Kashmir dispute – way forward

Saturday, 18 05 2013 09:13


Following is the text of the speech delivered by Dr Shabir Choudhry during a conference held at London the other day

Before coming to the title of the conference: Kashmir: past, present – way forward’, we need to establish what we mean by Kashmir.

By Kashmir, I mean the State of Jammu and Kashmir that existed on 15 August 1947; which includes areas known as Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Ladakh, Jammu and the Valley. It is important to point out that all areas of the State are disputed.

Those who claim that the Kashmir dispute is easy to resolve are wrong. It is very complex dispute with many dimensions; and before we propose any solution to this dispute we need to comprehend all dimensions of the dispute.

Jammu and Kashmiris multi religious and multi ethnic State; and there is no danger to Islam or any other religion. So the Kashmir dispute is not religious in nature. It is a political dispute and requires a political solution.

The Two Nations Theory was only applicable to the British India and did not apply to the Princely States, including Kashmir. This fact was acknowledged by the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah as well. In a statement issued on 17 June 1947 Mohammed Ali Jinnah said, and I quote:

‘That after the lapse of Paramountcy the Indian States would be constitutionally and legally sovereign states and free to adopt for themselves any course they wished. It is open to States to join Hindustan Constituent Assembly or Pakistan Constituent Assembly or to decide to remain independent’. Unquote

This clearly means that the State of Jammu and Kashmir had three options, namely accession to India, accession to Pakistan or to become independent. This fact was also acknowledged by the UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948, which stated, and I quote:

‘The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the Truce Agreement both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured.’ Unquote

It is sad that the Kashmiri peoples right of self – determination was curtailed in the next UNCIP Resolution that was passed on 5 January 1949, which stated, and I quote:

‘The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India and Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.’ Unquote

This meant both India and Pakistan were prepared to grant people of Jammu and Kashmir a right of accession; and not a right of self – determination; as a right of self-determination must include a right to independence.

Since the Simla Agreement of 1972, both India and Pakistan have transformed the Kashmir dispute as a bilateral dispute, just like many other disputes they have; and all the talks they had on Kashmir always ensured that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were not part of the dialogue.

There are many reasons why the Kashmir dispute is not resolved. Among them is disunity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and their inability to decide what they want, as some want to accede to Pakistan, some want to accede to India and some want to become independent country. Apart from that some want to make Kashmir dispute a Muslim dispute and impose Islamic laws; and others want to have democratic system.

Furthermore, many of us do not recognise this fact that Jammu and Kashmir is occupied by three countries, yet the practical struggle is against only one country – India. If India bashing helps to promote the cause of Jammu and Kashmir, then I will be the first one to do that. However, I know for sure that it would be detrimental to the cause of Kashmir because when people only attack India and remain quiet on wrong doings of Pakistan then the international community take us as ‘proxies of Pakistan who are promoting a Pakistani agenda on Kashmir.

By all mean criticise India where India is wrong; but don’t shy away to criticise Pakistan when Pakistan is wrong on Kashmir. For example, we hear all the time that India did not implement the UN Resolutions on Kashmir; but we know for fact that it was Pakistan which refused to withdraw its troops from the territory of Jammu and Kashmir as demanded by the UNCIP Resolution passed on 13 August 1948. Part 2, Section 1 of this Resolution states, and I quote:

(l) ‘As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State’.

(2) ‘The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavor to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting’. Unquote

It must be pointed out that India was only asked to withdraw ‘bulk’ of its troops after Pakistan had completed its withdrawal; but since Pakistan did not withdraw its troops there was no question of India either withdrawing or holding any kind of plebiscite.

Kashmiris not only a political dispute, it is also human issue. People are suffering because of the Kashmir dispute. As a way forward, I propose the following:

1.      Resolution of the Kashmir dispute is essential for the peace and stability of the entire region. It is, therefore, imperative that the Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people.

2.      As the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the principal party in the Kashmir dispute, we must be part of the dialogue process on Kashmir, as we cannot allow bureaucrats of New Delhi and Islamabad to tell us what is good for us, and decide our future. We are mature and sensible people and know what is good for us.

3.      Until such time that the Kashmir dispute is resolved, both India and Pakistan should take more Kashmir centric Confidence Building Measures; and open all traditional routes linking all parts of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.

4.      Both countries should make easier the travelling process that people of the divided State could meet, socialise and trade with each other.

5.      Life, liberty and fundamental rights of all citizens of Jammu and Kashmir must be respected; and all political prisoners must be released and those uprooted by the militancy must be rehabilitated.

6.      All parties to the Kashmir dispute should agree that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute; and make serious efforts to control and disband all those groups that promote religious hatred, intolerance, violence and terrorism.

7.      Both India and Pakistan must show flexibility in their approach to solving the Kashmir dispute; and Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan should also be part of the future negotiations.

8.      Both countries should allow people to hold regional conferences that the people of Jammu and Kashmir could promote peace and tolerance, and build bridges of confidence and understanding.

9.      Until such time that the Kashmir dispute is resolved, Pakistan should discard Act 74 and Gilgit Baltistan self – empowerment package 2009; and allow Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan to merge and establish a united government that people of Jammu and Kashmir on this side of the LOC could manage their own affairs.

Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com