If civility is the hallmark of democracy and human nature dictates that what is precious will be coveted by others; India, Pakistan and China have a clear conflict of interest with the population of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. Their conflict of interest with each other as sovereign States has to be uniformally seen as secondary (at best) by the people of this divided State.
A fact perhaps not highlighted enough is that each region was denied the opportunity to make an un-coerced, free of external influence and informed choice on how they wanted to proceed from a princely State governed by an all-powerful Maharajah with limited-though progressive for the times–franchise to a modern representative democracy.
Making clear that a genuine semblance of a State existed, architectured by institutions and a definition of boundaries along with continuity of governance since 1846 should have been reason enough to restrain India and Pakistan from coveting the region. More so, Britain as suzerain should have resisted from trying to compel the Maharajah to make a choice of either India or Pakistan, neither of which suited the ruler or the collective interest of his subjects. In essence the legitimate stakeholders of the State were denied a clear opportunity to make their aspirations clear.
Every intrigue that boiled in the State pre-partition was given opportunity to infuse and forment once Pakistani and Indian troops entered to make it a battleground for competing national identities. Even UN involvement conceded to understanding the nature of the problem as an Indian and Pakistani territorial problem, formally characterised by the institutional nomenclature UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan). Sixty-four years have certainly complicated matters: what could have been an uncomplicated transition from autocracy to democracy has been a series of wanton abuse of democratic principles by Pakistan, India and China. Certainly not an ongoing process with open ended possibilities. Pakistan’s Act 74 and India’s adherence to a solution within it’s constitution are both closed doors with little space to breath within. The United Nations has also not adhered to it’s charter by making the collective decision of the people of the State paramount in determining their future.
The idea of progressing from CBMs (confidence-building measures) to OBMs (ownership-building measures) is to revert the problem-solving ambit back into the hands of the primary stakeholders viz. The 20 million or so people living across the breadth of the divided State. The majority of us have not been convinced by what we’ve witnessed since 1947 and are fed-up of being confused sans solutions. The frustration of an uncertain future with limited ability to change things for the better is an unaffordable disability in this day and age. It has taken India and Pakistan close to 64 years to devise a tenuous mechanism in the form of CBMs that manages a conflict (their conflict). Resolving the conflict has it’s key buried deep in public opinion of the State. The underlying argument is that the ultimate arbiters of India, Pakistan and China’s presence here are the people that live within.
Inherently, CBMs were specific confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan. In all the five disparate regions of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir, we don’t specifically require confidence, we demand ownership. Much of the movement across the LoC via permits (approximately 16,000 since the inaugral bus service on April 7, 2005) has not only been trouble-free, it has given a taster of what an un-divided Kashmir can reap for the population. Cross-LoC movement didn’t re-ignite the communal inferno that engulfed this territory in 1947. It’s roots always stemmed from activity in British India pre-partition and the nascent nation states of India and Pakistan had a clear motive in exporting it here.
Therefore a need for OBMs. If we begin on the road to ownership, after some initial hurdles the gradual economic pace of our region will speed up as will clarity on how to develop our institutions. That pace will be more sure and direct than the current Indo-Pak CBMs, which are very slow and their ultimate direction is to cement an agree-able method of co-existence between the nation-states of India and Pakistan in Kashmir. If the ownership route is not adopted, it could ultimately result in our surrender to their joint ownership or even tripartite if you include China.
Bringing the Pakistani-adminstered Kashmir context into closer focus. Current Indo-Pak CBMs give zero civil space to create and invent initiatives that will help uplift the local population. The political set-up persists in conforming to Pakistan’s strategic (military) objectives and we have already lost three generations for want of a political roadmap for the future of our society. Pakistan’s pretext of a Indian invasion still holds the legitimacy of a rubber stamp amongst most if not all members of the local power set-up here. Travelling throughout the territory it is abundantly clear that matters of governance are not being dealt with according to the population’s aspirations. Each and every government department consistently laments that they don’t have the resources or the necessary "clearance" to embark on initiatives demanded by the public.
Hardly a day passes by without some issue of infrastructure development, administrative negligence or the Pakistani State’s inability to deliver coming to notice. Preserving the boundaries they control along with the mind-sets of the people that habitate within has always taken precedence over all else. For example, a 10 kilometre stretch of road between Holaar (a town by the River Jhelum) in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and Beor in Pakistani Punjab is a major route from Kotli to Rawalpindi. This particular route generates quite possibly the highest volume of trade and tax revenue for the Pakistani government, yet it’s been many a year since that road has yet to mature as a road.
The hunger of civil society to reform the administrative structure, conduct accurate research on the economic resources of the State, adopt a hands-on approach to infrastructure development, open old routes to other parts of the divided territory is such that the governing structure is simply not equipped to deliver. Taxation can most certainly not be equated with representation. The need for ownership is greater now than ever.
The crucial tipping point in one’s view is when civil society here will gain access to State resources that are otherwise diverted to private coffers. Adopting a transparent and consultative mechanism to prioritise where resources should be allocated would not only give the necessary vibrancy to civil society, it would finally embark us on the road to progress. In the meantime, all our efforts will continue to resemble the efforts of our previous lost generations.
Finally, though recognising that India and Pakistan’s fig leaf is Kashmiri independence- as it entails political as well as territorial loss for both countries – it also enables both countries to exude confidence and maturity to accede to the will of the people, over whom governance will always be fraught with discord and characterised by an unsettled dispute. By Kashmiris taking ownership, the era of genuine post-colonial governance could be ushered in, bringing opportunity for the bereaved masses of the two fledgling democracies too. Otherwise, the opportunity cost will always be directly borne by the opportunity-hungry masses throughout the region.
Author is a writer, broadcaster and activist working for civil society development in Pakistani administered Kashmir and can be mailed at email@example.com.