India-Pakistan Tensions Escalate After Shelling in Kashmir

Expectations that Ban Ki Moon's Pakistan visit could possibly pacify the recent wave of Indo-Pak tensions across the Line of Control in Kashmir have proved to be false. Both sides have continuously accused each other of unprovoked firing across the Line resulting in civilian as well as military casualties.

For the Kashmir dispute to be resolved, only two options remain viable: grant Kashmir the status of an independent state or divide Kashmir between Pakistan and India. However, the fact that India and Pakistan operate and think at completely different wavelengths from each other with regard to the Kashmir issue automatically makes it impossible to coordinate foreign policies and propose possible solutions to the Kashmir. For reasons such as these, it is highly unlikely that the Kashmir dispute will be solved anytime soon.

Pakistan's foreign policy proposes a top down approach towards India: i.e., solve Kashmir first and all other bilateral issues such as trade, water disputes etc., will be discussed later. Indian foreign policy dictates a completely opposite stance towards Pakistan: i.e. a bottom-up approach which recommends improving trade relations first and settling smaller disputes before tackling Kashmir.

Such incongruity in policies renders meaningful dialogue impossible. One thing is for sure; reiterating historical claims and how Kashmir should be awarded to either state in light of how developments during the partition phase in 1947 occurred, is useless. If restating historical claims has not solved the issue since 1947 until the present day, it is self-defeating and downright ignorant to think that doing so once again will solve the issue.

The closest Pakistan and India have come to solving the dispute over Kashmir has been in relation to dividing it. The Chenab Formula during the Nawaz Sharif-Vajpayee years and the 4-Point Formula during the Musharraf-Manmohan Singh years were probably the two best chances that the countries had to resolve the issue. However, local political developments that saw both the Nawaz and Musharraf governments lose power meant that no solution could be finalized.

It is also extremely important to note what the Kashmiri people want for themselves. Unlike their wishes of joining Pakistan over the decades following partition, today the Kashmiri people want to be independent. Speaking morally and ideologically this then should be the only solution; solve Kashmir according to what the Kashmiri people want. However, certain ground realities make such a proposition both dangerous and quite impossible. For one, neither India nor Pakistan will ever back down and allow for an independent Kashmir. Also, and more importantly, an independent Kashmir will be a geopolitical hellhole. Surrounded by India, Pakistan, and China, it could quite possibly turn into a hotbed for proxy and clandestine activities carried out mainly by Pakistan and India. Such a turn of events, which is extremely likely considering the histories of clandestine activities each country has carried out against the other, will only exacerbate the animosity between Pakistan and India rather than improving relations. In such a scenario war will become inevitable.

Hence, the only logical and possible way to solve the Kashmir issue remains via dividing it or finding an out-of-the-box innovative plan for joint sovereignty such as the Musharraf 4-Point Formula proposed. Any such endeavor would require solid, fully-backed and well-intended devotion to try to find a solution. However, given the fact of how the two governments continue to operate at different wavelengths and give different amounts of attention and priority to solving Kashmir, the issue will remain unsolved in the foreseeable future.