As the debate continues to rage over troop levels in Iraq and the wisdom of continued engagement, in Kashmir the answer seems clear: the Indian troops need to go. Unlike Iraq, insurgency violence in Kashmir has dwindled considerably in the last few years, and it is now estimated that the militants are only 1,000 strong—clearly outnumbered by the 600,000 Indian troops stationed in the region.
In response to both internal and external pressures, Manmohan Singh has commissioned a committee of experts to analyze redeployment and reevaluate the Special Powers Act, which some critics suggest provides ‘legal cover’ for the Indian army’s abuses. These abuses, which include the execution of innocent civilians, are yet another reason why the Indian troops should leave Kashmir. According to the recent report in the Economist, the withdrawal of the army would widely be seen, “not as the removal of a protective shield, but as the lifting of an oppressive curse.”
Perhaps most importantly, if India withdrawals their troops from Kashmir, it will most likely lead to improved relations with Pakistan. As Shaukat Aziz has recently stated, the settlement in Kashmir is “the cornerstone of sustainable, expanded relationship.” As such, it is encouraging that Singh has not ruled out the possibility of demilitarization, but let’s hope that a workable solution is not lost in cumbersome committee meetings.