Why do cashmere people have big noses?

Struggle between two states and state ideas

India relies on its pluralistic understanding of the state in order to adhere to Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, sees itself as the home of all Muslims and thus justifies its claim to the Himalayan region. The fact that both countries have closely tied their understanding of the state to the Kashmir issue makes a compromise extremely difficult.

"Kashmir runs in our veins," said President Musharraf recently. "Kashmir is our lifeblood," replied Omar Abdullah, Indian junior minister for foreign affairs. Both politicians are Muslims, both come from today's India, but they have very different views of the identity of a Muslim in South Asia. It is this different view that, in the words of Salman Rushdie, has turned the dreamland Kashmir more and more into a "Cauchemar", a nightmare.

Part of the Indian self-image

For the Kashmiri Abdullah - a scion of the most famous family of politicians in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir - and for a large part of the 148 million Muslims in India, the multicultural Indian society and the secular constitution are the guarantee that they can live their religious identity. The British colonial rulers had successfully played Hindus and Muslims off against each other and tightened the religious dividing lines, which after independence led to numerous religious unrest and which has continued into the recent days - keyword Gujarat. However, the legal protection of minorities offered sufficient security for most Muslims so that after independence and the division of the country in 1947 they did not have to emigrate to Pakistan, the “land of the pure”.

India relies on its pluralistic state foundation to hold on to Kashmir. Although Delhi officially claims the Pakistani-occupied part of Kashmir, it is basically satisfied with the status quo. It does not want to give this up, however, and India rejects UN resolutions which prescribe a referendum on the preferences of the Kashmiri. It was the fear of Kashmiri secessionism that led all the governments in Delhi to interfere in politics in Srinagar - so much that in the end they created one. Religiously motivated secessionism in Kashmir is all the less evident as Kashmiri society can look back on a long tradition of coexistence between Hindus and Muslims. In the last twelve years of a struggle for autonomy and then increasingly also an independence struggle supported by Pakistan, a majority of the population has become increasingly alienated from India. She watched, frightened or indifferent, as Islamist organizations drove the long-established Hindu minority from the valley of Srinagar to refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi.

The growing religious tint of the Kashmiri struggle for independence has also aroused old religious resentments in the rest of India. The recent pogroms by Hindus against Muslims in Gujarat are also a response to the ethnic cleansing that has taken place in Kashmir over the past twelve years. For the vast majority of Indians - Hindus or Muslims - it is Pakistan that has given the liberation movement it supports an increasingly Islamist orientation. According to Omar in a recent television interview, the neighbor wanted to support his thesis that Hindus and Muslims could not live together under one national roof. Indeed, it is the rejection of the "two-state theory" that India is so stubbornly avoiding a dialogue with Pakistan.

Cashmere as a unifying bond

The establishment of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, in 1971 was a severe blow to Pakistani state ideology, which is based on creating a home for all South Asian Muslims. For India, which had promoted the Bangalean independence movement, this was retrospective evidence that the separation of the subcontinent had been a mistake - and it rubbed its neighbors' noses with all military clarity. Islamabad has never forgiven India for this blow to its national raison d'être. It was this uncertainty and questioning of Pakistani identity that made Kashmir an essential substitute for survival. Three of the four wars between India and Pakistan - 1948, 1965 and 1999 - concerned the mountain region at the foot of the Himalayas. They were understandably all instigated by Islamabad.

India was the mighty power that could be content with its possessions. Pakistan, on the other hand, wanted to change the status quo. For its four provinces are only held together by the bond of religion and geographical proximity. If this principle is to continue to apply to state policy, Kashmir, a neighboring and at the same time Muslim region, is one of them. But if other principles were to gain the upper hand - such as the ethnic-linguistic one - Pakistan's internal cohesion would have been at stake. According to the fear in Islamabad, they would turn Baluchi and Sindhis, Pathans and Punjabis against each other and endanger the very existence of the country.

Barely rooted democracy

There is another principle of state cohesion - the democratic consensus of free citizens. But democracy has never taken root in Pakistan. In the face of a brother state born in enmity, the armed forces saw themselves called early on to hold the fragile structure together. Cashmere was also an ideal projection surface for them. With his help, the army was able to legitimize its special role and establish itself as a state within a state. She did so because she wanted to eradicate the shameful defeat in East Pakistan that India had inflicted on her in 1971. The low-level proxy war in Kashmir is the only realistic strategy that will allow the much smaller Pakistan to bleed, if not to bleed to death, its large neighbors "with a thousand stitches and cuts".