Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Mumbai raises yet
again the question whether “terrorism” is a single entity that can only
be fought on a global basis, or a set of distinct movements whose
separate causes need to be understood. No-one has yet claimed
responsibility, but the attack is being generally blamed on groups
fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. Although Greg Sheridan in
this morning’s Australiangives it no more than a passing mention, the problem of
Muslim-majority Kashmir remains an open wound on the Indian body
politic.

Not least of the evils coming from Tuesday’s
attack is that it has made that problem harder to solve. If India now
makes moves towards addressing the Kashmiris’ grievances, that will be
seen as giving in to terrorism, and will send a message to other
militants across the world that their goals can only be achieved by
murdering the innocent.

If, as seems more likely, the Indian government
takes the attack as a justification for clamping down further in
Kashmir, then the cycle of violence will just continue – just as it has
in Chechnya, with Russia’s refusal
to negotiate with its separatists. The separatists will lose
international sympathy (as the Chechens did after the Beslan massacre),
fanatics such as al-Qaeda will gain the upper hand, and the underlying
issues are even less likely to be addressed.

Security expert Ramesh Thakur, also writing in The Australian, hits the nail on the head when he says: “India’s terrorism problem
today is specific to Kashmir, not generic to Muslims. The alienation
and disaffection of Kashmiris is rooted in the repeated negation of
their political choices by an intrusive and meddling central government
in Delhi and in the brutal practices of Indian security forces.”

But Thakur also advocates the formal partitioning of
Kashmir between India and Pakistan along the existing line of control.
Surely a more lasting option for peace would be an act of
self-determination under international supervision. There’s no chance
of it happening soon, but India’s friends (among whom Australia should
be more prominent), as well as offering every assistance to fight
terrorism, need to quietly insist that self-determination for Kashmir
is the only long-term solution.

Peter Fray

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