Clash of the Titans: India and Pakistan Continue to Battle Over Kashmir

August 24, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Asia Tags: IndiaPakistanKashmirConflictSolutions

Clash of the Titans: India and Pakistan Continue to Battle Over Kashmir

But if the two countries are interested, there are a few viable solutions to the decades-old conflict.

Nationalist Pakistanis brag about being the only nuclear power in the Muslim world but their HDI ranking is even worse: 152nd, eclipsed by Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Angola—not to mention every other country in the region, including Nepal (147), Myanmar (145), Bangladesh (135), India (129), and Sri Lanka (71).

Meanwhile, South Asia as a whole is poised to be the region most devastated by climate change. The World Bank has estimated that eight hundred million people could face “sharply diminished living conditions” by 2050. Those on social media will note the poignant irony in Lahoris and Delhiites tweeting the same complaints about the quality of the air they breathe, a telling synchronicity: joint problems require joint solutions.

The Most Dysfunctional Region in the World 

South Asia is, by far, the most geopolitically dysfunctional part of the globe. The abject juxtaposition of nuclear weapons and grinding poverty is emblematic of the priorities of its governments. The subcontinent has the least dense network of regional institutions anywhere. While East Asia has the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe has the EU and NATO, Africa has the African Union, and the Americas have Mercosur and NAFTA—or whatever Donald Trump is calling it these days—South Asia has nothing comparable.  

Even when other countries are mired in troubled relations, as in northeast Asia, they manage to compartmentalize. Notwithstanding their tensions, China is Japan’s biggest trading partner; Japan is China’s third-biggest. Even in regions deeply divided by religion, nationalism, and history, as in the Middle East, a number of Israel’s Arab neighbors have either signed peace treaties with it (Egypt, Jordan) or not-so-surreptitiously signaled benign neutrality (Saudi Arabia).  

Last year, Ethiopia’s leader won the Nobel Peace Prize for a peace deal with Eritrea in a conflict that is, or was, as long-lasting as that between India and Pakistan. Argentinians and Brazilians talk a good game, especially when it comes to football, but ultimately, they enjoy supremely warm ties: no country sends more tourists to Brazil than Argentina and vice versa, Brazil is the biggest source of tourism to Argentina.  

In almost every region the world over, the free movement of goods, families, tourists, students, pilgrims, musical bands, sports teams, ideas, films, and books is a banal, quotidian fact of life. The governments of India and Pakistan owe their citizens, and those of Kashmir, an explanation of why such a reality is uniquely alien to them.

Ahsan Butt is an Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and a nonresident fellow at the Stimson Center. He is the author of Secession and Security: Explaining State Strategy Against Separatists. He tweets @ahsanib.

Image: Reuters