Thoughts on Solving Kashmir Issue
In the 60 years, since India
got independence, we have progressed much as a nation. Now we are a developed country among the developing countries. If we look back there is all round development in almost every field. I sometimes use to think – If there was no Kashmir
issue and no arms race with Pakistan
how much more developed our country would have been. We have wasted lot of our resources to fight against Pakistan
in the issue of Kashmir
The following essay was written by me and my friend Padmakumar. This was written to be submitted to an essay competition and I thought it would be appropriate to publish our thoughts on solving the Kashmir issue. It is a long post and a few people may find it little radical and difficult to digest.
History of Kashmir issue:
The roots of the Kashmir issue dates back to the time India and Pakistan got independence from the British Empire. At the time when India and Pakistan got independence, Kashmir, predominantly a Muslim state was ruled by a Hindu king, Maharaja Hari Singh. The king could not decide which country to join and he signed a “standstill” agreement with Pakistan Government which helped Kashmir to maintain services such as trade, travel and communication intact with Pakistan. The law and order in the state of Kashmir started deteriorating soon after independence and the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the controversial “Instrument of Accession” with Indian Government on October 26, 1947 which made the whole of Kashmir part of India. Pakistan had contested the accession and was never ready to accept the new pact between the Maharaja of Kashmir and Indian Government which they believed was signed by the King under duress from India.
India and Pakistan fought two full fledged wars over Kashmir. First war started in October 1947 after armed tribesman from Pakistan’s North Western Frontier province invaded Kashmir. The war ended on 1st January 1949 under the supervision of United Nations which suggested that India and Pakistan conduct a referendum in Kashmir which never happened till now. Second war was fought in 1965 that ended with Indian and Pakistani leaders meeting in Tashkent in January 1966, where they declared their commitment to solve their disputes through peaceful means.
India and Pakistan fought another war in 1971 that resulted in the formation of Bangladesh. After the war the leaders of both countries (Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and President Z A Bhutto of Pakistan) signed the famous Simla Agreement which called for both countries to solve their issues through bilateral discussions. It was agreed to recognize the existing boundaries between India and Pakistan as “Line of Control”.
Even after all these wars and accords the hostility between the two countries has worsen. By the year 1998 both the countries have joined the elite nuclear club. Now a war between these two countries will have disastrous consequence to the whole world and it is high time to take concrete steps to solve the 60 year old Kashmir issue. This essay looks into the major players in this issue, suggests a possible solution and explains the practical difficulties in implementing it.Present scenario:
Lot has changed in the world since India and Pakistan got independence in the late forties. The world has moved towards a unipolar world with US as a single super power, Berlin wall that separated East and West Germany has come down, new technologies have brought the world close together but nothing much has changed as far as the Kashmir issue is concerned. The issues remain the same and the political players of those issues have changed over time. Let us now see the major players in Kashmir.
a) Indian Government – Indian Government and major Indian political parties that contest elections in Jammu and Kashmir like Nation Conference (NC), Indian National Congress (INC), communist party and BJP to name few. The Indian Government and all these major political parties want to solve the Kashmir issue within the frame work of the Simla Agreement and they want the separatist to first accept Indian constitution as a precondition for talks. They believe that Kashmir was an integral part of India and no force could ever take that away from them. They consider Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) - as Indian government claims or Azad Kashmir - as Pakistan government claims to be a part of India.
b) Pakistan Government – Pakistan government claims that Kashmir should be an integral part of Pakistan for just one reason. Majority of the people in Kashmir are Muslims and Pakistan being a Muslim country should have control over Kashmir than secular India.
c) Huriyat meaning “freedom” in Urdu is an organization fighting to liberate Kashmir from Indian control. There are two factions of Huriyat – one lead by Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, a moderate leader who advocates independence for Kashmir and another faction led by Ali Shah Gilani who favors accession of Kashmir to Pakistan.
Even though attempts have been made to solve the Kashmir issue for decades, no serious efforts are made to bring all the 3 above mentioned parties together. It is true that the moderate faction of the Huriyat is talking to Indian Government and there are talks going on between Indian and Pakistani Government but no serious talks have taken place with all these parties together. The discussions held so far didn’t involve all the movers and shakers of Kashmir politics and as a result a solution has evaded us.
The main concern towards a peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue is the inability of the three major players to have any compromise on any of their previous stated stands. Indian Government wants talks with Huriyat to be within the framework of Indian constitution and also India is not ready to talk anything about any kind of sovereignty to Kashmir or accession to Kashmir. Pakistan believes that any decision other than complete accession of Kashmir to Pakistan is not an acceptable solution for them. The Huriyat on the other hand wants to somehow liberate Kashmir from Indian control.
The first giant step for solving Kashmir problem would be to back off from their rigid stand they have been taking for years and start the dialogue afresh. This gesture will create an atmosphere of good will and trust among the three parties concerned.
Some of the gestures the three parties should do for the smooth conduct of dialogues are summarized below. The Pakistan Government on its part should identify all camps used to train Kashmir militants in the area under their control and take steps to close them. India on its part drop its age old demand that they will talk to Huriyat and other militant group within the framework of Indian constitution. The Indian Government should withdraw the entire armed forces from Kashmir. Huriyat on its part should stop all its anti India rhetoric and declare a ceasefire with the Indian Government to pave way for talks.
Now after all the parties involved have made a compromise from their previously stated position dialogue should start. The key here is that all the 3 parties should be involved in the talk and all should start the talk in a clean slate.Solution:
India and Pakistan could agree to merge both Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Indian Kashmir into a single province and make it into a single self governing province. Other than the foreign affairs and defense ministry all other ministries should be under the control of the new Government elected by the people of the newly formed province. To conduct the first election an interim body should be constituted which should be accepted by all the concerned parties. Establishment of such a body is very important as this will increase the faith of the people tremendously in the whole exercise. The military and foreign affairs will be the responsibility of India and Pakistan Government. The law and order inside the new province will the responsibility of the new Government and it will be done by the police force recruited from among the people of Kashmir. The military to protect the borders of the new province will have officers from both India and Pakistan. The head of this military unit could be held by India and Pakistan in turns. This unit of military will take orders from executive wings of both India and Pakistan. It can be considered a neutral zone where both India and Pakistan Government has control.
India and Pakistan Government on their part should be earmarking a part of their annual budget for the new province so as to improve the infrastructure of the new province. All the existing cases against the militants should be referred to a tribunal set up by the elected Government and those who have not done serious crimes against Kashmiris should be set free. The people who were displaced - like Kashmiri pundit, due to the war should be allowed to return back to the valley. The people from the newly formed province should be given preference for the Government and other jobs in the state. If a suitable candidate could not be found in the new province then citizens of either Pakistan or India should be eligible to take up the job. Both the Pakistan and Indian Government should encourage the successful entrepreneurs in their countries to set up business in the newly formed province.Difficulties in Implementing:
The main difficulty in implementing the solution described above is the lack of mutual trust between the three parties involved in the conflict. It is not easy to wipe away the mistrust developed over a period of 60 years. The present generations of Indians and Pakistanis have grown up hearing “hatred messages” against each other. It will be extremely tough for the people of India and Pakistan to digest the concept that an army can be made from the personnel of both countries. To implement these decisions it requires a strong political will from the Governments of both India and Pakistan. The lack of single leadership for all the militants will make things tough. Even if Huriyat agrees to the terms of the agreement some other group can start fight against the Kashmiri state by setting up training camps in Pakistan. It has to be remembered that North Western Province where lot of these training camps are located, Pakistan Government has little control – which makes closing these training camps a very difficult thing to achieve. The selection of interim body to conduct the first election to the new state of Kashmir can land in problem given the differences between the parties in the past.Conclusion:
“Being Flexible” is the key in solving Kashmir problem. All parties should accept the fact that there cannot be a permanent armed solution for this six decade old problem and the only possible way to have a solution is through talks with all parties concerned. During the talks it is a must that all parties have to abandon their age old stance and take flexible stance taking into account the changed world scenario. When that happens, Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan will become part of history.
Labels: India, Kashmir, Pakistan