The Nobel Peace Prizes recently awarded to a 17-year-old Pakistani girl and an Indian man should inspire the leaders of their countries to end their decades-long, dangerous struggle over Kashmir.
The time to find a peaceful future for Kashmir is now.
Violence between Pakistan and India along the disputed Kashmiri border has escalated lately into the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed countries in more than a decade, causing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to say he “deplores the loss of lives and the displacement of civilians on both sides.”
Such statements are fine, but action is more important.
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One Nobel recipient is Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, a fearless advocate of girls’ education who was shot by a Taliban gunman. The other is Kailash Satyarthi of India, who works to end child labor and to free children from trafficking. Both have provided better models than their countries’ leaders, who can’t seem to end their battle over beautiful Kashmir. Since Pakistan became a separate nation in 1947, the year India achieved independence, the countries have fought several wars, at least two of them over Kashmir. In 1999, India and Pakistan came to the edge of a nuclear conflict over this dispute.
The future of Kashmir should have been the focus of international diplomacy long before now, but over and over this matter has tended to get shoved off the radar screen. The result has been a simmering conflict, disrupting the lives of Kashmiris and providing opportunities for extremists to make trouble.
The latest violence has struck heavily populated civilian areas. Indian and Pakistani officials have been blustering about who is to blame and who won’t talk to whom until this or that happens.
No doubt India’s defense minister was near the truth when he said Pakistan “has clearly been the aggressor” in the latest flareup. Pakistan has tended to allow it (or to look the other way) when extremists use bases inside its borders to launch attacks in Kashmir. But neither side is innocent, and both need outside help to extinguish the violence.
The latest fighting comes after terrible summer flooding in the region. The government of Jammu and Kashmir is now responding to that dire situation by ordering construction of prefabricated houses for families left homeless. Humanitarian concerns alone should drive Indian and Pakistani officials to follow the examples of the newest Nobel laureates and work for peace.
Instead, the people of Kashmir get wars and rumors of wars but little assistance from the world community, which would pay an atrocious price if the latest outbreak over Kashmir escalated into a nuclear conflict.
There are battles in many places in the world, but this one contains the seeds of global catastrophe and must be settled.