ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Jammu and Kashmir: Politics of Demilitarisation

In the recent past, a new word has added itself to the lexicon of slogans that seem to drive the “settlement” of the Kashmir issue. “Demilitarisation”, first among many initiatives put forward by the top leadership of both countries, has now been willy-nilly adopted by several political parties in Jammu and Kashmir where elections are due in 2008. Broadly, the issue of demilitarisation has wider ramifications: at the level of politics in the state itself, and also as a gauge as to how much the peace process has moved forward in recent years.

Kashmir indubitably forms the fulcrum on which India-Pakistan relations revolve. Ever since the peace process was put on the “fast track”, it appears at times to be driven more by watchwords and slogans. Demilitarisation formed part of Pervez Musharraf’s ambitious but little threshed out four-point formula that was offered in late 2005. The formula included self-rule, joint management and other institutional arrangements for the area (including Pakistan-administered Kashmir) and also the need to make the Line of Control (LoC) “irrelevant”. For its part, demilitarisation has caught on because in recent months, the peace process has stalled, in that there are no longer those grand gestures, once widely visible, that helped propel the process forward. Negotiations continue, but in a desultory sense, as seen for instance on issues such as demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier. On the political front, Islamist terror groups are yet to join the peace dialogue. While both India and Pakistan support out-of-the-box solutions, neither side seems to agree on exactly what these innovations could be. A lot of the impetus continues to depend on the top leadership of both countries. Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s recent speech at the university of Jammu was in a vein similar to his speech at Amritsar in March 2006. The LoC could be an ideal “line to peace” so as to facilitate free movement of services and ideas and also allow the use of the region’s natural resources across the LoC.

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