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Letter to the New York Times on Kashmir

(8 May 2003)

by Edward Hasbrouck


From: Edward Hasbrouck 
To: nytnews@nytimes.com
Subject: Kashmir
Date: Thu, 08 May 2003 21:56:30 -0800

In four articles on India-Pakistan relations in the last week [see quotes below], The Times has used identical, inaccurate language to report that "Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety". That's true of India, but not of Pakistan.

India denies that Kashmir is "disputed territory", claims the entirety of the region as an "integral part of India", and refuses to discuss withdrawing its occupation forces to permit the plebiscite called for by a long line of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Pakistan has never claimed Kashmir as Pakistani territory: Pakistan recognizes the disputed status of all of Kashmir, administers the portion of Kashmir on its side of the ceasefire line as disputed territory pending a plebiscite, and continues to seek implementation of the U.N. resolutions on Kashmir.

In each of the same articles, you also refer to an "Islamic insurgency" in Kashmir. The majority of the people in Kashmir are Muslims, but the insurgency is predominantly motivated by nationalism, not religion. Kashmir has a diverse population and a tradition of generally peaceful coexistence of religious, linguistic, and cultural communities. The most widely supported Kashmiri nationalist organizations -- the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference in recent years, and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in the past -- are and have been secular coalitions involving members of all religions. It's no more accurate to describe the movement for self-determination in Kashmir as "Islamic" than to describe that in East Timor as a "Christian insurgency", or that in Tibet as a "Buddhist insurgency". Religion plays a role in the national culture of each of these places, but each of these popular struggles could more usefully be characterized as a national liberation movement.

One of the biggest obstacles to peace in Kashmir is the erroneous idea that Kashmir is primarily a religious dispute between India and Pakistan. The real dispute is between the national -- not religious -- aspirations of the Kashmiri people on one side, and both India and Pakistan on the other. (It's particlarly unfortunate for all parties to that dispute that the champion of Kashmiri democratic rights has been a military disctatorship, Pakistan, and that, in the name of secularism and democracy, India has imposed brutal military rule and engaged in systematic and often religiously-motivated human rights abuses.) The most important thing the USA can do to promote peace in Kashmir, and to promote democracy throughout India, Pakistan, and Kashmir, is to insist that representatives of the Kashmiri people be party to any Kashmir negotiations. As the U.N. correctly recognized in its resolutions, the Kashmir dispute can only be resolved by the Kashmiri people themselves, through a plebiscite under neutral U.N. auspices, free of the coercive presence of military occupation forces of either India or Pakistan.


Edward Hasbrouck
1130 Treat Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Quotes from previous articles in The Times:

  • 29 April 2003:
    "Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety, and Pakistan has backed a long-running Islamic insurgency in the part under India's control."
  • 3 May 2003:
    "India laid the blame for the attack on Pakistan, which has backed a 14-year Islamic insurgency in the part of Kashmir governed by India... Both countries claim the border territory of Kashmir in its entirety."
  • 5 May 2003:
    "Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety, and India accuses Pakistan of backing a 14-year Islamic insurgency in Indian-governed Kashmir."
  • 8 May 2003:
    "...the border territory of Kashmir, which both sides claim and which is divided between them. India accuses Pakistan of supporting a 14-year Islamic insurgency in the part of Kashmir governed by India."

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