When was the last time you read about Kashmir in the newspaper, or heard about it on TV? Perhaps it was years ago. Sadly, the province broken with territorial dispute for more than 60 years is no longer on the radar of the media or world leaders. The issue of Kashmir looms as it has for years, worsening the relationship between India and Pakistan and providing the catalyst for three wars.
Dialogue is an important component of diplomacy and the spirit of diplomacy should not be lost simply because a dispute is deemed irresolvable. After all, the Israel-Palestine dispute remains high on the international community’s agenda, despite the dialogues’ continued failure.
Perhaps the reason why Kashmir has lost its attractiveness to the West, in particular, and the world, in general, is because the priorities of the two nations involved have shifted. India and Pakistan were once defined by their dispute over the rugged province of Kashmir. Currently, India is better known for its economic growth, human capital and democracy in the face of diversity. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been busy fighting the War on Terror since 9/11, and the West has concentrated on developing Pakistan’s capabilities to become its most-favored-non-NATO ally. Neither of the two countries nor the international community finds it worthwhile to reopen dialogue on Kashmir.
Opening dialogue can pose a dilemma for U.S. foreign policy. Bringing Kashmir to the forefront of international affairs would mean holding India accountable at the cost of its rampant economic growth, and a possible decline in the amount of foreign aid Pakistan receives for the War on Terror. At a time when Pakistan is focused on domestic political instability and India is focused on becoming the world’s economic leader, both countries have little, if any, incentive to open high-level dialogue on Kashmir. If dialogue were to open on Kashmir, the United States would have a hard time choosing between the biggest democracy of the world and the most critical ally of NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan.
Though the prospects of winning this territorial battle on Kashmir are low for the two nuclear-armed nations, it is not sufficient reason for the issue to be ignored. If the issue is brought to the table, even if it is not resolved, it may provide opportunities for India and Pakistan to strengthen their economic and diplomatic ties. In the case of Kashmir, a negotiation ended in indecision is worth more than a negotiation that never happened.