Is Kashmir a resolvable issue? The way this issue has been handled both by India and Pakistan it seems this question has not been carefully visited upon. Each protagonist in the Kashmir theatre wants this conflict solved as they think appropriate. For a composite and comprehensive solution, there has been no effort or thinking. It is because of this inertia that a general feeling prevails that perhaps all those who matter have accepted the existing political status on Kashmir. So far, both countries have come a long way towards covering all possible legal avenues. The time is ripe to see the situation from a realist position.
The original sin was committed by the Maharja of Kashmir, Harri Singh, who procrastinated in decided as which country to align with to fulfil the requirement of the Instrument of the Transfer of Power. By all fairness Jammu, and Kashmir, especially the valley because of its Muslim majority should have become part of Pakistan. Other factors, such as contiguity, communication links and economic interdependence too favoured J&K accession to Pakistan. The delay, and Pakistan’s apprehension of India’s intention to influence Harri Singh’s decision, compelled her to take the first move of invading and capturing Kashmir considering it a legitimate right. The move brought India into centre stage with the result that the war divided Kashmir into two. Thirty-five per cent of Kashmir went to Pakistan and 45 per cent became part of India. China occupies about 20 per cent of the territory on the Aksai China plateau in the west. We can say that rather than legal niceties it was the physical force that contributed to the possession of respective areas by India and Pakistan. A lot of mileage is gained out of Nehru’s intention to respect the will of the Kashmiri people by giving them the right to finally choose which country they would prefer to join finally. In reality this was a mere a strategy to give an impression to the National Conference, especially Sheikh Abdullah that their idea of an independent/autonomous Kashmir was close to the heart of the Indian government. It was under this strategy that Article 370 was included in the Indian Constitution that gave J&K a special position within the Indian Constitution. The Article 370 was called a temporary provision because the government of India was committed to holding plebiscite in J&K. Later however the Congress and the Sangh Pariwar, began working toward getting the Article 370 scrapped instead of agreeing to hold plebiscite. The sense of betrayal the Indian government gave to Sheikh Abdullah and later the inclusion of various provisions in the Indian constitution to deprive the J&K of its autonomy resulted in disenchantment that still exists. On the other hand Pakistan’s endeavour to get J&K has been equally unproductive as far as the will of Kashmiris is concerned.
Pakistan has had four wars on Kashmir with India without arriving at any solution. The composite dialogues and myriad summits all ended at times exactly when a final knot was about to be tied around this jinni. On the other hand the international community is also found losing interest in Kashmir. The former Secretary General of the United Nations has said: “The UN resolutions on Kashmir are no longer relevant.” In short the urge for peace has either been compromised or is no more felt. Both Pakistan and India blame one another for the absence of peace initiatives. For Pakistan partition is yet to be completed. Unless Kashmir becomes a part of Pakistan the partition project according to Pakistan’s narrative remains inconclusive. After the UN resolutions the decision about Kashmir’s fate was once again passed on to the Kashmiris. The people of Kashmir on both sides of the borders could choose their place of final abode. Should they want to embrace Pakistan or remain with India or become independent, it was for them to deicide. However, it was not to be. India’s procrastination to fulfil Nehru’s promise with the people of Kashmir to hold plebiscite while ignoring UN resolution that demanded both countries to sit down to work out the conditions for the implementation of the resolutions left Pakistan with no other option than to use force to capture Kashmir. Unfortunately, these endeavours had changed Pakistan more than making a difference to the Kashmir cause. It is in this context that the new generation of warriors in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) battling Indian aggression has taken the ownership of the Kashmir cause that they are loath to share with anyone other than Kashmiris. India, however, does not believe that the struggle of Kashmiris for freedom from India is homegrown. In the similar vain any support from Pakistan is permissible but cross border militancy is perhaps no more an option.
However, we in Pakistan have failed to read this writing on the wall and are towing the 70 years old foreign policy with little or no changes resulting in the old patterned implantation process. For the lack of revision of the Kashmir policy we see little progress. One wonder how different things would have been had we not surrogated Kashmir to the religious organizations, which later, because of lack of monitoring from their handlers, became a big source of more aggression meted out to Kashmiris by the Indian government. Yes, independence comes with a price, but if the sacrifice is giving out same result——dead bodies and mutilated lives——than either the process is flawed or the intent to get freedom has weakened.
On the flip side, if Pakistan is not reading the writing on the wall, India is trying to destruct the wall altogether. India is avoiding the reality that the insurgency in IOK has become indigenous. India is not buying the fact that India’s oppressive policies in Kashmir are adding to more names to the list of hardliners. Unless India understands who owns the war there would be no solution to the Kashmir issue and no peace between Pakistan and India. Apparently India wants to keep the valley terrorised and needs a scapegoat—-Pakistan—-to make the world believe that terrorism from Pakistan is behind India’s strong reaction. Blaming each other instead of soul-searching reinforces the idea that there is no real urge to bring peace to Kashmir. It looks as if the Kashmir issue is fast becoming a myth to be toyed with.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore.