By Muhammad Ali Zoaib
Kashmir issue originated from the division of Indian sub-continent into two independent states (Pakistan and India) in 1947 and is still unsettled for sixty eight years despite having a resolution in the United Nations Security Council (UNSCR-47). It is reflecting the lack of sincerity of international community on one hand while on the other hand it is revealing power politics; “might is right.” Pakistan claims over Kashmir on the ground of Muslim majority and Indian claim is the accession of state’s ruler (at the time of Partition) Raja Hari Singh. The issues of all other princely states were resolved sooner or later except Kashmir. Why Kashmir issue was not solved? It was geostrategic importance of Kashmir that put both India and Pakistan in a struggle to get whole Kashmir. Any other princely state was not enjoying such a unique geostrategic importance and proximity both to India and Pakistan as Kashmir had, so any other problem did not turn into a dilemma like Kashmir. Moreover, the visions of zero-sum gain (of Kashmir) both by India and Pakistan (both countries wanted to grab whole Kashmir) made the situation further complex. Later, India and Pakistan decided to settle Kashmir problem by dialogues between them without considering the will of Kashmiris and they could not resolve it. But now Pakistan has realized that the presence of Kashmiris in dialogue process can be fruitful to give a better solution and it emphasizes that dialogue on Kashmir should between three parties: Pakistan, India and Kashmiris, rather than just between India and Pakistan which India has rejected once again and declared that there will be bilateral dialogue just between India and Pakistan.
In last sixty eight years, several solutions were proposed to resolve Kashmir issue including division of whole state on the basis of ethnic majority. If Kashmir would be divided on religious basis, Kashmir Valley, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan would become part of Pakistan, and Jammu and Ladakh would go to India. The other idea was independence of Kashmir by demilitarization of Indian and Pakistani forces from Kashmir. Another idea was of “condominium” or “confederation” in which it was proposed to have a joint control on Kashmir by both India and Pakistan. The most popular idea to solve Kashmir issue was the resolution of the United Nations; it was to hold a plebiscite throughout whole state of Jammu and Kashmir which was frequently supported by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Any of these ideas was not implemented for solution of Kashmir issue. Its reason is that sometimes Indian behavior was not serious and other times Pakistan’s initiatives prevented it to reach at some meaningful solution. It is important to note that both India and Pakistan do not want to lose the area of Kashmir under their control, so they are not showing any flexibility together, or if any flexibility has been shown, it could not give some meaningful solution because of some internal problems. According to former Foreign Minister of Pakistan Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Pakistan and India were about to reach a possible solution of Kashmir issue during Musharraf’s regime but failed because of Judicial Crisis in Pakistan.
What is the possible solution of Kashmir issue under present circumstances? Full fledge dialogues between India and Pakistan has been suspended for several years. The recent Indian Foreign Secretary visit to Islamabad was not a step to restore dialogues but it was a part of his visit to all SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries. Pakistan wants to restore dialogues and recently some green signals are also coming from New Delhi. It is possible that both India and Pakistan may start dialogues under international pressure but, will they discuss Kashmir issue? If they will discuss it, will they succeed to resolve it? Present Indian regime is not ready to show any flexibility over Kashmir issue and it is not ready to accept Kashmiris as a party in dialogues as well. Its mean there is no possibility of a viable solution of Kashmir issue under these circumstances. Both India and Pakistan have a very strong defense and addition of nuclear dimension has further reduced the possibility low level war. It is not possible both for India and Pakistan to grab it from other via war. Moreover, if any of them succeeds to capture area from other’s control; the law and order will be another problem, because recent experience of Iraq and Afghan war has shown how stronger military forces a country might be, enemy can attack strongly and can turn victory into defeat by using guerrilla tactics.
Today, the priorities of countries are changing and economic targets are foremost for them to become a great power, so they are burying their hatch. Its best example is China, which has border conflict with India but it has about $100 billion trade per year with India. It has a number of conflicts withJapan and many other countries in South China Sea, but it has good trade and economic relations with these countries. Can India and Pakistan apply same pattern of relations for them? Pakistan has kept Kashmir at first priority, so there is no possibility of such deal between Pakistan and India. But present financial crisis and economic problems may change Pakistan’s priorities and can force it to put Kashmir issue on lower priorities. Here, it will be a matter of concern for Kashmiris. In fact, the most suffering party of Kashmir issue are Kashmiris. They were ignored for decades by both India and Pakistan and it aroused anxiety among Kashmiri people and increased the number of youth joining freedom movement to strengthen independence movement. The stagnancy between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue strengthen independence movement further and today the number of Kashmiri people want independence are much more than they were in 1970s or 80s. In other words today the number of Kashmiris wanting interp (ilhaq) is much less than in past.
In recent elections, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced that it would end special status of Jammu and Kashmir given in Article 370 of Indian Constitution; it was defeated and a record turnout was seen in Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister said that this record turnout was showing that Kashmiris want to live with India but in fact this turnout was a strategy to prevent BJP from capturing power in Kashmir and to end article 370 of Indian constitution. Presently, both India and Pakistan are too much engaged in internal issues; the war on terror has diverted Pakistan’s attention from Kashmir issue. India is handling local independence movement by violent means and has communicated international community that Kashmiri armed struggle is on the behalf of organizations that are involved in terrorism, it weaken the independence movement in Indian Kashmiri but election result has shown that Kashmiris do not want live with India.
The best solution of Kashmir issue is to follow United Nations Security Council Resolution 47. India has not allowed plebiscite and it seems that it will not allow referendum in future as well. Currently, the nationalist movements in Kashmir are stronger and these movements include people of all ethnicities (Hindu, Muslims, Buddhists and Sikhs) and all of them are ready to live together in Kashmir because it is only possible solution for them to prevent division of Kashmir. If these communities cooperate they can get independence as well as union of all divided fragments of Kashmir under the control of three different countries, otherwise they have to accept present division permanently.
The writer is an independent defense and security analyst.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily