Kashmir: The Problem of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributing to Political Stasis
by Felicity Volk
Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: "Kashmir: The Problem of United Nations Peacekeeping Contributing to Political Stasis'," chap. in Building International Community, Kevin Clements and Robin Ward, eds. (St. Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1994) pp. 288-301.
The Kashmir conflict began with the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent into the independent states of India and Pakistan. A number of formerly independent princedoms were absorbed into the new nations. However, Kashmir refused to accede to either nation, hoping instead to remain independent. Pakistani forces promptly invaded Kashmir. Kashmir acceded to Indian rule in exchange for military aid in repelling the Pakistanis and quelling domestic rebellion. Nevertheless, Pakistani forces retained control over the western third of Kashmir. The western territory renamed itself Azar Kashmir, and acceded to Pakistan.
Since that time the UN has twice brokered cease-fires, although the cease-fire agreements were frequently violated. The UN has put forth a number of resolutions aimed at ending the armed conflict, removing Indian and Pakistani troops from Kashmir, and resolving the Kashmir question by plebiscite. To date there has been no successful resolution of the issue. India and Pakistan are at a military stalemate along the Line of Control, a boundary which was established by bilateral negotiations in the Simla Agreement of 1972. A relatively small team of UN observers oversees Indian and Pakistani compliance with the cease-fire.
Volk argues that the UN is not to blame for the political stasis over the Kashmir issue. Volk points out that "it is an unfortunate historical fact that in Kashmir both sides have some historical justification for their position and there is no compromise solution which, even if it could somehow be imposed, would be acceptable to both parties."[p. 299] Domestic political concerns make both sides unwilling to compromise.
It might be argued that UN peacekeeping has promoted stasis by preventing the sort of full military confrontation which could resolve the issue. However, Volk argues that negotiations would still have been needed to produce a settlement acceptable to the Kashmiri people, and that "the balance of military force, more than any other factor, has deterred India and Pakistan from engaging in more serious hostilities."[p. 300]