” Verma said.   “This cannot hold. This is not something I’m trying to do for the next generation, I’m trying to do it for myself. It makes sense as a concerned Indian, Pakistani or anybody else who is in this situation. It’s in all of our interests to look at this dispute which is now being talked about as a nuclear flash point.”

Kapoor said he believes the dispute in Kashmir, while originally a territorial issue, transformed into a religious issue and needs to be solved from an economic viewpoint. He also said the two countries have already lost a generation of talent to the conflict in Kashmir, and are in danger of losing another if a solution isn’t reached.

“I think that we need to ask is it an ideological issue or a religious issue? I think it was a territorial issue that got transformed into a religious issue at some point in time. However we solve it, I think it has to be solved from an economic viewpoint. It need not be solved from the religious viewpoint,” Kapoor said.

In his remarks, Najam elaborated on his earlier research which had looked at the history of Kashmir negotiations, and pointed out that it was wrong to think “that there is a secret ‘formula’ out there that will ‘solve’ Kashmir.” Kashmir, he said, “is not a math problem for which you can discover a solution; it is a political challenge that can only be resolved by getting the politics right.” He felt that in the past there were multiple occasions when the issue might have been ‘ripe for resolution’ but now may not be such a moment.

Beyond the Headlines is a regular series at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University which seeks to cultivate informed conversations amongst experts and practitioners on issues that are currently in the news headlines, but to do so with a focus on intellectual analysis and on longer-range trends.