In the case of the Bangladesh War, Pakistan’s intrinsically
inverted "priorities, choices and policies," which had
brought about the crisis, remained largely unexamined. Rather
than confront the flaws that hobble their polity, all latter
regimes heaped scorn on individual choices and acts. The Indian
track record in Kashmir has been equally inept, especially from
1984 onward when it resorted to "extraordinary clumsiness,
thoughtlessness and downright deceit", culminating in an
ethno-religious insurgency in December 1989 that gathered
strength in the tumultuous decade that followed.
Even though the
aftermath of the Simla Agreement (1971) witnessed a period of
relative peace, it was rudely shattered by the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan (December 1979). Not long after, there was the
pre-emptive Indian strike in Siachen (1984) that had imposed
substantial human and material costs on both sides and later
became intractable in the wake of the Pakistani incursion across
the Line of Control in Kargil (1999). Meantime, the nuclear
dimension has added its own complications. Happily the war in
Kargil did not show any evidence of either side contemplating
use of nuclear weapons, nor did New Delhi resort to prompt
horizontal escalation. Instead, it limited the war to the Kargil
sector and did not attempt to cross the LoC into Pakistani
territory after dislodging its troops from Indian positions.
"extraordinary intransigence" on the prospect of any
significant territorial concessions arises from the fear of
internal "dominoes." For should Kashmir be allowed to
secede, other disaffected states may well consider exiting the
Indian union as a viable option. In the final count, the author
poses some vital questions. Will Islamabad "finally"
abandon the quest to wrest Kashmir through the use of force?
Will New Delhi be willing to settle the dispute by legally
ceding the portions of Kashmir, now under the control of
Pakistan and China? Above all, will the vast majority of the
Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir in the aftermath of their first
truly free and fair elections, settle for a substantial degree
of autonomy in the larger whole of India’s existing
constitutional framework? The study posits the view that much
will depend on the evolution of US policy in the foreseeable
future as in the wake of its war against terrorism and sizeable
military clout, Washington is now in a "unique
position" to forge a durable peace in the subcontinent.
Will it, perhaps?
Professor of Asian
History and Government at the University of Texas, Sumit
Ganguly, whose earlier work The Crisis in Kashmir
appeared in 1999, enjoys considerable exposure in the US media.
An American Indian, his adopted land understandably looms
somewhat larger than life in his presentation.