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December 4, 2008
Understanding Kashmir through Texas

A sign outside of Martin Savidge’s hotel in Srinagar. Photo: Martin Savidge

Boats on a Kashmiri lake. Photo: Martin Savidge

Worldfocus anchor Martin Savidge tries to use a historical U.S. metaphor to understand the origins of the conflict in Kashmir.

It was only a few weeks ago I blogged about good news involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir. The region was celebrating the opening of a new trade route between the two nuclear rivals through the disputed land.

Now Kashmir is back in the news, and there are concerns India and Pakistan may be back on the brink of war over it. Kashmiri separatists (Lashkar-e-toiba) are the leaders in the clubhouse when it comes to blame for carrying out the massacre in Mumbai and fingers are pointing to Pakistan for, at the very least, serving as the refuge and training ground for the terrorists.

Kashmir has inspired more than 60 years of bloodshed. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the region. In 2001 and 2002, they nearly fought a fourth. That’s when I was in Kashmir. Fortunately it didn’t happen. There was fighting — artillery duels mainly, daily across the line of control — but all-out war was avoided.

On Wednesday, I interviewed Vikram Singh, a fellow with the Center for a New American Security, a non-partisan research group that examines national security and defense issues. I was trying to understand why Kashmir in the minds of Indians and Pakistanis was worth such a toll in blood.

I remember talking to those on both sides of the conflict while in Kashmir. Indian officials said India would never give up Kashmir. Kashmiri separatists said they would never stop desiring Kashmir. With both sides using words like never, compromise is hard to find.

It was what Vikram said after our interview that triggered a light bulb of understanding for this American. Vikram described the feelings about the conflict in a way to which I could relate.

“Think of Texas,” he said, “which was once a part of Mexico.” (Kashmir is actually about the size of Kansas.)

Vikram was asking me to imagine if that conflict had never been resolved, or if Mexico suddenly wanted Texas back. Beyond not wanting to give up a huge swath of U.S. geography, Texas is also part of the American psyche.

Its wide-open ranges, its history, cowboys, wildcatters, the stars at night they burn so bright — Texas is not just a place. It embodies much of America’s essence. We’d never give up Texas. Kashmir is Texas to India…unfortunately, it’s also the same to Pakistan.

Other experts have suggested that now could be the best time for India and Pakistan to resolve their long feud over Kashmir. That is extremely naïve.

It cannot be fixed with a week of shuttle diplomacy. Nor can separatists hope to win it by murder and terror. Instead, it will take small steps over years, like trade routes, to bring a resolution.

For now, the best we can hope — for India, for Pakistan and for Kashmir — is that these nuke neighbors back off the brink and lift their fingers from the button.

– Martin Savidge

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Comments

11 comments

#11

“It is a just and fair war for freedom on behalf of Jewish people. The whole world knows it, but somehow, the world is afraid of terrorists and try to please them”. Ehem..dear mila, correct me if i’m wrong but from which perspectives that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a just war? does this mean that in order for Israel nation to survive, thy must eliminate the palstine nation, deprived the local from their right for the sake of others?..

#10

I pray the Kashmir conflict is resolved quickly. I am hardly an authority on the subject- but what is wrong with finalizing the LOC (line of control) as the FINAL, definite border between the two countries? If the Kashmiri people can be treated fairly (access to healthcare, education etc. and whatever they need to thrive, succeed, practice religion freely)- then what difference does it make which country they belong to? Obviously it is not only Kashmiris who have deep attachments to Kashmir but people living in Pakistan and India as well (the Texas analogy).
Then why not give a portion of Kashmir to each country with the promise that its residents will be treated fairly? They basic issue here seems to be one of fundamental respect for human rights- my simple view is that if the terrorists and Indian security forces can just stop fighting, then life will return to normal. Everyone seems to have strong feelings on this issue. It is time for people to look at this situation reasonably and come up with practical and ethical solutions.

#9

it’s amazing! Why even doubt who is right or wrong! Israel is fighting for its survival. Terrorists want Jews dead, because they hate them and are afraid of the biblical prophecy! that is it! By supporing Jewish people, we are supporting those, whose land was taken from them by many aggressors,and who finally after a long suffering were allowed to return to their home,land of Israel. It is a just and fair war for freedom on behalf of Jewish people. The whole world knows it, but somehow, the world is afraid of terrorists and try to please them. By doing the right thing, by siupporting Jewish people, we are going to recieve reward from our concious, and from Higher power!

#8

look there are only two ways to solve the problem of kashmir once and for all..either let the present population of kashmir decide about there motherland,or bomb the entire kashmir.then india and Pakistan should fight a full fledged war and decide the booty( barren land)

#7

Kashmiri Pandits: A FORBIDDEN COMMUNITY
The Brahmans, even after paying jazia, could not openly declare themselves as Hindus nor could they apply tilak on their foreheads. Neither could they pray in their temples or perform any religious ceremony. Even then they did not forget their past and rich tradition. As the custodians of their extraordinary cultural heritage, they wrote the illuminating treatises on the stupendous Kashmir Shaivism, colossal literature, splendid art, marvelous music, grammar and medicine.
http://shehjar.kashmirgroup.com/viewArticle.do?method=magazineissuearticlepages&maga_arti_id=54&page_no=1&PAGE_ID=1&mag_issue_id=0

#6

Mr vikram singh comment very similar to texas becoming part of america.Mexico which owned texas and lost the war andMR Houstan became president.Few yearsa laterpresident Polk sined joint resolution of annexation of texasand texas agrred to terms and joined unionas 38th state of USA.
the partion of india and pakistan the process is some what complicated in that Mahraja agrreed to join Indiathere was no plebiste in texas (hope Iam correct. Mexico could not ask for return of texas to it because once it was part of mexico and lost to Sam Houston

#5

It is very unfortunate that above writers are making it a religious issue.By this analogy the whole world should belong to the people who lived in their respective areas in pre-historic times.The issue is of the people living in the present area of J&K who have to decide as per the resolutions of the security council, and they can decide for India ar Pakistan, which should be acceptable to all.

#4

Your comment “Kashmir is Texas to India…unfortunately, it’s also the same to Pakistan.” is half on the mark and the rest if adulterated illogic. Kashmir for India is the land of Hindu Sages and Vedas for several millenia before the Islamic conquests, rule and conversions. Even then, the people conneced with the land of India. Hence, the India connection is very strong. To say the same is apt for Pakistan is illogical. Pakistan did not exist before 1947. Their only common thread with Kashmir today is Islam and nothing else. That is the same as saying Venezuela too has a claim on Texas because of their common Spanish and Catholic heritage. Hence, Pakistan is only being a spoiler.

#3

India just wants to hold to the geography of Kashmir,whatever be the cost of this occupation for the helpless kashmiris

#2

This is the tragedy of Kashmir.This is not an issue between India and Pakistan.A country which claims to be the biggest democracy of the world is not prepared to allow the people to decide their fate by giving them the right to self determination as promised to them by UN resolutions and also announced by Jawaharlal Nehru the first PM of India in a number of speeches to the people of Kashmir and in the Indian parliament.They are holding onto Kashmir by force, by deploying 7lakh troops and commiting worst kind of human right violations.There is no comparison between texas and Kashmir. Does USA kill, rape,murder and plunder, its own people in Texas.It is sad but true and it is being done by a country where Gandhiji gave birth.

#1

Before independence Kashmir was a Hindu kingdom, like so many other states that were collectively India. Indians never considered Kashmir to be not Indian. Indeed. the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a Kashmiri pundit.

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