South Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer and Chair: Arthur G. Rubinoff, University of Toronto
Discussants: Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay, Concordia University; Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., University of Texas, Austin
Many factors have contributed to the rise of ethno-religious, linguistic and regional conflicts in South Asia. They include colonial legacies, the forces of modernization, the exigencies of electoral politics, the movement of ethnic populations across porous borders and the decay of indigenous political institutions.
Most of the states of South Asia, such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, were born as a result of strife that has left an enduring legacy. In every case opportunistic interventions by neighboring states have exacerbated conflict. Thus such disputeseven when primarily indigenoushave an international dimension which has made them more violent, protracted and harder to resolve.
The purpose of this cross-national panel will be to address the origins of a number of important ethnic conflicts which have posed significant problems for governance, public order, and state cohesion in the region. Sumit Ganguly of Hunter College probes the domestic and international aspects of the Kashmir crisis; Robert Oberst of Nebraska Wesleyan University will discuss the implications of the ongoing Tamil-Sinhala conflict in Sri Lanka, which has involved military intervention by New Delhi and had repercussions for Indian politics; Paul Wallace of the University of Missouri deals with the international dimensions, including the role of the diaspora, in the Punjab dispute. Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay of Concordia University and Robert Hardgrave of the University of Texas are the discussants, and Arthur Rubinoff of the University of Toronto is the chair. All have written extensively on the subject of ethnic conflict on the subcontinent. This outstanding panel of recognized scholars will make a significant contribution towards enhancing our understanding of an important issue for Asian studies.
Sumit Ganguly, Hunter College
There are two segments to this proposed paper. The first deals with the domestic determinants of the current crisis in Kashmir. The second demonstrates how external involvement expanded the scope, intensity and duration of the insurgency. It shows that external involvement raised the stakes involved in 1989 because domestic conditions were conducive.
The first portion of the paper addresses a number of explanations for the origins of the Kashmir insurgency. They range from the Indian denial of self-determination to the Kashmiris, Pakistans attempts to foment an Islamic rebellion, the revolt of a newly-emergent middle class against inadequate economic opportunities, and the breakdown of a syncretic Kashmiri identity. The paper demonstrates the inadequacy of all these arguments and proposes an alternative explanation for the origins of the crisis.
Specifically, it traces the origins of the crisis to the related processes of political mobilization and institutional decay. The central contention of this paper is that the expansion of basic literacy, primary and higher education and media exposure had the unintended consequence of generating increased political awareness. Simultaneously, the national government in New Delhi, fearful of incipient separatist proclivities, frequently subverted political institutions in the state. The new politically conscious generation of Kashmirisunlike their predecessorsproved unwilling to tolerate various forms of political machinations. Eventually, they resorted to violence, when all institutional pathways for the expression of dissent were effectively blocked.
The second part of the paper compares the 1964 agitation in Kashmir in the wake of the first Hazratbal crisis and the 1989 outbreak of the insurgency following the kidnapping of Rubiya Sayeed. In both cases, an external actor, Pakistan, sought to exploit existing discontent within the state. However, Pakistani efforts failed in 1964 and met with some success in 1989 because of the markedly different political conditions that existed in the state. The generation of the early sixties, though unhappy with Indian rule, did not, for the most part, share a secessionist agenda. In 1989, due to the processes of institutional decay and widespread political mobilization, a new generation of Kashmiris proved willing to accept external assistance to pursue a violent insurrection.
Paul Wallace, University of Missouri
Political violence and terrorism in the Punjab, India has lasted over a decade. It occurred primarily in the period 19801993. At least 20,000 people were killed during this period and incidents continued in 1997. Causation as well as the return to near normalcy are complicated. One factor that has not been adequately explored is the role of external actors. Pakistan and the Sikh diaspora constitute the two major external sources of support to the Sikh movement in Punjab. These in turn are not monolithic groups, but involve different institutions, leaderships, and for the diaspora, different countries. External support is important to the intensity of political violence and to the degree of success. Equally importantand the central hypothesis of this submissionis that it is essential to negotiate the end of the support or the movement will continue in some form. Consequently, politics and diplomacy are central to the termination of the violence in its last as well as earlier stages.
Robert C. Oberst, Nebraska Wesleyan University
Sri Lanka has experienced open warfare between the government and guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since 1983. Although the dispute has been a domestic conflict with few ideological overtones, international actorsthe most significant of which has been Indiaand politics have played a major role in the development of the war.
Both of the Sri Lankan actors have utilized international connections to bolster their position in the conflict. India has, for numerous reasons, taken a strong interest in Sri Lankan affairs. Because of its dominant position in South Asia and proximity to Sri Lanka, New Delhi has obviously been involved. However, domestic politics in India have also played a part in Indias relationship in the Sri Lankan conflict. In addition, both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have, for differing reasons, involved India in the conflict. The LTTE has used India for training and arms distribution. In addition, the LTTE has relied on outside sources for financing their war against the government. In return, the Sri Lankan government has sought the cooperation and assistance of the Indian government in restricting LTTE activities in India and Sri Lanka. This paper examines the international influences and Indias role in Sri Lankas domestic conflict by analyzing the ambivalent attitudes of both the Lankan government and the LTTE toward India. It focuses on the unpredictable nature of the Indian role, and how New Delhis attitudes toward the LTTE have changed over the years. The Indian role has evolved from covert support for the LTTE and other Tamil guerrilla organizations during the early 1980s military intervention and war against the LTTE in the late 1980s, and currently to a point where New Delhi has banned the LTTE and sought to cultivate a strong relationship with Colombo. This has occurred despite the influence of the Tamil Nadu government and the sympathy the states population has toward the plight of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.
The Indian response to the conflict and relationship with Sri Lanka is extremely complex. This complexity will be the focus of the analysis. The role of personalities in the relationship as well as the impact of international issues will be discussed.