The recent escalation in violence in Jammu and Kashmir is illustrative of the fragility of India-Pakistan relations and the tense situation prevailing in the state. It is clear that unless there is a dramatic turn of events, violence will continue to be almost a permanent feature of the landscape in Kashmir. Admittedly, in recent months there has been growing hope throughout the country that the worst was over in Jammu and Kashmir. Nearly a hundred thousand domestic tourists visited the region and the state has witnessed unprecedented calm. Parliamentary committees and private corporations have successfully held their meetings in the valley. This would not have been possible over the last thirteen years. Moreover, the “healing touch” policy of the coalition government in the state had also contributed to lessening the alienation of its people. This has been complemented by unprecedented economic largesse from New Delhi. In addition, there had been a gradual relaxation in the India-Pakistan relationship after the April 18 peace initiative of the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. And yet recent events have revealed how superficial this calm was in reality. There have been incidents of violence and terrorist attacks all over the state, including in Srinagar and in Jammu. In the last week alone, nearly 100 persons have been killed, including many innocent civilians.
The reasons behind this escalation are easy to discover. Pakistan clearly does not want to give up on what it feels is its singlemost important lever vis-à-vis India. The low cost sub-conventional war perpetuated through the terrorists puts India, according to Pakistan’s calculations, constantly on the defensive: diplomatically and militarily. Moreover, the international pressure on Pakistan, particularly from the United States of America, has also begun to ease. Washington’s concerns have gravitated to Iraq and west Asia, and south Asia is no longer at the centre of its radar screen. In addition, there are believed to be terrorist outfits that have turned rogue and are running autonomous operations without the control of Pakistan’s army or intelligence agencies. In other words, not only may it be too early to believe that peace has returned to the unhappy state but recent events could have a larger impact on India-Pakistan relations as well. As a consequence, the growing hope that a bilateral dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi may resume shortly may not translate into reality soon. Indeed, increased violence could even jeopardize the forthcoming summit of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation in Islamabad this winter.