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Journal of European Studies

The European Union and the Kashmir Issue


Fatima Agha Shah

Introduction
The Indian-occupied disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir is a
valley surrounded on three sides by the Himalayan mountain
range. It is located in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. On its north
east lies China, on its west it has Pakistan, while on its south is
India. The territory has a Muslim majority population. According
to 1941 figures the demography of Jammu and Kashmir was as
follows: The overwhelming majority i.e. over 75% out of a total of
4,000,000 were Muslims. In the valley of Kashmir 90% of the
population was Muslim.1
It was October 26, 1947 when the Hindu Dogra Raja announced
the accession of Kashmir to India, in complete defiance of the
wishes of the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. This event was the
harbinger of a dangerous conflict in the sub-continent, involving
India and Pakistan, which till date has defied resolution. India was
quick to frame its constitution which was adopted in 1949, in
which it put article number 370 giving the valley a special status.2
This changed the whole scenario. UN resolutions were ignored and
so was the promise made by Indian Prime Minister Jawaher Lal
Nehru in November 1947 to hold a plebiscite in the valley to
determine the wishes of its population.3 The issue demands that
India own its pledge to the UN to hold a plebiscite.

Alastair Lamb, The Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir 1947 (Hertingfordbury, UK:


Roxford Books, 1994), 2.
2
Sten Widmalm, Kashmir in Comparative Perspective: Democracy and Violent
Separatism in India (Oxford: OUP, 2002), 43.
3
Khalid Hasan, Azadi: Kashmir Freedom Struggle, 1924-1998 (Lahore:
Vanguard, 1999), 26.

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Ever since 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two full fledged
wars over Kashmir. The third war of 1971 also had indirect
bearings on the Kashmir issue. Before these major wars there were
border skirmishes on a routine basis. To this list of wars can be
added the low intensity war of Kargil in 1999. All these wars only
further complicated the Kashmir issue instead of resolving it.4
Pakistans policy
Kashmir became a focal issue between India and Pakistan owing to
the formers refusal to live up to the principles agreed upon at the
time of partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and the subsequent
UN resolutions. The Kashmiris persistent struggle for freedom has
also kept the issue alive. Thus it has become the most enduring and
violence prone conflict of the present day world.5
Some analysts, particularly Indians opine that Pakistan itself has
many contradictions and inconsistencies in its policies. Pakistan, it
has been pointed out, considers the issue as the unfinished agenda
of partition. It often refers to the partition plan of 1947 according
to which Kashmir should have acceded to Pakistan.6 However,
Pakistan has always upheld the UN resolutions on Kashmir which
had called for a fair plebiscite on the issue. Islamabad perceives it
as its moral responsibility to provide political and diplomatic
support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir on their right of self
determination.7
Pakistan has emphasized in the international fora that it wants a
peaceful settlement of the dispute. President Asif Ali Zardari
4

Syed Jaffar Ahmed, Heightened Tensions between India and Pakistan since
September 11: The European Unions role in Preventing War in the
Subcontinent, Journal of European Studies 18, no. 1, (January 2002): 56-57.
South Asia Program, Kashmir http://www.Stemson.org/southasia/?sn=sa
2001//2045/.
Colonel Ravi Nanda, Kashmir and Indo-Pak Relations, (New Delhi: Lancers
Books, 2001), 1.
Arjun Makhijani, Short History of Kashmir Dispute, 6 September 2002 at
http://www.ieer.org/comments/dsmt/kshhist/html.

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reiterated Pakistans political, moral and diplomatic support to the


people of Kashmir on their right of self-determination.8
Indias policy
The Indian policy towards the resolution of the Kashmir issue is
multifaceted. It can be gleaned at three levels local, bilateral and
international. At the local level, India has been trying hard to crush
the Kashmiri resistance through a massive machinery of
repression, including the stationing of around 700,000 troops and
other security personnel in the occupied territory and the adroit
manipulation of differences among the Kashmiri political and
resistance groups.
At the bilateral Indo-Pakistan level, India has adopted the policy of
avoiding any meaningful discussion with Pakistan on the Kashmir
issue to buy more time to crush the resistance. Thus, whenever
there has been a step forward towards resolving the issue there
have been at least two steps backward to halt the progress. New
Delhi has never been very sincere about settling the conflict. At the
international level, the main aim of Indian policy on Kashmir is to
deflect Pakistans campaign against human rights violations in the
occupied territory. India has been emphasizing that the Simla
agreement has defined the Kashmir issue as a bilateral matter, to be
settled between the two sides without interference or mediation by
a third party. New Delhi has branded the Kashmiri resistance
movement as a terrorist, fundamentalist and secessionist movement
that is aimed at the disintegration of India.9
Since the beginning of the early 1990s when the Kashmiris
launched their home grown intifada, inspired by the Palestinian
one, India began a ruthless campaign of terror and repression
8

Pakistan committed to supporting Kashmiris Self Determination says Zardari,


18 September 2009 at http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_
content&task=view&id=53161.
9
Dr. Tahir Amin, India Approach towards the Kashmir Dispute, in K.F.
Yusuf e.d, 13-14.

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against the people of Kashmir, without distinguishing between the


innocent civilians and the resistance.10 Extra-judicial killings,
illegal detentions, wanton destruction of property, abduction and
rape by Indian security services are frequent occurrences.
Thus India has tried to obscure its responsibility in aggravating the
present phase of the Kashmir crisis. Its official statements attempt
to camouflage its vulnerable points. Since the events of September
11, 2001, in particular, India has launched a concerted campaign of
maligning Pakistan. A series of terrorist incidents in India, has
given New Delhi the chance to promote a negative image of
Pakistan, as a state engaged in encouraging terrorism. The truth is
just the opposite, for Pakistan has been making all out efforts to
wipe out the menace of terrorism from its own soil. At the Sharmal-Shaikh Indo-Pakistan summit around two years ago Pakistans
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had informed his Indian
counterpart of the serious efforts Islamabad was making in this
regard. As for the Indian position, New Delhi finds it difficult to
justify the rescinding of its earlier commitment to hold a plebiscite
in Kashmir and its continuing human rights violations in the
valley.11
Developments in the nineties
While the roots of the present conflict can be traced back to the
time of the partition, the more recent violent phase began when the
Kashmiri Muslims, emboldened by the Afghan success in the fight
against the Soviet Union and the Palestinian struggle against Israeli
occupation, launched a similar movement against Indian
occupation in the late 1980s.12
The current problems in Indo-Pakistan relations also began in 1989
with the uprising in Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan describes the
uprising as a indigenous movement and insists that its own role is
10

Shaheen Akhtar, Human Rights Violations in India held Kashmir, Ibid, 159.
Syed Jaffar Ahmed, Hightened Tension, 58.
12
Arjun Makihijani, Short History.
11

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confined to providing moral and political support to the forces


which are aspiring to seek emancipation from India. India alleges
that Pakistan has been consistently giving military assistance to the
insurgents.13
In May 1998 India exploded nuclear devices which left Pakistan
with no choice but to give a tit-for-tat response. This has led many
to fear a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent.14
Pakistan and India came to the brink of war in 1999, when
Kashmiri freedom fighters allegedly with the help of Pakistani
soldiers, taking advantage of the Indian armys absence in Kargil
heights on the Indian side of the line of control (LOC),15 began to
occupy the area, especially the road leading to Srinagar (SrinagarDras-Somat-Kargil-Dungul Leh highway).
When India became aware of the situation, most of the Kargil
heights had been taken over by the Mujahideen. India retaliated by
fully blaming Pakistan for the happenings in Kargil. It began a
vigorous campaign against Pakistan in the international media,
through official statements, articles and advertisements.16
Pakistans stand was that as always it had given only moral support
to the Kashmiri fighters in the region and that it was not involved
in any operations in Kargil. Pakistani official circles denied that
Islamabad had any control over the Kashmiri freedom fighters and
dismissed Indian allegation that Pakistani troops too were fighting
alongside the Kashmiris.17 Indo-Pakistan tensions rose to such a
pitch that there was a very real danger of the outbreak of a fullfledged war between the two protagonists, which were now defacto
nuclear powers. The seriousness of the situation led US President
13

Syed Jaffar Ahmed, op.cit, 57.


South Asia Program, Kashmir.
15
1999 Kargil Conflict, available from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military
/owrld/war/kargil-99/htm
16
Ibid.
17
Keesings Record of World Events 45, no. 5, May 1999, 42936.
14

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Clinton to intervene to resolve this low-intensity war that could


have resulted in disastrous consequences for regional security.18
It has been pointed out that Kargil was a dangerous turn in
Pakistans Kashmir policy. It was undertaken to internationalize
the Kashmir issue, but the adventure back fired to isolate Pakistan
internationally.19
The European Union and the Kashmir issue
The beautiful valley of Kashmir is one of the worlds hot spots,
bracketed with the conflict prone regions such as the Balkans. The
post-9/11 events once again drew the worlds attention to this issue
and it was hoped that the renewed international spotlight would
facilitate an end to the decades long conflict that has resulted in
thousands of deaths and the displacement of thousands of others.20
One wonders as to under which principle the EU has avoided
making serious efforts to resolve this dangerous conflict. The
European Union has the ability as well as the moral power to
persuade both Pakistan and India to resolve the issue in a peaceful
manner. It is fully aware of the consequences of further
prolongation of the dispute, particularly when both are nuclear
powers. Britain, among the most important member states of the
EU, having ruled over the subcontinent as a colonial/imperial
power for nearly two centuries is more knowledgable about the
intricacies of South Asian politics and the Kashmir dispute in
particular. Britain mediated between India and Pakistan and
successfully resolved the Rann of Kutch dispute. It can therefore
play a lead role in efforts to resolve the conflict. The EU, now an
important player on the international scene has to adopt a proactive

18

1999 Kargil Conflict.


Ibid.
20
Ershad Mahmud, Kashmir: Conflict in a Peaceful Valley, The Daily Star, 2
March 2009.
19

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role so that Indo-Pakistan disputes do not end up in an armed


confrontation.21
We know that in the last 62 years, European nations have played a
part in efforts to resolve some international issues, especially those
which are a legacy of colonialism. Thus the EU has been cautioned
by a Pakistani scholar that if it is deliberately avoiding a mediatory
role on Kashmir, it will, in the long term be damaging its vital
political as well as economic interests.22
Needless to highlight that the Kashmiris are one of the most
oppressed people in todays world. That 10.35 million Kashmiri
people are undergoing immense suffering and oppression cannot
be ignored. Though the Europeans have a tendency to lecture
countries about the observance of human rights, and do not hesitate
to pressure the smaller and less important countries on such
matters, India is mostly treated differently. One of the reasons is
that it is being seen as an emerging market for the high end goods
of the West.23
The Socialist group in the European Parliament organized a round
table discussion on Kashmir in October 1993 in Brussels. This
conference was attended by Kashmiri leaders from both sides of
the cease fire line as well as representatives of the Pakistan
Peoples Party and Janata Dal of India.24 Though such debates
have spread some awareness about the Kashmir issue, these have
not contributed to a resolution of the conflict.
After the end of the cold war the world changed dramatically and
there was hope that conflicts would now be solved as there was no
21

Mahdi Masud, The Kashmir Issue: EUs Stand, Journal of European


Studies, 18 & 19, nos. 2 & 1 (July 2002 & January 2003): 29.
22
Ibid.
23
Shujaat Bukhari, EU Team of Involving Kashmir, The Hind, 23 June 2004.
24
Aqil Ahmed Azmi, Kashmir Unparalleled Curfew, in K.F. Yusuf,
Perspectives on Kashmir (Islamabad: Pakistan Forum, 1994), 255.

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super power rivalry, which had added to the complexities of


international issues.25
It has been pointed out by an author that in assessing the
approaches and responses of the major world powers on
international issues, the post cold war security framework and the
national interests of countries that may have impelled policy shifts
have their own prominence. Therefore the respective national
interests of the major powers and their interplay inevitably impact
upon Indo-Pakistan relations.26
Two developments are very important with regard to the American
and European stands on the Kashmir issue. The first one has
already been mentioned earlier: the emergence of India as a
potential market for the high end goods of the industrialized world.
The second one is the rise of China in recent decades as an
economic and military power, which has rung alarm bells in
western capitals. Though the latter seek to enhance their trade and
economic ties with China, they are at the same time anxious about
the containment of its power and influence. The West perceives
India as having the potential to counter the rise of China and has
therefore greatly enhanced its economic, political and security ties
with the former. India is therefore among the few countries with
whom the EU has a regular dialogue on strategic issues. The US
has recently signed a deal on nuclear cooperation with India,
ostensibly for peaceful purposes.
Thus India is being given special treatment by the West, not just as
an important regional power, but as an emerging global power.
Pakistan, on the other hand, despite its immensely important role in
the war against terror, often has to face unfair criticism and
pressure from the West.
25
26

Ibid, 251.
Jasjit Singh, Kargil 1999 Pakistans Fourth War for Kashmir (New Delhi:
Knowledge World, 1999), 191.

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During the Kargil crisis in 1999, Indias stubborn stand on


Kashmir and its ruthless occupation of the territory went into the
background, and it was seen by the West as a country that was
facing provocation. Nevertheless, the European powers highlighted
the need for India and Pakistan to come to a settlement and to
avoid war. Diplomatic pressure was exerted by the US and the
European countries to assure that the two countries pulled back
from the brink of war.27 The great alarm in western capitals was
owing to the introduction of the nuclear factor in South Asian
politics.28
At this point in time there was also an uprising of the people of
Kashmir. The western powers supported dialogue between India
and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir dispute. However, they
overlooked the fact that the history of bilateral talks between India
and Pakistan has proved that they have not been very successful in
resolving their disputes bilaterally.29
The G-8 group of some of the richest and most powerful states,
stated that they would not be mere spectators if war broke out
between the two countries. This was indicative of the unity and
power of the so called International Community when faced with
a serious threat to international security. Thus if the Kargil conflict
had resulted in an all-out war the activation of the major powers
would have been a distinct possibility. Such a development, it has
been pointed out, would not have served Indias interest on the
issue of Jammu and Kashmir and needed to be forestalled
resolutely.30
The Indian position was that the EU and the G-8 should exert
greater pressure on Pakistan to quit the incursion into the heights.
Forays into Europe by senior functionaries of the Indian
27

Jasjit Singh, Kargil 1999, 192.


Aqil Ahmed Azmi, Kashmir Unparallel, 253.
29
Ibid.
30
Jasjit Singh, Kargil 1999, 192.
28

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government succeeded in conveying the Indian stand on Kargil to


European policy makers. Thus according to an Indian author,
France which was to deliver 60 mirage fighter bombers to Pakistan
deferred the delivery owing to Indian protest.31
It is noteworthy that after 9/11, the armed struggle of the
Kashmiris lost momentum owing to international pressure and
decreased popular support for violent means of achieving selfdetermination.32
Here it may be recalled that the EU Parliament had passed a
resolution on October 25, 2001 at Strasburg, for renewing efforts
to achieve a negotiated solution of the Kashmir question. The EUs
Council of Ministers was asked by the European Parliament to take
the initiative by offering its good offices to facilitate the peaceful
settlement of the issue. The resolution was passed by the European
Parliament after an open debate.33
India, it must be noted has never been keen to accept third party
mediation and has interpreted the Simla Agreement between India
and Pakistan as confining the two countries to the bilateral route in
settling the Kashmir dispute.34
In the aftermath of 9/11, when India announced that it would
withdraw a sizeable number of its troops form Kashmir, the EU
declaration of October 17, 2002 on developments in South Asia
welcomed the move. The declaration also called on India and
Pakistan to renew diplomatic dialogue on all issues to defuse
tensions and bring about a lasting peace in the region.35

31

Ibid, 197.
Ibid.
33
Mehdi Masud, The Kashmir Issue-EUs Stand, 31.
34
Ibid.
35
Ibid, 36.
32

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A draft report on Kashmir was prepared to be presented to the


European Parliaments foreign affairs committee, on which
occasion the ICHR Kashmir Centre in Brussels, put in earnest
efforts to lobby for the Kashmiris with the members of the
European Parliament, where MEPs sit and vote as different
Europe-wide political groups. The Kashmir lobbyists pointed out
to Members of European Parliament that Emma Nicholsons draft
report on Kashmir was one-sided, mostly upholding the Indian
viewpoint and was therefore unfair, needing amendment.36
The draft stressed that both India and Pakistan were important EU
partners, and noted that the EU had not been invited to take on a
mediating role in the Kashmir dispute; nevertheless the resolution
suggested by the EU took into consideration the multi-ethnic,
multi-national, multi-faith context of Kashmir and was therefore
worth looking into by the concerned parties. The EU it said, must
engage to assist the two countries and the people of Jammu and
Kashmir to resolve this dispute peacefully. The EU shared the
experience of conflict and wars and reached its present state of
stability by resolving apparently intractable disputes between some
of its major member states.37
In this regard, the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Sultan
Mehmood said in a conference that there was need of third party
mediation over the Kashmir issue and the European Union was in
an effective position to play the role of mediator. He stated: We
should contact influential countries including Norway in a bid to
convince the EU for mediation on the Kashmir issue. He added
that increased efforts were being made to constitute lobbies to
muster support on the Kashmir issue in Britain and Belgium.38

36

Rama Rao, Pakistan in Damage Control mode at EU over Kashmir available


from http://www.asiantribune.com/oldsite2/?q=node/4141.
37
Ibid.
38
Asia 2009, 6th International Reach Conference on 15-16 September, Shanghai,
China.

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Norway enjoys good relations with both Pakistan and India and has
also played a prominent role in conflict resolution, for instance in
the Palestinian-Israeli issue and the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka.
Norway is not an EU member.39
Sultan Mehmood also urged EU member state Sweden (which was
than holding the EU Presidency) to play a role is bringing about
lasting peace in South Asia, linked to a settlement of the Kashmir
dispute. He praised the EU for having taken notice of the detection
of unknown graves in Kashmir. Mehmood said the EU should
consistently condemn the violation of human rights of Kashmiris
by the Indian occupation force.40 On its part the Swedish
Presidency emphasized that the Kashmir issue needed to be
resolved on a priority basis. It urged both India and Pakistan to
reestablish mutual confidence through dialogue.41
An Indian newspaper extensively quoted Hynek Kmoinicek, the
Ambassador of the Czech Republic to India as saying that the
Kashmir problem remained complex and complicated. He said that
there had been a large participation in the elections held in March
2009, but elections were not the solution.42
Maintaining that the Kashmir issue needed a political solution, an
EU Troika delegation said that the recently held elections had
opened a window of opportunity in Kashmir which needed to be
capitalized upon.43

39

Ibid.
Sultan Mehmood urges Sweden, to help resolve Kashmir issue, The News,
20 March 2009.
41
An interview with the Swedish Ambassador Peter Tejler, available from
http://www.defencejournal.com/2001/may/eu.htm.
42
The Hind, 4 March 2009.
43
EU sees window of opportunity in Kashmir, World Sikh News, 10 April
2009.
40

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It would be relevant to analyze how the UN and the world


community assess the Kashmir issue. From 1948 to 1965 the
United Nations adopted several resolutions to the effect that the
only way to settle the Kashmir problem peacefully was to hold a
plebiscite under the auspices of the UN to determine the wishes of
the Kashmiris.44
The UN resolutions were adopted by the international community
and accepted by India and Pakistan and this makes these
resolutions not simple resolutions but international agreements on
Kashmir. However, these resolutions were never implemented
because of the Indian attitude. India backed out from its
commitment on the pretext that the Receipt of US Military aid by
Pakistan had changed the entire context of Kashmir
negotiations.45 It must be recalled that the military aid Pakistan
received in the fifties and the early sixties was in the context of the
West sponsored cold war alliances CENTO and SEATO, which
piqued the Indians, giving them an excuse to adopt and maintain a
stubborn stand on Kashmir.
Like the US, the EU too, perceives India as a country with great
economic potential, a market for European investments and goods.
An important concern for the West and the international
community since May 1998, when India and Pakistan detonated
their respective nuclear devices is that the two countries avoid an
armed confrontation and resolve the Kashmir dispute and all other
issues in a peaceful manner, bilaterally or otherwise. This anxiety
was reflected in the flurry of diplomatic activity at the international
level after the bombing of the Indian Parliament in December
2001, when Indian and Pakistani forces were mobilized on the
international border and it appeared that war could break out at any
moment. The US, China and some European countries were in the
forefront of efforts to defuse the crisis. However, one thing is quite
44
45

Dr. Javid Iqbal, Kashmir in South Asian Security.


Shah Ghulam Qadir, International efforts to solve Kashmir issue, in K. F.
Yusuf e.d, 249.

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clear. The West is not deeply concerned about giving the


Kashmiris their right of self-determination, for the simple reason
that Kashmir does not have any natural resources, such as oil or
gas, which would make it attractive and useful for the
industrialized West, neither is it located nearby the European
continent, to pose a threat to European security. Kosovo, for
instance, was seen as a crisis that had to be resolved on an urgent
basis, for it was very near to the now enlarged European Union and
could destabilize other countries in the region. Resolving the
Kashmir dispute therefore is not among the priorities of the West.
The US has maintained its policy on the Kashmir issue, the thrust
of which is that it should be resolved bilaterally. The Obama
administration is unlikely to mediate on the Kashmir issue and the
US policy of non-interference will continue. In fact Washington
has developed very close relations with New Delhi in recent years
and the recent Indo-US nuclear deal is a manifestation of the
mutual trust and closeness between them.
It is significant that a European Union delegation, on a two-day
visit to the valley, on Tuesday said that Jammu and Kashmir was
an integral and important part of India. However, the Swedish
Ambassador to India Lars Olof Lindgren who headed the fivemember EU delegation, stated: We want a peaceful resolution of
the issue through peace talks between India and Pakistan and those
concerned within Kashmir. 46
He made it clear that the delegation was not visiting the valley to
solve the Kashmir issue. He said: We are here to understand the
situation. We are here to interact with people and know about their
views. We also want to see how separatists look at the situation,
the Ambassador explained. The Swedish envoy said the delegation
46

Kashmir an Integral Part of India, says EU, Press Trust of India, 25


November 2009, available from http://ibnlive.in.com/news/kashmir-anintegral-part-of-india-says-eu/105897-3.html.

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appreciated the overall improvement in the human rights situation


in the valley.47
A stark contradiction can be noted in the statements of the EU
delegation which in the same breath talked of resolving the issue
through negotiations between India and Pakistan, while saying that
the territory was an integral part of India.
Conclusion
The European Union which now aspires to become an important
actor in the international arena, can only achieve the status if it
abandons the tendency to follow the lead of the United States on
various international issues. The West Europeans have much more
experience of the societies and cultures of Asia, Africa and Latin
America, having colonized large parts of these continents for
centuries. They can therefore play a more proactive role in
resolving dangerous conflicts in the developing world, the Kashmir
dispute being a dangerous flashpoint.
They also have first-hand experience of conflict-resolution, having
successfully resolved their own disputes after the end of the
Second World War, leading to the formation of the European
Communities, now known as the European Union. What is
required is a sense of justice and fairplay and a willingness to
undertake the task. The Europeans have a tendency to too easily
dismiss the issue, making Indian unwillingness to invite third party
mediation as an excuse to remain disengaged.

47

Ibid.

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