Too many cooks and nothing to show for it

With Kashmir simmering for last seventy years and in flames since the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and introduction of nuclear arsenals in the theatre that had already witnessed three wars, resolution of Kashmir dispute becomes a matter of paramount importance. The present mass revolt has witnessed indiscriminate use of pellet guns by Indian security forces that have blinded thousands of unarmed boys and girls; social media have shared the stories and pictures of such atrocities but the conscience of world is in the state of quiescence. However, emotions are stirred in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan and before long, under public pressure; Governments will be forced to take actions that could lead to fourth war between the nuclear armed neighbours. Therefore, there is a need that the civil society and intelligentsia of both countries raise their voice and demand sustainable solution of the problem to avoid the “Armageddon”.

This leads to this question: what are the possible solutions to the Kashmir dispute? The obvious options (i.e.: entire Jammu and Kashmir – as was on August 1947 – joins Pakistan or India or becomes independent) are neither achievable nor practical. In following paragraphs I would analyse the Kashmir problem from an ordinary citizen’s point of view and will suggest a way forward that in my mind will be a win-win solution for all the parties.

India claims Jammu and Kashmir to be its “Attot Aung” on the basis that the Hindu Maharaja had signed the instrument of accession to India; claim that had been doubtful and all the protagonists have agreed that his decision had to be subjected to a plebiscite. India further claims that Kashmir, after Shimla agreement, is a dead issue and this agreement overrode the decision of United Nation Security Council (UNSC). This is also against the international law as no party has approached UNSC to amend or repeal its old rulings which therefore remains valid. Moreover, Shimla agreement clearly stated that the two sides must discuss the modalities for final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Therefore, India’s claim of Kashmir to be its integral part is not justified.

The underlying causes of India not honouring the plebiscite promises made by her leaders are multifaceted. First is that India is very clear that overwhelming majority of Kashmiri population wants to get out of Indian dominion; the other is that if Kashmir is allowed to be parted, it will trigger a domino effect and states like Punjab, Assam and Tamil Nadu will also declare independence. Similarly, it also believes that if Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state, is allowed to depart it will destroy the secularity of the Indian constitution.

The concerns seem to be genuine but it cannot placate public opinion in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir who considered Kashmir to be occupied by India illegally. Every home, every family in Kashmir has suffered at the hands of Indian Security forces and there seems to be no way that Kashmiris will ever be content to live with India. The puppet Kashmiri leadership, which India so much relies on, can never be able to pacify the aggrieved people neither spending resources in Kashmir will subside the anger as common people are not agitating for their economic betterment or for tourism rather for independence and ideology. Therefore, India must develop the political will to recognise that Kashmir problem needs to be resolved whatever the price is.

Can accepting the existing Line of Control as international boundary, which India is ready to accept, be a sustainable solution?

No it can’t be; both Pakistan and Kashmiris have serious reservation in accepting this solution. This solution undermines the sacrifices of Kashmiris who have been fighting Indian forces since 1948.

Can independent Kashmir be an option?

No it can’t be; both India and Pakistan will object to it for the obvious reason that the region is landlocked and can’t survive on its own. It would either be dependent on neighbouring states or international community to survive economically. So the chances are that an independent Kashmir will become a proxy for international players; not a plausible situation for both India and Pakistan.

Therefore, the only sustainable solution, in my eyes, is division of Indian Occupied Kashmir according to the majority of population in respective areas. Indian Occupied Kashmir has three distinct regions; Kashmir valley – constitute 95% of the Muslim; Jammu – over 60% Hindus and Ladakh with 55% Buddhist population. Jammu and Ladakh can join India with Kashmir valley coming to Pakistan. Such division would, no doubt, create dissatisfied minorities that must be allowed to join the areas of their choices under strict UN protections.

Critics may argue that this means asking India to voluntarily give up territory which it holds and do not see India getting any benefit from it. The benefits are there, such as India can obtain permanent UNSC seat with Pakistan and China support. The immense economic benefit to entire region with Kashmir dispute resolved cannot be ignored. India can become part of CPEC and enjoy the shared prosperity thus beginning a new era for humanity and progress in this region. Lastly, this solution is like a give and take, which can satisfy the public opinion of both countries with both countries stepping back from their old stances.

I wish that the Indian Government do not adopt a wait and see policy with a hope that public anger will again steam out and calm will be restored. Because history has told us that it keeps on recurring and with more violence. I will end with quoting the renowned Indian writer Arundhati Roy who says, “India needs aazadi from Kashmir just as much as – if not more than – Kashmir needs aazadi from India”.